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REVOLUTIONARY PROPAGANDA AND POSSIBLE COUNTER-MEASURES
Maurice Arthur John Tugwell
King's College, University of London
Thesis submitted for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy
Revolutionary Propaganda and Possible Counter-Measures
Maurice Arthur John Tugwell
The thesis examines propaganda as a weapon in violent revolutionary
situations. The first chapter discusses the meaning and nature of
propaganda, and goes on to relate the six case studies that are to
follow to the historical development of conflict propaganda. The
survey notes how, as a result of dishonest usage in war and because
of its totalitarian overtones, propaganda became discredited in
liberal democracies, so much so that governments were reluctant even
to think about it.
The six case studies deal with the propaganda aspects of the
campaigns of the Assassins in medieval Persia, the Easter Rising in
Dublin 1916, Zionist ambitions in Palestine after the second World
War, the Algerian struggle for national independence 1954- 62, the
Provisional IRA's campaign during 1971 and early 1972, and the Dhofar
rebellion that ended in 1976. The discussion that concludes each
chapter summaries the role and importance of propaganda as a component
of the revolutionary strategy, assesses its methods and themes, and
considers the government response in this area.
The final chapter offers deductions on the nature of
revolutionary propaganda and on possible counter-measures. Analysis
of the case studies points to a more or less regular pattern of
revolutionary propaganda from which emerge twenty themes and
associated messages. Revolutionary propaganda themes are grouped
into four categories - mobilisation, conflict, survival and victory.
Certain distinguishing technical characteristics are identified and
the role of the news media in present-day revolutionary situations
Case analysis of government responses shows that propaganda can
only be countered in kind, and that failure to counter this weapon
has on several occasions undermined political and security force
counter-insurgency efforts. It is dangerous for governments to
ignore propaganda, and ignorance bars the way to any effective cure.
In the modern liberal democracy the best course may be to educate
politicians, officials, police and military in this subject, and to
spread understanding to the media and general public. Dislike of
propaganda per se is justified. The liberal regime should reject
falsehood,'dirty tricks' and psychological manipulation and base
its defence, its 'counter-propaganda', on truth and understanding.
This would not remove the need for a lively government effort to
counter revolutionary themes, and a possible form of this effort
concludes this thesis.
I am grateful to the Ministry of Defence for sponsoring the first
year of my research through a Defence Fellowship and to Professor
Laurence Martin for accepting me in his War Studies Department at
King's College, University of London, and for encouraging me to work
for a higher degree. To him and to Dr Wolf Mendl, his successor as
Head of Department, I am additionally indebted for much wisdom and
MY thanks are also due to those who have provided information, advice
and insights, or who have read my chapters in draft and made comments,
or who have made administrative and other arrangements for visits and
research. The list, inevitably, is incomplete:
Brigadier John Akehurst, Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant-Colonel
James Barden, HQ Northern Ireland, Professor David Charters, University of New Brunswick, Mrs Eva CUtler, Ministry of Defence, Dr
Richard Clutterbuck, Exeter University, Dr Tom Garvin, University
College, Dublin, Mr David Gillimore, Northern Ireland Office, Mr
Robin Goodfellow, HQ Northern Ireland, Professor James Halloran,
Centre for Mass Communications, Leicester, Lieutenant-Colonel Tony
Hayes-Newington, Joint Warfare Establishment, Old Sarum, Brigadier
Geoffrey Howlett, Ministry of Defence, Brigadier Charles Huxtable,
HQ Dhofar Brigade, Mr Colin McGhee, Ministry of Defence, Mr Bill
McGookin, Royal Ulster Constabulary, Mr Hugh Mooney, Barrister,
Mrs Josephine O'Connor Howe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr
Derek Peters, Porton Down, Professor Reg Roy, University of Victoria,
British Columbia, Mrs Sylvia Smither, King's College, Mr John Ward,
Dhofar Information Department, and Mr Paul Wilkinson, University
College, Cardiff. The usual disclaimer applies, and extends to
the Ministry of Defence. MY views in no way reflect official opinion
I also owe my thanks to the academic staff of the War Studies Department and to library staffs at King's, and to librarians at the Royal
United Services Institute for Defence Studies, the Ministry of Defence
Whitehall Library, and University of Victoria. Finally I thank my
wife, Claire, for enduring my endeavours and correcting my errors of
construction and spelling, with equal fOlbearance.
Whenever an abbreviation is used in the text the full title or
group of words appears in the first instance, followed by the
shortened form. Thereafter, the shortened form is used on its own.
In footnotes and in the bibliography the following abbreviations are
PRO for Public Records Office
CAB for Cabinet Office
FO for Foreign Office
CO for Colonial Office
INF for Ministry of Information
WO for War Office
MOD for Ministry of Defence
HMSO for Her (or His) Majesty's
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND ABBREVIATIONS
Circle Beyond Circle
An Introduction to the Case Studies
A Tradition in the World
The Revolutionary Propaganda of the Assassins
Propaganda of the Deed
The 1916 Easter Rising
The Voice of Israel
Propaganda for a Jewish State
Psychological Warfare in Algeria
'The Horrors of Organised Murder'
Propaganda of the Provisional IRA
Freedom is our Aim, and Islam is the Way
Counter-Revolutionary Propaganda in Dhofar
Deductions from the Case Studies
Part 1: A Pattern of Revolutionary Propaganda
Part 2: Possible Counter-Measures
CIRCLE BEYOND CIRCLE
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE STUDIES
Aim and Method
This thesis addresses the subject of revolutionary propaganda and
It is a war study aimed at improving
understanding of propaganda as a weapon system in revolutionary
The conclusions on counter-measures relate to a liberal
democracy confronted by a revolutionary threat.
The introductory chapter examines the nature of propaganda and
sets the scene for the case studies that follow.
In each of the six
studies the evidence is sifted in an endeavour to discover the
effectiveness of propaganda as a weapon for and against rebellion.
is not the writer's purpose to advance knowledge of propaganda within
the disciplines of psychology, the social sciences or mass
communication theory, important areas wherein much valuable academic
work on the subject has already been done.
Some of this work will,
however, be mentioned in this ch3pter because it is relevant to our
understanding of propaganda as a revolutionary asset.
It should be said at once that propaganda is an illusive creature,
easy to talk about in vague terms but difficult to catch and hold up
to the light of academic enquiry.
It is rather tempting to remain in
the area of generalisation, with its unfettered claims, but the
writer is aware that unless claims are backed up by empirical evidence
little will be accomplished beyond the airing of personal opinion,
with the likelihood of increased scepticism on the part of the reader.
This is one of the reasons why the case study method has been adopted
for this research.
The conclusions from each chapter will so far
as possible be drawn from the historical evidence, and although the
writer's interpretations are bound to affect judgement, the reader
can also judge whether or not the facts support the deductions.
Because the case studies are directed towards a better
understanding of the role and importance or propaganda in
revolutionary conflict, there is a need, in the writer's belief, to
see the subject in relation to the campaigns
a whole rather than
Unless this opinion is shared, the reader may object
that too much attention is paid in the studies to political and
military functions. It is argued in defence of the arrangement
adopted that to write a military study neglecting political factors
would be considered dangerous, and vice versa. Likewise, there seems
to be no way of judging the effectiveness and overall contribution
of propaganda to a campaign unless the study includes at least a
cursory examination of both political and military matters.
The campaigns chosen were selected from a longer list after
preliminary reading had suggested that these six would yield
interesting and relevant evidence. Although the aim of the thesis is
to draw conclusions useful to a liberal democracy, no attempt has
been made to restrict the stUdies to revolts inside such societies.
This is because revolutionary philosophy draws little distinction
between regimes that are totalitarian, authoritarian or liberal,
although strategy and tactics for their overthrow may differ.
Philosophically the rebel is convillced that any regime he plans to
destroy is oppressive, illiberal and unjust. It is part of his task
to make his followers share these beliefs. We cannot, therefore,
i~ore the methods used to challenge what, in some cases, were
undemocratic- and unjust administrations on the grounds that no
parallel is likely to exist ill our enlightened society, because the
parallel may be created.
In the final chapter the evidence collected from the case studies
is brought together for analysis, to identify any common
characteristics and to attempt an assessment of the role and
importance of revolutionary propaganda. In a search for possible
counter-measures it will be necessary to study lessons from the
government responses in the case studies and then to relate these
to the conclusions reached on the nature ot revolutionary
propaganda per se.
The Heaning of Propaganda
Revulsion against public deception during World War I led
Viscount Bryce later to define propaganda as 'that dissemination by
the printed word of untruths and fallacies and incitements to
It was true that propaganda could aDd sometimes did fit
James Bryce Modern Democracies (London, 1921), Vol II, p 505.
this description, but the definition was nevertheless prejudiced and
therefore misleading. Two years later, in 1923, Mr R J R G Wreford
provided an unbiased definition: 'the dissemination of interested
information and opinion,.2
This was seen as being closer to the
mark, but critics felt it to be incomplete, being limited to the
spread of ideas by the use of language whether spoken or written, and
excluding such wider activities as the wearing of emblems, the
flying of a flag or the playing of a tune.
An alternative was offered some years later by Dr Harold D Lasswell
who suggested 'the management of collective attitudes by the
manipulation of the significant symbols,.3
He defined 'symbols' as
'words, or word substitutes like pictures and gestures', thus
incorporating activities omitted by Wreford. Thirty-five years later
Dr Terence H Qualter sought to improye Lasswell's version. He defined
propaganda as 'the deliberate attempt by some individual or group to
form, control, or alter the attitudes of other groups by the use of
the instruments of communication, with the intention that in any
given situation the reaction of those so influenced will be that
desired by the propagandist,.4
Qualter explained that by 'the
instruments of communication' he meant much the same as Lasswell
when he talked of 'symbols'. His definition, therefore, differs
from Lasswell's in one important respect only, his final clause
attributing to propaganda the disposition invariably to treat its
subjects as means rather than ends, to require a 'payoff'. Qualter
insisted that the goal of the propagandist was not just a change in
attitudes, but a change in attitudes that resulted in action.
Reference to encyclopaedias shows that one, Chambers's, supports
Qualter wholeheartedly with its 'the advancement of a belief or the
creation of a state of mind to the exclusion of rival beliefs or
states of mind. To this end it will principally rely upon the appeal
to the instincts or the emotions (unlike education which appeals to
2. R J R G Wreford 'Propaganda, Evil and Good', paper in The
Nineteenth Century and After, Vol XCIII, 1923, pp 514-524.
3. Harold D Lasswell (i) 'The Theory of Political Propaganda',
paper in American Political Science Review XXI, 1927, P 627.
Qualter Propaganda and PSlchological Warfare (New York,
reason). Its object will always be the immediate or eventual
production of some action on the part of its subjects'.S
Britannica, supports him by implication: 'the more or less systematic
effort to manipulate other people's beliefs, attitudes or actions by
means of symbols (words, gestures, banners, monuments, music, clothing,
hairstyles, designs on coins and stamps). Emphasis on deliberateness
and manipulativeness distinguishes from casual conversation and easy
exchange of ideas. The propagandist bas a specified goal or
goals,.6 This insistence upon a motive is confirmed by the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation, whose definition seems to incorporate
the best from Qualter's and Chambers's as well as being shorters
Any information, ideas, doctrines or special appeals
disseminated to influence the opinion, emotions, attitudes or
behaviour of any specified group in order to benefit the
sponsor either directly or indirectly.?
We should not however ignore the partial definition offered by
Professor Jacques Ellul:
Propaganda i8 a set of methods employed by an organised group
that wants to bring about the active or passive participation
in its actions ot a mass of individuals, psychologically
unified through p8y~hological manipulations and incorporated
in an organisation.~
This introduces the original concept that organisation is essential
to propaganda. Ellul was writing about propaganda in the modern
technological society and his definition mayor may not hold good for
propaganda generally. As a starting point for this thesis we should
perhaps adopt the NATO definition, keeping Ellul's organisation
caveat in view to be tested against the conclusions from case studies •
Before we leave this word its origin should be noted. In 1662
Pope Gregory XV established the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, a
5. B G Nicholas 'Propaganda' in Chambers's Encyclopaedia New Revised
Edition, Vol XI.
6. Bruce Lannes Smith in Enclclopaedia Britannica 15th Edition,
NATO (Unclassified) Glossary of Military Terms, p 2-205.
8. Jacques Ellul (i) Propaganda; The Formation ot Men's Attitudes
(New York, 1965), p