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.

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.

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.

appeal to tradition - suggesting that moving away from or abandoning long-standing practice could have detrimental or even dangerous 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.

fear-mongering - spreading exaggerated rumors or dire warnings of impending danger to arouse fear and undermine rational thinking about an issue.

FUD - raising uncertainty and doubt about an issue, while providing no specifics or actual evidence to support it.

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 that major inevitable consequences will occur by permitting any incremental course of action.

Oversimplification

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 equivalence - 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.

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 - connecting with an audience by showing that you understand and share their everyday experiences and concerns.

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

euphemism - replacing language that is accurate but may be offensive to your target audience with language that is more palatable or appealing.

fault as virtue - presenting a weakness or undesirable trait as a strength, by focusing on any positive aspect of it.

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

honor by association - defending or championing cultural sacred cows, which transfers the respect, authority, sanction, and prestige associated with those symbols to the defender.

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.

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

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 something over and over again, until it forms a mental association and/or 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 bold statement that is presented as accepted or established fact, with no discernable evidence to support the claim.

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.

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.

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

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.