17 Propaganda Tricks that Absolutely Win You Sales, Debates and Fights

Most of you have never heard of this.

It was 10th grade — Mr. Hunter’s honor’s English class —and I still remember when he introduced us to the Propaganda Game.

Playing is simple. You get a scenario and have to figure out what propaganda technique is hidden inside.

The following list I adapted from the original (1966) version of the game. Read the method, then see if you can find it at work in the quote that follows. Or turn the tables and use them yourself — like on your next sales call.


  1. Prejudice: You don’t look objectively at all the evidence available, but stick with your preconceived idea.
Trump: “…He’s a Mexican…” Politico

2. Detachment: You don’t take a stand when you really do have enough evidence to make a decision. Like Switzerland — you remain neutral.

“He would be the type of parent who would realize after the fact, I probably shouldn’t have been going to a Rambo movie when I was 7. That’s not the type of stuff he cared about…”
-Ivanka Trump, Politico

3. Pushing the Line: You deny the existence of qualitative differences between two different things, because these differences are tiny.

“One presidential candidate says scientists who work on climate change are ‘practically calling it a hoax’ and wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency. The other calls climate change ‘an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.’ And yet about four out of 10 millennials in battleground states think there is no difference between those candidates’ views on the issue.” -Mother Jones

4. Conservatism / Radicalism / Moderatism: When made a habit, each of these stances becomes a propaganda technique. To be conservative is to prefer the old and known because it is old and known. Radicalism is to prefer the new because it is new. Moderatism is to choose the middle ground because it is the middle ground. To select one “-ism” is like circling (A) on every question of a multiple choice test.

“We’re totally predictable. And predictable is bad.” -Trump in Washington Post

5. Rationalization: You justify actions with dubious reasons.

“I would knock the hell out of ISIS… [and] when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families…” -Trump on Fox

6. Wishful Thinking: You think something is true because you want it to be true.

“They’re remaking ‘Indiana Jones’ without Harrison Ford, you can’t do that. And now they’re making ‘Ghostbusters’ with only women. What’s going on?” -Trump in Daily Beast

or this Trump tweet:

“So many in the African-American community are doing so badly, poverty and crime way up, employment and jobs way down: I will fix it, promise”

7. Tabloid Thinking: You make everything way too simple.

“There’s a 10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk [Kim Jong Un] out of those damn nukes because who the hell wants him to have nukes? And there’s a chance — I’m only gonna make a good deal for us.” -Trump in Atlanta

8. Causal Oversimplification: You say something has one or two causes, when there are actually many more.

“NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct — that is why our country is in serious trouble” -Trump in NPR

9. Inconceivability: You say something isn’t true because you can’t believe it’s true.

10. Emotional Terms: You say emotional words that arouse strong “for” or “against” feelings. (Neutral language doesn’t.)

“We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country…” Trump on CNN

11. Metaphor and Simile: You say something is X, or you say it’s like X.

Trump: “Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future…” -Trump, The Hill

or this:

Trump Tweet: “Crooked Hillary is flooding the airwaves with false and misleading ads — all paid for by her bosses on Wall Street. Media is protecting her!”

12. Quotes Out of Context: A quote is misconstrued because its retold without all the original information.

Trump Campaign Letter: “Friend, a CNN anchor acknowledged that the media has given Hillary Clinton a ‘free ride,’…” [However, this CNN story appeared two ago, before Clinton was running for president.] -Politifact

13. The Folk Appeal: You make yourself seem similar to your target — becoming ‘one of the boys’ — to gain trust. (Similar to Manner)

“We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.” Trump’s RNC Speech

14. The Chain Reaction Appeal: ‘If you do what I say, all is well. If you don’t, you’re going to suffer consequences.’

“Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.” Trump’s RNC Speech

15. Diversion: Get off the subject until your opponent forgets what you were talking about.

“I don’t know [Cruz’s] father. I met him once. I think he’s a lovely guy…All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.” -Trump on C-SPAN

16. Make it Personal: Instead of attacking the issues, attack the person. You can also attack by saying your opponent isn’t living up to what she advocates. (Also called Ad Hominem Attack)

“He’s got good intellect, but he doesn’t know how to use it.” -Trump on C-SPAN

17. Non Sequitur: This is easy — say what you want without any logic or proof: