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Transcript
Part 7: Name-Calling
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
PIG!
EGGHEAD!
REDNECK!
Consider the words above, each of which is used as a derogatory term
for a certain type of person. Do any of the words evoke an emotional
response?
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
Name-calling is the use of negative words to disparage an enemy or an
opposing view. Insulting words are used in place of logical arguments,
appealing to emotions, rather than reason.
In many ways, name-calling is the opposite of the glittering generalities
technique, which uses positive words in a similar way.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
Using the name-calling technique, a propagandist will attack the
opposition on a personal level, often appealing to the audience’s
preconceptions and prejudices rather than appealing to logic.
John is just your average right-wing gun nut.
Susan is one of the looniest commies on the left.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
Direct name-calling is usually used if the target audience is already
leaning in favor of the propagandist. For example, if a politician
wanted to further discredit an already unpopular opponent, he or she
might say:
Clearly, my opponent’s bleeding-heart liberalism
will not help to solve the current crisis.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
In indirect name-calling, the propagandist takes a subtler approach,
perhaps making sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek remarks about an
opponent.
Rather than directly calling the opponent a derogatory name, the
propagandist may, instead, make the same negative suggestions in a
more jovial, less confrontational manner.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
An example of indirect name-calling:
Although we all have a great deal of respect for Senator Parker,
I’m not certain we need to accept his views on marriage without
careful scrutiny. After all, he is a confirmed bachelor.
In this instance, rather than openly attacking his or her opponent, the
propagandist couches critical remarks with polite language and a claim
of “respect.”
Nevertheless, calling the man a “confirmed bachelor” to invalidate his
views on marriage is an example of a subtle approach to name-calling.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
Name-calling is a popular technique in politics; in fact, two of the most
famous political symbols in the United States had their origins in
name-calling cartoons.
In the 1828 presidential campaign, opponents of the DemocraticRepublican Party candidate, Andrew Jackson, called him a “jackass.”
Jackson decided to embrace this comment, which was intended as an
insult, and view the donkey as a symbol of determination.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
From there, the strong-willed jackass eventually came to be associated with
the Democratic Party in general, especially after political cartoonist Thomas
Nast used the image in newspaper cartoons in the late nineteenth century.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
Similarly, Nast popularized the symbol of the Republican elephant. In a
cartoon that appeared in Harper’s Weekly, in 1874, Nast drew a donkey
(representing the Democratic Party) clothed in a lion’s skin, scaring away all
the animals in the jungle. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled
“The Republican Vote.”
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
While Nast’s intention was probably to suggest that Republicans were slow,
plodding, and not open to innovation or change, the Republican Party
quickly adopted the elephant as a symbol of strength and dignity.
Back to Contents
Part 7: Name-Calling
Any time a label is attached to a person in order to discredit that
person’s argument, name-calling is being employed.
It is always best to disregard insulting language and evaluate an
individual or an argument on the basis of facts.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
Discussion Topics
1. What are some examples of name-calling you have seen in
advertising, politics, or popular culture?
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
2. In indirect name-calling, words that are not necessarily negative, in
and of themselves, are used to subtly disparage an opponent. List
some examples of words that can be used in this way, and describe
a possible context in which they would be considered name-calling.
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
3. What makes name-calling a logical fallacy?
Name-calling is a logical fallacy because it is used to attack not the
argument, but the individual delivering it.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose
for this poster, and discuss whether this
is an example of name-calling
propaganda. Note: President Theodore
Roosevelt coined the term
“muckrakers” to describe journalists
and politicians who were known for
exposing social injustices.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of name-calling propaganda. Note:
President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “muckrakers” to
describe journalists and politicians who were known for exposing
social injustices.
Aimed at the American public, this editorial cartoon is intended to poke fun
at Teddy Roosevelt and the “muckraking” senators with whom he
sometimes clashed. By referring to these senators as a “muck heap,” the
cartoonist plays on the term “muckrakers.” This is a dismissive treatment of
the senators, but the degree to which this qualifies as an instance of namecalling propaganda is open to debate.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Propagandists often oversimplify complex problems by pointing out a
single cause or a single enemy who can be blamed.
For everything from unemployment to natural disasters, identifying a
supposed source of the problem can help the propagandist achieve his
or her agenda.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Problems rarely stem from a single cause, but propagandists often
benefit from oversimplifying situations.
People tend to like clear-cut explanations, and politicians take
advantage of this fact by pointing to a single enemy and placing all the
blame at his or her feet.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
This World War II poster identifies “the enemy” of the United States, giving a
human face to the threat of facism.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
When the enemy in question is blamed for problems that are actually
someone else’s fault, this is a particular category of pinpointing the
enemy known as scapegoating.
Blaming a scapegoat alleviates the guilt of those who are truly at fault,
while providing a convenient explanation for the problem at hand.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
This 1854 painting by William Holman Hunt, “The Scapegoat,” illustrates
the origins of the term—the ancient Hebrew tradition of driving a goat into
the wilderness on Yom Kippur to carry away the people’s sins.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Pinpointing the enemy works particularly well when the targeted group
is already thought of as “the other.” An example of this phenomenon is
the Nazi portrayal of the Jewish people as the source of economic
problems in Germany.
People who are easy to recognize by appearance or culture make
perfect scapegoats; if they are easy to identify, they are easy to blame.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
It’s important to remember that cruel dictators are not the only
propagandists who make use of this technique. For example, social and
environmental activists often use the same technique to garner support
for their causes.
The big oil companies have stifled all talk of
alternative energy sources for decades.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Listening to the full story, in all its detail, can be overwhelming,
leading people to become apathetic. Effective propaganda, therefore,
will often define a complicated issue as having a single cause—and,
often, a single enemy.
Example:
Uncontrolled fishing by greedy commercial fishers has reduced the
numbers of some fish to one-tenth of their original population.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
When presented in their entirety, our obstacles may seem
insurmountable. Often, all we really want to know is, “Who’s to
blame?” Of course, the propagandist is only too willing to provide an
answer to this question.
McDougal’s Burgers are responsible for the
obesity epidemic in America.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Frequently, a single company will also be targeted, while others that
may have similar or even worse practices go untouched. Companies
such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks have served as scapegoats for many
economic problems over the years.
Megamart is responsible for the destruction of small
businesses throughout the country.
Back to Contents
Part 8: Pinpointing the Enemy
Most issues that confront us are complex, from the environment to the
economy to international relations. Nevertheless, people are often
eager to accept a simple answer to a complicated question.
The technique of pinpointing an enemy can make overwhelming
problems seem quite simple and easy to solve.
Remember that the propagandist’s message is always based on faulty
logic. Arguments that pinpoint a single enemy are often faulty because
“the enemy” they identify is really only part of the problem.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
Discussion Topics
1. How is pinpointing the enemy similar to name-calling? How are the
two techniques different?
Both techniques are frequently used to attack an individual. However,
pinpointing the enemy is often used to assign blame, while namecalling is usually used to discredit an opponent.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
2. Identify an instance of pinpointing the enemy that you have
witnessed in the media. What companies, groups, or individuals
have been blamed for many of the world’s problems?
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
3. How is pinpointing the enemy related to “scapegoating,” and the
ancient Hebrew practice of driving a goat into the wilderness to take
away the people’s sins?
Scapegoating is a particular kind of pinpointing, in which the
scapegoat is blamed for the propagandist’s own failings. As in the
Hebrew tradition, the scapegoat is forced to bear the moral failures
of others.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of pinpointing the enemy. Note: The
term “Hun” was used to refer to the Germans during World War I.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of pinpointing the enemy. Note: The
term “Hun” was used to refer to the Germans during World War I.
Aimed at an American audience during World War I, this cartoon is
meant to disparage the German government and the practice of
producing and drinking alcohol. This can be considered an example
of name-calling propaganda because of the use of the term “Hun” and
because it depicts the German public as wasteful, poor, alcohol-loving
criminals, rather than arguing against the nation’s government.
Back to Contents
Part 9: Plain Folk
Back to Contents
Part 9: Plain Folk
People tend to distrust those they perceive as outsiders, and the plainfolk technique takes advantage of this instinct.
In this approach, the propagandist makes him or herself appear more
like an “insider” in order to gain the public’s confidence.
Back to Contents
Part 9: Plain Folk
In this poster from George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, the
senator’s face blends in among the smiles of “plain folk” of various ages,
ethnicities, and professions.
Back to Contents
Part 9: Plain Folk
The plain-folk technique can perhaps be seen most strikingly in
political candidates. Politicians often compete to be seen as more
“normal” than their opponents.
Politicians often attempt to appear more like the average citizen by
manipulating the way they dress or the way they speak.
Back to Contents
Part 9: Plain Folk
Common techniques include:
using colloquial phrases or dialects
expressing emotion or sentimentality
using words such as “home,” “children,” or “dinner table” that
evoke the idea of the average family
taking on an appearance of shyness, or a seeming reluctance to
take the spotlight or a position of leadership
Back to Contents
Part 9: Plain Folk
Examples from real life:
1. Former President Bill Clinton ate at McDonald’s, played the
saxophone on a late-night talk show, and admitted he enjoyed
“trashy spy novels.”
2. Former President Ronald Reagan was often photographed chopping
wood.
3. Former President James Carter insisted on being sworn into office
as “Jimmy.”
Using the same logic, candidates will often attack the credibility of
their opponents by labeling them “Washington insiders” or “elitists.”
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
Discussion Topics
1. What are some examples of plain-folk propaganda that you have
seen in advertising? What product lines have used this technique,
and how?
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
2. What kinds of advertisements and/or political campaigns would
not benefit from using the plain-folk approach? Under what
circumstances would this technique be counterproductive?
Products or politicians who appeal to an elite audience would not
benefit from using the plain-folks technique. Likewise, an individual or
product that could not make a realistic claim to being ordinary and
common should not use this approach.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
3. Read the following quote. Then, describe one situation in which
this quote would constitute plain-folk propaganda and another
scenario in which it would not.
I grew up on a farm in rural Mississippi, so I know the meaning of
struggle. I learned the value of hard work and determination at an early
age, and it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.
This quote would constitute plain-folk propaganda if delivered by a
public figure, such as a politician, in an attempt at self-promotion.
However, if spoken by a grandfather to his grandchildren, for example,
this would not be an instance of propaganda.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Imagine that you are running for office, and create a speech in
which you promote yourself using plain-folk propaganda.
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Testimonials are a form of propaganda that is familiar to nearly
everyone. Almost everything that is advertised comes with some sort
of testimonial, from music to hair gel to politicians.
Testimonials take advantage of the fact that there are certain people
we tend to trust—even if that trust is based on mere recognition, rather
than true credibility.
An Olympic gold medalist claims that she eats Golden Flakes
every morning.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Most testimonials—both in politics and in advertising—are made by
famous people.
You may read that an actor you admire supports a certain political
candidate.
You may hear that a singer you like uses a certain cell phone.
You may watch a commercial in which a popular athlete advises
you to buy a certain pair of shoes.
Every day, we are flooded with endorsements from famous people,
encouraging us to buy, use, and vote for the same things they do.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Movie stars and models are often paid to give testimonials in which they
attribute their beauty or success to a given product.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Propagandists use testimonials because they expect that your feelings
toward the famous person will transfer to the product or cause he or
she is endorsing.
The propagandist hopes to make you commit a serious error of
judgment, placing trust in a person who has not proved his or her
credibility and who has probably been paid for the endorsement.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
For instance, a person may love Sean Penn’s movies and even agree
with some of his political views, but that does not qualify him to pick
out the ideal presidential candidate.
Likewise, a basketball player might be able to dunk the ball with ease,
but that doesn’t mean he has extraordinary knowledge about
batteries—the brand he uses has nothing to do with his success.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
In this World War II poster, the familiar face of heavyweight champion boxer
Joe Louis encourages Americans to contribute to the war effort.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
To avoid being deceived in by this form of manipulation, it is best to
first examine why the celebrity in question is admired. Is it because of
his or her
physical appearance?
acting ability?
musical talent?
athletic skill?
Then, determine whether these traits qualify the individual to advise
people on the subject at hand.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Example:
A famous 1980s television commercial featured an actor who played a
doctor on a long-running television show. In the commercial, wearing
a white lab coat and stethoscope, he would say to the audience, “I’m
not really a doctor, but I play one on TV.” He would then extol the
benefits of a certain over-the-counter medication.
In this commercial, the advertisers attempted to capitalize on the
audience’s mental association between the actor and the medical
profession.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
In ordinary life, there are many situations in which we can place some
level of trust in testimonials.
You should be able to trust your accountant to give you good advice
about your taxes.
Likewise, it should be safe to believe your neighbor’s testimony about
the camera she bought last year.
Most likely, neither of these people has anything to gain by misleading
you.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Remember, in order to constitute propaganda, a testimonial must have
the following traits:
persuasive function
sizeable target audience
representation of a specific group’s agenda
use of faulty reasoning and/or emotional appeals
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
The key to recognizing testimonial-based propaganda is to investigate
the possible ulterior motives of the person giving the testimonial. As a
rule, the celebrity or “expert” witness will be compensated for his or
her testimony.
While you may be able to trust your own doctor’s testimonial, there
may be doctors who recommend certain medications simply because
they are paid by the pharmaceutical company.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
In fact, if an actual medical doctor appears in a television or print ad or in a
late-night “infomercial,” you can be certain that he or she is receiving some
form of compensation for the testimonial.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Many people are aware of the dishonesty of this approach and are leery
of paid celebrity or “expert” endorsements. As a result, many
advertisers and political campaign managers take a different
approach—the “plain-folk testimonial.”
In this type of endorsement, the testimony comes not from a famous
actor, athlete, or scientist, who is obviously being compensated, but
from an average-looking person, who may claim to be a student,
homemaker, or taxi driver.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Example #1:
A commercial for a particular brand of mattresses features not only its
famous spokesperson, but also a number of “real people” who claim
to sleep better since purchasing this product.
Example #2:
The promoters of a popular over-the-counter weight loss product
feature “before and after” photographs of ordinary people, in addition
to a few famous spokespeople who have successfully lost weight using
this product.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
Testimonial propaganda is also found frequently in politics.
Politicians line up to support a bill and ask us to take their word
for it, rather than having us investigate the issue ourselves.
Doctors, sports figures, people in the entertainment business, and other
famous people are frequently quoted as supporting a wide range of
medications, products, and services, some of which are
good for you and some of which are not.
Politicians often expect voters to join them in supporting legislation
that the public knows very little about.
Back to Contents
Part 10: Testimonials
We are surrounded by “experts,” all with their own opinions and
recommendations.
However, testimonials are dangerous only when you are being asked to
trust someone who has a vested interest in a certain outcome, or
someone who has no expertise in the subject at hand.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
Discussion Topics
1. What qualifies a person to give a trustworthy, legitimate
testimonial?
A person with some degree of true expertise who is unbiased and
uncompensated may be considered a trustworthy source for a
testimonial.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
2. What are some of the warning signs that cast suspicion on a
testimonial?
Scripted, paid testimonials delivered by celebrities, experts, or even
“plain folk” should be viewed with suspicion.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
3. Imagine that you are an advertiser, attempting to market a product.
How would you go about using the testimonial technique in a way
that appears trustworthy?
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for
this poster, and discuss whether this is an
example of testimonial-based
propaganda.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of testimonial-based propaganda.
Aimed at the American public (during World War II), this poster uses
President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech as a testimonial encouraging
Americans to save food. Americans were expected to trust Roosevelt
enough to believe his assertion that “Hunger does not breed reform…”
and save food, based on his suggestion.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Also known as “association” and “false connection,” transfer is closely
related to the testimonial technique.
In this method, the propagandist encourages the transfer of feelings and
associations from one idea, symbol, or person to another.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Example:
An automobile manufacturer that wants to be known as
environmentally friendly films its car being driven through a pristine
forest. Friendly forest animals eagerly look on—and do not run away—
as the car passes.
Example:
A candidate for office addresses allegations of wrongdoing in front of a
house of worship while wearing a religious symbol on his lapel pin.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Some symbols are fairly straightforward.
The Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant represent
the ideologies of their respective parties.
The symbol of the skull and crossbones warns the viewer of
danger or calls to mind the violent pillaging of a pirate raid.
A dove signals peace.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Some symbols will mean one thing to one person and quite the
opposite to another person. The propagandist’s challenge is to use
symbols that are appropriate to his or her audience.
Example:
The American flag is meant to evoke positive feelings and ideas; it
stands for freedom, courage, and equality. However, in a nation at war
with the United States, citizens might attach resentment to the stars and
stripes.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
In this image, directed at the American public, President Franklin Roosevelt
attempts to transfer the trust and respect associated with the American flag to
himself and his administration.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
The history of the swastika illustrates just how controversial and ambiguous
a symbol can be.
Although it is best known in the West as the symbol of Hitler’s Nazi party,
the swastika originated in the region of modern-day India as a symbol of
well-being and good fortune.
In much of the world, this symbol of prosperity has become a symbol of evil.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
In this image, the once-benign swastika represents evil itself. The feelings of
fear and anger associated with the Nazi Party are evoked by this simple
symbol.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
So far, we have discussed the American flag and the swastika. However,
there are many different kinds of symbols. For example, a symbol often seen
in advertising is the white lab coat, commonly associated with knowledge
and science.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Advertisers or public relations directors who are trying to gain your trust may
have their spokesperson wear a white lab coat. The spokesperson need not be
a scientist, but the positive associations we have with science will likely
transfer and bolster our opinion of the product.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
Transfer may also be used in ways that are more obvious. The image
of a Ku Klux Klan member in a white, peak-hooded robe, blazing
torch in hand, has come to instill a sense of fear and disgust in most
Americans.
Example:
A campaign trying to undermine a particular politician might run a
negative ad campaign in which images of KKK gatherings are
superimposed over images of one of his speeches.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
This is another obvious use of the transfer technique. In this World War II
poster, the symbols for Japan (left) and Germany (right) appear on clawed
hands, grasping at a mother and child. The fear and outrage inspired by
these hands is meant to transfer to a sense of outrage against these enemy
nations.
Back to Contents
Part 11: Transfer
There is nothing wrong, of course, with the President of the United
States delivering a speech while sitting in the Oval Office, in front of
an American flag.
Likewise, it is appropriate for a state’s district attorney to hold a press
conference on the steps of the state courthouse.
The presence of symbols becomes propaganda only when the symbols
are intended to send an unspoken message that appeals to the emotions.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
Discussion Topics
1. What is a symbol that most people in your community would view
as positive, and what specific associations would this symbol
transfer?
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
2. What is a symbol that would evoke a negative response from your
community? What negative associations are attached to this
symbol?
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
3. Describe an instance of transfer that you have witnessed in
advertising, politics, or some other public arena, and explain to the
class why this qualifies as transfer.
Answers will vary.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of transfer propaganda.
Back to Contents
Discussion Topics
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of transfer propaganda.
Aimed at the American public (during World War I), this poster is
intended to encourage Americans to enlist in the Army. Depicting the
familiar figure of “Uncle Sam,” clad in patriotic garb, the poster is
meant to transfer the esteem and loyalty inspired by this figure to the
Army’s cause.
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
For each of the slides that follow, identify which propaganda
technique is represented by the image and description.
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
relies on the influence of a
spokesperson, usually one who is
either a celebrity, a supposed expert,
or an “Average Joe”
Testimonial
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
gives the audience only two
options and encourages people
to make a decision based on the
fear of one outcome, rather than
the merits of the other.
Lesser of Two Evils
“This way? Or This way? The new year—crossroads of the future”
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
appeals to peer pressure,
recommending a given course
of action simply because
“everyone is doing it”
Bandwagon
“Greater Germany [Vote] Yes! On April 10”
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
attempts to create a mental and
emotional association between
objects or ideas using images,
words, or symbols
Transfer
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
attempts to rally the audience against
a single, distinct enemy who embodies
all the world’s problems
Pinpointing the Enemy
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
declares an idea as fact, without
explaining or defending it
Assertion
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
relies on vague, positive words to
generate enthusiasm
Glittering Generalities
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Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
encourages an audience to
identify an individual or
cause with common
people and ordinary tasks
Plain Folks
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
creates a false sense that there
are only two possibilities
False Dilemma
“Victory or Bolshevism”
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
uses strong language to excite anger
and vilify an individual or group of
people
Name-Calling
Back to Contents
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
a message that presents only
one side of the situation or
unfairly downplays other
possibilities
Card-Stacking
Back to Contents
“The nation’s dreams have come true!”
Conclusion: Identifying Propaganda
In the preceding slides, we’ve looked at eleven of the most popular
techniques of propaganda, with examples that ranged from advertising
slogans to wartime recruitment posters.
Now that you are able to identify these eleven approaches to
propaganda, you should be able to recognize uses of these techniques
in many of the messages that are presented to you on a daily basis.
As you read the newspaper, drive by a billboard, or surf the Internet,
remember to think critically about who is producing the messages
you’re exposed to, what their motives may be, and what logic their
messages employ.
Back to Contents
Repeat Exercises
The following exercises are repeated
from the previous sections
Back to Contents
Repeat Exercises
What is Propaganda?
1. What are some potential sources of propaganda in the modern
world?
Sources include commercials, billboards, print ads (catalogues,
magazines, direct mail, etc.), and political campaigns, among many
others.
Back to Contents
Repeat Exercises
2. In order to qualify as propaganda, a message must meet the
following criteria:
persuasive function
sizeable target audience
representation of a specific group’s agenda
use of faulty reasoning and/or emotional appeals
Describe an example of a message that would meet all but one of the
above criteria. Explain your answer.
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(Question #2 continued)
Describe an example of a message that would meet all but one of the
above criteria. Explain your answer.
Example: A high school assembly called to discuss the dangers of
drunk driving may meet the following criteria: 1) persuasive function
(persuading students not to drive drunk), 2) sizeable target audience
(the entire high school), 3) representation of a specific group’s agenda
(the school board’s desire to protect the school’s image). Nevertheless,
the argument against drunk driving may be based on sound reasoning
and facts, rather than emotional appeals and logical fallacies.
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3. Identify an example of propaganda you have recently been exposed
to, and explain to the class why this message constitutes
propaganda.
Answer will vary.
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Part #1: Assertion
1. What makes a statement an example of “assertion” propaganda?
In addition to meeting all the criteria of propaganda, a statement must
present a debatable idea as a fact without explaining or justifying the
claim in order to constitute assertion propaganda.
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2. Describe an example of an assertion you have seen in politics or
advertising. Do you think that this claim has affected your point of
view? Explain your reaction.
Answer will vary.
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3. Identify which of the following assertions qualify as propaganda,
and explain your answer. Modify those that are not propaganda to
make them fit the four criteria.
A. Parent to child: “If you eat your vegetables, you’ll grow up to be
big and strong.”
Must be modified to target a larger audience.
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(Discussion Topic #3 continued)
B. Billboard: “Mario’s Pizza, Next Exit.”
This is merely a statement of fact. Must be modified to make an
unjustified claim about the restaurant (e.g., “Mario’s Pizza: The Best
Pizza in the World”).
C. Magazine ad for “age-defying” makeup: “True Beauty is
Ageless.”
Propaganda. This is an unjustified assertion, made to a large audience,
that appeals to the viewers’ feelings in order to advance the
advertiser’s agenda.
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(Discussion Topic #3 continued)
D. Commercial: “According to a study by the National Heart
Association, eating this cereal, as part of a balanced breakfast,
may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
This is merely a statement of facts, and must be modified to make an
unjustified claim about the cereal (e.g., “eating this cereal will reduce
your risk of heart disease”).
E. Political commentator: “Richard Williams obviously doesn’t have
the experience it takes to be President of the United States.”
Propaganda—assuming this statement is not explained with a logical
argument.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of assertion propaganda.
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(Discussion Topic #4 continued)
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of assertion propaganda.
Aimed at an American audience (during World War II), this poster
was intended to dissuade citizens from discussing military affairs.
This slogan can be considered an example of assertion propaganda;
however, the qualifier “might” opens this question to debate. If
students emphasize the use of “might” in the poster, they can argue
that this is a reasonable claim.
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Part #2: Bandwagon
1. What makes the bandwagon technique appealing to most people?
Answers will vary.
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2. Identify a decision you have made based primarily on popular
opinion. Describe the situation, and explain whether following the
majority made sense in that context.
Answers will vary.
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3. Does the fact that numerous experts agree about a theory constitute
logical grounds for accepting it? Why, or why not?
Answers will vary.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of bandwagon propaganda.
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(Discussion Topic #4 continued)
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of bandwagon propaganda.
Aimed at the British public (during World War I), this poster was
meant to encourage citizens to enlist in the armed services. The
phrase “all answer the call” qualifies the poster as an example of
bandwagon propaganda.
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Part #3: Card Stacking
1. Why is it often difficult to distinguish card-stacking propaganda
from legitimate arguments?
Card stacking is not always easy to recognize as propaganda because
it often relies on facts and logic and makes mention of opposing
viewpoints.
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2. What clues can help you make the distinction between cardstacking propaganda and legitimate arguments?
If opposing viewpoints are either omitted altogether or unfairly
represented, you are probably looking at an example of card stacking.
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3. Describe the different forms card stacking takes in print
advertisements and television commercials. What kinds of products
are often advertised with card-stacking propaganda?
In print advertisements, details are often obscured in small print or in
inconspicuous colors or fonts. In audiovisual media such as television
commercials, these visual techniques of obscuring information are
often present, sometimes accompanied by speedy voiceovers detailing
drawbacks or disclaimers. Card stacking is often used in
advertisements for vehicles, cigarettes, medications, and many other
products.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this advertisement, and
discuss whether this is an example of card-stacking propaganda.
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(Discussion Topic #4 continued)
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this advertisement, and
discuss whether this is an example of card-stacking propaganda.
Aimed at the readers of a magazine or comic book, this advertisement
is intended to promote a book and a portraiture course. This is not an
example of card-stacking propaganda because the words in fine print
are not meant to be obscured—they simply describe the less vital
information.
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Part #4: Glittering Generalities
1. Glittering generalities are a common part of political campaigns.
Compose a list of glittering generalities you have heard in campaign
slogans, in debates, or in the news media.
Answers will vary.
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2. Like politicians and journalists, advertisers often use glittering
generalities to promote their products. Create a list of glittering
generalities that are commonly used in advertising.
Answers will vary.
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3. Under what conditions are words like “freedom” and “choice” not
glittering generalities? Use each word in a sentence that does not
qualify as a glittering generality.
Words like “freedom” and “choice” often qualify as glittering
generalities when they are left to stand alone, with no explanation.
However, they are not glittering generalities when they are assigned
specific meanings. For example, “freedom” is not a glittering
generality when used to describe emancipation from slavery (e.g.,
“The former slave had earned his freedom through years of hard
labor”) Likewise, “choice” is not a glittering generality when it is
used to refer to a specific kind of choice (e.g., “She was given the
choice to rewrite the paper, but she chose, instead, to accept a failing
grade”).
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4. Identify the audience and purpose
for this poster, and discuss whether, in
the context of this poster, Lincoln’s
words are being used as glittering
generalities. If so, which words stand
out as glittering generalities? If not,
why not?
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(Discussion Topic #4 continued)
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether, in the context of this poster, Lincoln’s words are being
used as glittering generalities. If so, which words stand out as
glittering generalities? If not, why not?
Aimed at the American public (during World War I), this poster was
meant to inspire its audience to save food. Lincoln’s words are used
as glittering generalities in the context of this poster. Words like
“charity,” “just,” and “peace” may sound admirable, but they are
given no specific definition within this passage.
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Part #5: False Dilemma
1. List some examples of false-dilemma arguments you have heard in
real life.
Answers will vary.
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2. What are some of the clues that can help you distinguish a false
dilemma from a legitimate presentation of facts?
In a false-dilemma argument, a limited number of possibilities are
presented, one of which is depicted in a far more favorable light than
the others. In a legitimate presentation of facts, by contrast, a wider
variety of options will be introduced, and each will be evaluated in an
unbiased manner.
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3. Following the examples provided in this section, create a falsedilemma argument to fit each of the following scenarios. (Hint:
False dilemmas often take the form of “either/or” assertions.)
• encourage recycling
• endorse a political candidate
• support a tax increase
Answers will vary.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of false-dilemma propaganda.
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(Discussion Topic #4 continued)
4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of false-dilemma propaganda.
Aimed at the American public (during World War I), this poster was
meant to encourage people to buy Liberty Bonds. This is an example
of a false dilemma because it suggests that if people fail to buy bonds,
there will be no liberty left on earth.
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Part #6: The Lesser of Two Evils
1. How is the lesser-of-two-evils technique similar to the falsedilemma approach? What sets these techniques apart from one
another?
Like the lesser-of-two-evils approach, the false dilemma reduces a
complex situation to a limited number of possibilities. Unlike the
former technique, however, propaganda that uses the lesser-of-twoevils tactic offers two unpleasant alternatives.
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2. What are the keys to identifying the lesser-of-two-evils fallacy?
In the lesser-of-two-evils fallacy, a limited number of possibilities are
presented (usually two). This propaganda technique also encourages
you to make a decision based on the fear of one outcome, rather than
the merits of the other.
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3. The lesser-of-two-evils fallacy is often used to defend the status
quo, as exemplified in the familiar idiom, “better the devil you
know than the devil you don’t know.” Generate a list of real-life
scenarios in which this technique of propaganda is used to preserve
the status quo.
Answers will vary.
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4. Create a caption to go with this image that would make the poster
an example of lesser-of-two-evils propaganda.
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(Discussion Topic #4 continued)
4. Create a caption to go with this image that would make the poster
an example of lesser-of-two-evils propaganda.
Examples: 1) You may not want to spend your summer building a
fallout shelter, but it’s better than dying of radiation poisoning.
2) Maybe you won’t be able to afford a vacation this year, but that’s a
small price to pay for protecting your family against nuclear attacks.
3) It may not be pretty, but it’s better than living in a nuclear
wasteland.
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Part #7: Name-Calling
1. What are some examples of name-calling you have seen in
advertising, politics, or popular culture?
Answers will vary.
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2. In indirect name-calling, words that are not necessarily negative, in
and of themselves, are used to subtly disparage an opponent. List
some examples of words that can be used in this way, and describe
a possible context in which they would be considered name-calling.
Answers will vary.
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3. What makes name-calling a logical fallacy?
Name-calling is a logical fallacy because it is used to attack not the
argument, but the individual delivering it.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose
for this poster, and discuss whether this
is an example of name-calling
propaganda. Note: President Theodore
Roosevelt coined the term
“muckrakers” to describe journalists
and politicians who were known for
exposing social injustices.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of name-calling propaganda. Note:
President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “muckrakers” to
describe journalists and politicians who were known for exposing
social injustices.
Aimed at the American public, this editorial cartoon is intended to poke fun
at Teddy Roosevelt and the “muckraking” senators with whom he
sometimes clashed. By referring to these senators as a “muck heap,” the
cartoonist plays on the term “muckrakers.” This is a dismissive treatment of
the senators, but the degree to which this qualifies as an instance of namecalling propaganda is open to debate.
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Part #8: Pinpointing the Enemy
1. How is pinpointing the enemy similar to name-calling? How are the
two techniques different?
Both techniques are frequently used to attack an individual. However,
pinpointing the enemy is often used to assign blame, while namecalling is usually used to discredit an opponent.
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2. Identify an instance of pinpointing the enemy that you have
witnessed in the media. What companies, groups, or individuals
have been blamed for many of the world’s problems?
Answers will vary.
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3. How is pinpointing the enemy related to “scapegoating,” and the
ancient Hebrew practice of driving a goat into the wilderness to take
away the people’s sins?
Scapegoating is a particular kind of pinpointing, in which the
scapegoat is blamed for the propagandist’s own failings. As in the
Hebrew tradition, the scapegoat is forced to bear the moral failures
of others.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of pinpointing the enemy. Note: The
term “Hun” was used to refer to the Germans during World War I.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of pinpointing the enemy. Note: The
term “Hun” was used to refer to the Germans during World War I.
Aimed at an American audience during World War I, this cartoon is
meant to disparage the German government and the practice of
producing and drinking alcohol. This can be considered an example
of name-calling propaganda because of the use of the term “Hun” and
because it depicts the German public as wasteful, poor, alcohol-loving
criminals, rather than arguing against the nation’s government.
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Part #9: Plain Folk
1. What are some examples of plain-folk propaganda that you have
seen in advertising? What product lines have used this technique,
and how?
Answers will vary.
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2. What kinds of advertisements and/or political campaigns would
not benefit from using the plain-folk approach? Under what
circumstances would this technique be counterproductive?
Products or politicians who appeal to an elite audience would not
benefit from using the plain-folks technique. Likewise, an individual or
product that could not make a realistic claim to being ordinary and
common should not use this approach.
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3. Read the following quote. Then, describe one situation in which
this quote would constitute plain-folk propaganda and another
scenario in which it would not.
I grew up on a farm in rural Mississippi, so I know the
meaning
of struggle. I learned the value of hard work and determination
at an early age, and it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.
This quote would constitute plain-folk propaganda if delivered by a
public figure, such as a politician, in an attempt at self-promotion.
However, if spoken by a grandfather to his grandchildren, for example,
this would not be an instance of propaganda.
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4. Imagine that you are running for office, and create a speech in
which you promote yourself using plain-folk propaganda.
Answers will vary.
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Part #10: Testimonials
1. What qualifies a person to give a trustworthy, legitimate
testimonial?
A person with some degree of true expertise who is unbiased and
uncompensated may be considered a trustworthy source for a
testimonial.
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2. What are some of the warning signs that cast suspicion on a
testimonial?
Scripted, paid testimonials delivered by celebrities, experts, or even
“plain folk” should be viewed with suspicion.
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3. Imagine that you are an advertiser, attempting to market a product.
How would you go about using the testimonial technique in a way
that appears trustworthy?
Answers will vary.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for
this poster, and discuss whether this is an
example of testimonial-based
propaganda.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of testimonial-based propaganda.
Aimed at the American public (during World War II), this poster uses
President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech as a testimonial encouraging
Americans to save food. Americans were expected to trust Roosevelt
enough to believe his assertion that “Hunger does not breed reform…”
and save food, based on his suggestion.
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Part #11: Transfer
1. What is a symbol that most people in your community would view
as positive, and what specific associations would this symbol
transfer?
Answers will vary.
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2. What is a symbol that would evoke a negative response from your
community? What negative associations are attached to this
symbol?
Answers will vary.
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3. Describe an instance of transfer that you have witnessed in
advertising, politics, or some other public arena, and explain to the
class why this qualifies as transfer.
Answers will vary.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of transfer propaganda.
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4. Identify the audience and purpose for this poster, and discuss
whether this is an example of transfer propaganda.
Aimed at the American public (during World War I), this poster is
intended to encourage Americans to enlist in the Army. Depicting the
familiar figure of “Uncle Sam,” clad in patriotic garb, the poster is
meant to transfer the esteem and loyalty inspired by this figure to the
Army’s cause.
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relies on the influence of a
spokesperson, usually one who is
either a celebrity, a supposed expert,
or an “Average Joe”
Testimonial
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gives the audience only two
options and encourages people
to make a decision based on the
fear of one outcome, rather than
the merits of the other.
Lesser of Two Evils
This way? Or This way? The new year—crossroads of the future
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appeals to peer pressure,
recommending a given course
of action simply because
“everyone is doing it”
Bandwagon
Greater Germany [Vote] Yes! On April 10
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attempts to create a mental and
emotional association between
objects or ideas using images,
words, or symbols
Transfer
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attempts to rally the audience against
a single, distinct enemy who embodies
all the world’s problems
Pinpointing the Enemy
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declares an idea as fact, without
explaining or defending it
Assertion
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relies on vague, positive words to
generate enthusiasm
Glittering Generalities
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encourages an audience to
identify an individual or
cause with common
people and ordinary tasks
Plain Folks
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creates a false sense that there
are only two possibilities
False Dilemma
Victory or Bolshevism
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uses strong language to excite anger
and vilify an individual or group of
people
Name-Calling
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a message that presents only
one side of the situation or
unfairly downplays other
possibilities
Card-Stacking
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The nation’s dreams have come true!