To explain some of the terms I have used in past posts such as "straw man", here is a list of propaganda techniques: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_techniques and some info specifically on the term "straw man": http://www.answers.com/topic/straw-man
Stuff like this is useful to know not just for understanding politics and religion, but to understand some of the manipulative techniques people use on a personal level. Knowing that there is a name for some of these concepts has helped me quite a bit. Before pointing fingers, no one is innocent when it comes to propaganda. Even good causes like "anti-smoking" campaigns use propaganda. The problem is that while it may be effective on the short term, it can backfire even for a good cause. Most people are able to understand and recognize the techniques listed in the above links, but most people tend to recognize them only in opposing parties. Neither liberals, conservatives, centrists, libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Pagans, Atheists, or New Agers are immune to using propaganda. Many religious mystical traditions will stress that the importance of recognizing and eliminating out biases to achieve "enlightenment". Unfortunately this is far easier said than done. Sometimes people who are educated and pride themselves on being "critical thinkers" can still revert into bias but in sneakier ways. Here's a good definition of critical thinking- which in the minds of many is a cool sounding word to describe anyone who sees things their way (typical humans): http://www.answers.com/topic/critical-thinking.
Fr. Thomas Merton, a well known though controversial Catholic mystic had a good point here:
"Propaganda makes up our minds for us, but in such a way that it leaves us the sense of pride and satisfaction of men who have made up their own minds. And in the last analysis, propaganda achieves this effect because we want it to. This is one of the few real pleasures left to modern man: this illusion that he is thinking for himself when, in fact, someone else is doing his thinking for him."