I wanted to create a website section devoted to articles about propaganda, disinformation, brainwashing, etc. But it occurred to me that I should include manipulation, which really goes hand in hand with propaganda.

An example of manipulation would be an undercover cop posing as a protester or the government stopping a protest by imposing a curfew. Of course, propaganda itself is ultimately a form of manipulation.

Anyway, I was trying to think of a clever term that embraces propaganda and manipulation both. I eventually gave up and have tentatively named the section PDM - an acronym for Propaganda, Deception and Manipulation.

But before I commit myself, I thought I'd ask if anyone can suggest a better term for propaganda & manipulation. I'd prefer a term that is clearly political. (I've already rejected the word chicanery.) However, terms that aren't strictly political might work as well. I'm really shooting in the dark.


Propaganda is necessarily biased and misleading, otherwise it's simply information.

I've always liked the term Agitprop, which is a portmanteau of agitation and propaganda. If you do a cursory search of the term, you'll find the whole history behind the word.

Hope that helps!

  • I don't really understand your first sentence. I think propaganda is generally expected to be biased and misleading - or is that what you're saying? I suppose one could counter propaganda with "positive propaganda" of your own. I like the term agitprop; I've seen it before but never really took a close look at it until now. Unfortunately, agitprop appears to a general synonym of propaganda (not manipulation), though it is more suggestive of manipulation or agitation. – David Blomstrom Mar 21 '16 at 23:42
  • Propaganda is strategic. It's meant to be utilized politically to manipulate its audience into swaying their opinion away from whatever information (or misinformation) is being delivered by an opponent. I think what I meant to convey was that manipulation is part and parcel of the term propaganda, and I don't know that they two can really be disentangled. Agitprop served the same purpose, and even birthed Agitprop Theatre, which was intended to manipulate the audience into changing their views in favour of the political left. Typically, if it's not meant manipulatively, it's not propaganda. – Nick Mar 21 '16 at 23:53
  • No, propaganda is not "necessarily biased and misleading". It can be both but it need not be either. It is "Information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause" WordWeb. Factual, correct, complete, and unbiased information can be spread for the purpose of promoting a cause. Think heart association brochures or information about your public library. The key is spread in promotion of something. Think propagate. – Drew Mar 22 '16 at 0:26
  • Certainly, but the term propaganda has a very specific insinuation, which is why it's often defined as follows: "The systematic dissemination of information, esp. in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view" (Oxford English Dictionary). It's unlikely that the American Heart Association or the public library refer to their brochures as propaganda because, generally, there's a negative implication that the information therein is being used in manner other than simply informing the public of their services. – Nick Mar 22 '16 at 0:36

Agitprop is a very good suggestion, one that I've added to my political vocabulary. However, it doesn't really work for me in this specific context.

I finally came up with a solution: covert indirect control (COVINC or CovInC).

First, think of military and police actions as direct control, law making as a type of indirect control. Then think of covert military action (e.g. proxy wars). We could describe this as covert direct control.

Covert indirect control, then, is similar to law making but more secretive and deceptive. It includes both propaganda and "physical manipulation." (Propaganda itself can be considered a type of manipulation, but rigged voting machines are an example of physical, not mental, manipulation.)

For whatever it's worth, I wasn't the first to come up with the idea of direct vs indirect control (which is actually a pretty obvious idea). See What are the differences between direct and indirect control? Another perspective is offered @ Direct vs Indirect Control.

However, the term "covert indirect control" appears to be almost invisible - just 12 hits in Google, half of them "covert, indirect control."

The best example is probably the article Mr. Brezhnev and his Doctrine.

Without the party under its thumb, covert indirect control might no longer be a viable alternative to overt armed intervention.

Another article uses "covert indirect control" as a synonym of psychological control.

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