Linguistic Properties of Propaganda: Ansie Maritz

North-West University

“When we as text readers have accurately determined language tools to analyse propaganda, we are better equipped to identify propaganda in advance, before it is used to influence, divide and disadvantage.

By analysing mainly media texts pertaining populist South African leader President Zuma in the Nkandla and Gupta-Bell Pottinger cases one can better understand how language can be used as a propaganda tool in the hand of the different parties involved. It becomes clear how intentionally created phrases such as “white monopoly capital” can be implemented as part of deflection tactics, turning the public’s eyes away from the true perpetrators.

Some of the identified language properties of propaganda entails: string combinations of adjectives and nouns, degrading nouns and adjectives to portray the propagandist’s opponent(s) and repetition of certain concepts. The use of direct and indirect speech is also important as certain propaganda techniques can be found in non-propaganda texts, but cannot be directly ascribed to the author as in propaganda texts.

By using the same approach as the Natural Sciences in an experimental setting where a control group is set up to enhance reliability of the outcome, a control group of texts consisting of non-propaganda texts can be used to test the language analysis conducted on propaganda texts. Already known propaganda techniques can be used as a starting point to identify texts e.g. how role players are portrayed by the author, the factual accuracy of the text and what the aim of the text is (who is the beneficiaries?).”

Ansie Maritz, Lecturer at North-West University