The Propaganda Machine, Part Two When making the propaganda of a world, it helps to know a bit about why propaganda might be used. The same is true of classified information. Historically, most propaganda and the majority of information withheld is done for two related reasons: influence and power. Influence is how widespread your fame is and how many people would be willing to jump at your whim. Power is derived from influence and other factors, though that may be shadow influence and not overt. Shadow influence is essentially when you have influence over people and they do not realize you hold it. While violence and fame are great ways to garner influence and power, holding it and sometimes taking control often necessitate propaganda and classification. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of why people utilize these measures: 1) War. This is when one is most likely to see security tighten up and the lies come out. It is vital to keep national moral up, and oftentimes that means lying about just how bad things are. It also means making your enemy look like the bad guy, so your troops have no qualms about shooting them and your people have no qualms about paying the troops to shoot them. It is also important to keep information about just how dangerous your weapons are to yourself, just in case the other guy either has bigger guns or gets inspired to make them. This can take two paths: Lie and say you have bigger guns to scare them off or lie and say you have no weapons of any threat to avoid being invaded or sanctioned. 2) Peace. In order to keep the peace, again, you want things to look better than they are. It is important in peace to show how wonderful those nations you are allied with are and how amazing you are at keeping everyone nice and safe without having to resort to war. It is also important to not state you are at war when it looks like you’re going to lose (i.e. policing actions). Here, you are more likely than ever to lie about weapons breakthroughs, saying that of course that isn’t a weapon, it’s a way to make life better. And of course that’s a corn silo. 3) Technology races. Here honesty normally plays a key role because scientists tend to question everything-- especially each other. However, now and then it is so important to seem like you have made that breakthrough and then it just explodes into a ladder of lies as each side tries to top the other. 4) National security. Without classified files and propaganda, without the lies and the coverups, security would very often be compromised in most nations more often than it is. Not even going into the fact that enemy nations would then have vital information, the sad fact is, the more access the people of a nation have to what’s going on in the government, the more of a threat that nation’s own people are to it and thus the more likely that nation is to enforce a police state or random searches or surveillance. It is a game of give and take. If a nation expects pure government transparency, the government will be forced to require pure public transparency to protect itself. 5) Gaining political control. No one really expects the rebels, the coup leaders, the underdog party to have more influence than those in power. It happens rarely, but most of the time, there isn’t as much support for the prospective power (unless the powers were pretty much equal to begin with) as they claim. Of course, out and out lying at that stage risks alienating supporters, so polls are taken and the results skewed or loose language is used. “Nine out of ten protestants surveyed support candidate A!” or “The Harshaw rebellion is numbered well in excess of 9000 in the valley of Narava.” What they don’t tell you is that those ten protestants were ones who selected the candidate in a lesser campaign or primaries and were thus specifically picked for the survey or that the rebellion really only have 9045 members, not the 15k people are going to imagine. 6) Revisionist History. The winners write history. This is pretty much a fact of life, because if the people who lost were allowed to seem noble and maltreated, if the people of the winning nation realized what lengths their government went to, what atrocities their military committed, they would rise up and overthrow that government, which would likely lead to that newly defeated nation taking advantage of a civil war and invading or retaking their lands. Civil war is a dangerous crack in the wall. Just ask Russia. It allowed Poland to take Moscow at one point. In the end, it comes down to wanting to protect power. This power may be personal, it may be national power which leads to safety of those you want to protect, or it may be spiritual power. Propaganda and classification are not inherently evil but tend to be used for evil purposes. So now that you know why it is often used, how do you apply these things to your world? Look at the major powers and consider what they tell their people about the following things: Their religious leaders. Their weapons and armaments. Their treasury. The current war. The last war. Future planned skirmishes. Health care. Property. Now look at the underdogs and add a few more questions. What do they tell others about: Their number of supporters. Their connections. Their resources. How does what they tell those on a need to know basis, in both cases, differ from what those out of the loop know? How is this propaganda spread? Are there broadcasts, super heroic characters embodying a nation or cause, leaflet drops? If you want a good look at how propaganda works, watch Captain America (not kidding), any episode of MASH dealing with Stars and Stripes (a publication notorious for propaganda), or just take a good hard look at any nation on Earth. So how do you use propaganda in your settings? Can you think of any other settings where it is essential or should be left out?