Propaganda Machine

"Look, I was young and stupid, ok?"

"They have an engine called the press whereby the people are deceived."
The Director, That Hideous Strength

The Propaganda Machine a.k.a. The Ministry of Truth delivers the The Truth from The Government to the people.

At least, that's what they say. In fact, a Propaganda Machine is only employed by The Empire and used to brainwash people into Gullible Lemmings who believe that everything is all right when in fact, it isn't, and that the very people who could help them are their enemies. Vigorously hated by La Résistance because it turns the very people they are trying to do good for against them.

The machine exists to create Propaganda Pieces and habitually indulges in Malicious Slander, Astro Turfing and Divide and Conquer toward its scapegoats and enemies. Canned Orders over Loudspeaker is a common tool employed by the Propaganda Machine. They are opposed by the Voice of the Resistance. Tokyo Rose is their representative to the outside world.

By its widest definition, just about every political entity practices propaganda; namely, making themselves look as good as possible while either downplaying or downright denying any good qualities in their opponents. The negative aspects of this trope come in when this is the only form of news someone has access to. It could be said that that the bad guys engage in "propaganda", while the good guys do "public relations". However, the Voice of the Resistance is likely considered propaganda by those who don't agree with them. How much of the content is truthful and how much isn't, as always, depends on who is producing it. Examples of this trope tend to be extreme cases where the preacher is using a combination of extreme censorship and/or outright lies to hammer their point across, so take note of the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement.

When instead of propaganda, the government provides mindless entertainment for the people to lull them into contented apathy, it's Bread and Circuses.

Examples:

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     Comic Books  

     Fan Works 

    Film 
  • Referred to as such in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
  • The Father's public adresses in Equilibrium, although they also use Prozium to enforce obedience.
  • V for Vendetta: Lewis Prothero, or the "Voice of London" acts as the charismatic, all-British face of the Norsefire regime. Due to his previous, somewhat dubious military career, he gets put the fuck down by V early on the film. The lack of him was probably a deciding factor in the people siding with V at the end.
  • Airplane II: The Sequel: Parodied during the news reports segment on the malfunctioning spaceship. The Soviet newsreader 'happily' announces that several hundred American capitalists are expected to die... as an offscreen guard presses a gun against his head.

    Literature 
  • 1984: The Ministry of Truth. They edit all information- every song, story, news report, even porn so that it completely fits the Party's definition of truth; and they don't care if reality says otherwise.
    • On non-fiction front, George Orwell's essay "The Frontiers of Art and Propaganda" makes the point that art in all forms is, indeed, propaganda, that "propaganda in some form or other lurks in every book, that every work of art has a meaning and a purpose—a political, social, and religious purpose—that our aesthetic judgments are always coloured by our prejudices and beliefs."
  • In the later Harry Potter books, The Daily Prophet effectively exists to maintain the Ministry line and discredit anyone who disagrees with it. The Ministry line varies wildly between the three books in question, but it's always at least somewhat misguided.
  • Monstrous Regiment: This Discworld novel is set in the small and incredibly confrontational nation of Borogravia. Throughout the book ranking officers decry any doubts, negative thoughts, or unpleasant facts as Spreading Alarm And Despondency, a crime nearly on the level of treason, and families at home are routinely sent pamphlets and updates telling them how splendidly the war's going. Of course, Borogravia has been at war for so long, with so many different countries, that the only people who actually believe the propaganda are the people putting it out; everyone else has done the math, and noticed that they're running out of sons to send to the front lines (as the climax approaches, the characters are told that Borogravia is so badly outclassed that her opponents have actually managed to get bored of slaughtering them).
  • Atlas Shrugged: Apparently, the government has enough control over the newspapers that many significant stories can only be reported as Suspiciously Specific Denials. All radio stations are made to run frequent official broadcasts, but the much-promoted November 22 "report on the world crisis" is pre-empted by John Galt's speech.
  • The Global Community-controlled media and press becomes this in the Left Behind series during the Tribulation, which causes Buck Williams to develop his Voice of the Resistance publication called The Truth to counter their news report spins with actual facts.
    • Averted in the Millennial Kingdom, as God allows the La Résistance group The Other Light to have their say, despite how wrong they are in contesting God's Word.
  • Squealer of Animal Farm is a pig version of this.
  • Fade to White, an Alternate History short story by Catherynne M. Valente is set in a post-World War III United States. The Department of Advertising and Information is the largest employer outside the military, maintaining the facade of The Fabulous Fifties so everyone doesn't have to think about how most of the population is infertile and large parts of the world are a radiation-blasted wasteland where soldiers fight a meaningless undeclared war against the Dirty Communists.
  • In It Can't Happen Here, the fascist regime exerts rigid control over all media, reporting rose-colored news to the masses. The media leaves out inconvenient stories such as revolts against M.M.s, refugees fleeing to Canada, and global events. One of the tasks of the resistance is importing factual news from Canada and secretly disseminating it to citizens.
  • In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen Vs, the pith and essence of Marketing. It sells the public the superheroes, their carefully managed lives, the absolute necessity of their company, and the evil of any superpowered person who tries to escape.
  • In Christian Nation, Fox News Channel, which becomes Fox Faith & Freedom News, or F3, is this in an Alternate History where Sarah Palin instead of Barack Obama becomes President.
  • Wasp: The Sirian empire covers up their military failures and regularly claims spectacular victories over the Terran fleet. Hilariously, this includes things like showing old photos of Mongolian bandits and claiming them to be captured Terran marines. The Sirian citizens find the propaganda rather hard to believe, though, especially thanks to the Terran agents undermining their morale.

     Live Action TV  
  • Star Trek: The Romulans and especially Cardassians.
  • Babylon 5. Used to denigrate Sheridan and his alien allies during the reign of President Clark, so Susan Ivanova became the Voice of the Resistance to counter it.
  • In Doctor Who episode Full Circle, a handful of youngsters live in the wilderness, convinced that Mistfall is a myth put out by the Deciders to control. Then Mistfall comes. When they manage, through various ways, to get to safety, the Deciders solemnly consider their youth and their new knowledge and only put them to work.
  • The Public Control Department in Wilfred Greatorex's "1990"

    Machinima 
  • Red vs. Blue. Apparently Command convinces the Reds to fight the Blue based on the information that "the Blues suck."

     Other Sites  

    Roleplay 
  • Destroy The Godmodder: The propaganda tower made by cathari in the tvtropes session was this to a ridiculous extent.

     Tabletop Games  
  • In the RPG Paranoia, Friend Computer constantly reminds every inhabitant of Alpha Complex that propaganda is unnecessary, because everything is perfect.
  • In Mutant Chronicles ,Bauhaus has its own department called the Ministry Of Truth which tells people what they want them to hear, mostly good things about their corporation, and bad news from the other mega corporation.

     Video Games  
  • 7.62 High Calibre: You can listen to two radio stations: the official military government news, and the pirate guerilla resistance news. Both will report on events that you are not directly involved in exactly the same (such as a noted celebrity visiting), but any events that further the plot are wildly misrepresented by both sides. If, for example, while working for the rebels, you happen to ambush a military convoy, killing all the soldiers and taking their weapons, the resistance will report that rebel fighters successfully took the convoy, killing many (which is truth but for the fact that you did most, if not all the work). The government, on the other hand, will report that the soldiers managed to drive off the attackers, successfully defending the convoy while crushing the rebel force.
  • Beyond Good & Evil: This game is all about fighting a government propaganda machine.
  • Bioshock Infinite: The "Voice Of The Prophet" kinetoscopes serve as this for Zachary Comstock's regime in the floating city of Columbia.
  • Borderlands 2: Has the Hyperion Truth Network run by Hunter Hellquist, who runs a radio show that constantly slanders the Crimson Raiders while glorifying Handsome Jack. A late-game sidequest had Mordecai sending you after Hellquist to shut him up for good.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, NOD has a determined go at collapsing GDI support via falsified news reports. Whiles't not precisely falling under this trope in most of the 'Western world' it is noted in the background that NOD effectively controls at least 2/3rds of the 3rd world nations of today.
    • The Chinese in Command & Conquer: Generals'' can build Propaganda Centers and Speaker Towers to improve their troops' performance.
      • You can also build Propaganda Towers which heal soldiers. Somehow.
  • Freelancer: After Rhineland falls under control of the Nomads and prepares for war with the other nations, their government gains a Ministry of Information. All the news items available in Rhineland during your brief visit there are so blatantly propaganda that it stretches Suspension of Disbelief as to how the people are going along with this - after all, the prewar Rhineland government was supposed to be democratic.
  • Guild Wars: The city of Ascalon was a real propaganda machine, trying to paint their foes (who were villians only by necessity) as mindless savages. Hiding the Awful Truth that really their foes aren't evil but rather misunderstood as they're a bit ticked off about having their homeland stolen.
  • Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2: The "Praise Gith!" Television Robots are a very literal example of this...
  • Just Cause: There's LITERAL Propaganda Machines (Trailers, actually) all over the place in the second game which you have to destroy; you can hear when one is nearby by the distinctive anthem they play, followed by Baby Panay's talking. Although his "Propaganda" doesn't seem so much "lying to the people that everything is fine", and more of apparently stroking his own ego:
    Panay: Listen most carefully, people of Panau. President Panay, your glorious and humble leader, must speak. Free photographs of the president and his staff are now available in all government buildings. REJOICE.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos: The Government Policy Promotion Department, where the password is "Overflowing love, and daily benevolence."
  • Red Faction Guerilla:
  • Re VOLUTION: The Corporation makes use of this. You'll see more than one poster saying "Power And Control," as well as "The Corporation Is The Sun Of Your New Life!"
  • StarCraft II: Mengsk's Dominion has one of these up and running, making Raynor and his buddies out to be terrorists. When Raynor & co. find damning evidence that confirms that Mengsk threw Tarsonis' population to the Zerg, they hack in and broadcast it sector-wide. The media quickly turns against Mengsk.
  • Tropico: This Real-Time Strategy game has this trope implied, especially in the third installment, as there are many news reels during gameplay, where the anchorman, Juanito, actually tells the people (and of course the player) how the political stability, the finances, citizen life quality, and other important aspects of the game, currently are. Although he sometimes deliberately twists facts, he can be quite openly skeptic at times. El Presidente CAN have Juanito executed in the expansion, however he is then replaced by a snarky anti-governmental anchorwoman, who unfortunately can not be rid of.
  • Vietcong 2 has a VC propagandist who tries to convince the civilians in Hue to rise up against the Americans using the town hall's radio. His voice can be heard in the fifth US level and you can even sneak up to him and kill him two levels later.
  • VVVVVV: Worth mentioning is a hazard in this game which is a machine that is shooting the word "LIES" at a television multiple screens to the right. The machine, television, and LIES can all kill you.
  • Implied use of one in Star Trek Online's backstory. After overthrowing Taris as Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire in a Military Coup, Sela broached the subject of a renewed Romulan monarchy to unify the people. Observers wryly noted that people suddenly started comparing Sela to favorably viewed single rulers in Romulus' past such as Ael t'Rllaillieu (despite the fact that Sela and Ael are approximately nothing alike). Sela eventually did proclaim herself empress.

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  
  • Doctor Steel: Doctor Steel is a master of using propaganda and propagandic art to spread his Utopian Playland message, which his fans/followers (known as Toy Soldiers) happily disseminate. Doctor Steel is, in fact, the only mad dictator in the history of existence who can actually label his propaganda as "propaganda" and no one will care. Except perhaps Dr. Insano.
  • Homestar Runner
    • First we have Marzipan's kindergarten, named L.ifeblossoms U.ndergoing R.e-education N.aturally. Her children (i.e. grown men Homsar, Homestar, and Strong Mad) are referred to as "lifeblossoms", and the point of the lessons is parodically hyper-vegan (one of her blackboards reads "soy is also murder," as she says, "and that way you always feel guilty").
    • In the short "Career Day" it's revealed Strong Bad treats his space program's promotional films as such - the vanity plate reads "SBASAF propaganda indoctrination mind control edumacational films presents".
  • Lucky Day Forever has the Whites pulling the wool over the eyes of the Proles via artificial culture aimed at them.

     Western Animation  
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Fire Nation. Their schools warp history and facts to promote the firelords agenda, like any good Evil Empire would. Subverted in the first season, though. Two Fire Nation guards are reading about how the avatar can supposedly "run faster than the wind" and one of them scoffs that its just Fire Nation propaganda. Guess who zooms past right at that moment?
    • The Fire Nation has nothing on the Earth Kingdom capital of Ba Sing Se, whose propaganda is so thorough that they've managed to convince a significant chunk of the population (including their own king) that there is no war.

     Real Life  
  • If you believe Noam Chomsky then all media is part of a propaganda machine. The argument goes that all media is profit motivated and as such they are not particularly interested in defending freedom, they are interested in protecting their profit. The only reliable source of stories about governments comes from the governments themselves, and the little access they do get is revocable if they do bad things. Also, the owners of almost all media groups are rich, white men who have a a certain social agenda, and a personal relationship with the government and they can dictate who gets employed and what they write (or at least fire them if they do it the wrong way). So yeah. Add all of that up and it means that we only hear about what our various governments want us to hear about. Sure people complain about those stories, but that just helps to create the illusion. The idea is that in the end you can't even imagine that other bad things could be happening. Welcome to Airstrip One.
    • Going back even earlier, yellow journalism has been prone to this. In particular, William Randolph Hearst exploited hot-button issues to sell more newspapers, such as the Spanish-American War and cannabis.
    • What makes Chomsky's theory even funnier is that he himself is a Russia Today regular, of all things.
  • Nazi Germany and Joseph Goebbels in particular.
    • Goebbels has become so synonymous with propaganda that he's the go-to name when casting aspersions on someone for perceived propaganda tactics.
  • American post-war propaganda and "mental hygiene films" were directly inspired by the Nazi use of cinema, a great volume of which was produced by the military. They reasoned that it could, and should, be used for indoctrination of pro-American values of the time. Of course, this was when film was still going through its New Media Are Evil phase, and there was much more belief in cinema's power over people's minds. PSAs are descended from the early American Propaganda Machine.
  • Stalin had Trotsky, Yezhov, and many, many others edited out of pictures, for starters; later Soviet premiers shied away from being quite as blatant, though the propaganda machine remained in place. The untrustworthy nature of the news sources at the time sparked a joke in the USSR spoken amongst those not prone to reporting people to the Central Committee: There is no Pravda ("truth") in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia ("news") in Pravda (or some variation thereof; both papers are still around, by the way, although they have become two remarkable cases of In Name Only). Since people had to read between the lines to determine what actually happened (there being few to no real news alternatives depending on the circumstances, and open discussion being obviously dangerous), some Russians believed that America won in Vietnam.
    • Too much propaganda in Russia (and presumably elsewhere) wound up creating a huge backlash. As noted above, some people wound up believing the exact opposite of the official story. In cases where bad news did appear in the official media, many people believed far worse things have taken place—e.g. Chernobyl—and what little trust they had in competence of the government collapsed.
  • There is a Russian joke made after the disappointment of the 90s in Russia:
    Everything we've been told about communism, turned out to be a lie.
  • For a humorous version, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf (Baghdad Bob/Comical Ali), the Information Minister under Saddam Hussein, who famously denied that American forces had reached Baghdad while two American tanks were visible maneuvering behind him.
  • One of the rare examples of this Trope being used for good was the Abolitionist movement in 19th-century America. They mobilized a truly massive Propaganda Machine made up of everything from newspapers to novels (Uncle Tom's Cabin) to public speaking in order to wake white America up to the horrors of slavery.
  • Australian PR firm Crosby/Textor makes extensive use of wedge politics on behalf of its mostly neo-conservative clients.
  • Almost any state media news organization in a dictatorship will get used in this way.
    • Russia Today News would count, as does Press TV, which is the same but for Iran. This is one reason why one should always cross-check sources and examine who you are quoting in support of your position, lest you be mistaken for a shill for dictatorship.
  • Imperial Japan during World War II proved to be astounding bad at this.
    • The xenophobic militarists who controlled the country viewed intellectualism as suspect and cosmopolitanism as treason and anyone who demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of a foreign culture was suspected of being an enemy sympathizer, which meant the nation was denied their services crafting or interpreting foreign communications.
    • The famous Tokyo Rose broadcasts were written by Allied prisoners who turned the broadcasts into parodies since any Japanese with a sufficient fluency in the English language to detect the subtleties was considered too politically unreliable for government employment (and probably was).
    • Their painfully earnest attempts to win hearts and minds within the "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" were constantly undermined by the brutality of their troops.
    • Their other attempts were equally, almost childishly, unsophisticated, as in "every battle is a great victory and if we lost one ship then the enemy must have lost ten" made worse by their tendency to accept the wildly exaggerated claims of their sailors and pilots at face value because to do otherwise would question their sincerity. Eventually their ever-wilder claims started working against them as they implied that the enemy had unlimited resources and anyone with a map could see that each "great victory" was closer to Japan than the last.note  By the time US firebombing destroyed 60% of their urban areas they'd switched to whipping up hysteria for a suicidal national Last Stand. It is a testament not to their skill but to how insular and isolated Japan was that the surrender actually came as a colossal shock to some people in rural areas of the home islands because they'd been led to believe they were still winning the war. People who lived in areas devastated by the firebombing were under no such illusions.
    • This is not dissimilar to what happened to the Germans after World War I, which in part set the stage for World War 2. All the good news from the front lines had been let through by the censors, but the tales of defeat were not. Since the Germans leaders surrendered before the Allies actually invaded Germany itself, some people thought they'd been betrayed by their leaders while they were winning the war.
    • Something similar to this has taken place in United States a few times. Many people with expertise in China and Southeast Asia were drummed out of the State Department, the Pentagon, and other government agencies in 1950s because they were suspected of too much sympathy with the locals, who were increasingly supporting communists, and US was dangerously underinformed about goings on in East Asia until 1970s at least. Even now, US government is dangerously bereft of expertise in the Middle East since those with expertise in the region have trouble gaining positions of responsibility. The consequence of these is that some US propaganda, eh, public diplomacy, targeted at these regions (and presumably elsewhere) have been singularly misinformed and misguided, reflecting American prejudices that were occasionally even offensive to the targeted audiences more than the realities on the ground.
  • And in the People's Republic of China, we have a group literally called the Central Propaganda Department. Yes, the group meant to lie to people named itself with a truth, and didn't think that through. It's important to note that in Mandarin, "propaganda" is a neutral term; nevertheless, to outsiders and Chinese who know about the connotations of the term to non-Chinese audiences, (an increasing number these days), the significance is not lost.
  • Basically ALL North Korean media is propaganda, be it the praising of the "Grand Leader," demonizing the enemies of the state, or both (often being unintentionally hilarious). Some of the items listed on their website is listed as "Propaganda", while also maintaining a radio station they say is broadcasted from the Southern traitors (it isn't) to corrupt the true Korean people to evil capitalist ways.


Alternative Title(s):

The Ministry Of Truth