What are some examples of propaganda

Media war

Propagandists can use a variety of methods.

Songs that are used for propaganda purposes have been around since the High Middle Ages at the latest. At that time they were performed by minstrels, such as Hartmann von Aue, shown here. (& copy public domain)
Propaganda forms an important part of the politico-military strategy before, during and after the war. The methods of war propaganda have remained almost the same for centuries. However, this has hardly changed their effectiveness: People today fall for war propaganda just as much as generations before them. Propaganda plays a big part in waging wars. Threat scenarios and enemy slogans spread through the media fuel the willingness to go to war. The truth, however, often falls by the wayside. In the following, some methods of propaganda are presented and explained with the help of examples.

Fear generation

People are most likely to be convinced of the need for military action when they are exposed to a particularly threatening enemy. With the fear of losing property or even
Propaganda poster from the time of National Socialism evoking the danger posed by Bolshevism. (© German Historical Museum, Berlin)
of one's own life the willingness to advocate a war increases. This fear can quickly turn into anger and turn into hatred of the supposed enemy. Therefore, it is extremely effective to create a state in which the external threat appears omnipresent. This is done, for example, by constantly repeating the magnitude of the danger and the threat posed by the enemy. For this, a diabolical picture of the enemy is drawn. The own population, however, is portrayed as innocent and absolutely good. The war seems morally justified because it preserves the good (= we) and fights the evil (= the enemy).


Censorship has always been part of the propaganda: One point of view can be conveyed particularly well when another is suppressed. Censorship refers to the surveillance and suppression of media products usually carried out by the state. It ensures that only certain information reaches the public. This can affect print products such as newspapers and books, but also radio, film, audio and video productions or websites. In times of war, censorship measures are aimed primarily at two goals: On the one hand, the military tries to ensure that the enemy does not receive any secret information - for example about weapons, troop strength and planned maneuvers. On the other hand, it should be prevented that certain depictions of the war endanger the trust in politics and the military as well as the approval of the population for the war. Defeats, failures, war crimes committed by one's own army and the suffering caused by the war are therefore withheld from the public.

There are three types of censorship: direct censorship, indirect censorship and self-censorship. Direct censorship means that media products are checked by an authority before they are published. If the representations do not reflect prevailing political opinion, their dissemination is prevented. Direct censorship has largely been abolished in the western world. Due to the widespread media system, total control of the media, especially the Internet, is made much more difficult today by means of direct censorship. If access to information is already controlled, it is called indirect censorship. Journalists are either deprived of important information or are not allowed to enter certain places (for example the theater of war). In times of war, media representatives often have no choice but to accept reports from the military without being checked. If necessary, they still have the option of obtaining alternative information via the Internet. If journalists withhold certain information even though there are no political or military censorship regulations, this is known as self-censorship. Reasons can be, for example, the economic dependence of a medium on its advertisers or direct bribery or favoritism. Much more often, however, reporting that deliberately ignores important aspects can be traced back to journalists' fear of blocking career opportunities by defending unpopular views. In addition, journalists often see reality only one-sidedly because of their own patriotic attitudes and opinions. In times of war, media makers sometimes use official government sources for their reporting. The position of the government is taken over, opponents of the war are rarely reported. In this way, the national unanimity that was shaped by the government in favor of war is even strengthened.

Linguistic distortion

News presenter Thomas Kausch on the responsibility in dealing with language in war news. (& copy 2006, Federal Agency for Civic Education)
Language is a powerful tool in war propaganda. This is deliberately used in political speeches and military press conferences. With a targeted choice of words, certain moods can be evoked or suppressed in the audience. In order to make the war appear as a good thing against an evil opponent, catchwords are often used, which are also known as "White Words" and "Black Words". In addition, negative expressions are usually avoided when talking about the war. Instead, terms are used that are normally used in other contexts. This is also known as "linguistic whitewashing".
  • The use of "black words"
    "Black Words" serve to create a clear image of the enemy. They can cause discomfort and anxiety in the listener. This is often used in political speeches when describing the enemy of the war. The "Black Words" include terms such as: dictator, hatred, weapons, terrorism, oppression, regime, tyranny, evil, fanaticism, etc.

  • The use of "white words"
    "White Words" are terms that are associated with very positive feelings in most people. The use of "white words" serves to justify the war morally. It appears as a necessary evil in order to preserve what is dear to everyone. The "white words" include terms such as: democracy, freedom, justice, security, peace, family, nation, humanity, fatherland, etc.

  • "Linguistic whitewash"
    Certain words are deliberately avoided by politicians and the military in connection with war because they reveal the cruelty and barbarism of war. They are being replaced by trivializing formulations that are intended to ensure that public resistance to war remains as low as possible. Frequently used euphemisms are for example "collateral damage" instead of "killed or injured civilians" or "air campaign" instead of "bombing".