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Stanford University, Communication 112S
Bending the Truth? Propaganda in Media and Culture
Summer Quarter, 2014
Lectures: Mon, Wed 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM in 200-303 (History Corner)
Workshops: Fridays 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM in EDUC206 (School of Education)
Lecturer: Ethan Plaut
Office: TBA
Office Hours: TBA
E-mail: [email protected]
TA: Christine Rosakranse
Office: TBA
Office Hours: TBA
E-mail: [email protected]
Course Goals:
What is propaganda? What role does it play in our lives? And how do we conceive of
propaganda’s relationship to politics and culture? This course will examine the evolution
of propaganda from the early 20th century to the present. It will take up examples from
advertising, journalism, cinema, painting, and digital media. By the end of the course,
students will have a broad understanding of the tactics by which various interest groups
have sought to influence public communication. Lectures: Monday + Wednesday, 11:0012:30; Interactive Workshops: Friday, 11:00-12:30. Note: to complete this course
students must be enrolled in both workshop and lecture sections.
Required Texts — available at the bookstore and online:
1. Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Readings in Propaganda and
Persuasion: New and Classic Essays. Sage Publications, 2006.
2. Edward Bernays, Propaganda. Ig Publishing, 2004.
Recommended Texts:
1. Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion (Sixth
edition). Sage Publications, 2014.
2. Toby Clark. Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harry
N Abrams, 1997.
Individual Assignments: Students will each individually write proposals for propaganda
campaigns. Some of these will be chosen as the subjects for group projects (see below).
Students will also each write a short paper on a historical example of propaganda.
Group Assignment: During Friday workshops and outside of class time, groups develop
propaganda campaigns that draw on the theory studied in class. Possible media include:
posters, tweets, pamphlets, videos, music, etc. Each week, one member of the group will
submit approximately two paragraphs describing the progress made that week, paying
particular attention to how ideas from the readings have shaped your process. Each
student must do this once. Groups will present their work at the end of the quarter.
Examples: One example per week taken from media of any kind—text, image, music,
film, digital/multimedia, etc—submitted online with a very short explanation of ways that
the required readings help to illuminate the example. These examples do not receive
individual grades, and students who complete them thoughtfully and on time will receive
full credit. Students are exempted from this assignment on the week they are writing on
behalf of their group (see above). Further details to be discussed in class.
Examinations: Three short quizzes designed to test comprehension of readings and
media assigned since the previous quiz.
Expectations: Attendance and participation at all class meetings is mandatory. Students
are expected to have completed assigned readings and watched assigned media prior to
class. We deal with materials that some will—and perhaps should—find deeply
offensive. We do so in the spirit of critical engagement to better understand the role of
media in society not only at its best, but also its worst. Showing or discussing something
implies absolutely no desire to propagate its message. In the interest of creating an open
dialogue, students are asked to be especially respectful of their peers’ reactions and
perspectives. And of course the Honor Code applies to all your work.
Individual Assignments: 30% (equally weighted at 15% each)
Group Assignment: 30%
Quizzes: 20%
Participation/Examples: 20%
(Course Schedule — Subject to Change)
Part 1: What Is “Propaganda?”
June 23: Introductions
June 25: Edward Bernays
Required readings:
• Edward Bernays, Propaganda. Excerpts:
o Ch. I, II, IV, VI, XI
• Watch part one of The Century of the Self. On reserve at Green Library and
available online at:
Optional reading:
• Edward Bernays, Propaganda. Excerpt:
o Introduction (By Miller)
June 27: Workshop
June 30: Walter Lippmann and Propaganda as a Research Paradigm
Required readings:
• Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (1922). Excerpts:
o Ch.15 – Leaders and the Rank and File
o Ch. 24 – News, Truth and a Conclusion
• Rebecca M.L. Curnalia. “A Retrospective on Early Studies of Propaganda and
Suggestions for Reviving the Paradigm.” The Review of Communication,
2005, 5(4), 237-257.
Optional reading:
• Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (1922). Excerpt:
o Ch.1 – The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads
July 2: Orwell & The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (PROPOSALS DUE)
Required readings:
• George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946).
• Alfred McClung Lee. The Analysis of Propaganda: A Clinical Summary. The
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Sep., 1945), pp. 126-135
• Michael Kimmelman. When Fear Turns Graphic. The New York Times,
January 14, 2010. Available online:
Optional reading:
• Harold Lasswell, The Theory of Political Propaganda (1927)
July 4: CLASS CANCELLED (Independence Day)
July 7: Jacques Ellul & The Artwork
Required readings:
• Jacques Ellul, The Characteristics of Propaganda (in Jowett & O’Donnell, pp.
• William S. Lewis. Art or Propaganda? Dewey and Adorno on the Relationship
between Politics and Art. Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 1,
2005. Pp 42-53.
• John Street (2003). “Fight the Power”: The Politics of Music and the Music of
Politics*. Government and Opposition, 38(1), 113–130.
Optional readings:
• Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
• George Orwell, “The Frontiers of Art and Propaganda” (1941).
July 9: Looking forward—and all the way back—Part I
Required readings:
• Beth S. Bennett and Sean Patrick O’Rourke, A Prolegomenon to the Future
Study of Rhetoric and Propaganda: Critical Foundations (in Jowett &
O’Donnell, pp. 51-70)
• Watch Merchants of Cool. Available online:
July 11: Workshop + Quiz #1
July 14: Looking forward—and all the way back—Part II
Required readings:
• Gladys Thum and Marcella Thum, War Propaganda and the American
Revolution (in Jowett & O’Donnell, pp. 73-82)
• Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion (2011), Ch. 3, “Orwell’s Favorite
• Watch: digital_nation (Available online)
Optional viewing:
• Generation Like. Available online:
Part 2: Modern War: Propaganda at the Precipice
July 16: World War II: Axis Propaganda—Part I
Required readings:
• David A. Welch. Restructuring the Means of Communication in Nazi
Germany. (in Jowett and O’Donnell, pp. 121-146).
• Kenneth Burke. The Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle (in Jowett and O’Donnell, pp.
• Victoria O’Donnell. The Influence of the Built Environment. (in Jowett and
O’Donnell, pp. 213-223)
• Watch The Architecture of Doom (Available online)
Optional reading:
• Renders, H. (2004). A guise of humour for political periodicals: Pseudopropaganda periodicals and the Second World War. Quaerendo, 34(3-4), 254–
July 18: Workshop
July 21: World War II: Axis Propaganda—Part II
Required readings:
• Ken Kelman. Propaganda As Vision: Triumph of The Will. Film Culture no.
56-57 (Spring, 1973) (reprinted in Logos 2.4, Fall 2003).
• Ian Buruma. Fascinating Narcissism. The New York Review of Books, June 14,
2007. Available online: .
• Watch: Triumph of the Will (1934)
Optional reading:
• Susan Sontag. Fascinating Fascism. The New York Review of Books, February
6, 1975.
July 23: World War II: Allied Propaganda
Required readings:
• David Culbert. ‘Why We Fight’: Social Engineering for a Democratic Society
at War (in Jowett and O’Donnell, pp. 169-182).
• Watch Frank Capra’s Why We Fight #1: Prelude to War (1943) (online)
July 25: Workshop + Quiz #2
July 28: Cold War: Communist Propaganda (HISTORICAL PAPER DUE!)
Required readings:
• Toby Clark. Propaganda in the Communist State. In Art and Propaganda in
the Twentieth Century (Ch. 3). New York: Harry N Abrams, 1997.
July 30: Cold War: U.S. Propaganda (& Chomsky)
Required readings:
• Watch: The Atomic Café (1982) (available online)
• Edward S. Herman. The Propaganda Model: a retrospective. In Journalism
Studies, Volume 1, Number 1, 2000, pp. 101–112
• Kurt Lang and Gladys Engel Lang. Noam Chomsky and the Manufacture of
Consent for American Foreign Policy. In Political Communication, 21:93–
101, 2004
Aug 1: Workshop
Aug 4: Revolutions in Asia and Algeria
Required readings for lecture:
• Excerpts from Pol Pot’s Little Red Book (Available online)
• Juyan Zhang. The structural transformation of China’s propaganda: An
Ellulian perspective. Journal of communication management. Vol.8 No. 3
(2004) pp. 307-319.
• Michael T. Kaufman. What Does the Pentagon See in 'Battle of Algiers'? The
New York Times, September 7, 2003:
• Watch: Battle of Algiers (1965)
Aug 6: Post-9/11
Required readings:
• Manuel L. Torres et al. Analysis and Evolution of the Global Jihadist
Movement Propaganda. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18:399–421, 2006
• Brian A. Patrick. Beyond Hegemony: Classical Propaganda Theory and
Presidential Communication Strategy After the Invasion of Iraq. Mass
Communication & Society, 2007, 10(1), 95–118
Aug 8: Workshop + Quiz #3
Aug 11: The 2008 Election, The Internet and The Future of Persuasion
Required readings:
• Kreiss, Daniel, and Philip N. Howard. “New Challenges to Political Privacy:
Lessons from the First U.S. Presidential Race in the Web 2.0 Era.”
International Journal of Communication, 4: 1032-1050, 2010.
• Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion (2011), Ch. 5, “Hugo Chavez Would
Like to Welcome You to the Spinternet.”
Aug 13: Final Presentations