Testimonials are quotations, in or out of context, especially cited to support or reject a given policy, action, program, or personality. The reputation or the role (expert, respected public figure, etc.) of the individual giving the statement is exploited.

The testimonial places the official sanction of a respected person or authority on a propaganda message. This is done in an effort to cause the target audience to identify itself with the authority or to accept the authority's opinions and beliefs as its own.

This technique is easy to understand. It is when "big name" personalities are used to endorse a product. Whenever you see someone famous endorsing a product, ask yourself how much that person knows about the product, and what he or she stands to gain by promoting it.

There is nothing wrong with citing a qualified source, and the testimonial technique can be used to construct a fair, well-balanced argument. However, it is often used in ways that are unfair and misleading.

The most common misuse of the testimonial involves citing individuals who are not qualified to make judgments about a particular issue. 

Unfair testimonials are usually obvious, and most of us have probably seen through this rhetorical trick at some time or another. However, this probably happened when the testimonial was provided by a celebrity that we did not respect. When the testimony is provided by an admired celebrity, we are much less likely to be critical.

According to the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, we should ask ourselves the following questions when we encounter this device.

  • Who or what is quoted in the testimonial?
  • Why should we regard this person (or organization or publication) as having expert knowledge or trustworthy information on the subject in question?
  • What does the idea amount to on its own merits, without the benefit of the Testimonial?


  • CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) The CEOP is dedicated to eradicating the sexual abuse of children. They are part of UK policing and very much about tracking and bringing offenders to account either directly or in partnership with local and international forces. (Note the front page of the CEOP website- the "Minute for Madeleine" page.)
  • (Officials from the CEOP were present in PdL immediately after Madeleine's disappearance. As there was no way of determining whether the case involved sexual abuse of any form, and as the CEOP deals with online predators, rather than "missing children" in general, in my opinion, their statements regarding the case fall into this category.)
  • Richard Branson "Richard Branson defends Madeleine's parents" 14 Oct 2007 Telegraph
  • David Beckham "Beckham joins appeals for kidnapped British girl" 12 May 2007 ABC
  • JK Rowling "Harry Potter Author Adds To Reward" 13 May 2007 Sky News
  • More to follow...

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