Propaganda Techniques

Distractions & Diversions

Propaganda techniques that rely on distraction or diversion, by shifting attention away from someone or something under scrutiny.

ad hominem - attacking the character or motive of the person making an argument, rather than attacking the argument itself.

adding qualifiers - adding an extra word or phrase to a response, which makes it ultimately meaningless, but still leaves the desired impression.

Also known as "inserting loopholes".

minimization - characterizing something that you don't want to address as trivial or insignificant, in order to shift the focus away from it and onto "more important" things.

muddy the waters - bringing up irrelevant facts to confuse or complicate an issue, which may otherwise be relatively simple and easy to understand.

poisoning the well - discrediting your opponent to an audience in advance, in order to encourage dismissing any future claims or accusations they may make against you.

projection - accusing an opponent of using the same underhanded tactics or committing the same misdeeds the accuser is guilty of.

red herring - throwing an irrelevant fact into an argument to divert attention from the real issue at hand.

Alludes to the act of dragging a red herring across a trail to throw off the scent of a blood hound.

whataboutism - discrediting a criticism by accusing hypocrisy, in order to shift the focus away from oneself and onto others.

Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt

Propaganda techniques that heighten anxiety and/or raise doubt, making it harder to think rationally and easier to draw conclusions that might be counter to logic or common sense.

appeal to ignorance - suggesting that something is true simply because it hasn’t yet been proven false, or that something is false simply because it hasn’t yet been proven true.

appeal to tradition - suggesting that a long-standing practice must be better than newer alternatives and that abandoning it could have detrimental implications.

demonizing - characterizing a group or those who support an opposing viewpoint as threatening, immoral, or less than human.

dog whistle - ambiguous messaging used to stoke racial fear and anxiety and/or to covertly signal allegiance to certain subgroups of an audience.

FUD - making dire warnings or raising doubt about an issue, while provided little or no specifics or evidence to support the claims.

scapegoating - placing unmerited blame on a person or group to channel societal resentment and frustration towards a common adversary or powerless victim.

slippery slope - suggesting without direct evidence that major inevitable consequences will occur by permitting even a minor or limited course of action.

Also a subset of false dichotomysee definition - giving the impression that there are only two opposing choices or options, while ignoring any middle ground exists between the two extremes.
, because it forces both sides to ignore the possible middle-ground and defend the extremes.


Propaganda techniques that take advantage of the tendency in human nature to prefer simple solutions or magical answers, regardless of how complex an issue might be.

false dichotomy - giving the impression that there are only two opposing choices or options, while ignoring any middle ground exists between the two extremes.

false equivalency - implying that two things are essentially the same, when they only have anecdotal similarities.

glittering generalities - vague words or phrases used to evoke positive emotional appeal, without presenting supporting information or reason.

proof by anecdote - making a broad generalization, based on an individual story or stories that support that generalization.

Typically, the anecdote is an isolated example, but it appeals more to people's tendency to believe tangible personal testimony over abstract data or statistics.

Transfer & Association

Propaganda techniques that uses certain words or mental imagery to instill positive or negative emotions associated with those words or imagery.

bandwagon - creating social pressure to conform by promoting a sense of inevitable victory.

common folk - establishing a connection with an audience based on being just like one of them and therefore being able to empathize with their concerns.

Also called "plain folks" or "common man".

dysphemism - replacing neutral language with more derogatory or unpleasant terms, to instill a negative association.

euphemism - replacing accurate language that may be offensive with language that is more palatable, to instill a positive association.

fault as virtue - technique where a weakness is presented as a strength, by focusing on any positive aspect of it.

guilt by association - using an opponent's links to another to assign the other's beliefs, misdeeds, or other unattractive qualities to the opponent.

honor by association - championing societal sacred cows to assume the respect, authority, sanction, and prestige of those symbols.

hyperbole - an extravagant statement or figure of speech used for effect, not intended to be taken literally.

labeling - pigeon-holing a person or group into a simple category and assigning names and/or beliefs to that category.

slogan - a brief, striking phrase that people will remember, which typically acts on emotional appeals.

May include labeling, which can be very effective when repeated ad nauseumsee definition - repeating a slogan or talking point over and over again, until it becomes perceived as truth.

virtue words - using words that are attractive to the value system of the target audience.

In turn, these words produce positive emotions when attached to a person or issue.

Falsehoods & Distortions

Propaganda techniques that attempt to fabricate the truth through lies, distortions, testimonials, repetition, or by focusing on just kernels of truth.

ad nauseum - repeating a slogan or talking point over and over again, until it becomes perceived as truth.

appeal to anonymous authority - insisting something is true because an unnamed expert, study, or generalized group (like 'scientists') say it's true.

appeal to compromised authority - insisting something is true because an expert on the issue says it's true, when that expert has a vested interest in the outcome.

appeal to false authority - insisting something is true because someone posing as or being framed as an expert says it's true.

baseless claim - a statement that is presented as accepted or established fact, but is wholly undecided or unsubstantiated.

cherry picking - presenting only evidence that confirms your position, while ignoring or withholding an often more significant portion that contradicts it.

exaggeration - stretching the truth, to make something seem more powerful or meaningful than it actually is.

false claim - a statement that is directly contradicted by fact and can be easily proven untrue.

half truth - a statement that is essentially true, but lacking critical information and presented as the whole truth.

Unlike a flat-out lie, one can't be accused of lying because the information presented is true, and if accused of certain facts being left out, one can always claim ignorance.   

misleading claim - a statement with a few elements or kernel of truth, which can easily be proven deceptive or fundamentally untrue.

out of context - removing a passage or quote from its surrounding context in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.

Also referred to as contextomy or quote mining.

post hoc - proclaiming that because something occurred after X, it was caused by X, when no causal relationship may exist at all.

reversal of reality - a statement that is not only verifiably false, but is the exact opposite of the truth.

straw man - misrepresenting an opponent's position or argument to make it easier to attack, usually by exaggerating, distorting, or just completely fabricating it.

the big lie - telling and repeating a lie so bold and audacious that people will be inclined to think there must be some truth to it.