Techniques of Propaganda used in the Madeleine McCann case


Examples from the Madeleine McCann case
More to follow - suggestions and insights are welcome.

(Please note: I am breaking these up into individual posts and it is taking some time. Thanks for your patience.)

A number of techniques are used to create messages which are persuasive, but false. Many of these same techniques are by definition logical fallacies since propagandists use arguments which, although sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid.

It is essential to have some knowledge of the following techniques for generating propaganda. (In other words - this knowledge is very helpful when trying to sort the wheat from the chaff.):


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  • The propagandist technique of attacking the person instead of attacking his argument. A common form is an attack on sincerity.

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  • The propagandist technique of  using the tireless repetition of an idea. An idea, especially a simple slogan, that is repeated enough times, may begin to be taken as the truth. This approach works best when media sources are limited and controlled by the propagator.

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  • The propagandist technique of citing prominent figures to support a position, idea, argument, or course of action.

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  • The propagandist technique of attempting to build support by instilling anxieties and panic in the general population.


  • The propagandist technique of using loaded or emotive terms to attach value or moral goodness to believing the proposition. The loaded or emotive terms are used in biased or misleading ways.

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  • The propagandist technique of attempting to persuade the target audience to join in and take the course of action that "everyone else is taking".


  • The propagandist technique of depicting famous people or attractive, happy people in association with their product or ideology. The goal is to make the target audience think that if they buy a product or follow a certain ideology, they too will be happy or successful.


  • The propagandist technique of repeatedly articulating a complex of events that justify subsequent action. The descriptions of these events have elements of truth, and the "big lie" generalizations merge and eventually supplant the public's accurate perception of the underlying events.

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  • The propagandist technique of presenting only two choices, with the product or idea being propagated as the better choice. For example: "You're either with us, or against us."

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  • This propaganda technique does not provide all of the information necessary for the reader to make an informed decision. It uses arguments that support their position, but ignores or even denies the arguments against. Card stacking is used in almost all forms of propaganda, and is extremely effective in convincing the public. Card stacking is often difficult to detect because you must decide what is missing from the picture. (also referred to as "Selective Omission")


  • All vertebrates, including humans, respond to classical conditioning. That is, if object A is always present when object B is present and object B causes a negative (or pleasurable) physical reaction (e.g., disgust, pleasure) then when presented with object A when object B is not present, we will experience the same feelings. (Cuddle cat)


  • The propagandist technique of appealing to the desire people have to be consistent. Suppose a pollster finds that a certain group of people hates his candidate for senator but love actor A. They use actor A's endorsement of their candidate to change people's minds because people cannot tolerate inconsistency. They are forced to either to dislike the actor or like the candidate.

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  • The technique of attempting to convince the target audience that the propagandist's position or idea reflects the "common sense" of the people.


  • The propagandist technique of attempting to make individuals from the opposing nation, from a different ethnic group, or those who support the opposing viewpoint appear to be subhuman, worthless, or immoral, through suggestion or false accusations. DEHUMANIZING is also a termed used synonymously with DEMONIZING, the latter usually serves as an aspect of the former. (Sardine Munchers. Keystone Cops. Hate-mongers.)


  • The propagandist technique of attempting to simplify the decision making process in their target audience by using images and words to tell the audience exactly what actions to take, eliminating any other possible choices. Authority figures can be used to give the order, overlapping it with the APPEAL TO AUTHORITY technique, but not necessarily. The Uncle Sam "I want you" image is an example of this technique. (Don't You Forget About Me! video on the first page of the CEOP website, under the title "A Minute for Madeleine")


  • The propagandist technique of creating or deleting information from public records, with the purpose of making a false record of an event or the actions of a person or organization.  This includes outright forgery of photographs, motion pictures, broadcasts, and sound recordings as well as printed documents.


  • The propagandist technique of using an event that generates euphoria or happiness, or an appealing event to boost morale. Euphoria can be created by declaring a holiday, making luxury items available, or mounting a military parade with marching bands and patriotic messages. (Green and Yellow Balloon Launch)

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  • The propagandist technique of using emotionally appealing words applied to their product or idea, but which present no concrete argument or analysis.
  • (See also: Euphemisms)


  • The propagandist technique of using half-truths, which are deceptive statements, that may come in several forms and include some element of truth. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may utilize some deceptive element, such as improper punctuation, or double meaning, especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame or misrepresent the truth.

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  • The propagandist technique of using a EUPHEMISM to increase the perceived quality, credibility, or credence of a particular ideal. The propagandist uses a DYSPHEMISM  to discredit, diminish the perceived quality, or hurt the perceived righteousness of "the Mark".


  • When a message is outside the bounds of acceptance for an individual and group, most techniques will engender psychological reactions (simply hearing the argument will make the message even less acceptable.) There are two propaganda techniques for increasing the bounds of acceptance. First, the propagandist takes a more even extreme position that will make more moderate positions seem more acceptable. Alternatively, the propagandist moderates their own position to the edge of the latitude of acceptance and then over time slowly move to the position that was previously held.


  • Lying and deception can be the basis of many propaganda techniques including AD HOMIMEN arguments, BIG-LIE, DEFAMATION, DOOR-IN-THE-FACE, HALF-TRUTH, NAME-CALLING or any other technique that is based on dishonesty or deception.

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  • The propagandist technique of using name-calling to incite fears and arouse prejudices in the target audience in the intent that the bad names will cause hearers to construct a negative opinion about a group or set of beliefs or ideas that the propagandist would wish hearers to denounce. The method is intended to provoke conclusions about a matter apart from impartial examinations of facts. Name-calling is thus a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against the an idea or belief on its own merits.

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  • The propagandist technique of using generalities that are deliberately vague so that the audience may supply its own interpretations. The intention is to move the audience by use of undefined phrases, without analyzing their validity or attempting to determine their reasonableness or application

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  • The propagandist technique of persuading the target audience to disapprove of an action or idea by suggesting that the idea is popular with groups hated, feared, or held in contempt by the target audience.


  • The propagandist technique of using favorable generalities to provide simple answers to complex social, political, economic, or military problems.


  • The propagandist technique of assuming a "superior" role to the target audience and offering help to those people who, without "fatherly" assistance, would be lost. (Thank you to Textusa for this one!)


  • The propagandist technique of selectively editing quotes to change meanings.

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  • The propagandist technique of  using favorable generalities to rationalize questionable acts or beliefs. Vague and pleasant phrases are often used to justify such actions or beliefs.

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  • The propagandist technique of  presenting data or issues that, while compelling, are irrelevant to the argument at hand, and then claiming that it validates the argument.

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  • The propagandist technique of  assigning blame to an individual or group that isn't really responsible, thus alleviating feelings of guilt from responsible parties and/or distracting attention from the need to fix the problem for which blame is being assigned.

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  • A slogan is a brief, striking phrase that may include labeling and stereotyping and is used by the propagandist as a tool related to those techniques. Although slogans may be enlisted to support reasoned ideas, in practice they tend to act only as emotional appeals.

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  • The propagandist technique of attempting to arouse prejudices in an audience by labeling the object of the propaganda campaign as something the target audience fears, hates, loathes, or finds undesirable.

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  • Because it is easier to demolish a man of straw than to beat a live opponent fairly, propagandists sometimes pretend that they are responding to the views of their opponents when they are only setting up a type of artificial opposition which they can easily prove to be wrong.

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  • Testimonials are quotations, in or out of context, especially cited by the propagandist to support or reject a given policy, action, program, or personality.

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  • The propagandist technique of  attempting to transfer the prestige of a positive symbol to a person or an idea.


  • This technique is used when the propaganda concept that the propagandist intends to transmit would seem less credible if explicitly stated. The concept is instead repeatedly assumed or implied

VIRTUE WORDS (See also: Glittering Generalities)
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  • The propagandist technique of  using words in the value system of the target audience which tend to produce a positive image when attached to a person or issue. Peace, happiness, security, wise leadership, freedom, etc., are virtue words.

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