Propaganda is ubiquitous in the modern world. The ‘unconscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses’ was, according to the founding father of ‘public relations’ Edward Bernays, ‘an important element in democratic society’. Over half a century later, although euphemistically referred to as ‘public relations’, ‘strategic communication’, ‘advertising’ and ‘marketing’, propaganda remains a key tool through which power is exercised. Propaganda plays out in multiple ways and on multiple levels. It is seen both in the promotional messaging campaigns that dominate our world – ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Build Back Better’ – and the coordinated allocation of resources and the shaping of events through which the thoughts and conduct of both the masses and elite groups are organised. And it also performs a central role in terms of both shaping, and interacting with broader ideological narratives and closing down free and open public debate. Whether mobilizing populations for war, advancing political agendas, or selling products and perspectives, propaganda and its consequences manifest themselves throughout contemporary political systems, whether democratic or authoritarian, and also increasingly at a global level.
The sheer ubiquity of propaganda means that our media, political, and educational institutions are permeated with manipulated information, which can be challenging for the untrained eye to detect. Confounding efforts to see the rampant manipulation is the burgeoning digital information environment which provides powerful new platforms and opportunities for propaganda efforts. As a result, public spheres across democracies have become spaces through which profoundly distorted information circulates and mechanisms through which people’s beliefs and conduct are continually subjected to manipulation. Rational, objective, analysis and understanding of major issues is frequently hampered whilst many issues of great import are simply erased from public debate or otherwise suppressed. As we move toward the third decade of the 21st Century, more than ever, the growing prevalence of propaganda presents a clear and present danger to rational, open and democratic debate.
Propaganda in Focus provides a forum for expert opinion and analysis about propaganda and its consequences, facilitating debate over more democratic and progressive forms of organised persuasive communication and censored scholarship. Its aim is to not only facilitate understanding of the strategies and tactics deployed by propagandists, but to also engender fuller and more open debate of the issues and subject areas that have been marginalised or suppressed because of the pernicious effects of propaganda and its role in terms of feeding and underpinning broader ideological narratives.
It includes spaces for both short and long form articles as well as censored scholarship. In particular, the editors recognize the global emergence of oppression and systematic censorship and the urgent need for public communication unencumbered by vested interests. We encourage free inquiry and the open exchange of ideas and dialogues in theories and practices.