Rephrase an opponent's arguments

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To distort an audience's understanding of information that might damage a propagandist's effort, a propagandist often repeats but rephrases arguments presented by opponents.

A propagandist might only slightly rephrase the argument to blunt its impact, might make the argument seem implausible or might replace credible with sensational claims. When one party advocates, for example, a law limiting toxic emissions, the propagandist might claim that party instead wants to ban all industry.

Rather than directly rephrasing the opponent's argument, a propagandist might attempt to associate the opponent with groups advancing more radical causes. A propagandist might cite radical elements in a political movement as representative of the overall movement, rephrasing moderate calls for reform by centrists of the movement as extreme demands made by organizations at the fringe of the movement.

Rephrasing is certainly not an original tactic of propagandists, nor is it limited to propaganda efforts. Rephrasing might not be entirely intentional. Either a propagandist or any average person might rephrase an argument as they understand it, regardless the intent of the person presenting the argument. Sociologists identify a widely recognized tendency to view one's own position more favorably than opposing positions as the fundamental attribution error.

Family counselors or other conflict resolution professionals interested in improving communication skills often teach individuals to correctly state the argument of an opponent before attempting to rebut the argument. The antithesis of rephrasing might be found in the tactics of neurolinguistic programming. NLP practitioners encourage acceptance of a target's point of view as a step toward suggesting alternative points of view.

See also: Propaganda techniques