Dealing with the topic of “propaganda” is perhaps even more important at this time than ever before: Against the background of the spreading pandemic, one sees a wide variety of information every day that deals with this topic and with the political and social developments that are taking place associated with it.

However, it is also undisputed that a significant number of these pieces of information (especially on social media!) are not only of an informative nature, but also aim to influence the readers/listeners. Of course, you have to restrict the fact that in every type of communication there is also a (at least small) proportion that wants to convince the other person of one’s own opinion or at least seeks confirmation. However, in terms of serious journalism this is on a level where the information is fact-based and is presented as neutrally as possible still.

The situation is different – and this draws a link with the current situation – with some sources of information that deliberately attempt (for example, through falsehoods disguising themselves as factual, sober information) to influence the readership and create discord in society in order to pursue their own goals – and often without the other person realizing that they are being manipulated!

And this is exactly where the topic of “propaganda” comes in: In order to become a responsible citizen, it is essential to deal critically with information. It’s also about paying very close attention to which sources you trust and questioning the possible intentions behind, for example, conspiracy theories.

This has to be taught in school: be aware that there are sources of information that “camouflage” themselves as sober information, but which essentially aim to influence the audience/readership in a certain – sometimes very harmful – direction. So nowadays – at a time when there are many different sources of information – you have to pay close attention to where you get your information from.

And here we as teachers are asked to teach this to our students – to educate them to be responsible citizens in in a harmonious, benevolent society!

A blog post by Daniela Ferstl