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Is there a non-derogatory synonym for propaganda?

Specifically, I’m talking about a word to describe the sum of all messages a particular political member has broadcast (through various media), but one without the negative connotation of “brainwashing” that propaganda can carry.

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Simply 'message'. 'Publicity' focuses more on the process than the content. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 5 '14 at 9:25
Assuming that propaganda carries a negative connotation, then may I assume you want a neutral word rather than a positive one? – tchrist Apr 5 '14 at 14:33
Related term that comes up frequently: talking point - can easily be pluralized to cover a complex or series of messages. – Patrick M Apr 6 '14 at 2:03
@PatrickM - Talking points would work if I'm focusing on the actual policy, but not the actual manner in which the policy is conveyed. It'd work if I'm talking about (say) the opinions of a candidate, but won't work if I'm referring to speech X, radio broadcast Y and mailing campaign Z. – Haedrian Apr 6 '14 at 8:02
@EdwinAshworth Please post message as an answer. – Drew Jun 14 '14 at 5:03

12 Answers 12

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Generally, when referring to a candidate's or party's collective set of opinions and messages, the word platform can be used.

Barack Obama's platform resounded with the voting populace to a greater degree than that of Mitt Romney.

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This is the first word to my mind, too. +1. – David M Apr 5 '14 at 12:44

Narrative usually refers to the recent history of messages flying around in some society on a given topic, usually with the faint implication that this history ignores, oversimplifies, or otherwise diverges from the objective truth of a situation. But it can also be used to describe one person's involvement: "Mr. X's speech furthered the popular narrative on Y."

I personally don't like the word much; it's one of a number of words that a certain breed of academics like to use when clutching their pearls. But it might be what you need.

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"Narrative building" is a useful term with the fast news cycle these days. It often takes about 3-4 days for groups to decide the correct narrative for any particular event. Once that happens, responses are pretty much locked in regardless of further developments. – Wayfaring Stranger Jun 14 '14 at 12:08

In its original meaning (as an abbreviation of “congregatio de propaganda fide”) the word “propaganda” was not derogatory, and even in its current meanings it is not necessarily negative. It all depends on the context.

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Please do not try to "correct" my Latin if you don't know what you are doing. "fide" (ablative) is correct, "fidei" (genitive) is wrong. – fdb Apr 6 '14 at 9:18

Platform is not the correct word to describe "the sum of all messages a particular political member has broadcast".

Platform (or the equivalent term manifesto) refers to the formal statement of a candidate or political party's beliefs, objectives, and principles, as well as its positions on issues and often its proposed actions, particularly if the candidate or political party attains power.

The sum of all the messages of a particular member of a political party may not be entirely in alignment with the party platform, either wilfully or due to error.

The term propaganda in its true meaning is not pejorative but because it has become used most in negative circumstances (communist propaganda, fascist propaganda but rarely if ever Democratic Party propaganda or Republican Party propaganda) people have been conditioned (brainwashed?) by the media to view it only as a derogatory term.

Thus if one wishes to avoid the term propaganda, one might refer to the pronouncements of the candidate, or the opinions and positions espoused by the candidate, sometimes referred to by political commentators as "the message" which the candidate is wishing to convey.

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You could simply use the word message.

Here is a list of some definitions, starting with the basic sense (AHD 1a) and then broadening into other commonly used polysemes:

message AHD 1. a. A usually short communication transmitted by words, signals, or other means from one person, station, or group to another.

b. The substance of such a communication; the point or points conveyed: gestured to a waiter, who got the message and brought the bill.

AHD 3. A basic thesis or lesson; a moral: a play with a message.

Collins 3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a formal communiqué

Cambridge Dictionaries Online: A politician who is on-message says things in public that support the official ideas of their political party: The candidate is clearly on-message with the Tory party leader.

And in line with the last definition, that usage from the internet, using the noun:

The government's own phone book lists literally dozens of communications staff in every department whose job it is to manage the government's message.

'Publicity' really focuses more on the process than the content.

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You could use either Pitch or Spiel. Rhetoric may also be applicable, although it's derogatory quality is debatable.

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But 'pitch' and 'spiel' are also derogatory, the former perhaps less so. – neubau Apr 5 '14 at 8:52
@user2619 I think that's debatable – kolossus Apr 5 '14 at 8:59
@user2619 - pitch and spiel are very informal, but I don't think they're derogatory. There are really good pitches and really good spiels. – medica Apr 5 '14 at 9:40
@user2619 I think the distinction you're looking for is the distinction between sophistry and rhetoric. The words are widely and mistakenly confused these days. The terms they stand for are still as clearly identified and identifiable as they ever were - as long as you know what the difference is in the first place. – Leon Conrad Apr 5 '14 at 10:20

If you're talking about a particular entity and a particular subject over a collection of media, it's entirely reasonable to refer to [entity]'s "published positions on" [subject], assuming that the concept of "published" can apply to the media.

If you are aggregating a variety of subjects that you don't want to list, you may be able to get away with simply [entity]'s "published positions."

If the entity has published positions on a variety of subjects that you don't want to list, but only wish to refer to the subset of those subjects in which they practiced "brainwashing" without specifically calling them out for that, it will be difficult to find a neutral word whose implication all readers will understand. Even if you found such a word, most likely different readers of your message will understand the subset in different ways, which is probably not what you intend.

If the subset is not ambiguous, and it is generally understood that the entity's positions have the characteristics of propaganda, and some people are okay with that and some aren't, you could try something like "controversial positions" as well, even though, to be fair, it may not be the positions themselves that are controversial so much as the way they are being promoted. :-)

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What about 'manifesto' of a candidate or a political party. That just means their detailed stand on all major issues and their action plans and does not have any negative connotations.

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All of the synonyms are kind of derogatory. Because of what propaganda is.

If you just want to talk about news or information, then use these words.

Information campaign via various media.

Publicity campaign via various media.

Publication, Promotion, Advertisement are also synonyms according to the thesaurus. And are not that badly connotated.

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Influence, Influence pedeling, argument, interpretation, perception management, advocacy.

Propaganda is either White (source claimed / attributed is true) Gray (no source stated / claimed / attributed) Black (speaker is lying about source attribution)

Propaganda can be hidden, open, implied. It can be true and honest or false (deception).

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This answer explains the difference between white, gray and black propaganda. I suspect you found the information here EL&U expects users to always cite their sources. As for your sentence, could you explain it? Do you believe these words are synonyms for propaganda? – Mari-Lou A Apr 5 '14 at 19:06
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – TimLymington Apr 5 '14 at 23:04

Psyops covers the right ground, but is used almost exclusively in military circles:

PSYOPS or Psychological Operations: Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator's objectives. Also called PSYOP. See also consolidation psychological operations; overt peacetime psychological operations programs; perception management.

The meaning of the term foreign of course depends on how one defines one's allegiance group.

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In contemporary speech, "spin," as in "That's just spin."

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Though to my mind, "spin" retains a negative connotation, which is a kissing cousin to something derogatory. "That's just spin" borders on sarcasm in that "spin" means putting the best face on something which would normally be considered bad. In other words, "spin" could be considered, oh, I don't know, a white lie? The person accusing someone else of using "spin" is derogating from that someone's higher-than-warranted estimation of, say, another person or that person's actions. E.g., "Kim Jong Il runs a tight ship," versus "Kim Jong Il is a ruthless despot." – rhetorician Jun 14 '14 at 12:58
Yes. This one illustrates that connotations change over time. Before the advent of 'spin doctors' (well, the term for them) 'put a different spin on', which is where, I'd say, the metaphorical usage was most commonly used, was unmarked for Machiavellianism (I can't think of a decent noun corresponding to 'sinister'). If anything, it carried a positive connotation, the cleverness of the interpreter. But all that has been besmirched in recent years. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 14 '14 at 13:45

protected by tchrist Jun 14 '14 at 18:36

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