Democracies Require the Most Sophisticated Propaganda

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From Taking the Risk Out of Democracy by Alex Carey (1995).

Contrary to common assumptions,

propaganda plays an important role – and certainly a more covert and sophisticated role – in technologically advanced democratic societies, where the maintenance of the existing power and privileges are vulnerable to popular opinion. In contrast, under authoritarian regimes power and privilege are not open and vulnerable to dissenting public opinion. This was the point made by Robert Brady after an extensive study of business and corporate public relations – a term he uses to cover domestic propaganda. Brady (1943:288-9) concluded that in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan during the half-century to 1940, ‘broadly speaking the importance of public relations … decreases as one moves away from countries with long and deep-seated liberal, democratic and parliamentary institutions’. Brady argues that Italy and Japan had the least experience of democratic institutions and therefore produced the least competent propaganda. In Germany, where there had been greater though still limited experience of democratic institutions, ‘Nationalist Socialist propaganda was by all means better organised … more vociferous and more versatile than the propaganda of either Italy or Japan’. At the other end of the scale, that is among countries with the longest experience of liberal, democratic institutions, ‘public relations propaganda … in the United States … is more highly coloured and ambidextrous than it has ever become, even in England’.

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Professor Raymond Bauer (1958:126) comes to a similarly unexpected conclusion from his study of social science in the Soviet Union:

One area of social science that is ordinarily assumed to be useful to a totalitarian regime is research on social and political attitudes … Ironically, psychology and the other social sciences have been employed least in the Soviet Union for precisely those purposes for which Americans popularly think psychology would be used in a totalitarian state – political propaganda and the control of human behaviour.

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