Propaganda Machine

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Now, that's a Propaganda Machine
They have an engine called the press whereby the people are deceived.
The Director, That Hideous Strength

The Propaganda Machine a.k.a. The Ministry of Truth delivers the The Truth from The Government to the people. That's The Truth.

At least, that's what they say. In fact, a Propaganda Machine is only employed by The Empire and used to brainwash people into Gullible Lemmings who believe that everything is all right when in fact, it isn't, and that the very people who could help them are their enemies. Vigorously hated by La Résistance because it turns the very people they are trying to do good for against them.

Habitually indulges in Malicious Slander, Astroturfing and Divide and Conquer toward its scapegoats and enemies. Opposed by the Voice of the Resistance.

Is a frequent tool in establishing a Cult of Personality.

When the government actually does provide for the people to lull them into contentment, it's Bread and Circuses.

Examples of Propaganda Machine include:

Comic Books

Film

  • Referred to as such in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
  • All the viral messages in Starship Troopers movies are a pastiche of propaganda recruitment tools.
  • The Father's public adresses in Equilibrium, although they also use Prozium to enforce obedience.
  • The Empire from Star Wars, unsurprisingly.
  • V for Vendetta: Lewis Prothero, or the "Voice of London" acts as the charismatic, all-British face of the Norsefire regime. Due to his previous, somewhat dubious military career, he gets put the fuck down by V early on the film. The lack of him was probably a deciding factor in the people siding with V what with their Guy Fawkes masks at the end.
  • CSA: Confederate States of America: The Family Values Program is a series of propaganda films to brainwash slaves, keep women submissive, and root out homosexuals. In the movie's reality, American culture was pretty much nothing but propaganda.

Literature

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: The Ministry of Truth, hereinafter known as minitrue. They edit all information- every song, story, news report, even porn so that it completely fits the Party's definition of truth; and they don't care if reality says otherwise. The protagonist, an minitrue employee whose job it is to edit this information, believes they are not clumsy, but they are quite blatant. At first, it looks like minitrue must be laboring under the premise that while their marks may be quite talented at checking public record for consistency, they all have amnesia. The premise is overwhelmingly false on both counts. Actually, 1984 portrays people are just dishonest, pliable and prone to doublethink. The entire culture of 1984's version of Earth is portrayed as a polite fiction that's as unconvincing as possible so as to test the pliability of the population.
  • In the later Harry Potter books, The Daily Prophet effectively exists to maintain the Ministry line and discredit anyone who disagrees with it. The Ministry line varies wildly between the three books in question, but it's always at least somewhat misguided.
  • Monstrous Regiment: This Discworld novel is set in the small and incredibly confrontational nation of Borogravia. Throughout the book ranking officers decry any doubts, negative thoughts, or unpleasant facts as Spreading Alarm And Despondency, a crime nearly on the level of treason, and families at home are routinely sent pamphlets and updates telling them how splendidly the war's going. Of course, Borogravia has been at war for so long, with so many different countries, that the only people who actually believe the propaganda are the people putting it out; everyone else has done the math, and noticed that they're running out of sons to send to the front lines (as the climax approaches, the characters are told that Borogravia is so badly outclassed that her opponents have actually managed to get bored of slaughtering them).
  • Atlas Shrugged: Apparently, the government has enough control over the newspapers that many significant stories can only be reported as Suspiciously Specific Denials. All radio stations are made to run frequent official broadcasts, but the much-promoted November 22 "report on the world crisis" is pre-empted by John Galt's speech.
  • The Global Community-controlled media and press becomes this in the Left Behind series during the Tribulation, which causes Buck Williams to develop his Voice of the Resistance publication called The Truth to counter their news report spins with actual facts.

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Romulans and especially Cardassians.[context?]
  • Babylon 5. Used to denigrate Sheridan and his alien allies during the reign of President Clark, so Susan Ivanova became the Voice of the Resistance to counter it.
  • In Doctor Who episode Full Circle, a handful of youngsters live in the wilderness, convinced that Mistfall is a myth put out by the Deciders to control. Then Mistfall comes. When they manage, through various ways, to get to safety, the Deciders solemnly consider their youth and their new knowledge and only put them to work.

Machinima

  • Red vs. Blue. Apparently Command convinces the Reds to fight the Blue based on the information that "the Blues suck."

Tabletop Games

  • In the RPG Paranoia, Friend Computer constantly reminds every inhabitant of Alpha Complex that propaganda is unnecessary, because everything is perfect.
  • In Mutant Chronicles ,Bauhaus has its own The Ministry of Truth which tells people what they want them to hear.

Video Games

  • Beyond Good and Evil is all about fighting a government propaganda machine.
  • Command & Conquer
    • In the first Command and Conquer, NOD has a determined go at collapsing GDI support via falsified news reports. Whiles't not precisely falling under this trope in most of the 'Western world' it is noted in the background that NOD effectively controls at least 2/3rds of the 3rd world nations of today.
    • The Chinese in Command And Conquer: Generals can build Propaganda Centers and Speaker Towers to improve their troops' performance.
      • You can also build Propaganda Towers which heal soldiers. Somehow.
  • Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2: The "Praise Gith!" Television Robots are a very literal example of this...
  • Tropico: This Real Time Strategy game has this trope implied, especially in the third installment, as there are many news reels during gameplay, where the anchorman, Juanito, actually tells the people (and of course the player) how the political stability, the finances, citizen life quality, and other important aspects of the game, currently are. Although he sometimes deliberately twists facts, he can be quite openly skeptic at times. El Presidente CAN have Juanito executed in the expansion, however he is then replaced by a snarky anti-governmental anchorwoman, who unfortunately can not be rid of.
  • Red Faction: Guerilla has the Voice of Mars Broadcasting System brought to you by the EDF. You kill a ton of EDF troops assaulting civilians: "Today EDF forces found a group of insurgents near a civilian housing complex, three EDF troops and five insurgents were killed in the crossfire".
  • Metal Wolf Chaos: The Government Policy Promotion Department, where the password is "Overflowing love, and daily benevolence."
  • Star Craft 2: Mengsk's Dominion has one of these up and running, making Raynor and his buddies out to be terrorists. When Raynor & co. find damning evidence that confirms that Mengsk threw Tarsonis' population to the Zerg, they hack in and broadcast it sector-wide. The media quickly turns against Mengsk.
  • In Freelancer, after Rhineland falls under control of the Nomads and prepares for war with the other nations, their government gains a Ministry of Information. All the news items available in Rhineland during your brief visit there are so blatantly propaganda that it stretches Suspension of Disbelief as to how the people are going along with this - after all, the prewar Rhineland government was supposed to be democratic.
  • Just Cause: There's LITERAL Propaganda Machines(Trailers, actually) all over the place in the second game which you have to destroy; you can hear when one is nearby by the distinctive anthem they play, followed by Baby Panay's talking. Although his "Propaganda" doesn't seem so much "lying to the people that everything is fine", and more of apparently stroking his own ego...

Panay: Listen most carefully, people of Panau. President Panay, your glorious and humble leader, must speak. Free photographs of the president and his staff are now available in all government buildings. REJOICE.

  • The city of Ascalon in Guild Wars was a real propaganda machine, trying to paint their foes (who were villians only by necessity) as mindless savages. Hiding the Awful Truth that really their foes aren't evil but rather misunderstood as they're a bit ticked off about having their homeland stolen.
  • In 7.62 High Calibre, you can listen to two radio stations: the official military government news, and the pirate guerilla resistance news. Both will report on events that you are not directly involved in exactly the same (such as a noted celebrity visiting), but any events that further the plot are wildly misrepresented by both sides. If, for example, while working for the rebels, you happen to ambush a military convoy, killing all the soldiers and taking their weapons, the resistance will report that rebel fighters successfully took the convoy, killing many (which is truth but for the fact that you did most, if not all the work). The government, on the other hand, will report that the soldiers managed to drive off the attackers, successfully defending the convoy while crushing the rebel force.
  • Worth mentioning is a hazard in VVVVVV which is a machine that is shooting the word "LIES" at a television multiple screens to the right. The machine, television, and LIES can all kill you.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty features Arsenal Gear, a naval fortress designed to filter all information on the internet and remove anything that paints the USA in a negative light.

Web Comics

  • One edition of Concerned has a Rebel newspaper report on Freeman's rampage through Nova Prospect. The Combine response? EVERYTHING IS FINE!

Web Original

  • Doctor Steel: Doctor Steel is a master of using propaganda and propagandic art to spread his Utopian Playland message, which his fans/followers (known as Toy Soldiers) happily disseminate. Doctor Steel is, in fact, the only mad dictator in the history of existence who can actually label his propaganda as "propaganda" and no one will care. Except perhaps Dr. Insano.
  • Homestar Runner
    • First we have Marzipan's kindergarten, named L.ifeblossoms U.ndergoing R.e-education N.aturally. Her children (i.e. grown men Homsar, Homestar, and Strong Mad) are referred to as "lifeblossoms", and the point of the lessons is parodically hyper-vegan (one of her blackboards reads "soy is also murder," as she says, "and that way you always feel guilty").
    • In the short "Career Day" it's revealed Strong Bad treats his space program's promotional films as such - the vanity plate reads "SBASAF propaganda indoctrination mind control edumacational films presents".

Western Animation

  • The entire episode "Mindset" of Exo Squad was dedicated to Neosapien propaganda and Terrans who collaborated with it.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Fire Nation. Their schools have effectively made their students blindly follow the Fire Nation and stamp out all individuality, like any good Evil Empire would. Subverted in the first season, though. Two Fire Nation guards are reading about how the avatar can supposedly "run faster than the wind" and one of them scoffs that its just Fire Nation propaganda. Guess who zooms past right at that moment?
    • The Fire Nation has nothing on the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se, whose propaganda is so thorough that they've managed to convince a significant chunk of the population (including their own king) that there is no war.

Real Life

  • Nazi Germany and Joseph Goebbels in particular.
  • American post-war propaganda and "mental hygiene films" were directly inspired by the Nazi use of cinema, a great volume of which was produced by the military[1] They reasoned that it could, and should, be used for indoctrination of pro-American values of the time. Of course, this was when film was still going through its New Media Are Evil phase, and there was much more belief in cinema's power over people's minds. PSAs are descended from the early American Propaganda Machine.
  • Stalin had Trotsky, Yezhov, and many, many others edited out of pictures, for starters; later Soviet premiers shied away from being quite as blatant, though the propaganda machine remained in place. The untrustworthy nature of the news sources at the time sparked a joke in the USSR spoken amongst those not prone to reporting people to the Central Committee: There is no Pravda ("truth") in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia ("news") in Pravda (or some variation thereof; both papers are still around, by the way, although they have become two remarkable cases of In Name Only). Since people had to read between the lines to determine what actually happened (there being few to no real news alternatives depending on the circumstances, and open discussion being obviously dangerous), some Russians believed that America won in Vietnam.
  • There is a russian joke made after the disappointment of the 90s in Russia:

Everything we've been told about communism, turned out to be a lie.
Everything we've been told about capitalism, turned out to be a truth.

  • For a humorous version, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf (Baghdad Bob/Comical Ali), the Information Minister under Saddam Hussein, who was to be found vigorously denying in a press conference that the American forces have captured Baghdad while the sounds of American tanks rolling towards the broadcast center can be heard in the background.
  • Wartime Cartoons.
  • If "demonization of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany before and during World War I" is something you find curious, here is a good summary. Or perhaps if you are curious as to where Orwell found that idea of official image of the world being routinely subjected to U-turn revisions via Memory Hole:

Even worse was The Kaiser, The Beast of Berlin, which opened on Broadway in the spring of 1918. The content more than justified the title. The man whom the New York Times had acclaimed as the Prince of Peace in 1913 was portrayed as gloating over slaughtered Belgian civilians and torpedoed ships.

  • One example of this trope being used for good was the Abolitionist movement in 19th-century America. They mobilized a truly massive Propaganda Machine made up of everything from newspapers to novels (Uncle Tom's Cabin) to public speaking in order to wake white America up to the horrors of slavery.
  • By its widest definition, just about every political entity practices propaganda; namely, making themselves look as good as possible while either downplaying or downright denying any good qualities in their opponents. The negative aspects of this trope come in when this is the only form of news anyone has access to.
  • It could be said that the difference between propaganda and Public Relations is that the bad guys engage in Propaganda, while the good guys do Public Relations. Indeed, the Voice of the Resistance is likely considered propaganda by those who don't agree with them. How much of the content is truthful and how much isn't depends on who is producing it.
  • Australian PR firm Crosby/Textor makes extensive use of wedge politics on behalf of its mostly neo-conservative clients.
  • Almost any state media news organization in a dictatorship will get used in this way.
  • If you believe Noam Chomsky, then all media is part of a propaganda machine. The argument goes that all media is profit-motivated and as such their profit is the only thing in the universe that matters to them.[2] Their revenue far and away comes from ads, not the quarter you put in the newspaper vending machine. Timely information about governments comes from the military and the police,[please verify] and the little access they do get is revocable if they inconvenience their sources. It gets to the point where even Wikimedia, which repackages ad-bearing information without ads, reads "police said this, police said that, the military said the other thing, high ranking government employees yada yada yada". Also, the owners of almost all media groups are rich[please verify] and are picked[please verify] for their gender, politics and race,[please verify] help run the government[please verify] and they can dictate who gets employed[please verify] and what they write[please verify] (or at least fire them if they do it the wrong way).[please verify] Add all of that up and it means that we only hear about what our various governments want us to hear about.[please verify] Sure people complain about those stories, but that just helps to create the illusion. The idea is that in the end you can't even imagine that other bad things could be happening. Television rots your brain anyway.
    • Not a very competent propaganda machine, though. The occasional story on CBS 60 Minutes about US-now-Turkish warplanes destroying entire Kurdish villages or on Fox News about New Orleans residents interned in the Astrodome and so forth gets through. It's pretty easy to avoid the propaganda, you just turn the TV and radio off and make sure when you find ads in something, if it's political, current events, historical, ethics, or religious, stop being exposed to it. Wikipedia often toes the party line, but if you study 20th century history, sociology, and political science, you can draw your own conclusions.
  • Imperial Japan during World War II actually did such a good job with this, that it actually came as a colossal shock to the Japanese people on the home islands when they surrendered, because up until then they'd been told that they had been winning the war.
    • This is not dissimilar to what happened to the Germans after World War I, which in part set the stage for World War II. All the good news from the front lines had been let through by the censors, but the tales of defeat were not. Since the Germans leaders surrendered before the Allies actually invaded Germany itself, some people thought they'd been betrayed by their leaders while they were winning the war.
  • "Our American Pravda" article on The Unz Review describes peculiarities of the late American version (the historical roots are mostly covered by Mark Twain).
  • In June 2018, Ralph Peters, a former military analyst for Fox News, made headlines by declaring that the channel has become a "destructive propaganda machine" doing a "great deal of damage" to the United States, and that it was "assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law".
  1. No exaggeration; This Troper's grandfather was a filmmaker for the US Marines, and subjected him to over eight hours of his work throughout the decades.
  2. This Mod would like to state for the record that All The Tropes is designed to operate at a loss covered by the personal finances of a noticeable fraction of the moderation team, and is intended to not be able to turn a profit.