The Evolution of Propaganda




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This research project is an analysis of the use of digital propaganda by the three major parties in the UK 2010 General Election. In addition to this empirical aim, the study also employs the discipline of memetics to generate a theoretical and methodological approach with which to study digital propaganda. Memetics is an evolutionary theory of culture based around the concept of the ‘meme’ or cultural replicator. This study contends that propaganda can be understood as an evolutionary phenomenon, with the ethical implications of its use specifically addressed in each instance, rather than assumed as part of its definition. The memetic ‘methodological toolkit’ which is used to analyse the data on the 2010 election is a means by which key concepts from within the literature on memetics can be practically deployed. As part of the study this ‘toolkit’ is presented and the testing of it is continually evaluated in order to improve upon the initial design, something which also has implications for the use of memetic concepts within thematic textual analysis. The election itself was not an ‘Internet election’ in the way that the 2008 Presidential Election in the USA might be characterised. Such an election can be identified by a convergence of factors from within the party campaign structures and the wider political environment on a specific subject or individual – commonly a candidate for office – resulting in a high degree of spontaneous online participation and organisation amongst citizen supporters. This study argues that the UK 2010 election did not produce such a convergence due to low levels of voter enthusiasm, uneven social and financial resources and an inability by the major parties to capitalise on the potential opportunities for digital campaigning which arose.



meme, memetics, evolution, politics, UK elections, digital politics, online politics, New Media, propaganda, public relations



Research Institute