Infotisements, Propaganda, and Agile

It’s true that propaganda is a fact of modern life and that many industries use propaganda to sell products.

It’s also true that most propaganda uses weak, incorrect, or emotional techniques to sway readers, compared to reason and logic.

In the software industry, reason and logic is highly prized, for good reason, and it seems strange to use propaganda techniques on programmers, or for programmers, perhaps unwittingly, to repeat the propaganda that has been fed to them, or worse, to adopt the literary style and perpetuate it.

What everyone is interested in is information; much of what gets published related to agile is either infotisements or propaganda.

The following is a list of propaganda techniques listed at:

Which of these have you seen prominently in Agile marketing? Some of them? All of them? BTW my favorite below is “Beautiful People”.

Ad hominem
A Latin phrase which has come to mean attacking your opponent, as opposed to attacking their arguments.
Ad nauseam
This argument approach uses 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.
Appeal to authority
Appeals to authority cite prominent figures to support a position, idea, argument, or course of action.
Appeal to fear
Appeals to fear seek to build support by instilling anxieties and panic in the general population, for example, Joseph Goebbels exploited Theodore N. Kaufman‘s Germany Must Perish! to claim that the Allies sought the extermination of the German people.
Appeal to prejudice
Using loaded or emotive terms to attach value or moral goodness to believing the proposition. For example, the phrase: “Any hard-working taxpayer would have to agree that those who do not work, and who do not support the community do not deserve the community’s support through social assistance.”
Bandwagon and “inevitable-victory” appeals attempt to persuade the target audience to join in and take the course of action that “everyone else is taking.”

  • Inevitable victory: invites those not already on the bandwagon to join those already on the road to certain victory. Those already or at least partially on the bandwagon are reassured that staying aboard is their best course of action.
  • Join the crowd: This technique reinforces people’s natural desire to be on the winning side. This technique is used to convince the audience that a program is an expression of an irresistible mass movement and that it is in their best interest to join.
Black-and-White fallacy
Presenting only two choices, with the product or idea being propagated as the better choice. (e.g., “You are either with us, or you are with the enemy”)
Beautiful people
The type of propaganda that deals with famous people or depicts attractive, happy people. This makes other people think that if they buy a product or follow a certain ideology, they too will be happy or successful. (This is more used in advertising for products, instead of political reasons)
Big Lie
The repeated articulation of 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. After World War I the German Stab in the back explanation of the cause of their defeat became a justification for Nazi re-militarization and revanchist aggression.
Common man
The “‘plain folks’” or “common man” approach attempts to convince the audience that the propagandist’s positions reflect the common sense of the people. It is designed to win the confidence of the audience by communicating in the common manner and style of the target audience. Propagandists use ordinary language and mannerisms (and clothe their message in face-to-face and audiovisual communications) in attempting to identify their point of view with that of the average person. For example, a propaganda leaflet may make an argument on a macroeconomic issue, such as unemployment insurance benefits, using everyday terms: “given that the country has little money during this recession, we should stop paying unemployment benefits to those who do not work, because that is like maxing out all your credit cards during a tight period, when you should be tightening your belt.” A common example of this type of propaganda is a political figure, usually running for a placement, in a backyard or shop doing daily routine things. This image appeals to the common person.
Demonizing the enemy
Making individuals from the opposing nation, from a different ethnic group, or those who support the opposing viewpoint appear to be subhuman (e.g., the Vietnam War-era term “gooks” for National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnamaka Vietcong, (or ‘VC’) soldiers), worthless, or immoral, through suggestion or false accusations.

World War I poster by Winsor McCay, urging Americans to buy Liberty Bonds

Direct order
This technique hopes to simplify the decision making process 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.
The use of an event that generates euphoria or happiness, or using 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.
The creation or deletion of information from public records, in the purpose of making a false record of an event or the actions of a person or organization, including outright forgery of photographs, motion pictures, broadcasts, and sound recordings as well as printed documents.
An attempt to justify an action on the grounds that doing so will make one more patriotic, or in some way benefit a group, country, or idea. The feeling of patriotism which this technique attempts to inspire may not necessarily diminish or entirely omit one’s capability for rational examination of the matter in question.


Glittering generalities
Glittering generalities are emotionally appealing words applied to a product or idea, but which present no concrete argument or analysis. A famous example is the campaign slogan “Ford has a better idea!”
A half-truth is a deceptive statement which may come in several forms and includes 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.
Intentional vagueness
Generalities 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. The intent is to cause people to draw their own interpretations rather than simply being presented with an explicit idea. In trying to “figure out” the propaganda, the audience forgoes judgment of the ideas presented. Their validity, reasonableness and application may still be considered.
Obtain disapproval or Reductio ad Hitlerum
This technique is used to persuade a 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. Thus if a group which supports a certain policy is led to believe that undesirable, subversive, or contemptible people support the same policy, then the members of the group may decide to change their original position. This is a form of bad logic, where a is said to equal X, and b is said to equal X, therefore, a = b.
Favorable generalities are used to provide simple answers to complex social, political, economic, or military problems.
Quotes out of Context
Selective editing of quotes which can change meanings. Political documentaries designed to discredit an opponent or an opposing political viewpoint often make use of this technique.
Propagandists use the name-calling technique to incite fears and arouse prejudices in their hearers 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.[1]
Individuals or groups may use favorable generalities to rationalize questionable acts or beliefs. Vague and pleasant phrases are often used to justify such actions or beliefs.
Red herring
Presenting data or issues that, while compelling, are irrelevant to the argument at hand, and then claiming that it validates the argument.[2]
Euphemism is used when the propagandist attempts to increase the perceived quality, credibility, or credence of a particular ideal. A Dysphemism is used when the intent of the propagandist is to discredit, diminish the perceived quality, or hurt the perceived righteousness of the Mark. By creating a ‘label’ or ‘category’ or ‘faction’ of a population, it is much easier to make an example of these larger bodies, because they can uplift or defame the Mark without actually incurring legal-defamation.
This type of propaganda deals with a jingle or word that is repeated over and over again, thus getting it stuck in someones head, so they can buy the product. The “Repetition” method has been described previously.[4]
A slogan is a brief, striking phrase that may include labeling and stereotyping. Although slogans may be enlisted to support reasoned ideas, in practice they tend to act only as emotional appeals. Opponents of the US’s invasion and occupation of Iraq use the slogan “blood for oil” to suggest that the invasion and its human losses was done to access Iraq’s oil riches. On the other hand, “hawks” who argue that the US should continue to fight in Iraq use the slogan “cut and run” to suggest that it would be cowardly or weak to withdraw from Iraq. Similarly, the names of the military campaigns, such as “enduring freedom” or “just cause”, may also be regarded to be slogans, devised to influence people.
Stereotyping or Name Calling or Labeling
This technique attempts 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. For instance, reporting on a foreign country or social group may focus on the stereotypical traits that the reader expects, even though they are far from being representative of the whole country or group; such reporting often focuses on the anecdotal.
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. See also, damaging quotation
Also known as Association, this is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities. Often highly visual, this technique often utilizes symbols (for example, the Swastika used in Nazi Germany, originally a symbol for health and prosperity) superimposed over other visual images. An example of common use of this technique in America is for the President’s image to be overlaid with a swastika by his opponents.
Unstated assumption
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
These are 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, “The Truth”, etc. are virtue words. In countries such as the U.S. religiosity is seen as a virtue, making associations to this quality effectively beneficial. See “”Transfer“”.
Further reading:

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2 Responses to Infotisements, Propaganda, and Agile

  1. Pingback: The Perennial Waterfall Strawman/Myth | PostAgilist's Software Architecture Blog

  2. Pingback: Orwell on Agile | Post Agilist

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