On Propaganda

(by Martin Moll)

The term Propaganda while carrying a negative connotation, still retains a prized place in the lexicons of many 21st century individuals. When it is used, however, it is either placed in a historical context (“the Nazi propaganda”) or is a matter of contemporary opinion and partisanship (liberal/conservative media being derided by the other as being “propaganda”). With the appearance of such sinisterly innocent phrases as “public relations work”, “press releases” or even “information updates” we have witnessed the diversification of propaganda as well as its inclusion into nearly every aspect of modern life. Continuing in this vein, those who deal with these aspects (Press Speakers, PR Managers etc.) have come to form a nomenclature of their own, which arguably can be labeled as “Professional Propagandists”. Propaganda itself is something frowned upon, the use of the term however, celebrated. If everything which is categorized today as propaganda were to be collected, it would be clear that there exists today more propaganda than ever before! Important for us is that one man’s propaganda is another’s scripture and vice versa.

On the surface, Intelligence and Propaganda (as two unique pillars of our research center) appear to be incompatible with another: the first activity is involved with all that is secret and classified, those who partake in it revel (and rely) on their isolation and seclusion from the world which we know, and attempt as best as possible to keep other eyes from their own results and information while seeking to pry their opponents knowledge away from them. The purpose of Propaganda on the other hand is nearly the opposite; namely the reaching of as many people as possible with its message and their being influenced/directed to a particular purpose or goal (e.g. political campaigning or advertising). But appearances are deceptive.

While it may be true that decision-makers do not so much as eat their breakfast without a flutter of intelligence or information briefs advising them on possible outcomes, propaganda, or rather, the “marketing” of a particular decision to the “audience” (be it the Board of Investors, the public or a command staff) is always calculated. This speaks volumes to the value of propaganda, clearly formulated; that no decision can be made public without first considering the propagandistic effects of revelation. This relationship is a sign of the modern mass-democratic society and its political culture, at the very least in the so-called Western World. Beginning in the 19th century with the propaganda of the Intelligence Section of the Imperial German Navy under Admiral Tirpitz (which was almost singlehandedly responsible by 1900 for the directing of massive investment in what amounted to be an immense navy). Since then, propaganda, as an institutionalized science or weapon has developed rapidly. Today, public relations experts work hand in hand with traditional “intelligence brokers” (read, operatives) and stand behind the strength of nearly every successful politician. It is unthinkable to have the one without the analysis and input of the other, and vice versa. The somewhat surprising conclusion is reached that there is more work done in the highly professionalized and institutionalized field of propaganda in the period after 1945 than during both World Wars combined: When it comes to sell their politics to the public, decision makers are obviously more anxious to pay attention to the needs of their audience.

While the present may be teeming with more political propaganda than that of 50 years ago, the fact remains that the establishment and the foundation (as well as exploration of propaganda as a science in and of itself) began during the war torn years of the first half of the 20th century, and arose directly as consequences not of opinion polls but of fire and turmoil. ACIPSS, as a research center and think-tank, takes up the challenge of illuminating the connections between intelligence and propaganda (which in and of itself is an academically unexplored area) and (perhaps most importantly) how symbiotic the two were/are of one another not only in the present but also in the modern period.