The Basics of Propaganda

The human mind seeks to understand itself and the world around it. It does this through various ways including organizing information into meaningful patterns. Depending on the quantity of the information and the accuracy of its interpretation, a mind will identify a pattern (or several potential patterns) and supply the apparently “missing” pieces to make the pattern, and therefore meaning, complete. This pattern matching and filling in of missing pieces is intrinsic to the processes that create the human “mind.” By choosing which piece(s) of the storyform to omit, authors can manipulate the impact a story will have on the minds of their audiences.

In its most basic form, propaganda is a way for authors to have an audience share their point of view. Closed (or complete) stories allow authors to present their points of view in the form of an argument which the audience can then take or leave. Open (or incomplete) stories require their audiences to supply the missing pieces in order to get meaning from the story. Just creating an open story, however, does not create propaganda. There must be a pattern to what is missing.

The amount and nature of the missing pieces have a tremendous effect on the story’s propagandistic impact. If you leave too much out of your story, an audience may not make the effort to “fill-in-the-blanks.” The story may then be interpreted by the audience as meaningless. If, however, you selectively leave out specific pieces of the storyform, the audience may unknowingly fill in those holes with aspects of its personal experience. In this way, the story changes from an argument made by the author to the audience, to an argument made by the author and the audience. Unwittingly, the audience begins to share the author’s point of view and perhaps even become coconspirators in its propagation: ergo, propaganda.

Since a propaganda story is based upon a tenuous relationship between an audience and an author, both perspectives should be considered to understand the techniques that can be used and the results that can be achieved.

From the Dramatica Theory Book

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