Some Observations On Conspiracy Propaganda

While doing research for my last article, I ended up listening to a lot of content that disturbed me and got me thinking, because said content was nothing more than propaganda. So I decided I'd do an article on just what propaganda looks like and how it works, to help other people recognize it and hopefully avoid falling for it.

So what is propaganda, exactly? Some people like to claim that anything they personally disagree with is propaganda. But in reality, it's not that simple. Generally, propaganda is shallow, repetitive, and reaffirming, whether in a positive or negative sense. It does not engage your critical thinking skills; rather, it evokes strong emotions while repeating the same core messages over and over. Because you're feeling strong emotions, the messages you're hearing sound far more profound than they really are.

For example, a statement like "honor your ancestors, embrace tradition" evokes a sense of kinship spanning back hundreds, even thousands of years. Never mind that not all traditions are possible to carry forward or even worth maintaining. (I don't think we want to go back to sacrificing people to Nerthus.) Never mind that their idea of "traditional" probably involves quite a few things that were just made up a few decades ago. (The so-called "tradwife" is a modern construct that tends to assume advertisements from the 1950's reflected most people's lived experiences.)

Similarly, for centuries Jews were accused of being "Christ-killers" because it evoked a sense of, "Oh how cruel of them, killing poor innocent Jesus like that," which made them seem like absolute monsters rather than people who simply had a different view of religion and had perfectly sound reasons for not considering Jesus their messiah.

I think a reason propaganda works so well on people is because, as the saying goes, if you've never swam in the ocean then the swimming pool seems deep. A lot of people I've met don't really seem to know what content of substance actually sounds like, and think that if something feels big and important, then it is big and important.

So in this article, I'm going to go over what I found in a lot of this content. I hope it can help you spot and avoid propagandistic content in the future, and I encourage you to share it with friends who might benefit from learning more about this kind of thing.

Table of Contents

The basic maneuvers of conspiracy propaganda

When I engaged with this material, I noticed that they kept repeating the same basic messages over and over. I'd see YouTube videos and blog posts with titles that suggested they might focus on substantially different topics. But for the vast majority of this content, most of it was focused on the exact same vapid fluff. Here's what most of it was:

Claiming to have all the solutions. Audiences are given various advice or tips to improve their health and lives, which might have some benefit (EG, basic emotional self-care tips) or not (EG, quack cures). Supposedly, all of this will tide them over until things get better for good.

Claiming that you are chosen, or here for a reason. Audiences are made to feel special by being told that they are chosen or have a special purpose in life.

Promises of imminent triumph. Audiences are told that the big win they've been waiting for is just around the corner, often within the next few months to years.

Making their side out to be wholly glorious and noble. It's been noted that fascists are obsessed with the aesthetics of might and victory, and everything I have seen proves this. Propaganda presents its own side as just, noble warriors fighting for truth and justice against the hordes of evil.

Reassurance that everything is under control. Audiences are told that higher powers (whether God, higher beings, or favored politicians) have everything under control and it's all going according to plan. They might be told that a massive (though unverifiable) victory was recently won, thus making progress.

Promises of imminent rewards and blessings. Audiences are told that any minute now, they'll be showered with blessings of health, wealth, or whathaveyou.

Reassurance that the enemy is losing. Audiences might be told that the enemy just suffered a crushing defeat. They might be told that the enemy knows they're losing and is just hanging on out of sheer stubbornness or something.

Promising people that they can take control of their lives. Audiences are promised that they can attain personal empowerment through uniting with something greater than themselves, whether it's God, their movement, or whathaveyou. Audiences might also be promised that they can attain a sense of pride or accomplishment, or find honor.

Claims that people everywhere are waking up and uniting in the truth. Audiences are told that people all over are realizing the truths that the group or leader are proclaiming, and coming together over it.

Exhortations to rise up and act. Audiences are basically told that their moment of destiny or salvation has come, and now they must rise together and act. They are told that there is "much work to be done" or similar.

Exhortations to remain steadfast and loyal. Audiences are told to stay faithful and true, to stay on the straight and narrow. Leaving is unthinkable.

Framing perceived enemies as simplistic villains. Perceived enemies, such as critics or groups of people they've chosen to scapegoat, are characterized as mustache-twirling villains with simplistic motives - whether it's destroying all that's good and pure, or gaining control over the masses, or making everyone else miserable out of spite.

Basically, just drowning the audience in a bunch of shallow, repetitive, reassuring fluff. It attempted to soothe all their fears and worries and make them feel like they had all the answers they needed. It tried to make them feel educated and/or spiritual. It basically painted a picture of the world that was so simplistic that you could understand it all in a matter of hours to days, and thereby come away feeling very smart and spiritual indeed. Even when it wasn't "feel good" content per se (EG, the content focused on the alleged evil of their enemies), it was still shallow and reaffirming.

How conspiracy propaganda fakes depth and importance

Something I've noticed both lately and over the years is that conspiracy propaganda uses a lot of tricks to make itself seem a lot more deep and important than it really is. While not everything that does these kinds of things is necessarily propaganda (more on that later), conspiracy propaganda relies on this stuff a lot:

Bombarding people with novel, yet shallow ideas. Propaganda doesn't generally explore any given idea in any real depth (and generally, there is no real depth to explore), but instead bombards people with a bunch of novel concepts. Since your brain tends to mark new information as important information, this makes everything you're hearing seem very important, and therefore deep. Novel ideas can include basic metaphysical systems, the alleged heirarchies of spiritual beings, supposed prophecies, conspiracy theories, and tantalizing what-ifs about history. There will be no real depth behind most (if any) of these ideas. An example of this would be the city of Atlantis; they often give many shallow, broad details, but you'll never hear about the same kind of deep, complex details you can find when researching archaological discoveries about real ancient cities. You might also hear people talking about angels, demons, or aliens, but the amount of information they'll give you is rarely ever any deeper than the text on a fantasy class or race in an RPG book; meanwhile, you could fill entire volumes with the history and customs of even one small culture or group that actually exists.

Strong emphasis on big, grand scales. They might talk about concepts like eternity, or otherwise scale things to long periods of time like "ten thousand years." They mention huge quantities of important-sounding things, like "fifty thousand angelic warriors." They might talk about events taking place on huge scales, like "planetary awakening" and "galactic consciousness." They might bring up concepts like "eternal power" or "infinite wisdom." Big things tend to be difficult for us to imagine, and consequentially we often assume they're far more complex or meaningful than they really are.

Pretending they have no serious ideological competition. They might, say, claim that the questions they're about to answer "stump scientists" or act like no one else has an answer to the theological dilemma they claim to be solving. By making the competition look inept and simple-minded, they position themselves as enlightened and intelligent by default. Whenever you hear people saying stuff along these lines, you should assume they're probably lying to you, and go find out what the supposedly clueless competition actually has to say.

Lots of pushbutton words. Basically, words that tend to evoke strong emotions, which makes the overall message feel more profound than it might actually be. Positive examples can include words like beautiful, pure, love, light, truth, eternal, faith, harmony, wisdom, celestial, heritage, honor, highest, destiny, freedom, future, and precious. Negative examples can include vicious, bloodthirsty, insane, demonic, poisonous, lies, wicked, dark, sin, prideful, puppetmasters, prison, fear, scheme, destroy, dishonor, and filth. Try to pay more attention to how much somebody's words are trying to get you to feel versus how much they're trying to get you to think. Pay attention to what they're trying to make you feel, and how they want you to act on those feelings.

Lots of scientific-sounding terms. Using scientific terminology to describe things can give them a sense of credibility for many people. If you hear somebody using scientific-sounding words when selling a product or describing a spiritual concept (EG, "quantum," "energy," etc), you should check and see if they're using it the same way actual scientists use it. Research the concepts they're talking about, and find out if they actually work the way these people are claiming.

Obscure, obfuscating, ambiguous, quasi-mystical language. Using terms like these can make it sound like they're saying way more than they really are. For example, I constantly heard people say "illusion" to refer to what the rest of us might call a cultural value, social construct, or accepted norm. The word "consciousness" was used to mean a number of things, ranging from your personal worldview, to your awareness of things in general, to the phenomena of consciousness itself. They'd talk about how "our consciousnesses are trapped in illusions that separate us from our true selves" when other people would just say "modern socio-economic systems treat people as nothing more than workers and consumers, and many of us don't realize that this isn't the natural state of things, or that alternatives exist." By basically forcing you to decipher what they're saying, they set your brain up to receive a bigger dose of reward chemicals when you finally figure it out - which produces a sensation that they're saying something more profound than they really are.

Pretending other people agree with them. They might take the quotes of a famous scientist, philosopher, or spiritual leader out of context. Or they might not even bother quoting them at all, but claim that they spoke or wrote about what they are telling you about. For example, they might claim that Jesus came to teach people "how to ascend to 5D," when 1. New Age ascension and Christian salvation/resurrection are only superficially the same, and 2. we can't even be sure what Jesus actually said, and how much was attributed to him after the crucifixion. Generally speaking, if somebody claims that someone agreed with them, or spoke about the same topics they're talking about, you should look into that and see for yourself whether or not it's true.

Lurid descriptions of the enemy's alleged evils. This can include the horrific rituals described in works like the Malleus Maleficarum and Michelle Remembers. There's no evidence that any of them ever took place, but they were so shocking to audiences that they left a strong impression. Generally speaking, what they describe comes down to what they imagine the most heinous, depraved acts a person could commit might be. (My personal favorite example of this is the claim that Hollywood's elite are having "gay orgies," as if I should be bothered by what consenting adults do together.)

Making excuses to cover for a lack of clear, in-depth information. There are numerous excuses that people will use to cover for a lack of actual, in-depth information. They might claim that their followers aren't spiritually advanced enough for it yet. They might claim that they haven't been cleared to give this information away. They might claim that the information they have would cause chaos if they disclosed it now. They might promise to deliver the real goods soon, though of course this never happens. They might claim that the evidence was stolen, went missing, or became compromised, or claim that their followers failed them and therefore don't deserve it. They might claim that their prior message "really" meant something else, and it's their followers' faults for misinterpreting it. Basically, they'll always have an excuse.

What does non-propaganda look like?

Not everything that contains some of the characteristics I listed above is some kind of propaganda. That's just not how it works. Many ASMR videos are light and fluffy, and use a number of methods to invoke pleasant feelings. They aren't propaganda because they're honest about being pure entertainment. Almost any field of study will have a lot of terms that the average person isn't familiar with because these fields require specialized vocabulary to talk about meaningfully, and so the depth that they add is real. A biologist isn't spreading propaganda by informing people that there's an estimated 400,000 species of beetles on the planet, or that non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out around 64 million years ago, because these are well-supported statements.

The key difference is that propaganda tries to pass off non-substance as actual substance. It paints the world in black and white, framing existence as an epic struggle between good and evil. Nonbelievers are painted extremely negatively, ranging from mindless drones to agents of evil. It dazzles you with awe-inspiring imagery and tells you that you're having a divine experience. It stirs up your feelings with fiery rhetoric and tells you that you're experiencing the Holy Spirit. It hides relatively basic observations behind obfuscating terminology to make them seem like divine or occult wisdom that you're just not enlightened enough to understand yet. It paints the world in black and white It's pretentious and patronizing.

So what does substance look like?

One thing I would consider an example are the videos created by Haiying Yang. Her words come from a place of actual experience and acknowledge the complex realities of life. Even if I don't always agree with everything she says, I know she's not just giving me empty platitudes. She doesn't act as if people can just wish away their problems or negative feelings. Instead, she focuses on practical coping strategies.

Another thing that comes to mind is a site like the Theoi Project, which contains loads of cited information about the Greek gods. You aren't just told "the gods were cool, just take our word and roll with it," but rather you are simply presented with actual historical information, and lots of it.

There's also the PBS Eons channel, which gives fairly detailed descriptions of fossil discoveries and anything in general that's relevant to the topic they're talking about. You can contrast this with creationist/anti-evolutionist material, which generally doesn't have a whole lot to say aside from claiming that scientists just don't know anything and are just making wild unfounded speculations. (Again, if you find someone claiming that scientists just don't know something, follow up on it and check. Most of the time, you'll find it's not true.)

You can go to sites like Archaeology News and see how real archaeological finds are described. You can go to Science Daily to get an idea of what's being discovered in many different fields.

One example of non-substance is Jordan Peterson's claim that mythological serpents always represent chaos and the feminine. To claim that something has the exact same meaning everywhere is a red flag that someone has done insufficient research, or is just plain lying to you. Compare this rebuttal, which demonstrates a number of substantial reasons why Peterson is wrong.

Substantial evidence for conspiracies would include far more than conspiracy theorists have to offer. For example, whistleblower Chelsea Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of documents. Many of these conspiracies have allegedly been going on even longer; therefore, there should be even more documents associated with them.

I hope this can help you develop a sense of when you're hearing something that actually had substance behind it, versus when you're hearing stuff that's basically just fluff and hot air.

"But what if some of this stuff is actually real?"

Here's the deal, folks. I've been watching various cranks and fringe groups making all kinds of claims since the 90's. I was there when Nibiru failed to come by in 2003 and later in 2012. I was there for the conspiracy theories and claims of imminent NWO takeover after 9/11. I remember Project Blue Beam, when the bad guys were either going to fake the Second Coming or an alien invasion with a giant hologram. I remember when the Amero was supposedly going to be rolled out in the late 2000s. I've seen a lot of claims proposed, and a lot of claims fail. Whatever you're seeing today is no different, I promise you.

You can do what I did: Keep track of when their predictions are supposed to manifest, and refuse to accept any excuses when they fail. If you find somebody making a prediction, take notes, take screenshots, archive the page, whatever. Pay attention and observe whether their grand claims come to pass when they say they will. Accept none of their excuses, because all of them have been made many times before.

You can also go back and look at older materials that tried to predict the future. Find channeled messages from a year ago, ten years ago, even fifty years ago. Check out books like The Late Great Planet Earth. Observe the grand predictions they made that never manifested. Take a look at what actually happened instead, that they never saw coming. Find out what conspiracy theorists ten or more years ago claimed would absolutely happen that simply did not.

Compare the contents in the Malleus Maleficarum with modern claims of underground Satanic cults. Understand that this is not a coincidence; rather, it's simply the nature of conspiracy theories. They don't significantly change over the years; rather, they are recycled, repackaged, and redelivered to a new generation of gullible believers.

Understand what real evidence would look like - EG, the above example of the hundreds of thousands of documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. In my previous article, I talked a bit about what actual evidence for lost civilizations could look like, and why there is no reason we couldn't find it if these civilizations actually existed.

Follow up on their claims. For example, if they say that "scientists discovered" something, find out which scientists supposedly discovered it, and when. Find out if there's been any further discoveries made. Find out if these scientists are even credible, or whether they're most probably cranks. If they claim that "nobody knows" or "nobody can explain," go and find out whether or not that's really true. If they claim an ancient book says something, try to read the ancient book for yourself and try to get a sense of the context it was written in. If somebody claims that an ancient symbol represents DNA, you have to ask yourself, "Does that actually represent DNA, or did they fail to study the culture's symbology and just assume?" Try and find out what the symbol actually represented in the time and place the image comes from. And better yet, find out what similar symbols represented to other people.

In closing

Conspiracy theories are both a product and tool of bigotry, even if it's not always immediately obvious how or why. And that's why we have to be able to recognize conspiracy propaganda and question what it's telling us. Conspiracy theories are already leading to tragedy, such as an increase in hate crimes and deaths associated with a refusal to take vaccines. If we don't all do our part to combat them, we may very well end up with even bigger tragedies. Europe's witch trials and the Holocaust were both driven by conspiracy theories.

Don't expect you'll be able to deconvert or deradicalize diehard believers, because they've been taught to see everyone else as a shill, a disinfo agent, or a brainwashed puppet. Do educate yourself so that you know how to spot bad info and avoid passing it on. (I'll be including more links below.) Do (kindly and compassionately) educate your friends and family.

Do not engage with this kind of content on websites that use algorithms to promote content any more than is absolutely necessary. Even negative engagement teaches the algorithm that this content is important, and therefore makes it more likely to display it to other people. Additionally, you'll find more and more of this kind of content recommended to you, which is not a good thing because no one is totally immune to propaganda. You can be more resistant, but total immunity is impossible.

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, please share it with your friends and on your social media. I cannot stress how important it is that we fight hate in any capacity we can. I think many of us want to think that things can't possibly get as bad as back then, but the reality is that peace is never certain, especially not if we sit back and do nothing when hate rears its head. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a great day.

Other Pages You Might Like:

A Beginner's Guide To Spotting Cranky Websites & Culty Groups
Sketchy Spiritualities & Shady Pseudohistories: What People Need To Know
Addressing Claims Of Alien Theorists & Believers
So What's The Problem With Starseeds?
What's The Deal With Atlantis? (And Why It Definitely Never Existed)

External Resources

Antisemitism Uncovered: A Guide to Old Myths in a New Era
Hallmark movies are fascist propaganda
How To Spot Fake News
How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind

Qurious About QAnon? Get the Facts About This Dangerous Conspiracy Theory
How three conspiracy theorists took 'Q' and sparked Qanon
The QAnon Timeline: Four Years, 5,000 Drops and Countless Failed Prophecies
A non-comprehensive timeline of Q's failed predictions and mistakes and a list of tactics he uses to hook and drag followers.
Believers in QAnon and other conspiracy theories reveal how they climbed out of the rabbit hole

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