The Power of Propaganda



Whether or not you notice it, propaganda affects you every day. Look around you; there is propaganda everywhere. From the TV screen, to magazines, to the internet- you access propaganda every day. Propaganda does not have to be big. It can be something as simple as an advertisement on one of these mediums.

Propaganda is used as way to promote a point of view, and it has been around for many centuries. Over time, propaganda has changed to fit the audience that it is trying to relate to. As propaganda has changed, it continues to control the way that the viewers think. Because of its ever-present occurrence in our society, propaganda has become very powerful. This powerful force is often times given a negative connotation. We can see why that is by looking at how propaganda thrives on media and how it affects the audience.

World War I propaganda for the U.S. Army describes propaganda as,  “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view” ( Because of propaganda’s “misleading nature”, it is often thought of with a negative attitude. When a group or company creates an advertisement,they want to appeal to the masses. What is the easiest way to get a person’s support? By telling them exactly what they want to hear.  Many political groups are guilty of making false or exaggerated promises as a way to boost their campaign (Merriam Webster Dictionary). They continue to bring up their most popular opinions and ideas as a way to persuade people to vote for them. Once they have collected the votes they needed, they do not put as much emphasis on certain ideas as they did before.

Another reason propaganda has a negative connotation is because it is used a lot of times to support controversial issues.  Every time I think about propaganda, the same picture comes to my mind. It is a piece of war propaganda from 1917, which has a picture of Uncle Sam and says, “I want you for the U.S. Army” (“I want You”, 2015). This poster encouraged young men to support the war against Germany and join the efforts.  At this time, some Americans were still anti-war and felt that America should remain neutral. While this poster influenced some people, it made others bitter.

“Blinsided: How ISIS Shook the World”

Today, we live in a media-centered society. Everyone has access to social media and many are addicted to it. After watching Fareed Zakaria’s documentary, Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World, I was able to see how social media and the internet could be used to influence people and ideas. In the documentary, we are able to see several of the videos that ISIS put on the Internet as propaganda. During Fareed Zakaria’s visit to the Islamic State, he saw some of the prisoners that the Islamic State had in custody. These prisoners were put in cages and paraded around the state. Personally, I thought that this video was sad and heartbreaking. Zakaria next explained that ISIS had filmed this scene and made a propaganda video out of it. Some could say that this video was disturbing. How could this appalling video possibly bring them positive support?

ISIS’s propaganda video shows prisoners being paraded through streets.

Many of the videos that ISIS uses as propaganda are violent and gruesome. In the documentary, Zakaria stated that although the videos were violent, ISIS made sure that they also showed a sense of community. The violence was used to appeal to the young, while the sense of community was used to appeal to those who felt alienated and out of place. When browsing through social media, you’re only a click away from finding ISIS propaganda. They use the Internet as a “control center” by sharing on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other popular sites.
The propaganda that ISIS uses has an impact on their audience. The violent videos that ISIS shares over social media are used to manipulate children. Now, more foreign fighters are joining this group than ever. CNN published an article that discussed how ISIS appeals to the young people. Along with its use of social media, they promise a better life. This promise includes free rent in a house with water and electricity (Mullen, 2015). ISIS makes these young adults feel that life there is better than life in the west.

An ISIS video shows young children from Kazakhstan at a training camp using guns.

Another way ISIS may try to appeal to more people is by playing the victim. When ISIS puts their videos on the Internet, the U.S. will put it on our news. ISIS then uses our news to either mock us or make new propaganda. Making the U.S. look bad draws more people towards them. For example, many radicals will leave home to join this group because they claim that Muslims are constantly under attack. Because of this belief and the propaganda’s persuasion, some of these people genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing under God (Blindsided). Propaganda can shape a person’s identity, beliefs, and values.

Propaganda is everywhere. By looking at groups such as ISIS, we are able to see how easily propaganda can negatively influence a person’s values and belief with the help of social media. Propaganda has become on of the most powerful weapons in today’s society.


“I Want YOU!” – The Story Behind One of the Most Famous Wartime Posters in History. (2015, July 27). Retrieved January 17, 2016, from

Mullen, J. (2015, February 25). What is ISIS’ appeal for young people? – Retrieved January 19, 2016, from

Zakaria, F. (Director). (2015). Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World [Motion picture].


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