We Studied Propaganda

By | February 1, 2021

[February 1, 2021]  My Junior High School civics teacher had been some kind of counter-intelligence official during WW2.  I remember nothing about him other than his wartime service and the time we studied propaganda.  He told a bunch of wide-eyed kids that someday we would need what he was saying.  He was right.

Propaganda is a form of communication, biased or misleading, and aimed at influencing a targeted population (see my earlier article and references here).  It is my believe that for propaganda to work, effective leadership is required.

I’ll call my civics teacher Mr. Smith; not his real name.  I remember he gave us many examples in the use of propaganda in world history.  We learned about the Nazi Goebbels and Stalin’s censorship agency.  We were introduced to two sides of propaganda, it is either designed to unite people in pursuit to a good cause or propaganda is created to divide to control the population.

Mr. Smith warned us how propaganda (when done correctly) is psychologically effective and difficult to detect and to counter.  For some reason, it is most effective on those who live a life based on lies and deceit but not necessarily on those with low intelligence.  This is counterintuitive to arguments we find today on propaganda.

He also taught us counterpropaganda – how to halt or minimize its effects.

To be effective at countering the most fundamental requirement is to be truthful.  Mr. Smith pounded this into us repeatedly.  Even when the counter propaganda message appears to hurt your cause, telling the truth must remain the bedrock of counterpropaganda.  His students were lucky to have Mr. Smith as their teacher – his idea that the truth is the core of life continues to ring true.

While truth is important, it must also be delivered precisely and simply.

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” – Abraham Lincoln

While our teacher never mentioned President Lincoln (at least that I can remember).  I quote Lincoln here because the truth is central to good living, properly serving our community and family, and central to countering propaganda. However, in Lincoln’s quote we find another point of importance; implied but still important.  Bringing the “real facts” to the people is difficult.

Mr. Smith would have agreed with President Lincoln.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

32 thoughts on “We Studied Propaganda

  1. José Luis Rodriguez

    This is a timely article by Gen. Satterfield and right on target. We are being flooded with propaganda that pulls us toward the devil. Let us not allow us to side with the devil. Our lives will then be lost and we will be like those we see on tv that lie and commit violence in the name of the devil himself.

  2. Darwin Lippe

    You were very fortunate to have “Mr. Smith” as your civics teacher. I would not have expected a civics lesson that dealt with propaganda as a subject matter, much less, the mentoring on how to counter it. Well done!

  3. Don Snow

    “To be effective at countering the most fundamental requirement is to be truthful.” Thanks Gen. Satterfield for your insights today on this important topic. I predict we will see more on this as the months go by but only if we look for it. Propaganda to divide our nation is in high gear.

    1. Jeff Blackwater

      I hate to say it but our new President, Joe Biden, is lying to our citizens. He claims he is wants to unite us, yet his actions show otherwise. The problem is that the news media are hiding what he is doing. Lies all around.

      1. Stacey Borden

        — and most Americans are hoodwinked into believing it anyway, despite the proof in their faces showing otherwise.

      2. apache2

        Our formal, public education system has eliminated any study of the US Constitution, esp the First Amendment which is criticized for restricting “good” government (read that as Democrat Party platform) from doing what they see as “good”. Funny how tyranny works.

  4. Anya B.

    Most Americans learn in school about flagship political excesses in U.S. history like Joe McCarthy’s 1950s inquisitions, the post-World War I Red Scare and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Today, we have Social Media and their Democrat Party backers. This is a real problem that too many of our citizens cannot understand or even see. That is bad news. That means we all need to stand up and be counted or we all go down the socialist road together.

  5. Harry Donner

    Gen. Satterfield, your examples used from when you were a kid certainly sticks well in our minds. We were all there at one time and often think back to those days with some fondness. Well done!!

    1. Gil Johnson

      Yeah, another good reason to read these articles AND pass them along to our work mates.

  6. rjsmithers

    Another great article. Thanks Gen. Satterfield. Keep these kind of articles coming out way. 👍

  7. Pink Cloud

    In my honest opinion, if you want to see propaganda in action, just look at the West’s news media. They have become the propaganda arm of the “we are the world’ movement. You know – open borders, world citizenship, the rich giving to the poor, and all that. Resist and we will destroy you, is their meme.

    1. Mikka Solarno

      This is a good idea, Pink Cloud. I would start with CNN and MSNBC. They are the networks with the crazies that put opinion on their shows as FACTS. When we start to lie to ourselves, then we are in deep do-do.

    2. Tony Cappalo

      This is an important point. I agree completely. Too many young people who are reading this leadership blog don’t need examples from what they would consider the ancient past because, by their thinking, the past is unimportant to determine what happens today. Altho not true, new examples are best anyway. I would recommend using examples like the social media blackouts, censorship, de-monetarization, etc. of speech they do not like. That would be direct suppression of the truth. They need to understand that more than anything. From there, we can build a base of truth.

      1. Frank Graham

        Tony, good plan. Let’s go with it. I too think that we can go for the underbelly of social media because their brazen attacks on free speech and religion is so obvious even the most brain-dead leftist can see it. In a few months, that may not be the case.

        1. Willie Shrumburger

          The question is, “how do we get started?” Gen. Satterfield can certainly be the foundation and our mouth piece (I use that term loosely). Let’s ask him. And, let’s give some specific examples.

    3. Dennis Mathes

      Yes, best to use current and well-known examples. Hard to ignore and easy to verify.

  8. Doug Smith

    To counter propaganda, one must be a purveyor in truth. And, by truth I mean truth, not some fiction peddled by political leftists today that make it up as they go along with their neo-marxist ideology.

    1. Max Foster

      That is why, IMO, that we must always tell the truth and, according to Gen. Satterfield, “at least don’t lie.” Why? Simple, lying corrupts. And, by that I mean that when you lie often, you become unable to distinguish between a lie and the truth. That in a nutshell is the problem with so many socialists/communists today, they lie all the time and tell themselves they are superior morally and intellectually to us “flyover” people that they can make decisions that will “benefit” everyone. What really happens is exactly the opposite and they cannot see it. When we resist their tyranny, they become full of hate and spite. And the hate becomes tyrannical.

      1. Valkerie

        Great points Max, as usual. I would only add that if we study history properly, we will find many examples like Gen. Satterfield gave us with Nazi Germany in WW2 and the USSR under Stalin.

      2. Eric Coda

        Excellent comment, Max. “At least don’t lie”. I agree. Maybe Gen. Sattefield could write an article explaining better what is meant by “corruption”. That would be a great way to give us a better understanding.

        1. Joe Omerrod

          Good suggestion but let’s also use today’s leftists/socialists/neo-Marxists/progressives as the example.

          1. British Citizen

            I’m on board with it. Let’s help Gen. S. along with example we can give here. They are many and maybe we can help develop the concept a little to make it easier. Just a thought and it helps us, ourselves, as well to better understand.

          2. Rev. Michael Cain

            Good point and never forget the attacks on Christians and religions across the world and in the US by this world movement.

  9. Greg Heyman

    Bringing the “real facts” to the people is difficult.
    — best quote of the day….

  10. ARay Pittman

    Truth must be delivered precisely and clearly. That is surely true! I found it valuable to be able to reduce complex subjects into understandable bits. When done properly, it allows others to gain an appreciation of complex and difficult subjects.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      Yes, I’ve been able to describe the basics of calculus to junior high school students when I do it properly. And, the understand it. Now, the won’t be able to do much with it, but conceptually they understand. That is why I agree ARay with your comment.

      1. JT Patterson

        Ha Ha…. of course. I wish you guys would have explained it to me when I was in High School !

      2. Janna Faulkner

        … and exactly why we keep coming back to Gen. Satterfield for more of these kind of articles. There is a basic theme that constantly runs thru his articles. And that theme is that leadership requires one to have character. Otherwise, you can be effective but not moral. When morality is lacking you get what we see in people like US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. These are despicable people by any definition.

        1. corralesdon

          Evil. Pure and simple. Have you seen the HATE spewing from them? Horrible. And people actually agree with them. Amazing.

  11. Steve Dade

    You certainly were lucky to have “Mr. Smith” as your teacher in civics. Today, you would be on the receiving end of socialist/communist propaganda peddled as “truth” instead of hearing about in properly in its text as propaganda. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for a time from your past.


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