MYTHOLOGIES (Transfer, Sacred Cow, Demons, History)

One of the most effective and enduring methods of propaganda is the use of mythologies. Mythologies are the collective stories, symbols, historical orthodoxy, collective memory and in-group associations.

By increasingly large diffused circles, mythologies are inherited from family, peer group, locality, community, nation, etc. Ethnicity, culture, political leaning, education: all contribute mythologies of a kind. Personal experience, relationships, media engagement, major events directly and indirectly: profound influences on an individual’s developing sense of these mythologies. It’s an ever-shifting landscape but, broadly speaking, the mythologies that matter – those worthy of propaganda – are more easily identified: mythologies popular enough, enduring enough or imposed with enough power.


Transfer is when a symbol – a known representation of a certain mythology – is used along with an idea or argument or propaganda piece to make it look more acceptable (or more abhorrent). Symbols can carry respect, authority, sanction, and prestige. Examples: American Flag, University Seal, Medical Association Symbol (or something that looks like it). This is VIRTUE-BY-ASSOCIATION. Symbols can be hated, destructive, undermining or conveying mistrust. Examples: the Nazi swastika, Soviet Stalinist imagery, nuclear explosion (mushroom cloud), hazardous materials logo. This is GUILT-BY-ASSOCIATION.


This propaganda involves use of recognised language associated with a mythology to ensure an idea is made to appear holy, sacred, or very special and therefore above all law. Any alternative or opposite points of view are thereby given the appearance of treason or blasphemy. Examples: “God-given right to…”, “Mother Earth”. It’s common to use groups and countries that have already been given sacred cow status in a mythology. Examples: “British values”, “The American way”, “German precision…”


This propaganda is the opposite of the SACRED COW and involves the use of recognised language associated with a mythology (or anti-mythology) to ensure an idea is made to appear evil, demonic, in some way rotten, worthy of fear or hate. Anyone who opposes the idea/target is by default the good guys. Anyone who supports the idea/target is by default suspect – one of the bad guys.

Examples: “Fascist…”, “Crisis-hit”, “Anti-democracy…”, “insurgent”, “rebel”, “dossier”, “extremist”, “fundamentalist” and, ironically, “…propaganda”. Needless to say it’s also popular to use individuals, groups and countries that have already been demonised in the mythology. Examples: “Hitlerian”, Russia if you’re American or British. American if you’re Iranian. Japan if you’re Chinese. Jews if you’re an anti-Semite. Islamic if you’re an Islamophobe.

Poster propaganda supporting a vote against equal same-sex marriage. It makes a discord of the LGBT+ rainbow (TRANSFER) then virtual signals “protect” alongside vulnerable innocent “children” (FEAR) and then lists three convicted paedophiles / sex-offenders – supporters of the “homosexual ‘marriage'” – to suggest a vote for equal marriage is a vote for paedophilia and rape (DEMONS).


The headline links Russia with candidate Tulsi Gabbard throwing into question the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the Hawaii Democrat.

(images: Political Graphics: Contemporary American Propaganda)

For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy (Speech to Yale Graduates, Class of 1962)

It is the duty of everyman, so far as his ability allows, to detect and expose delusion and error.” – Thomas Paine (Rights of Man, 1971)