PROPAGANDA – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY Reading Questions and Answers

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  • IELTS Reading Multiple Choice Questions
  • IELTS Reading Summary Completion

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Imagine for a moment that you are an impoverished citizen of ancient Egypt, hopefully hoeing the desert and wondering when it will bloom. Suddenly, a cloud of dust appears on the horizon which eventually resolves itself into a gallop of horses and chariots commanded by heavily armed soldiers followed, eventually, by a crocodile of exhausted slaves lugging building materials.

They all come to a halt outside your home and you make a strategic withdrawal indoors, from where you watch them through a slit in the wall. In an amazingly short lime, the slaves build a 40-foot high obelisk which Is then surrounded by a swarm of stonemasons. Then, when the work, whatever it is, has been completed, the entire company withdraws as quickly as it came.

Once the coast is clear, you creep outside to examine their handiwork. The obelisk is covered with carvings of soldiers, looking remarkably like those who have just left, engaged in countless victorious battles, decimating the countryside and gruesomely killing people who look remarkably like you. prominently portrayed, surveying sphinx-like the carnage committed in his same, is the Pharaoh. You can’t read, but you get the picture. You, in consort with your disaffected neighbours, had been contemplating, in a rather desultory fashion, a small uprising. You change your mind in what is one of the easiest examples of the power of propaganda.

Of course as is often the case with big ideas when they tire in their infancy, the methods employed. In ancient Egypt were far from subtle, But over subsequent centuries, the use of propaganda was conscientiously honed.

It was not until the First World War that propaganda made the quantum leap from the gen­tler arts of persuasion to become the tool of coercion. As Philip Taylor says in War and the Media: “Before 1914, it simply meant the means by which the proponent of a particular doctrine… propagated his beliefs among his audience … propaganda is simply a process of persuasion. As a concept, it is neutral and should be devoid of value Judgements.

It is unlikely, at least in the West, that propaganda will ever be rehabilitated as a neutral concept. The very word is now so loaded with sinister connotations that it evokes an immediate and visceral sense of outrage. For the use of propaganda reached its apogee in the machinery of the Third Reich. Hitler and Goebbels between them elevated it to a black art of such diabolical power that it has been permanently discredited among those who witnessed its expression. Indeed in 1936 at Nuremberg, Hitler attributed his entire success to the workings of propaganda. He said: “Propaganda brought us to power, propaganda has since enabled us to remain in power, and propaganda will give us the means of conquering the world”.

It is therefore unsurprising that Western governments and politicians are liable to perform the most extreme presentational acrobatics in their efforts to avoid the dreaded “p” word being applied to any of their activities. They have developed impressive lexicons of euphemisms and doublespeak to distance themselves from any taint of it, real or imagined.

Inevitably, the media is alive to this hypersensitivity and the “p“ word has become a potent weapon in its arsenal. It is used pejoratively, with intent to discredit and wound, as governments are painfully aware. For propaganda is the spectre that haunts many a government- inspired media fest. It is the uninvited guest, the empty chair which serves to remind the hosts precisely why the gathering has been convened and forces them to run quality tests on the fare on offer — is it factually nutritious, is it presented in a balanced and truthful way, is its integrity intact?

In this one respect, at least, the negative connotations attached to propaganda actually per­form a positive function. They offer a salutary reminder of ail that government information is supposed not to be, and act as a ferocious curb on any runaway tendency to excess. Most importantly, the public is alive to the dangers of propaganda and alert to its manifestations whether overt or covert. They know that propaganda is the serpent lurking In the tree of knowledge; that it is subtle, it beguiles, it seduces, it obfuscates, it holds out simple dreams and turns them into nightmare realities, it subverts, it pretends to be other than it is. They know that it is the poisoned fruit of the goblin market, not the plain bread of truth that is the staple diet of information. And they will not tolerate It.

They succumb instead to the more blatant blandishments of advertising, which might be regarded as the wolf of propaganda, tamed and turned to domestic use. Safe in the knowledge that the wolf has been securely trussed by the rules and regulations of the Advertising Standards Authority, they knowingly consent to being had,

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Questions 1-10

Complete the text below, which is a summary of paragraphs M. Choose a suitable word from the text for cach blank. Write your answers in Boxes 1-10 on your answer sheet.
You may use any word more than once.

Example: propaganda – the good, the bad and the____________. 
Answer: ugly.

_____ 1) ______ that you are a poor__________ 2) ______ living in ancient Egypt, when a band of soldiers accompanied by a_________ 3) _____ of slaves carrying building materials appears on the scene. While you are inside your house, the slaves erect an __________4) _____ and the whole company disappears. The__________ 5) ______ features figures like those soldiers who have just left engaged in victorious battles and, in a prominent position, the figure of the sphinx-like______6) ________. After briefly considering an_________ 7) _____ , you and the other in­habitants change your____________ 8) ______ In what is one of the earliest Instances of the power of______ 9) _______ , albeit a not very _______ 10) _____ one.

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Questions 11-14

Choose the appropriate letters A-D and write them in Boxes 11-14 on your answer sheet.

11) According to Philip Taylor, propaganda …
A.  is needed to propagate people’s beliefs
B.  was a tool of coercion before 1914
C.  hus always been a neutral force
D.  was merely a process of persuading people to do things prior to 1914

12) According to Philip Taylor, propaganda …
A.   is not a neutral concept
B.    is value loaded up until 1914
C.    is ti neutral concept
D.    was a neutral concept up until 1914

13) Politicians in the West …
A.   will do anything to avoid using the word  propaganda
B.   like using the word propaganda  in the media
C.  do not dread the “p” word
D.  are consummate acrobats

14) The public …
A. are happy to be deceived by advertisers
B. are deceived by advertisers
C. are not deceived by advertisers
D. respect the advertisers

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1) Imagine
2) Citizen
3) Crocodile
4) Obelisk
5) Obelisk
6) Pharaoh
7) Uprising
8) Mind/minds
9) Propaganda
10) Subtle
11) D
12) D
13) A
14) B


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