Overview The term propaganda is frequently understood to be an activity that can be relegated either to history or to non-democratic ‘enemy’ states and actors. For example, the term often conjures up images of World War II (WWII) Nazi activities headed by Joseph Goebbels or the demonisation of Germans and Japanese during US and British WWII propaganda campaigns. In the contemporary context, when talking of enemies, any given political actor will frequently dismiss their media output and claims as propaganda. As an activity, however, that is inherently geared towards persuasion and influence through some kind of manipulation, propaganda is not always clearly distinguishable from many, although not necessarily all, of the activities that Western academics and practitioners label in more benign terms. These include perception management, psychological operations (psy ops), public diplomacy, public affairs and strategic communication. In fact, scholars such as Philip Taylor, a leading historian on the subject of war and propaganda, have little patience for the use of these alternative labels:

Let us first dispel with the euphemistic nonsense that surrounds this topic and which does in fact obscure what we are actually talking about – namely propaganda. … an entire euphemism industry has developed to deflect attention away from the realities of what they do, ranging from ‘spin doctoring’ and ‘public affairs’ at the political level to ‘international information’ and ‘perception management’ at the military level. … despite the euphemism game, democracies have grown ever more sophisticated at conducting propaganda, however labeled, which only they deny to be propaganda in the first place.