Propaganda is a way to deliver a message that appeals to the emotions instead of presenting solid evidence to support a point. It is used by advertisers, salespeople, and politicians who may lack adequate facts to persuade people to support their point of view. Governments may use propaganda to rally support and influence people for a specific agenda, such as war. Part of being a critical reader is the ability to recognize these propaganda techniques.

Beyond Words

Being a critical reader extends far beyond paragraphs of printed words. Images can be read critically too. Some of the most common types of propaganda are found in images and videos.
Review the types of propaganda and examples below while thinking about the following:
  • Who is the creator of these images?
  • Why were they created?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What biases are they portraying?
  • What is the perspective of the creators?


This form of propaganda presents the idea that “everybody’s doing it” so you should “jump on the bandwagon” and do what everyone else is doing too.
In this ad, “everyone”— or 20 million people plus the elderly man—are playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, so to be with everyone you should play the game too.

Red Herring

A type of “logical fallacy,” this form of propaganda presents data or issues that, while compelling, have nothing to do with the argument. This ad argues that parents should control what their children learn in school, but what children are learning in school really has nothing to do with the issue, which is whether or not to legalize gay marriage.


Glittering Generality

This form of propaganda applies emotional words to a product or idea that presents no concrete argument or analysis. This John McCain political ad applies the words “reform, prosperity, and peace” to the “McCain for President” campaign.



This form of propaganda features an expert, person of authority, or respected public figure who supports the argument and encourages others to accept the opinions and beliefs as their own. In this ad, Michael Jordan, arguably one of the greatest basketball athletes in history, simply drinks Gatorade, which is an easy way for anyone—regardless of how well they play basketball—to “be like Mike.”




This form of propaganda arouses prejudices in an audience by labeling the object of the propaganda campaign as something the target audience fears, hates, or even finds desirable. In this ad, the viewer is led to believe that people who have a Volkswagen “experience” will in turn become a Caribbean stereotype, complete with an accent and a “no worry” attitude even if it’s a bad Monday at the office.