To preface, this model is not tied to any bias or politic. I have also not studied anything in this area, so if this has been done already… well, then I suppose I feel validated. This is simply a model that can be observed when someone wishes to push out a narrative, whether it’s positive, negative, destructive or helpful.
It is important to clearly define what propaganda is:
information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
Any political ad is propaganda, as an example, and will always have a bias. But the realm of propaganda is wide, and has become extremely cheap to manufacture and distribute over the last 15 years, especially since the advent of social media.
The Onion of Propaganda has four layers to it:
- The creation layer
- The sharing layer
- The believing layer
- The skeptic layer
The creation layer, or the center of the Onion of Propaganda, does what the name suggests: it is responsible for the creation of propaganda. This can be a single person who uses the status update as a picture with text on Facebook or Instagram, or it can be a farm pumping out stuff several hours a day. It’s important to recognize both of these and the spectrum in between, and I’ll share why after I describe these layers.
The sharing layer, as gross as it sounds, is simply responsible for sharing whatever the Creation Layer is creating. This is word of mouth, shares on Facebook, posts to Reddit or otherwise. The sharing layer is important because the more a message is shared, the more valid or normalized it becomes. This makes the propaganda more believable.
The sharing layer can also be automated, as we’ve seen with Twitter bots and firms that work on pushing/sharing certain narratives on Reddit.
The believing layer is passive in its reception of propaganda. The believing layer will like or upvote things, but not actively share them. These are still important, because it generates a sympathetic following to a particular message, and even liking or upvoting something shares some commonality with the sharing layer, as people might see something that someone else liked or upvoted.
This consists of people who are, you guessed it, skeptic to a particular message. What’s interesting about this layer, and what makes it important to the Onion of Propaganda, is that a skeptic can further empower the believing and sharing layers. It helps shelter the onion a bit, in a way.
So now that those are defined, we look at what it takes to grow the Onion of Propaganda.
The goal of anyone who is pushing propaganda with the Onion of Propaganda, is to pull people toward the core of the onion. Make the skeptics believers, the believers sharers, and the sharers creators. The more this happens, the more powerful the message becomes, and so the cycle continues.
No real conclusion to this rant; I just wanted to arm the one or two people who will read this with the information, so you can be more aware of the atmosphere we’re in both in the world and online, today.