It is possible to deploy money, talent, expertise, fame, and/or ownership of communications media (such as a television network) to influence public opinion. All such examples of well-resourced persuasive communication could be defined as propaganda, regardless of quality or purpose. Some definitions of the word build in negative connotations, so that a helpful mass message about public health would not be propaganda, but a government’s effort to demonize its critics would be. Hobbs 2020 suggests that calling a communication “propaganda” can be subjective and depends on the context, but she emphasizes the criteria of mass scale and intersection with entertainment (pp. 8–9). By her definition, a person speaking up in a public meeting would not be an example of propaganda, but a campaign advertisement with a celebrity endorser would be.

Propaganda is a threat to deliberation and other civic processes, although people find ways to counter it. (See, for example, “Public Service–Spirited Media Takes on the Memory Wars“).

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