Four Levels of Propaganda

Here are the things an author should consider while creating a propaganda story:

1. Nature of Impact

How you want to impact your audience? Do you wish to play with your audience’s:

  • Motivations (what drives them)
  • Methodologies (how they go about doing things)
  • Purposes (what they are striving for)
  • Means of evaluation (how they measure their progress – their personal yardsticks)?

Pick only one as the area of primary impact. This will become the area of the storyform that you purposefully omit when storytelling. The remaining three areas will be used to support your intent by drawing attention away from the missing piece(s).

2. Area of Impact

What part of your audience’s world-view do you wish to impact?

  • View of the world around them – “objective reality” (Objective Story)
  • View of relationships (Subjective Story)
  • View of themselves (Main Character)
  • View of others (Obstacle Character)

Choose one of the perspectives. This will be the domain in which to place the “hole” in the storyform. The area of impact determines which part of your audience’s world-view the propaganda will “infect.”

3. Type of Impact: Specific vs. General

Do you want the impact on your audience to be of a specific nature, or of a broader, more general nature?

The more specific you make the propaganda, the more specific and predictable its impact will be on an audience. The upside (from an author’s point of view) is that specific behavior (mental or physical) can be promoted or modified. The downside is that specific propaganda is more easily identifiable and therefore contestable by the audience.

Specific propaganda is achieved by intentionally not encoding selected story appreciations, such as the Main Character’s motivation or the story Outcome (Success or Failure). The audience will supply the missing piece from its own personal experiences (e.g. the Main Character’s motivation in Thelma and Louise.; what happened to Louise in Texas that prevents her from ever going back is specifically not mentioned in the film – that blank is left for the audience to fill).

The more general you make the propaganda, the less specific but all-pervasive its impact will be on an audience. Instead of focusing impact on the audience’s motivations, methodologies, purposes, or means of evaluation, generalized propaganda will tend to bias the audience’s perspectives of their world. The upside (from an author’s point of view) is that generalized propaganda is difficult for an audience to identify and therefore more difficult to combat than the specific form of propaganda. The downside is that it does not promote any specific type of behavior or thought process and its direct impact is less discernible.

General propaganda is achieved by intentionally not encoding entire areas of the story’s structure or dynamics. For example, by leaving out almost all forms of the story’s internal means of evaluation, Natural Born Killers forces its audience to focus on the methodologies involved and question its own (the members of the audience) means of evaluation.

4. Degree of Impact

To what degree do you wish to impact your audience? The degree to which you can impact an audience is dependent on many variables not the least of which are your storytelling skills and the nature of the audience itself. There are some basic guidelines, however, that can mitigate and sometimes supersede those variables when skillfully employed.

From the Dramatica Theory Book

This entry was posted in Propaganda. Bookmark the permalink.