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Formation of Public Opinion

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Use of propaganda did not develop until after the Industrial Revolution, when modern instruments of communication first enabled propagandists to easily reach mass audiences. The printing press, for example, made it possible for Thomas Paines Common Sense to reach a large number of American colonists. Later, during the 20th cent. , the advent of radio and television enabled propagandists to reach even greater numbers of people. In addition to the development of modern media, the rise of total warfare and of political movements has also contributed to the growing importance of propaganda in the 20th century.

In What Is To Be Done? Lenin emphasized the use of "agitprop, " a combination of political agitation and propaganda designed to win the support of intellectuals and workers for the Communist revolution. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini also used propaganda, especially in oratory, to develop and maintain the support of the masses. During World War II, all the warring nations employed propaganda, often called psychological warfare, to boost civilian and military morale as well as to demoralize the enemy. agency charged with disseminating wartime propaganda was the Office of War Information.

In the postwar era propaganda, activities continue to play a major role in world affairs. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was established in 1953 to facilitate the international dissemination of information about the United States. Radio Moscow, Radio Havana, and The Voice of America are just three of the large radio stations that provide information and propaganda throughout the world. In addition, certain refinements of the propaganda technique have developed, most notably brainwashing, the intensive indoctrination of political opponents against their will.

Additionally, public opinion can result from early focus on an issue, flawed polls, and a forgiving public. Early focus on an issue sways the opinion on an issue for the remainder. For example, sugar substitutes earned an early reputation for being unsafe despite many scientific studies that have proven other wise. A national manufacturer of a popular artificial sweetener developed a consumer education program designed to reassure the public about the products safety. Elements of the campaign included print advertising, a radio promotion, a celebrity media tour and personal appearance, a contest and product giveaways at a shopping mall, and a cause-related donation to charity.

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preview essay on Formation of Public Opinion
  • Pages: 7 (1750 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Sociology
  • Level: Masters
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