Messing with your mind

Europe vs. Iran: Using propaganda for social change


Messing with your mind
by Tina Ehrami

Every civilization has certain values which are the core of its culture. These values and norms are embedded in folklore, symbols, stories, hero’s and shared history. In today’s world, the use of cultural manipulation and the infusion of values are easily performed through well thought propaganda campaigns. Perhaps propaganda is a word with a negative connotation, but it mainly means the use of visual and verbal messages to reach a certain change in values, attitude and actions.

Propaganda always had a great role in social and political change. None would ever forget the effect’s of Goebbels’ propaganda machine in the Third Reich in Nazi Germany. An other example is the extreme and perhaps even obsessive use of propaganda during the cold war in USSR and the USA. Both the communist regime as the USA fought each over the opinion of the public.

In the new millennium the use of other propaganda tools are becoming more and more popular, such as the use of internet and television. Except for new tools, the public to whom propaganda is being directed to has shifted as well. The propaganda aimed at social change through creating new norms and values is being directed more and more towards children.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, this new target group was selected in an earlier stage, in the early 1980’s when the new babyboom was old enough to go to school and learn about the values of the Islamic Republic. Schoolbooks had changed, resulting in text books with stories derived from the Qoran, carrying values of martyrdom, submission to Islam, our brotherhood with the Palestinians and last but not least the fight of the good (the Islam) against evil (the West).

Not only schoolbooks were submitted to the metamorphosis of pedagogically correct children’s stories (pre- Islamic Revolution) to religious and politically infused texts (post- Islamic Revolution), but also cartoons on television were becoming more and more grim.

Children could choose between Ali Koochooloo (a litte boy whose dad had died in war and who was forced to face the harsh reality of life all alone) and Cosette (from the play Les Misérables, a little orphan girl who constantly had to endure injustice and cruelties of the people around her).

Those negative and depressing cartoons are quite likely to strengthen the sense of injustice that was supposedly being done to the Islamic Republic and the cause of the Islamic Revolution (the international isolation, the war with Iraq, the injustice being done to Palestinians, etc.).

In the new millennium this trend of religious and politically infused cartoons is being continued in Iran. I am sure that pedagogues world wide would be horrified with this cartoon showed on Iranian national television showing not only cruel violence and religous infused curse words, but also a political message about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The values that are being taught through such propaganda are violent, harmful and psychologically damaging.

Though it hasn’t been tested what the effects are of such propaganda on children- since doing research on such issues in Iran is politically sensitive and considered dangerous for the people involved- it is understandable that it adds to the base on which the regime of the Islamic Republic would like to build on.

A different kind of propaganda is when one adjusts a message on the target group to reach social acceptance. In this case the word propaganda is rather heavy. One could perhaps use the word communication strategy, or marketing. The European Union is an entity that uses this kind of marketing correctly to speak to its people in a proper way.

Since the beginning of the European Union it has been difficult to reach a social acceptance of the people living in the European Member States to create a sense of being ’European’. The people of the European Union have more ‘feeling’ with their own national culture than with a common ‘European culture’. An Italian has different values than a Fin and a Frenchman has different norms than the Danes.

Despite these cultural differences, these countries are united and are coming closer more and more through legislation, European organizations and European politics. For the European Union to work as a united entity it is necessary to have its people more involved in its politics, even if it basically is needed to support new European legislation, etc. Therefore, there is more and more communiation strategy from the European Union aimed at all age groups, including children.

A short while ago I found this comic that showed memebers of the European Parliament as crime fighting, hard working and socially engaged people. I found it funny and amusing and positive. A child who would read this comic would perhaps not immediately be drawn to the European Union more than before, but it would at least care more to know about its existence.

This example of the European comic compared to the Iranian cartoon shows the difference in approach when it comes to using cultural propaganda in order to reach social change or acceptance. One could use a strategy of hate and fear or a strategy of love and positivity. When we accept that we all are influenced by propaganda or advertisement or communication strategies, it would at least be nice to have an approach that uses positive values to attract its acceptance.

Apart from that, it would even perhaps create nicer people through communication that uses positive messages in order to reach its goal than one which uses senses of hate and anger. I’d rather have my child read the comic than watch the cartoon anyway!


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by Laila (not verified) on

Hi Tina,

I'm always really impressed by your articles. I always read them over and over and with this message I just wanna show you my respect. How's is your boyfriend? Is he still into politics aswell?



This is a complex issue.

by Anonymous_ (not verified) on

This is a complex issue. Perhaps too complex to be judged by the nitwits who read this website and comment on its articles!


Jewish Propaganda

by Anonymous on

Sounds like a Israeli propaganda...Not worth reading. Very light (to zero) analysis of why Iran went through what it did.
The author has no real understanding of either cultures. Western Propaganda is not all about LOVE and positivity. Ask African American about your loving society and you will be surprised.
Finally, Iranian cartoons are not about simple hate.
They do try to show the injustices in the world, done by US and Israel in the name of "democracy and freedom". While you are going out to CLUB X with your boyfriends tonight, GAZA is under siege by Israelis (no food, no fuel, and NO MEDICINE can enter GAZA )...Read this:



XerXes e ja'li stop

by XerXes (not verified) on

The last comment by the XerXes is not from me who wrote the first comment. Just to clarify



by Anonymous-haha (not verified) on

brainwashed idiot,

not all Muslims are in dire need of martyrdom.That's the first sign that you were brainwashed to think the way you did- that all Iranians are in seek of martydom. who brainwashed you about that? liberal-fascist who believe they are freeing Iran from Islam?

secondly, Iranians do not need their textbooks to tell them about the hypocrisy of western people. Tina bashed the brotherhood taught in Iran towards Palestinians while at the same time she refused to acknowledge how much love westerners have towards their "western" brothers trapped in middle east.This love allow westerners to support the expulsion of a generation of Arabs from their land for the establishment of a western style democracy amid the brutality,theft and murder committed towards the Arabs.

Thirdly, for liberal-fascists like you and Tina, teaching Islam is a form of abuse but teaching "western values" as the only way to modernize is ironically not a form of abuse.

Fourthly, as western children are stripped of religion teaching, they become robots and beasts that could not comprehend humanity, allowing secularists to impose their values on these young children instead:
"Secularists in France argue that they are actually freeing these young Muslim girls from something they feel is being imposed on them by their faith, so in response they are imposing their own secularist views on these girls."

Fifthly, to assume Iranians lack the brain cell to judge what they are feed with is the main ire I have towards liberal-facists who assumed their way of living and thinking as the only way to live.

Atheist once tried to get rid of Islam from Albania by destroying all the mosques and burning the Holy Koran from Albania.They turned Albania to be the first atheist nation on the face of earth and Guess what,Islam is returning to Albania. Keep weeping!!


I am still not sure . . .

by XerXes (not verified) on

I read your article again. I think you should stick to house work. Western propaganda has been used in order to unite while Iranian Propaganda is not used in order to divide.


I Don't Know

by Mohsen Fotouhi (not verified) on

Hi Tina ,only i want to tell you that You're Very beautiful. I Love You.


anonymous hahah: Your being

by Anonymous3 (not verified) on

anonymous hahah: Your being disingenious here. The hate against the west is institutionalized and systematic in the text book of all schools in Iran. To compare Iran's hate mongering of the West is demented and delusional. There are thousands of muslims living here in the US with high paying jobs and noone is hating're a pathetic demagouge. With this attitude, you definitely need to get ready for martyrdom...


western hates againts Arab/Islam/Iranians

by Anonymous-haha (not verified) on

Zionist Kindergarten:

anti-Islam demo by liberal-fascists in Belgium:

american congressWOMAN made anti-Muslim comments and walk away with it:

westerners beating Iraqi children:

brainwashed americans showing his patriotism:

americans laughing while killing Muslims:

Israeli children taught to hate Palestinians:

so IR brainwashed Muslims to hate westerners? westerners on the other hand are brainwashed to kill and hate Muslims.


Center for Monitoring the

by Anonymous111 (not verified) on

Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace:


Founded in 1998, CMIP examines the content of school textbooks used in the Middle East, to determine whether children are being taught to accept and recognize the right of the “other” to exist. It is our belief that education should be utilized to encourage an attitude of tolerance, pluralism, and democracy, and to promote peaceful means of solving conflicts. As a non-profit, non-political organization, our purpose is to identify what is being taught in the schools with regard to recognition and acceptance of the “other” by drawing on the text itself, rather than the interpretation of it.

Pioneers in the field of textbook analysis, CMIP endeavors to present a clear picture of how different countries instruct and educate their youth with regard to different religions, societies, cultures, democratic values and the “other”.

* A policy paper: "Iran's Global War Curriculum" by Dr. Arnon Groiss:
English French German

// (pdf. file)

Concluding Note on Iran:

The Iranian school textbooks thus provide an example of a hate curriculum and betray an
educational system that prepares school children for war and martyrdom against the West
in general, and against the United States and Israel in particular. The continuation of this
way of thinking and indoctrination inside this system – which seems to be almost certain
under the presidency of Mahmud Ahmadi-Nezhad – should alarm all individuals and
governments that cherish the principles of peace and international cooperation.


Message of hate by Iranians

by Anonymous11 (not verified) on

Message of hate by Iranians against the West:


Iranian Children Show Brainwashes Kids for Death Admiration


Iranian Tv animation for Children shows Suicide Bombings

Palestinian Incitement: Propaganda Video to Attack Israe and to kill jews:





haha, who's talking now?

by Anonymous-haha (not verified) on

the dutch lady is back.

"The other way to manipulate through communication is by playing with emotions of fear, anger and hate, which the IRI has been doing since the beginning of its reign. I consider that wrong and dangerous, since it just breeds more hate between people."

look at your own liberal-fascist:


Islam is taking over, says Dutch politician

By Bruno Waterfield in The Hague
Last Updated: 2:29am GMT 02/03/2007

An anti-immigrant politician is making a meteoric rise with his call on the Dutch - once one of the most tolerant nations in the world - to stop Islam taking over Europe.

Geert Wilders: leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands
Geert Wilders: 'The Prophet Mohammed was a violent man'

Geert Wilders, the 43-year-old leader of the Freedom Party, is convinced that governments are being forced to accommodate a 'tsunami of Islamisation' that is fundamentally incompatible with European social values.

"Islam itself is the problem. Islam is a violent religion," he told The Daily Telegraph. "The Prophet Mohammed was a violent man. The Koran is mostly a violent book. We should invest in Muslim people but they have to first get rid of half the Koran and half of their beliefs," he said."

hate,fear and ire anyone? stay put in your own liberal-fascist country.


How About

by Jamaleto (not verified) on

As an Iranian I am looked at as a terrorist, while you should know better that's not true. The atrocities of the US government in Iraq is not hidden on anyone, yet the soldiers are heroes! Since you are residing in the US (I assume) and we already get enough negative propaganda against Iran and Iranians, don't you think it is better to educated the ignorant Iranians in this site that we should be aware about the US propaganda and stand against it so the US won't be able to label us so easily? I mean why not use the effort on something that is far more advantageous for the Iranians in and out of the country. I just don't understand Iranians. Just don't get it!
Look at the word propaganda, and you want to put a positive spin on it from the western perspective and negative from Iranian, based on one cartoon!!! while copying the source from an Israeli based propaganda machine against Iranian and Muslims in the region. And this makes sense?


I have a link also, take a look

by Dayush- (not verified) on

It's not fair at all to compare Iran with the European Union! If you would, check the messages of hate that Israelis feed their kids in order to hate Palestinians and Muslims. Take a look for yourself. Now that's hate, not what you are saying. Actually I do believe that passion and selfless sacrifice is different than hate. My uncle died in Iran/Iraq war with the same passion for his brothers in the military against the well equipped Iraqi military. When you write a piece, have all the information first! Be fair.
-An example:


You are just repeating what the Western media has been preaching, that's not always factual. they are very bias against anyone other than themselves, including Israel (Cancer of the middle East)


is it hate?

by mehran (not verified) on

do you think it's a message of hate or passion and sacrifice? especially against oppression, because you should know that in that area the west has played us for a century or so and we need ideology weapons not to allow it. I think the message is passion and sacrifice rather than hate, to check that you may refer to the culture. Yet i can see how a westerner would become confused.

Tina Ehrami

Hold your horses!

by Tina Ehrami on

Normally I wouldn't comment on comments made on my articles here, but because I care about the subject I wrote and strongly believe in it, I consider it my duty to clear out some misunderstandings. First of all, if I criticize the policy of the IRI that doesn't mean that I am criticizing Iran, since I consider those two as different entities.

Secondly, the point of this article was to emphasize the power of communication and its use for social change. My argument is that communication can be used both for possitive and negative ends. The fact that the EU uses 'super-power EU parliaments'- comics shows that they use communication positively by emphasizing its values and intentions.

The other way to manipulate through communication is by playing with emotions of fear, anger and hate, which the IRI has been doing since the beginning of its reign. I consider that wrong and dangerous, since it just breeds more hate between people.

So you see, little children that are raised with hate grow up to become frustrated and dangerous monsters, and I don't think the world needs any more of that!



Another round of worthless propaganda from Tina E.

by PERSIANGulfNOTArab (not verified) on


When will you stop eating the garbage propaganda that they feed you in Europe. The animals who call themselves "Europeans" killed tens of millions of Africans, Asians, and Native Americans and did so with pleasure. This rotten breed has killed 10 times as many innocent people around the world than all the Muslim fanatics of the world combined. You are a brainwashed fool for putting out all this propaganda against the Iranian nation. Iranian patriots have to make sure that viruses like you don't ever have a future in Iran, especially when the IRI falls (which I hope comes soon).


OK I get it now

by XerXes (not verified) on

What made me confused was the wordings of your article but now I understand your propaganda against Iran!
Put things in the right perspective before drawing a conclusion. Who do you think fought the Iran and Iraq war? What kind of weapons did they have? What is Iranian culture and its reference to justice?
Europeans have closed their eyes to the atrocities from the Zio-nist (if I use them together then this page will get bombarded, since the monitor every site with that name)and put their focus on countries like Iran, that has not hurt anyone (At least out of the country, right?) for more than a few hundred years. What kind of a person looks at that zio-nist channel to make a judgment about something that if you search deep enough will find it's right. This is not a pro IRI comment! I mean I don't get how you can put European unity and compare it to a singular country Iran??
Do you think that Iran today would not have the unity and enjoyment of the economical prosperity with the regional governments if the regional regimes were not the puppet of the west?? I don't even know where to start to tell you the problems with your article...


I am not sure about the point

by XerXes (not verified) on

I think that the article is good but not focused enough. I am not certain that I fully understand your argument. Are you trying to say that the Western propaganda has been used in order to unite while Iranian Propaganda is used in order to divide?