How to Avoid Writing Propaganda
- Present Alternative Views Fairly. Don’t mischaracterize your opponent’s views on purpose or try to make them seem worse. If you’re showing both sides of the story in an even-handed, objective way, then you aren’t creating propaganda, even if you ultimately argue in favor of one view over the other.
- Be honest. This should go without saying. Lies are often featured prominently in propaganda, and this is a big part of why the word has developed a negative connotation.
- Balance emotions with logic. It’s not necessary to make your writing totally emotionless, and indeed this would make it pretty dull to read. But the best writing combines emotion with rational arguments and presents its view in a way that can appeal to the readers’ minds as well as their hearts.
When is it OK to Use Propaganda?
Of course, you don’t always have to use logical arguments to talk about politics. Artists frequently use their talents to create emotional art related to political topics. The Harlem Renaissance, for example, was an outpouring of anti-racist art among African Americans in New York. So, despite its negative connotation, propaganda isn’t always a bad thing. It’s only bad when it’s political message is a negative one (e.g. racist or anti-Semitic). Of course, people disagree strongly about what political messages are negative, so they will always disagree about what sort of messages are appropriate for propaganda.
There are three tests you can use to determine whether propaganda is OK in a given situation:
- Are you attacking a group of people, or just opposing their ideas? If you are personally trying to make people look bad, then your propaganda will probably seem vicious rather than inspiring.
- Are you hiding the fact that your work is propaganda? Creating propaganda is OK in itself – but it’s dishonest to pretend that your propaganda is rational, logical, or objective. You have to acknowledge that the work is your own, biased, and one-sided opinion.
- Are you doing a creative project? Since propaganda is, by definition, non-logical, it wouldn’t be appropriate in a formal essay. In a creative project, though, propaganda might be OK (provided the other conditions are met).