The Art of Propaganda – Shaping Public Opinion and Putting Society at Risk

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R350.00 Inc.VAT


In 1622, Pope Gregory XV established the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of Faith (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide). Its task was to spread the word, to propagate the Christian faith throughout Europe and beyond.

Its mission was to re-establish the Roman Catholic doctrine wherever belief and faith in it had been eroded, especially by the protestant movement of the German teacher and monk, Martin Luther. The Latin word for propagation is propaganda, and the Pope Gregory XV Papal mission will subsequently be referred to as The Propaganda Over time, propaganda acquired widespread usage in reference to one of the oldest activities human societies have engaged in-the influencing and shaping of public opinion and government policy.

400 years after the establishment of Pope Gregory’s Sacred Congregation, propaganda has become a new and less benign activity. Its reputation is of a dark art that is dividing and destroying societies. In contemporary context, propaganda has re-emerged as a major tool of demagoguery and political manipulation. This is thanks in part to the development and evolution of the mass media, including the press and radio, film and television, and especially the internet and social media.

In the 21st Century, propaganda has taken on a more prominent and pervasive if malignant role in society. Its use is no longer restricted to a few individuals with specialist skills and access to the traditional media. With the new social media and vast improvement in the technology for manufacturing facts, fake news, conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns have become more commonplace. It is now by far easier to manipulate information and influence public perception of reality than at any other time in human history. The result is a diminishment of the value of truth, a dangerous embrace of delusion and a fracturing of society.

Can the situation be reversed? We must be ready to unlearn what we have learnt in order to learn what we ought to learn. It starts by always looking for the other side of every story.

The Art of Propaganda is part history and part contemporary politics, it is part sociology, part communication and part psychology. It is both fascinating and insightful.

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Weight 350 g



Deji Haastrup


Xarra Books



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1 review for The Art of Propaganda – Shaping Public Opinion and Putting Society at Risk

  1. Letepe Maisela is Management Consultant and Published Author of 4 books.

    I think that it was Victor Hugo, French Poet who is credited with the phrase ’ Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come’. Thanks to Google I did not have to go through mounds of stained pages in Encyclopaedia Brittanica, to try to verify the source of that powerful statement. Initially, I had thought the famous line came from the words of assertive and equally famous 18th-century writer, playwright, and literary critic Samuel Johnson. Yeah, the one who once cynically quipped: If you are tired of London, you are tired of life. But, I digress.
    Yet another smart observation that Google attributes to some ancient man regarded as the Father of Greek tragedy, Aeschylus, also cynically commented that during the war the first casualty is the truth. Cool and amazing how all those Greek wisecrackers only went by one name just like Madonna the Pop Singer. No historian has to my humble knowledge ever investigated if the likes of Plato, Socrates, Homer, Aristotle, et al, ever carried a surname like the rest of us.
    Scholarly journalists would argue the first shot that renders the truth incapacitated in wars is fired not by the soldiers but by propagandists. This is where the newly-published book aptly called ‘The Art of Propaganda, by a Nigerian author with the strange non-Nigerian sounding name of Deji Haastrup is all about.
    I accidentally came across the book that regards propaganda as the art of shaping public opinion, strangling the truth, and putting society at risk, when I revisited the premises of publishing house Xarra Books in Midrand during the past week and had an impromptu meeting with CEO Kanyiso Mnguni, popularly known as Kays amongst his legion of bookworm followers. Impromptu because the meeting was unscheduled and I just happened to be in the vicinity and popped in the African way, and there he was standing in the reception area as if was waiting for me. Awesome.
    Soon he ushered me into his office where we had the usual banter about the effects of load shedding on everything productive, including the writing of books. He paused and selected from the shelf behind him, filled to the brim with various new book titles, a rusty-coloured one that he placed right under my nose. ‘This one am sure you’d like to read and even review for us, it’s the latest from our Xarra Books stable’, he said as some form of contra suggestion. The book dressed up with an earthly brown-colored cover was as I mentioned before written by a Nigerian academician and researcher. At first sight, it reminded me of those serious medical textbooks one often encounters in libraries but as they say, looks can often be deceptive. The title on the front however betrayed its seemingly sinister real mission, as embossed in yellowish font it announced the real mission with its non-pretentious name: ‘The Art of Propaganda.’
    Now back to Monsieur Victor Hugo’s assertion about a powerful idea whose time has come. This latest novel by Deji Haastrup it’s just that – a very powerful anecdote whose time has come. With the two current wars, one in Russia vs Ukraine and the most recent one in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas in Palestina, the World is once more being intensely exposed to the art of propaganda from all sides, even more than during the past Cold War era. Aggravating the spread of propaganda today, with the intensity of a raging wildfire blown by gale winds, is the advent of Social Media, where any hack with a smart mobile phone, fuelled by a nearby Wi-Fi tower can create their own propaganda and conspiracy theory and with simple nonchalance, post it across millions of often naive subscriber population in nanoseconds. Scary but true.


    In the Foreword of the book written by Kim Heller, acclaimed author of best selling book No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa, she mentions initially that ‘almost anyone can start or spread fake news and conspiracy theories.’ That is what we used to call propaganda. Whilst in the past, it was transmitted through formal media platforms owned either by conglomerates or State entities, today however, thanks to the Internet and Social Media, every individual from Venda to Sandton, New York to Moscow with a mobile telephone has equal ability through the touch of a button. That according to Deji Haastrup has led to the fall of the truth amidst the rise of lies. Today by simply opening ones computer or mobile phone one is instantly exposed to a glut of information or disinformation, about what’s really happening around the World. It really takes a diligent mind to separate the truth from untruths, when one reads online posts from different ideological positions regarding both the Russia/Ukraine war and much lately the Israeli/Hammas one.
    The author starts with an apt qoute of Voltaire, 17th Century French writer, who once stated:’Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’He uses the examples of Hitler’s World War and the one nearer home in Nigeria, which took place more than fifty years ago but left an indelible scar on the psyche of his country. Even today the author asserts that the strong propaganda campaign that prevailed during that conflict had endured even after the war ended, up to the present times. He conveniently uses various examples to articulate how propaganda was weaponised to good effect in a war situation. During the Hitler Regime in Germany that was blatantly so, as they even had a Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment from 1933 to 1945, named Joseph Goebbels.
    In this well-researched and written book, Deji Haastrup who is a brilliant orator, starts his book with a story about a certain Nigerian Medical Doctor who encountered a typical case of a hypochondriac patient named Hakeem, who seriously believed he had caught the common but dreaded Malaria disease. Even after conducting all the necessary tests to determine the veracity of the patient’s claim and sent him home, he was back the following day. Dr Chibuzor through past experience had a remedy for him which he fondly and secretly named the Placebo Effect, which he prescribed to Hakeem, accompanied by the instructions to eat each time before consuming the said tablets. A few days later Hakeen booming voice over the doctor’s mobile phone speaker informed him that his medication worked and the Malaria was gone. Unknown to him the Doctor had only prescribed him Placebo which seemingly worked well with hypochondriacs. This type of delusion is what the art of propaganda thrives upon.
    Eish, before I further spoil it for the reader, let me stop right here and advice them to acquire a copy of this addictive book, soon to be available in most well-known Bookstores or Online from publishers Xarra Books. It’s a definite Festive read and present.

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