Similarly, countless private groups—from early antislavery societies to modern political action committees—have turned to propaganda techniques to push their agendas. Advertising and public relations, fields that came into fruition during the early twentieth century, have made commercial propaganda a permanent feature of the cultural landscape.
Propaganda in revolutions
Propaganda and agitation were essential components of the American Revolution. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, propaganda played a pivotal role in creating the intellectual and psychological climate of the revolution itself.
Philip Davidson, in his history of the propaganda of the American Revolution, documented a remarkably sophisticated grasp of propaganda techniques among the leading organizers of the Revolution. The evidence of a conscious, systematic effort by colonial leaders to gain public support for their ideas is unmistakable. George Washington advocated the release of information "in a manner calculated to attract the attention and impress the minds of the people." Thomas Paine was the Revolution's most famous (and radical) propagandist. He wrote numerous pamphlets articulating with rhetorical to flourish the ideological justification for the Revolution.
Several revolutionaries employed the tactics that would later be known as grey propaganda. They wrote articles, letters, and pamphlets under pseudonyms to disguise their identities and to create the impression
That opposition to British policies was much greater than it was. Samuel Adams, for example, wrote under twenty-five different pseudonyms in numerous publications. Benjamin Franklin articulated a shrewd understanding of the techniques of propaganda, including the use of grey and black materials. He remarked, "The facility with which the same truths may be repeatedly enforced by placing them daily in different lights in newspapers…gives a great chance of establishing them. And we now find that it is not only right to strike while the iron is hot but that it may be very practicable to heat it by continually striking."
In 1777 he distributed a phony letter, purportedly written by a German commander of Hessian mercenaries, indicating that the British government advised him to let wounded soldiers die. The letter caused a sensation in France and also induced numerous desertions by the Hessian mercenaries. Franklin also forged an entire issue of the Boston Independent, which contained a fabricated account of British scalp hunting. The story touched off a public uproar in Britain and was used by opposition politicians to attack the conduct of the war. The historian Oliver Thomson described these efforts as "one of the most thorough campaigns of diplomatic isolation by propaganda ever mounted."