美国留学生critical review作业 ， Kevin Moloney has claimed that public relations (PR) is merely weak propaganda. Through an examination of the academic literature from the United States (US), the author examined the connections between propaganda and the history of PR in the US. He concluded that the nature of the messages sent through PR to be manipulation and propaganda, they are frequently used in business and politics. The whole context of the book is focused on a discussion regarding the internal relations between PR and democracy.
Initially, this chapter states PR was first utilized in America as a tool for making money. During this period, the public was frequently fooled by this approach. P.T Barnum has suggested that there was a use of exaggerated PR strategies, with the aim of catching people's eyes and making money from them. However by the end of the 19th century, there was a "Robber baron" attitude of contempt towards the public where only business interests were considered, leading to an attitude of "the public be damned". This subsequently caused dissatisfaction among the public, as a result PR was then used to defend against capitalist ideals. During the First World War, America adopted a positive and persuasive PR campaign with the aim of enhancing its propaganda campaigns. The Creel Committee implemented further large-scale PR activities with the aim of influencing US public opinion, although this had a negative effect on the public sphere. Propaganda has had a significant impact on the development of American history, and so it has been evaluated as a powerful instrument in modern society.
Bernays and Lee have both associated PR with propaganda. Bernays has pointed out that PR has matured and has come to acknowledge the importance of persuasion. While Lee has emphasized that mass psychology plays an important role in propaganda and PR should receive the fullest publicity. Then analysis the propaganda model and some other critics. This chapter also presents the author’s opinion that he didn’t adopt the existing paradigm of the PR attitude: that PR is a two-way symmetrical communication.
Finally, the consumers of PR propaganda are considered, where it is suggested that there is no definitive answer regarding the compliance of PR consumers.
PR is simply weak propaganda, and the authors present many examples in academic literature about how Americans have used propaganda in politics and business to acheive an agenda. This reveals the manipulative nature within PR in the great majority of practices in the US which have been identified with propaganda. This review tends to partly agree with Moloney’s opinion, that “PR is weak propaganda”, but also considers that the two-way symmetrical model is an excellent paradigm.
The major question that arises in the following analysis, is why propaganda and public relations often fall within the same definition. “Propaganda” and “public relations” are often used by some practitioners quite interchangeably. Philip Taylor, who is one of the most well-known propaganda theorists, defined propaganda as:
"The deliberate attempt to persuade people to think and behave in a desired way...the conscious, methodical and planned decisions to employ techniques of persuasion designed to achieve specific goals that are intended to benefit those organizing the process".
He then concluded that public relations is essentially “a nicer way of labelling it propaganda”. Jowett and O'Donnell defined propaganda very close to Philio Taylor:
"Deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist."
Bernays has defined public relations as
"the attempt by information persuasion and adjustment to engineer public support for an activity, cause, movement or institution."
While The USA institute of Public Relations asserts that
"Public relations is a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its public."
Comparing these four definitions, people can understand that PR and propaganda agree on the same basis, in that they both are focused on communication - the purpose of PR and propaganda are usually same. They have the same outward form, and both attempt to shape perceptions and manipulate opinions to persuade people to strive to understand, co-operate and support.
Secondly, Propaganda is a more complex idea than Public relations. Propaganda can be described as white, gray, or black, in acknowledgment of its source and the accuracy of its information. White propaganda comes from a source that is identified correctly, and the information in the message tends to be accurate. Black propaganda is when the source is concealed or credited to a false authority and leads to the distribution of lies, fabrications, and deceptions. Gray propaganda is somewhere in-between.
World War I was a watershed for the propaganda concept, in that it went far beyond the scope of a traditional war, and to an extent, can be called a war of propaganda. After the war, scholars have suggested that there were lies told during this period of propaganda. During World War II, countries were by then far more familiar with the use of propaganda. For example, Hitler using the power of propaganda to stir up the German Nazism sentiment to achieve his goals. Hitler and Goebbels, used black propaganda to secure evil ends. Propaganda is now always linked with "telling lies." As Hitler said:
"If you are going to tell a lie, don't tell a little one because it will be recognized as a lie. Tell the biggest and most unthinkable lie. Keeping on telling it and people will think it must be truth and believe it." He went further and concluded - "The greater the lie the more effective it is as a weapon."
From these words, people can understand why PR is weak propaganda. Sometimes the intention of propaganda is positive, and sometimes negative (black propaganda). Edward Bernays says:
"When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And 'propaganda' got to be a bad word because of the Germans using it, so what I did was to try and find some other words so we found the words 'public relations'."
The issue of whether an idea or communication is propaganda depends upon the merit of the cause urged, and the correctness of the information published. This is same as Grunig and Hunt’s second model of public relations which is called public information. It is a clearly distinguished model with the focus on the accuracy of messages being communicated. Truthful and accurate information is a central part of public information. Thus, people can see that propaganda is more complex than PR. For Moloney, public relations fall into the category of white propaganda, in other words, weak propaganda.
Finally, In 1984, Grunig and Hunt suggested the four PR models' framework, before then proposing two-way symmetry. However Moloney didn't agree with the idea of two-way symmetry, he proposed that propaganda and PR are not in agreement with the core of the Grunigian paradigm and concluded that :
"public relations is not the search for communicative symmetries, but instead the search for communicative advantages that strengthen the interests of those it serves.".
While in contrast with Moloney’s idea, this review agrees with the four models. Public relations practice, as it is observed today, has developed from the first model press agentry /publicity at the turn of the last century. The two-way / symmetric model is described as the “ideal” of public relations. “Two-way” implies not only ”information” from sender to receiver, but also emphasized “feedback” from receiver to sender. Propaganda will either be successful or unsuccessful according to whether the target reacts to it in the manner desired by the propagandist. And yet PR is more exclusively concerned than propaganda than with operating with the public's emotions in mind, and is also more concerned with feedback (the public's character or intellectual attainments). This model is very close to Bernay’s definition many decades ago. Although, this level of equality of communication, not often found in real life, can help us to understand different kinds of public relations in theory and practice, thereby making PR more acceptable.
Successful PR cannot succeed without strong propaganda, and therefore people must choose the context of the propaganda in order to gain an advantage for an organization. Although some practitioners may operate PR and propaganda as being different sectors, in reality most propaganda is a part of public relations. There is still no accurate theory to explain the extent of the similarities between propaganda and PR.
This review has used some theories, self-thinking, and also drawn attention to historical views to explain why PR is weak propaganda on the author’s position. It also criticized the author’s view on the four PR models. Despite this, the reviews have differing opinions to that of Kevin Moloney on these models, however his idea still has some value and people need to judge it in terms of the author’s purpose for writing it. He took PR out of the four models and suggested a break in the established paradigm.