Origins of Propaganda
The term propaganda originated from the ‘Congragatio de propaganda fide’ (congregation for propagating the faith), a Roman Catholic organisation founded in 1622 for the purposes of missionary work. By the end of the First World War, it had become an unsavoury term: the Americans believed that they had been ‘lured’ into the war through the use of British propaganda. The Nazis appeared to believe the same, as Goebbels had a great admiration for British propaganda, and modelled the German Propaganda Ministry upon it. Note that the British had a ‘Ministry of Information’, not a ‘Ministry of Propaganda’ – and a great deal of thought was put into naming the Ministry, with Persuasion not thought to be strong enough, and Propaganda thought to be too strong!
The word ‘propaganda’ is defined as “The systematic propagation of nformation or ideas by an intrested party, esp. in a tendentious way to encourage or instil a particular attitude or response. Also, the ideas, doctrines, etc., disseminated thus; the vehicle of such propagation.” (OED Online, Accessed 11th April 2000)
Encarta defines propaganda as the “dissemination of ideas and information for the purpose of inducing or intensifying specific attitudes and actions. Because propaganda is frequently accompanied by distortions of fact and by appeals to passion and prejudice, it is often thought to be invariably false or misleading. This view is relative, however. Although some propagandists may intentionally distort fact, others may present it as faithfully as objective observers. A lawyer’s brief is as much propaganda as a billboard advertisement. Education, whatever its objective, is a form of propaganda. The essential distinction lies in the intentions of the propagandist to persuade an audience to adopt the attitude or action he or she espouses.” [Encarta]