Adventures in Everyday

The Legitimacy Farm – 5.1/7

Analysis of the IPA techniques of propaganda


“Bad names have … ruined reputations, stirred men and women to outstanding accomplishments, sent others to prison cells, and made men mad enough to enter battle and slaughter their fellowmen [sic]” (Delwiche, 2002, “Name-calling”; c.f. Lee, & Lee, 1938). An illustration of how popular name-calling is in news media can be found in a study by Professor Mike Conway from Indiana University, Villains, Victims and the Virtuous in Bill O’Reilly’s “No-Spin Zone.” In this study, the IPA’s propaganda techniques were used to analyze the words of Fox News’ news commentator Bill O’Reilly (Conway, 2007). The analysis revealed that O’Reilly made use of name-calling 8.88 times per minute in his “Talking Points Memo” portion of The O’Reilly Factor (p. 202). It is natural to say that name-calling can reduce the credibility of the victim in the eyes of observers and that it can cause the victim to become associated with negative connotations, but a 2005 study by Major and O’Brien suggests that even more damaging effects can occur (Major & O’Brien, 2005). According to Major and O’Brien’s study on social stigma, when people find themselves in situations that make a stigma especially relevant identity threat may occur which leads to “involuntary stress responses such as anxiety, vigilance to threat, and decreased working memory capacity” (p. 411). Furthermore, this pushes victims to reduce threat through coping strategies such as blaming negative events on discrimination, identifying more closely with the threatened group, and disengaging self-esteem from threatening domains” (p. 412). Accordingly, for example, if a known supporter of Palestinian rights is called a “terrorist” on live television, identity threat may occur because the individual’s identity as a Palestinian rights supporter has been associated with terrorism. If this happens, the individual is likely to perform poorly for the rest of the interview, further eroding his or her position.

Names may also be given to entire groups, affecting one’s out-group as well as one’s in-group. Tyler (2006) says that “central to recent discussions of intergroup relations is the argument that the reactions of the members of groups are influenced by their views about whether group status is legitimate or illegitimate” (p. 385). If an entire group is repeatedly called a bad name, like “terrorists” for example, then that group may become associated with terrorists in the minds of many people (frequent repetition of a statement is another propaganda technique, called “assertion”). If the group comes to be seen as a terrorist organization, regardless of the accuracy of such a statement, then any harm done to the victim group may seem more justified. In addition, studies of system justification (for e.g., see Aaron et. al., 2005) find that people may derogate disadvantaged or harmed groups in order to maintain their personal beliefs that the world is a just place. A compounding effect may be found in cases where the news media presents a disproportionately high number of stories that focus on the disadvantages that a particular group faces, while simultaneously using name-calling tactics to label the group. This compounding effect could cause viewers to become more likely to form negative stereotypes about the disadvantaged group, and to also see any aggressor group (possibly their own in-group) with increased legitimacy.

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Table of Contents

1 Background

2 Abstract

3 Introduction

4 A Psychological Interpretation of the Propaganda Model

5 Analysis of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis Techniques of Propaganda

5.1 Name-Calling

5.2 Glittering Generalities

5.3 Transfer

5.4 Testimonial

5.5 Plain Folks

6 Discussion

7 APA-Style References


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