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Counterintelligence, Subcourse ITO103, ed. 5, (U.S. Army), 1975,
pgs. 5;8-5;13 (propaganda techniques)

(sec 5, "countersubversion")


The actual structure of any subversive organization is subject to infinite variation. To meet with success, the subversive element must adopt that organization which is most suitable for the particular situation and circumstances in which it is operating. Regardless of this, however, subversive organizations, in the case of both the Fascists and the Communists, seem to divide themselves into two major divisions:

a. The Overt Organization. The overt organization is normally a political party or association. It poses as a legitimate political party, but by agitation, propaganda, infiltration, and the establishment of front groups, this organization attempts to accomplish the subversion of the society which harbors it. The organization is formed at every level of society from the national right down to the smallest local “club.” The activities of this branch are frequently kept well within the law; membership figures of the overt branch are published, and the activities of the organization on the higher levels are well publicized.

b. The Covert Apparatus. The covert or underground apparatus contains the leadership nucleus necessary for continuing the subversive operations if the legal apparatus is declared illegal or suppressed to the point where it becomes ineffective. Often this same nucleus is designed to assume control when the ultimate objective of the subversive movement is met. By placing its members in key positions in the government, armed forces, industry, etc., the underground organization is pre- pared ultimately to engage in espionage, sedition, and sabotage. It may also engage in such activities as the maintaining of clandestine communications networks, escape routes, illegal documentation facilities, and may also engage in various illicit activities to obtain finances for both the overt and covert divisions of the subversive movement.


Thus far, we have examined in a general way the goals of the subversive movement, and the basic organizational components into which subversive elements divide themselv~s to achieve these goals. With these in mind, we now turn to a discussion of the actual tactics employed by subversive organizations in meeting their objectives. There are four basic tactics that we shall consider. All of these techniques are based on the assumption that the revolutionists will be a perpetual minority in the population.

Again, we are using the Communists as the basis for our discussion. Ever since Lenin, the techniques of subversion have been developed for the use of a small, militant, fanatical, and disciplined body. This minority strategy is based on the principle of leverage. For example, it may take one hundred men to build a bridge, but it only takes one man


to destroy it if he knows precisely where to deliver the destructive blow. Let us examine the developed pattern of Communist subversive tactics.

a. Agitation. This is the most basic of the tactics of subversion. The agitator seeks to develop the interest of the public in some theme or idea which serves the interest of the subversive group. The difference between agitation and propaganda is that agitation, in the words of Plekhanov, presents only one or a few ideas to a mass of people, while propaganda presents a mass of ideas to one or a few people. Agitation is generally the beginning of a conditioning process, and the agitator’s method is the endless repetition of a few basic ideas varied to fit the particular audience being addressed. For example, an agitator would seize upon some easily comprehensible incident or fact, such as the death of a student during a demonstration. His job is not in relating the facts surrounding the incident to his audience, but to make a martyr out of the victim and create an atmosphere of doubt, suspicion, fear or hatred, and awaken the revolutionary ardor of the masses.

The appeal of the agitator is on a highly emotional plane. It is the task of the agitator to affect the minds, emotions, and actions of large groups on the “grass roots” level. Agitation goes hand in hand with propaganda, and as Lenin said, “The agitator will fasten his attention on a concrete injustice, leaving to the propagandist the responsibility for a complete explanation of the injustice.”

b. Propaganda. We have noted that the function of the agitator is to arouse the interest of the public in themes which serve the subversive’s purpose. Propaganda capitalizes on this awakened interest and seeks to transform this interest into firm points of view on those issues which aid the subversive cause. Propaganda is long range in nature, and the appeal is on a higher level than the simple, direct, emotional approach of agitation. The propagandist expands upon the agitator’s simple themes, fuses them together, and organizes them into coherent campaigns. The ultimate purpose of the propagandist is to convince the people who accept the propaganda to take action on the ideas and the opinions that they have formed. Good propaganda is neither crude nor simple; it is smooth, subtle, and often difficult to detect.

Propaganda is used by the Communists as an offensive weapon to place their opposition in a morally defensive position; to convince the non—Communist world of Soviet superiority in military power, economic growth, and scientific progress; to exploit tensions between non—Communist countries; to capitalize on social, political, economic, and cultural tensions within these countries; to confuse, divide, and eventually destroy the ability of non—Communist societies to resist Communist take-over. Such questions as truth and consistency, often immensely important in democratic studies of propaganda, mean practically nothing under the modern totalitarian concept. Subversives operating within a democratic society, taking full advantage of the freedoms and protections granted to them by that society to express their dissent through speech, writing, and lawful assembly for the very purpose of destroying those freedoms, pose a difficult and perplexing problem.

l03;5 ;9

(1) Objectives of propaganda. As an example of the immediate and specific goals of the propaganda phase of a subversive campaign, let us examine those of a subversive organization. Their goals include:

(a) Recruitment of new members.

(b) Gaining support for front. organizations.

(c) Undermining our faith in government, religion, education, and the accepted ideals and standards of conduct.

(d) Developing an international consciousness and lessening patriotism.

(e) Developing support for the USSR and its policies.

(f) Creating internal dissension.

(g) Creating sources of revenues for the organization.

(h) Finally accomplishing the overthrow of the legally established Government.

(2) Classes of propaganda. There are basically two classes of propaganda — “open” propaganda and “nonlabeled” propaganda.

(a) Open propaganda. This is propaganda emanating from the subversive movement, with no effort on the part of the subversives to conceal the sources of its origin. In some cases, the propaganda is clearly labeled as originating from the subversive elements. This type of propaganda is also referred to as “white” propaganda. For example, when the subversive organization advocates such things as a minimum wage of $1.50, or a thirty—hour workweek for all workers, they want to be in a position to claim the credit for these proposals from the people who stand to gain. In this way they can expand the base of their support.

There is another type of open propaganda which, although not clearly labeled as originating in a subversive movement, does not actively conceal the source of origin. This type of propaganda is known also as "gray" propaganda.

(b) Nonlabeled propaganda. This is propaganda which cannot be readily identified as originating from subversive sources. It is also referred to as “black” propaganda. It reaches the public through the reputable means of communication such as the newspapers, radio and TV broadcasts, the cinema, and published material such as books, magazines, and pamphlets. The fact that the subversive organization can use some of these media for its purposes does not imply the media are under the control of the subversive organization or in any way in sympathy with its aims. But, on the other hand, just because an item is disseminated


by reputable means, we cannot guarantee that it is not subversive. Propaganda may be introduced into legitimate channels by carefully masked front groups and can be introduced with such patience and tact that the victimized organization has no idea at all that ‘it is dealing with subversive propaganda. Identification of this type of propaganda requires the services of a specialist who is skilled in the art of content analysis, and who has the necessary background in the theory of communism and the techniques of the subversive propagandists in advancing the objectives of their world revolutionary program.

(3) Organizing the campaign. Words and symbols are tools of the propagandist, but they must be the right words and symbols to evoke the reaction the propagandist desires. A number of characteristic propa- ganda techniques are used to achieve this objective. Some of the devices used by both good and bad propagandists are as old as language. Propagandists have used methods that we ordinarily use to convince each other. These methods have been analyzed, refined, and experimented with until they have been developed into tremendously powerful weapons for the swaying of popular opinions and actions. Employing the axiom, “One picture is worth a thousand words,” the propagandists have used leaflets, posters, movies, and other visual means to dtive home their message at varying levels of understanding.

(a) The first step in presenting propaganda is gaining attention. Attention—getting devices include the organization of “marches” of various kinds, extensive use of placards, and presentation of speeches before a large gathering. A favorite area often used by the Communists is the floor of the United Nations, where their speeches will reach people from many nations.

(b) The next step is the selection of issues — issues that are timely, controversial, and aimed at the particular target. Thus, integration of schools is an issue important to Negroes; pay raises are matters of importance to government workers and others; peace propaganda is a most effective means of appealing to women. The most important part of issue selection is a thorough understanding of the psychology of the propaganda target so that the director of the propaganda will know which issues appeal most strongly to each target.

(4) Propaganda techniques. After the issue has been selected, the propagandist uses many methods to make his own case appear valid. The following are the actual techniques used.

(a) The first technique is known as card stacking. This might involve the use of statistics that support only the propagandist’s side of an issue. It is like the question, “Answer yes or no — have you stopped beating your wife?” It involves the selection and use of facts or falsehoods, logical or illogical statements, to give the propagandist’s side of the case for an idea. It provides a false authenticity for a weak case.


(b) Another technique is called transfer, which involves associating a partisan cause with values and symbols that are highly regarded. This accounts for sentimentalized propaganda, using references to religion, the home, or motherhood, and attempting to identify the propaganda with these admired or worshiped associations. Transfer can also be used in the negative sense by identifying the enemy with evil symbols. This is the sort of thing the Communist seeks to do when he refers to Western ideas and practices as those of “war—mongering, imperialistic Wall Street capitalists.” The Communists seek to associate us with war and destruction, with colonialism and exploitation, with racial prejudice and social injustice. For their own cause they use the symbols of work, like the hammer and sickle, or the symbol of peace, like the dove; but they try to identify us with the dollar sign as a symbol of exploitation and greed.

(c) This is closely connected with another technique, name calling, in which bad labels are attached to enemy causes so that people will reject and condemn these without examining the evidence. It is a favorite technique of leftists in the US to attach the label “radical” to all conservatives or nonleftists, even if the person’s views are far from radical. Conversely, the true radical rightist uses the term “Communist” when speaking of liberals. If the propagandist can get the name to stick, he can defeat the cause, not on its merits, but on its reputed associations.

(d) Testimonial consists in having some respected or hated person say that a given idea or program or person is good or bad. Thus, if one can cite examples from Hitler’s writings testifying that someone or something was good, this alone will be enough to condemn the person or idea as far as most anti—Nazis are concerned. On the other hand, if the Communists can get some well—known American to testify to something they want to promote, it is a help to their cause. This is the reason that Communist propaganda quotes so often from the works of Jefferson or Lincoln — in order to associate their cause with these respected Americans. This is the same principle that advertisers use when they get famous screen actors or sports heroes to endorse their cigarettes, razors, or hair tonics.

(e) Glittering generalities are sweeping and often meaningless statements which tend to oversimplify complex issues and link a cause directly to a general value. Like transfer, it is a technique which tries to associate something with a virtue word.” Thus, the Communists refer to themselves as “the party of the people”; or they use such generalities as “the toiling masses" or “the liberating forces of socialism," "peace" or "peaceful coexistence.” Terminology like this is a kind of doubletalk, designed to delude the unwary by avoiding specific terms and by seeming to mean a great deal more than is really said.

(f) Another propaganda device is called “plain folks” or “average people,” which involves an attempt to identify the propagandist and his


views with the best interests of the people. In America this technique has long been employed in the buildup for politicians by showing their lowly origins and explaining how they rose from “rags to riches.” The implication is that only they understand the “common people” because they belong to them. The Communists, too, use this technique by pretending to speak on behalf of the “masses” and against “the favored few,” “the Wall Street capitalists,” “the Pentagon militarists.”

(g) Allied with the plain folks technique is the bandwagon argument, which has as its theme, “Everybody’s doing it.” In this way the propagandist tries to make the target believe that the idea or cause he is propagating is “the wave of the future” and that the target “better get aboard the bandwagon” and ride to victory with the victors; otherwise, in the words of the Communists, he will be “swept on to the rubbish heap of history.” Propagandists are sensitive to the reluctance of people to support a weak cause. Therefore, they put on displays of strength — to frighten people into submission. This is what Hitler did in his vast parades at the Nuremberg Congresses of the Nazi Party, and this is what the Soviets do in their May Day parades in Moscow.

(h) The effectiveness of propaganda may be enhanced if the source can raise anxieties and produce fear. Thus, the USSR bullies and threatens its European neighbors with nuclear destruction if they permit US missile installations in their territories. Communist bluster about West Berlin is part of a propaganda campaign to make people so nervous about the dangers of war that they will give in to part of their demands ithout having to wage open war. This is really part of psychological arfare. Hitler attempted to frighten his enemies and comfort his own people in World War II by his stories of "secret weapons" that would turn the tide of war and would guarantee victory for his side.

(i) Another technique is excluding competition. In propagandizing their own people the Soviets are careful to prevent their people from learning the other side of the story. By complete—control over all the media of propaganda — schools, radio, TV, press, and publications — and by jamming attempts of our Voice of America to reach the Russian people, the rulers of the USSR make sure that only their distorted views reach the Soviet citizens.

All of the propaganda techniques that we have discussed are familiar to experts in this field; these techniques have been employed for good causes as well as for bad ones. There is nothing inherently wrong with propaganda. But our problem is to counter the subversive intent of enemy propaganda, and to do this we must understand the enemy’s aims and his methods.

c. Front Groups.

(1) A front organization is, as its name implies, designed to place a false exterior to the audience toward which it is directed. It is used


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