what is propaganda?

Hey, have you ever wondered how Adolf Hitler convinced all those people to join his army and murder their neighbors?

He used words.

Well, he hired a guy who was good with words* to write speeches and produce films and posters and radio broadcasts that encouraged people to hate and fear their neighbors, and then when the army had enough people in it, he used guns to convince everyone else. So, words AND guns. But the words did a lot of the heavy lifting.

Propaganda is a bunch of words (or images some of each) designed to get a group of people to do something they might not do on their own. Usually the words are deliberately misleading or completely false, and often they will make the people feel sad or angry or proud or hopeful or disgusted or afraid or all of those things at once.

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between propaganda and other kinds of persuasive speech.

But don’t let the question of whether something is propaganda or not keep you awake at night. A much better question to ask — as long as you’re awake — is whether or not it’s true.

*Fun fact: Hitler called his words guy the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which is sort of like calling someone the Minister of Fire Safety and Flamethrowers.