Literature - Nonfiction

Book On Understanding Of Propaganda And Its Mechanisms

How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley
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Our democracy today is fraught with political campaigns, lobbyists, liberal media, and Fox News commentators, all using language to influence the way we think and reason about public issues. Even so, many of us believe that propaganda and manipulation aren’t problems for us–not in the way they were for the totalitarian societies of the mid-twentieth century. In How Propaganda Works, Jason Stanley demonstrates that more attention needs to be paid. He examines how propaganda operates subtly, how it undermines democracy–particularly the ideals of democratic deliberation and equality–and how it has damaged democracies of the past.

Focusing on the shortcomings of liberal democratic states, Stanley provides a historically grounded introduction to democratic political theory as a window into the misuse of democratic vocabulary for propaganda’s selfish purposes. He lays out historical examples, such as the restructuring of the US public school system at the turn of the twentieth century, to explore how the language of democracy is sometimes used to mask an undemocratic reality. Drawing from a range of sources, including feminist theory, critical race theory, epistemology, formal semantics, educational theory, and social and cognitive psychology, he explains how the manipulative and hypocritical declaration of flawed beliefs and ideologies arises from and perpetuates inequalities in society, such as the racial injustices that commonly occur in the United States. More Information…

‘How Propaganda Works’ Is a Timely Reminder for a Post-Truth Age

The New York Times Book Review – December 26, 2016 (Excerpt)

In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler argued that effective propaganda appeals “to the feelings of the public rather than to their reasoning ability”; relies on “stereotyped formulas,” repeated over and over again, to drum ideas into the minds of the masses; and uses simple “love or hate, right or wrong” formulations to assail the enemy while making “intentionally biased and one-sided” arguments.

Although propaganda has usually been associated with totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the scholar Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University, reminds us in his latest book that propaganda can also pose a grave danger to democracies. The subject couldn’t be more relevant, given the profusion of fake news and misinformation on the web today; a public with a voracious appetite for scandal and entertainment, coupled with media outlets obsessed with ratings and clicks; Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and next year’s European elections; and a president-elect who has stoked the fears and grievances of supporters, and who frequently lies, flip-flops and sows confusion by tweet. Read more…