Creating propaganda to understand propaganda

Although the concept of ‘propaganda’ seems to be far removed from young people’s lives, they have already seen many examples. They can be persuaded by NGO campaigns, they feel attracted by a simple plan from a politician or they change their habits after watching an activist documentary.

At Mediawijs we were convinced that young people already mastered the propaganda techniques. Even without ever having heard or read them. In our Mind Over Media workshops in recent weeks, we took the test and let them create propaganda themselves.

To warm up…

“Suppose you have to make a poster with the slogan ‘For a change’, what would it look like to convince you?”

In the group discussion very different ideas immediately arose:

  • A multicultural group of people who are working together in the street (“because now we mainly live next to each other without any cooperation”)
  • A strong woman in the picture (“because now it’s mainly men who are in charge”)
  • A strong leader who exudes strength (“because the current politicians are just softies”)

We discussed a few extra examples. “Why do you think that one idea works and why the other one does not work?”
As an educator you keep the 4 propaganda techniques in mind and emphasize these in the conversation: not everyone has the same needs, so not everyone will “get caught” by the same image, not everyone feels connected to the same group, …

Ready, set, action!

“Work together in a small group, think of a slogan that you stand behind and make a picture that reinforces that message.”

Because of all the experience young people have with the apps on their phone, a technical explanation is unnecessary. And soon you will get a nice sample of propaganda that appeals to young people.

In the debriefing you have to conclude: “(Some of) you are master propagandists!”

  • Activate strong emotions? Not a problem! (Young people seem very sensitive to feelings of guilt.)
     Are you going to clean this up? Probably not!
  • Create a group feeling? Done! (But: only inclusive pictures were made. They seem not to think in us vs. them)
  • Respond to the needs of the audience? Sure, they’re part of that audience!
    Through the glass ceiling!
  • And simplify ideas? That’s the way we do it!

This active exercise  is an ideal warm up. Afterwards you can start to view and discuss the many propaganda examples on, examine the propaganda techniques one by one or talk about the positive and negative forms of propaganda.

Belgian students reacted enthusiastically. We are curious how this works in other countries!

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