(What is the idea being “sold?” How are people “buying” into the idea, but what is thereal message behind it? How and why do people follow the masses without thinking? How are people buying into the media, negative images and ideas, politics, etc?)
I have come to the sad conclusion that every news program and printed news source is really just a forum for propaganda. I expect to hear opinions and points of view from talk shows and programs which are billed as social/political commentary rather than news. But news programs and print mediums, too, are making decisions with a view to "slanting" information in order to promote an agenda. What they choose to cover--or ignore--and how they choose to view and talk about events is certainly a kind of propaganda. Think of anything which might have two perspectives, and you have at least the potential for propaganda.
One bit of propraganda that continues to raise its head is the idea that President Obama is a Muslim. This is propaganda at many levels. It is mudslinging as the comments are being made in an attempt to cause harm to his character or reputation. It's an attempt at bandwagon because obviously good Americans would not want a Muslim in the Whitehouse. Propaganda is only effective because we as consumers do not educate ourselves on the issues.
I would venture to say that almost all of the political campaign ads that are broadcast are a type of propaganda. The current climate of politics seems more concerned about public perception than with actual facts and issues.
There is one set of current affairs which is, and always has been, confusing for the outside world. That is the continuing conflict in the Middle East, more specifically the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians. For example, we in the west find it very hard to understand, or to make a judgement about what is and isn't fair in terms of land, housing and occupation. Recently there's been a story about harassment of young stone-throwing Palestinian children by the police. Both sides are brilliant at getting their grievances out to the outside world, but many of us don't know who to believe.
I saw on the news tonight where a church organization has taken out an ad campaign to run during the holiday season... it is a picture of a fetus in an ultra-sound (complete with a halo) and the message is: "He came as a baby." Because it is the Christmas season the billboards seem like innocent Christian messages of hope, but one news report mentioned this as an "Anti-abortion" campaign (which, given the picture, it very well could be).
Whether you agree or disagree with the hidden message analysis, I think this could certainly be classified as modern day propaganda.
A very contentious example that is nonetheless interesting is the way that 9/11 was viewed by different countries in the world. Of course, in America and other Western nations, 9/11 was presented as a terrorist outrage. However, in other Middle Eastern countries, it was a cause for celebration. Whilst I am definitely not condoning 9/11 in any way, it is important to ask why there were such radically different responses to this crucial event in recent world history.
How about the ideas being put out by both sides of the debate over Wikileaks? In this case, both sides are trying to demonize the other. The pro-government people paint the Wikileaks people as anarchists trying to bring down the government. The Wikileaks people talk about the government as if they were Nazis.
These techniques work because they tap into stereotypes that their side already holds with regard to the other side. In other words, propaganda works because it tells people stuff they are already predisposed to agree with -- things that makes people who they already don't like look bad.
That propaganda techniques have been employed by the Conservatives and the Liberals in the United States Congress is evinced in a recent editorial found in the Los Angeles Times which purports that the Republicans and Democrats have "kicked up so much rhetorical dust as they wrestle over the economy."
On one side, the Republican party members contend that an extension of the Bush tax cuts will help small businesses and generate jobs, while the Democratic members of Congress claim that these tax cuts will add to the deficit. Democrats also contend that the Bush tax cuts are "for the rich." From the discussions of both parties, it is obvious that both parties are pandering to their bases: the upper middle and upper class for the Republicans, and the lower classes for the Democrats.
You may wish to go to the site for the Los Angeles Times's editorial; there are many, many more on the internet that can easily be read to provide the answers to how propaganda is used on this issue. (You will want to read news articles that are not editorials, of course.)