The Colors of Propaganda

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Aerial propaganda leaflets dropped by both sides during World War II are a form of gray or black propaganda. There is no indication of the producer on these leaflets, with some specifically created to deceive the viewer about its origination.

World War II anti-communist French leaflet that translates to “French it is with your own blood we will redden your flag.” 1940, Nabb Research Center, SC2016.028

If you examine propaganda closely, you can typically identify the techniques used to appeal to emotion. What is not always evident is who produced the material. Communication experts classify propaganda as white, black, or gray depending on the transparency of the source. Determining the source of a message is an important tool in the analysis of propaganda.

White Propaganda

In white propaganda, the producer of the material is clearly marked and indicated.

Black Propaganda

One of the most deceptive forms of propaganda involves material created by one group but attributed to another. Black propaganda falsely claims a message or image was created by the opposition in order to discredit them.

 Gray Propaganda

Information and messages that have no clear producer are considered gray propaganda. Material of unknown origin leaves a viewer unable to determine the creator or motives behind the message.

What is Propaganda?
The Colors of Propaganda