The Propaganda Key

Published: September 2020
Languages: English, German

The Propaganda Key describes twenty media manipulation techniques and the ten most common messages of war propaganda. A helpful tool for modern media consumers and analysts.

Media manipulation techniques

  1. Editorial techniques
    1. Selection of topics: One-sided selection, weighting or placement
    2. Headlines: One-sided choice of title, subtitle or section titles
    3. Conflict parties: One-sided allocation of text or speaking time
    4. Third-party sources: One-sided selection or non-transparent sourcing
    5. Interviews/guests: One-sided selection, designation, conduct of interviews
    6. Context: Misleading omission of context or background information
  2. Linguistic techniques
    1. Unsubstantiated or false allegations or assertions
    2. Manipulative choice of words, formulations, designations
    3. Manipulative suggestions, insinuations, associations
    4. Manipulative translations and citations
  3. Audiovisual techniques
    1. Manipulative use of images, sound or film material
    2. Manipulative editing of images, sound or film material
    3. Manipulative use of background music
    4. Manipulative facial expressions, gestures, intonation
  4. Other techniques
    1. Appeal to authority or prestige
    2. Defame; discredit; mock
    3. Idealize; trivialize; sugarcoat
    4. Dramatize; personalize; generalize
    5. Other

Messages of war propaganda

  1. The enemy camp is solely responsible for the war
  2. We are innocent and peace-loving
  3. The enemy has demonic features
  4. We fight for a good cause, the enemy for selfish ends
  5. The enemy commits atrocities on purpose, but with us it’s an accident
  6. The enemy uses illegal weapons
  7. Our losses are small, but those of the opponent are enormous
  8. Our cause is supported by artists and intellectuals
  9. Our mission is sacred
  10. Anyone who doubts our reporting is a traitor


Arthur Ponsonby (1928): Falsehood in War-Time. George Allen and Unwin, London.

Baines, Paul R (2013): Propaganda. SAGE Library of Military and Strategic Studies, London.

Chomsky, Noam & Herman, Edward (1988): A Propaganda Model. Pantheon Books, New York.

Share on: Twitter / Facebook

Up ↑