Mass media may be used to influence or manipulate public opinion in favour of a political ideal or government policies. Such governmental 'information', official or unofficial, may be false or misleading. It may intensify conflict and intolerance, and lead to war or to terrorist activities. It may strengthen government control, dictatorship and repression, inequality, injustice and exploitation. It may create confusion or induce apathy, conformism, fear, cultural stagnation and alienation through ignorance. Non-governmental propaganda may emanate from opposition political parties, ideological groups, or from business interests.
Propaganda is contriving conditions where people's critical resistances are so weakened and their freedom of choice so severely reduced as to make acquiescence all too likely. As distinct from education, it is a systematic attempt to influence people by reducing the amount of information available for discussion and encouraging them to act on impulse. Those to be persuaded are led to believe that only one line of action in a particular situation is possible.
Governments may use effective communications to encourage citizen health, family planning, and energy conservation; caution in the use of dangerous products; or advise of the need of civilian defence or war-time resistance against an aggressor. This type of propaganda, including persuasion to take advantage of educational opportunities, or to support international agencies and international cooperation and development activities, is beneficial.