Propaganda – Word Play

Richard Bandler opened my eyes to the power of spoken words, word-play and sounds.

George Orwell opened my eyes to the power of the written word and its use in political control.

Since then I’ve studied a lot of other authors and speakers that work heavily with words.

It’s fascinating and useful.

One thing I have found to be enormously powerful is looking at the origins of words and their definitions.

So I thought I’d walk through some words related to propaganda and the definition of propaganda…

Origins of the word “Propaganda”

Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide means `Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith’ and is also known as the Congregation of the Propaganda. It was a committee of Cardinals created in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV to spread Catholicism and to manage Church affairs in foreign countries. In 1623 a seminary (school) was created by Pope Urban VIII as a continuation on the original papal decree.  This College of Propaganda oversaw the training of the priests who managed foreign missions responsible for converting foreigners to the Roman Catholic faith.


pro-, propagare :: to multiply (plants) by means of layers or slips, to breed, to enlarge, extend, or prolong the stock or race of, cognate with pro-, propago, -aginem a layer (esp. of a vine), a shoot or slip from which a new plant is produced. – Oxford English Dictionary

Think of grafting to a vine.

A graft is a shoot or scion inserted in a groove or slit made in another stock, so as to allow the sap of the latter to circulate through the former.

1813 Sir. H. Davy Agric. Chem. (1814) 253 The graft is only nourished by the sap of the tree to which it is transferred.

I think its not so coincidental that “grift” is an obsolete form of “graft” and both later became slang words meaning:

“The obtaining of profit or advantage by dishonest or shady means; the means by which such gains are made,esp. bribery, blackmail, or the abuse of a position of power or influence; the profits so obtained.”

1896 Ade Artie i. 3 To the church show—the charity graft.


Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority.

a 1628 Preston Breastpl. Faith (1630) 15 Faith is assenting to Truthes for the Authority of the Speaker.

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About Christopher Tomasulo

At home Christopher Tomasulo is your average dad with three kids. However, here at Covert Comm he is known as “Doc Sulo” and he mind-warps crowds with a tiny flutter of his left hand. He clothespins ideas to unsuspecting gray matter. He speaks lemon-yellow words that splash into ear canals and squeeze themselves into refreshing influence lemonade. It has also been said he's half-way decent at making complex persuasion and influence techniques simple.
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2 Responses to Propaganda – Word Play

  1. Tim O'Keefe says:

    Nicely done. Enjoyed the definitions which are also somewhat mini history lessons. Your faith and religion speak reminded me about how I coined a phrase “fuzzy logic” from my witnessing of a fundamentalist attempt at converting someone, and a IT sales process. It was my way of trying to understand the persuasion for myself.

    Since in the case of religion it is always based on an assumption of truth that cannot be proven. The convertee has to accept this before he can move onto other “lessons” or steps of faith. Each step gets fuzzier and fuzzier in fact and takes the convertee more and more into emotion or at least the possibility of faulty reasoning.

    Since many buying IT have a limited understanding of what they are getting into. It is the same leap of faith.

    I guess all buying is like this. And all buys require a leap of faith at some point as you cannot possibly know all there is to know about the product.

    Whats you take on this?


    • Good to “see” you again Tim. Thanks for stopping by.

      I’ve thought a lot about propaganda vs. buying and have gone through a similar line of thinking that it seems you are.

      Yes it’s true that we make decisions every day based on the authority and expertise of others. The way our world is set up makes it hard not too. The more I think about it the more I understand the cliche of the farmer being wary of “city folk.” Most farmers are pretty self-sufficient whereas the move to pack people into cities (which has been going on world-wide for some time now) has made everyone “interdependent” and very dependent on the expertise of others.

      But even with all that said – I don’t think dependence on authority or expertise when buying something is propaganda per se.

      Propaganda is unique in that it attempts to propagate a doctrine of faith or a system of principles of thought.

      In other words it pushes a system of thinking based on faith in authority. Even though your IT clients are taking your word based on faith in your expertise – chances are it’s not changing their entire system of thought or world view. Propaganda attempts to change the way people think about things – in a big way.

      For instance I would say that anything having to do with “global warming” is a good example of propaganda and more specifically a propaganda campaign. All of the communications are attempts to propagate a faith in certain systems of thought that will change the way people behave and move through their world. It also attempts to change the mental frameworks of people so they are more willing to accept things that were unacceptable before.

      I imagine that in the 1700 or 1800’s that similar campaigns occurred to get people to change their minds about farming – and here we are today – city folk dependent on expertise.


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