Thing 3

Thing 3. Propaganda: Creating Response

Renee Hobbs of the Media Literacy Lab, recently gave a talk for the Media Landscapes campaign about propaganda. (If you missed the talk, her presentation and slides are linked at the end). Traditionally, we think of propaganda with a negative connotation. This Thing will help you better understand what we mean by propaganda and how it relates to digital literacy. 


Propaganda is the attempt to influence a person through imagery, words, and other media to induce a response. The response can be emotional, or it can create a desire for action, but the primary goal is to create a response. When hearing the word propaganda, most think of the negative connotations, evoked by WWII imagery or political ads, but propaganda is also used positively to underscore a message or theme in today’s media. 

Perhaps the most ubiquitous form of propaganda is advertising, including public service announcements. Advertisements, in print or digital formats, are designed to influence people’s habits around consumption or, in the case of PSAs, to influence their thinking around a topic. Propaganda and advertising each promotes a product or shapes the perception of an organization, person, or brand. Both can be ‘good’ and ‘bad.’

The website, Propaganda Critic, is a good place to start to see some examples of propaganda and gain deeper understanding before diving into the videos and readings. If you want to see examples of propaganda from around the world, Mind Over Media organizes examples into four categories of propaganda: Activate Strong Emotions, Attack Opponents, Simplify Information, and Respond to Audience Needs and Values. 

To assess whether a particular example of propaganda is beneficial, benign or harmful, consider these factors:

  • Message: The nature of the information and ideas being expressed
  • Techniques: The use of symbols and rhetorical strategies that attract attention and activate emotional response
  • Environment and Context: Where, when and how people encounter the message
  • Means of Communication and Format: How the message gets to people and what form it takes
  • Audience Reception: How people think and feel about the message and how free they are to accept or reject it


This brief video gives a succinct overview of what propaganda looks like in today’s media. 

Mind Over Media: Introduction to Contemporary Propaganda (1:56) | Renee Hobbes

This video is specific to campaign videos, but the concepts are the same in most advertising and media. It helps to understand the types of propaganda. 

Campaign Propaganda Identified! The Six Types of Propaganda Used By Politicians (9:04) | The Kid Professor


Propaganda, even positive, can be difficult to recognize. These articles will help you see some of the basic types of propaganda used in the media. 

Propaganda Techniques to Recognize
11 Types Of Propaganda & The Uses Of Each Propaganda | Marketing91

Propaganda Techniques to Recognize  | WETA

This article uses broad brush strokes to explain the differences between propaganda and advertising.

Difference Between Advertising and Propaganda | Key Differences

Additionally, recognize the use of propaganda in the library world. See if you recognize any of the types of propaganda mentioned in the previous articles. 

Propaganda and Media Literacy | Consortium for Media Literacy

Libraries and Propaganda: A Non-Exhaustive Timeline of Resistance and Cooperation | Metropolitan NY Library Council


Use the comment section below to add your experiences and reflections about this Thing.

Here’s a timely example of propaganda.

Take a couple of minutes to watch it and reflect on what its purpose is. 

Take a look at this classroom activity, Weed Out Propaganda, from NewseumEd. If you’ve done something similar or if you create an activity, feel free to comment and share below  

Also try one of these video games on a smartphone or tablet and share your thoughts below.  

Fake it to Make it (Please, read the warnings before playing, the games can be graphic or violent or have other triggers for some players).

Conversation Starters

What instructional strategies around propaganda education can be used with library patrons of all ages?

How can library staff model the kind of critical thinking needed to manage the diverse forms of propaganda that are part of everyday life?

Evaluation While not required, we would love for you to complete the evaluation for this Thing. If you wish to receive clock hours, you must complete the evaluation with your registered email address. 

Additional Resources

Navigating a World Full of Propaganda. Slides. Renee Hobbs

Navigating a World Full of Propaganda. Presentation. Renee Hobbs

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