Political propaganda employs the same tactics as advertising to divert critical attention from the most contentious issues it seeks to persuade us about. For example, in the campaign for the 2006 italian political elections, both sides used exactly the same trick.

Let’s first see what the Right was doing. These were the billboards of the national campaign:

“Inheritance tax again? No, thanks.”

“The “No Globals” in government? No, thanks.”

“Illegal immigrants at will? No, thanks.”

“More taxes on your savings? No, thanks.”

“More taxes on your house? No, thanks.”

“Stop major infrastructure projects? No, thanks.”

Apparently, they only say that the Right is opposed to a series of measures, described in a vague and threatening manner. Similar messages, if they meant only what they expressly say, would be almost self-evident. But the important content is another: these billboards, given the context in which they were disseminated, implied that if the Left were to win the elections, it would adopt all those measures. “There is a danger that the left will impose more taxes on your house,” “If they win, the left will introduce illegal immigrants at will,” and so on. These were exaggerations that could not be asserted because they were not in the Left’s program, and asserting them would have cast the Right in a bad light. But they could be insinuated, letting the voters imply those accusations against the left. And a meaning that they themselves constructed, the voters would not question.

The Left behaved in the same way. Here are some of the national billboards:

“Temporary work clamps down your hopes. Let’s reopen the future. La Margherita.”

“A functioning healthcare system makes everyone freer. Let’s reopen the future. La Margherita”

“Without nursery schools, families don’t grow. Let’s reopen the future. La Margherita”

Here too, the statements are so agreeable that the messages, if they were limited to meaning only what they explicitly say, would be almost useless. Their electoral utility lies instead in what they let the reader imply: that the Right, if it were to win, would take resources away from healthcare and welfare in general, in addition to enacting measures that would lead to an increase in precarious work.

Messages that seek to convince not by what they explicitly say, but by some hidden implicit content in the folds of linguistic formulation, are countless and ongoing. Even politicians’ speeches, like billboard propaganda, are based on this practice. The aim is to deceive the voter, making them believe that what they end up convincing themselves of is not the politician’s opinion, but something the voter themselves thinks or arrived at on their own.

The main tools of this process are four, which linguistics has given not all very easy names: vagueness, implicatures, presuppositions, and topicalizations. In the pages accessible through these links, we provide brief explanations of them.

At this link, instead, we briefly explain how one can measure how much implicit content there is in a text, and in particular how much questionable information is conveyed implicitly. That is, if and to what extent a text is honest or biased.