LEAP #3: My Top 10 Insights on Learning about Propaganda

The study of propaganda is becoming increasingly important for a number of reasons, and although not one of my top ten insights, throughout this course I have learned this to hold great weight in our current world. The proliferation of social media (e.g., Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) expands the reach of the communication landscape, as well as the dissemination of persuasion. What is granted access into the media isn’t necessarily true or informative, but it can still easily influence and persuade. We need to be able to think critically and weed through this information. With media-ownership in fewer hands, a reduction of critical commentary, and an increase of infotainment in the news media, we have the perfect storm to create a propaganda-thriving environment. Propaganda is here to stay, so here’s a handy guide to my top 10 insights on learning about propaganda.

1. Propaganda is fluid: It it shaped by the whims of people

What is propaganda? This may seem like an obvious question/answer for some, but I would argue that one of the most interesting things I have learned about propaganda lies within its definition. Not only does understanding the definition of propaganda lay a necessary foundation for this course and the following insights, but it brings forth an important underlying ideal that the English language, or language in general, is (1) incredibly powerful and (2) astonishingly fluid; completely subject to the whims of people.

I have to admit that I began this course with a mix of common misconceptions of propaganda and a general knowledge of the ways in which my limiting definition of propaganda relates to the 21st century. In week 1, after seeing how the various definitions of propaganda have in fact changed over time, and how many authors seems to have their own take on what they believe propaganda to be, we were asked to weave together our own personal definitions of propaganda.

Initially, I clung to the definitions given by those who posed propaganda as something that is not fact and research based, which is simply not true. I more or less made the assumption that most, if not all, propaganda targets those who have a close-minded view of the world and who will not do their due diligence by fact checking and finding the source of their information. What I found common among definitions and my own understanding of propaganda at the time, was that there was a strong emphasis on distortion and the need to bypass critical thinking. You can see where my general modern-day knowledge comes into play when I relate this idea of propaganda to trolls who intentionally spark controversy and advocate for policy to be de-linked to any sort of feeling or emotion.

While some of this is true about propaganda, you may already be able to tell at this point that it is an incredibly limiting, and perhaps outdated, mindset as to what propaganda not only is, but what it can be. In the article A Retrospective on Early Studies of Propaganda and Suggestions for Reviving the Paradigm, Curnalia explains that analysis of propaganda started with messages used during wartime. As we progressed through history, there was a stronger emphasis put on social scientific research methods. The focus on the individual effects was placed above the message itself and the message content. Today, there are much easier and more advanced ways for propagandists to create mass influence and broadcast their messages, as well as for them to analyze their audience’s behavior and what they are most likely to be influenced by/be receptive to.

Therefore, the question of “what is propaganda?” is imperative to a larger learning point for me in this course: propaganda does not fit into one mold, and the factors influencing contemporary propaganda, such as the continued development of advanced technological mediums to reach new and larger audiences, has allowed it to influence us and shape the world around us at an accelerated rate because it. is. everywhere.

Due to the somewhat erratic nature of propaganda, we can now broaden our mindsets, make room for the remaining insights to take shape, and see how the below  qualities are especially important and true:

Screenshot_2019-04-28 #COM416 Propaganda What is It

2. Reaching a mass audience: Propaganda is made to be spread and we all participate

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Propaganda is made to be spread. This is important as it relates to the overall goals of propaganda: to persuade/influence. After all, propaganda would not be effective if its message fell on deaf ears and it did not reach a mass audience.

An important turning point for me in this course was realizing the extent to which propaganda is created for it to be spread and shared. This is an issue outlined in Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me, I’m Lying, where he goes over his deliberate techniques to get his content read, shared, and spread for a variety of purposes. This not only influences the form that the propaganda takes, but also the message of the propaganda itself, considering that in the name of virality it utilizes eye-catching headlines, half-truths, or altogether deceptive messages.

This can especially be seen in the KONY 2012  that we all likely remember and have discussed in this course. This class activity highlighted the differentiation in interpretation of the video based on how the genre was perceived. Perceptions of art or advocacy allotted for a much more positive interpretation by means of an emotional appeal, where as if it were perceived as journalism, it was seen as inaccurate and outdated. The video directly relates to real life situations, uses imagery, emotion, and a strong call-to-action. All of which is done purposefully and for a cause.

We share things that we can offer our interpretation to, things that shock us, things that wake us up. Propaganda is intentionally designed this way, good or bad, these kinda of tactics are always used. If we share it, regardless of the reason, we are thus participants in the creation of this message to shape our realities.

3. A culprit of propaganda dissemination: Bots and trolls

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Week 8 proved to be a very interesting week for me considering it discussed the immense power of what we often consider silly memes to influence people and to change their minds. It is facination, perhaps even a tad absurd, to think about memes being used as a powerful propaganda tool utilized by bots and trolls, but, as we have learned in class, we know this to be the case.

The intense strategy exemplified by bots and trolls to make us question our ability to understand the truth. Powerful propaganda tools like memes have a large effect on misleading and deceiving the public in humorous ways that we otherwise may not be able to detect.

The whole idea of computational propaganda is the use of automated algorithms to purposefully distribute misleading information across social media networks.

What I found especially powerful was an example of the affect the focus on memes has on America given by the article How Russian trolls used meme warfare to divide America, which says,

“The focus on police brutality and content targeting African Americans wasn’t limited to YouTube. Among more than a dozen web domains the IRA registered, the vast majority, including DoNotShoot.us and Blacktivist.info, were aimed at black communities. Of the 33 most popular Facebook pages linked to the IRA, nearly half focused on black audiences. This effort was particularly successful on Instagram, where the account @blackstagram_ amassed more than 300,000 followers and elicited more than 28 million reactions. Much of this content seemed designed to stoke distrust among African Americans in democratic institutions and depress black turnout for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton” (Thompson & Lapowsky, 2018).

All of which is to say that bot and trolls are LARGE culprits of the dissemination of memes which blur the lines of reality to bolster a distrust in the media and government.

4. The Receivers of Propaganda have a greater impact then the Propaganda itself

In this course we have talked a lot about the influence and effect of propaganda, but what I found to just as important, if not arguably more important, is the impact that the “consumer,” the reader, viewer, audience, receiver, has on the propaganda, and, in a larger sense, the world.

Learning how to analyze propaganda and being aware of the seven devices of propaganda, in theory, helps us not to fall prey to the common tricks of propaganda. The goal is to get us to become more aware of our own views that allow us to interpret messages certain ways; we must be aware of what is shaping our own opinions. All of this is essentially done to build a resistance to propaganda and to strengthen our critical analysis/thinking skills.

Propaganda is everywhere. These messages are what make up our reality and it is our interpretation of the propaganda that creates the meaning. Often in this course, my fellow classmates and I were asked to provide our opinion about certain topics. Through this, I have come to be more conscious about asking the questions of: what factors are shaping my opinion and the other around me? How do these perceptions influence my own? To some extent we all hold a responsibility to the truth.

This is something I especially learned and applied in Leap 1 where I analyzed a feminist advertisement. Through this analysis I found that there were both positive and negative connotations based on interpretation and context: The ad could either be seen as beneficial in the sense that it simplifies ideals and makes it easy to communicate a general inequality of women to men. Or, it could spread a more negative view in the way that it make implications of added oppression of Muslim women.

5. Positive vs. Negative Propaganda: The importance of perspective

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As mentioned briefly above, propaganda can do a lot of bad and a lot of good, or maybe a little of both. This again is something that largely relies on one’s perception or interpretation of the propaganda, both of which require a proper analysis.

I think a really great example of both positive and negative propaganda is the iconic Rosie the Riveter poster, because is it arguably both in one. For years Rosie the Riveter has served as a symbol of strength and motivation for women.

Rosie the Riveter was a large symbol of American feminism to usher women into the workplace and was plastered all over mainstream media. Although going against an idea that the woman’s place was in the home, mainstream media appropriated this feminist icon as a way to get women working and to help the economy during the war. Rosie the Riveter was used as a symbol in mainstream media to portray ideals that were both feminist and anti-feminist. This is to say that the meaning of the poster is highly dependent on context and interpretation.

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6. Propaganda’s Partner in Crime: Marketing & Advertising

This is a topic I explored during my LEAP #2 assignment where my partner and I did some digging into propaganda’s relationship to advertising. Propaganda plays a major role in the marketing and advertising realm where both are critiqued on their tendency to misinform the public and manipulate human emotions and desires. Interestingly enough, my partner and I found that most advertising fits five out of the eight definitions provided in the Mind Over Media curriculum, mainly in reference to a major goal of the two: conditioning people to act in certain ways.

However, as not discussed in my LEAP #2 paper, are the differences between advertising and propaganda. This is why the two are siblings, not twins. Although advertising and propaganda aim to persuade, advertising supports sales and generating revenue or consumption of a product or service. The public is generally more aware of intent of advertising and recognizes this goal, whereas the same may bot be true of the audience of propaganda.

7. Yes, propaganda is even in the News: A journalistic hierarchy

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The news and media have become a very prominent channel for propaganda to spread and create influence. Journalism is not typically associated with the spreading of propaganda, but there is a large connection between the news media and propaganda. What I found to be especially interesting is “unintentional propaganda” can be circulated by journalists because “news organizations are contained by corporate-state power” (Zollman p. 2, 2017).

Journalists are essentially the unintentional gatekeepers of what gets to be circulated in the public based on what they deem to appropriate considering dominant norms, values, and ideologies. Dominant terminologies applied by the media and by journalist are what work to propagate ideologies within institutions; they are creating the norms. All institutions that output into the media, such as journalism, are aligned with state-corporate elite interests (Zollman, 2017).

This is important as the major decisions that happen in society are controlled by major executive positions and these are the same people/institutions that control the media and resources which is what influences dominant ideologies. Chomsky describes the target audiences for propaganda as (1) the political class that are active in social-cultural aspects of life and are deemed to be educated. (2) The rest of the population are the people who follow the dominant ideologies that are essentially created by the political class.

Chomsky describes this as the agenda setters and agenda followers. This is done to cater to certain dominant interests in society and they are thus perpetuated. The agenda setting media are those that larger corporations in control of the media, which is how the elites control the media. They also have a motivation of selling a products to targeted audiences. Therefore, a world is produced that is geared toward satisfying needs of certain elite people, and naturally marginalizes others.

8. Networked partisan propaganda: spreading disinformation through asymmetric gate-keeping

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A cause the current propaganda-thriving environment includes the disconnect between the partisan media dominated right-wing and the rest of the “media ecosystem,” which is the part of the media that adheres journalistic norms. This is to say that the right wing hyper-partisan media sphere is influencing the larger media sphere, creating a feedback loop of falsehood propaganda in the right-wing that does not exist in the rest of the media. Thus, creates an imbalance. Those in charge of spreading this falsehood propaganda are Breitbart, Fox News, and mainstream media,” using agents like “agenda setting, priming, and framing” to spread the propaganda (Pyo, 2017).

This takes the focus away from blaming the usual culprits of spread falsehood propaganda, such as bots and trolls. While they still have an effect, it is not as great of an impact as right-wing partisan media outlets who spread entirely falsified information or disinformation intended to mislead (aka spreading paranoid leaps in logic).

9. Public interest propaganda: Question of sincerity

Another aspect of positive propaganda is a topic we discussed in week 12: public interest propaganda.

A testament to the powerful affect of propaganda is the thirty minute AT&T “From One Second to the Next” documentary that we watched for class. This public service announcement touches upon some of the dire consequences to texting and driving. Every second of this film was deeply disturbing and purely heartbreaking for me to watch.

Again, this is a good example of advertising and marketing as a form of propaganda. However, despite how moving this documentary is, we must not forget that this is a purposeful marketing strategy enacted by AT&T with the goal to convince viewers that (1) texting and driving is bad and (2) that AT&T is acting in ways that are socially responsible.

AT&T is playing with our emotions, and as a company that is trying to sell products and services, they know the power of emotional connection to customer loyalty.

The selling of values should bring into question the sincerity and authenticity of the propaganda at hand despite having a positive, important and sobering message.

For example, Barbie, which has been constantly critiqued for promoting an unrealistic body image, has this on their website:

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The dream Gap project is to fund a research project to explore why young girls lose confidence…interesting right?

10. Propaganda in Hollywood movies

The final insight, and one of the aha moments for me in this course, was discussing the role of propaganda in Hollywood movies, and even more so, the censorship of Hollywood movies to promote militarized propaganda and a pro-war agenda. This was a topic discussed in the article titled, Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA by authors Tom Secker and Matthew Alford. Becker and Alford discuss the submission of Hollywood scripts to the entertainment liaison offices in order to receive military assets for their film. It is crazy to me to think that, to at least some extent, story lines of Hollywood movies are shaped to benefit the army. This quote in particular was very impactful,

“…we are looking at a vast, militarized propaganda apparatus operating throughout the screen entertainment industry in the United States. It is not quite an official censor, since decisions on scripts are made voluntarily by producers, but it represents a major and scarcely acknowledged pressure on the kind of narratives and images we see on the big and small screens. In societies already eager to use our hard power overseas, the shaping of our popular culture to promote a pro-war mindset must be taken seriously” (Secker & Alford, 2017).

This is a point that was reinforced by a video clip watched during class, Michael Parenti: Propaganda in Entertainment Media. In Make-believe Media, Parenti turns his eye to entertainment for an absorbing, challenging look at the way America’s “free and independent” television and film industries actually promote the ideas of the economic and political forces that control them. He discusses propaganda as a lever on public opinion to exert social power. This is especially concerning to me given the large role that movies play in constructing and creating our realities.

It is imperative to become more critical to what we are viewing!

CHECK OUT MY SPARK VIDEO >>HERE.

 

References

Benkler, Y., Faris, R. Roberts, H. & Zuckerman, E. (2017, March 3). Study: Breitbart-led right wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda. Columbia Journalism Review.

Columbia Journalism Review. Pyo, Y. (2019). Review of Network Propaganda. International Journal of Communication 13, 462 –464.

Curnalia, R. (2005). A retrospective on early studies of propaganda and suggestions for reviving the paradigm. Review of Communication, 5(4), 237- 257.

Holiday, R. (2012). Trust Me, I’m Lying

Secker, T. & Alford, M. (2017, July 4). Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA. Medium.

Thompson, N. & Lapowsky, I. (2018, December 17). How Russian trolls used meme warfare to divide America. Wired.

Zollmann, F. (2017). Bringing propaganda back into news media studies. Critical Sociology, 0896920517731134.

The Propaganda Model, Fox News, and Trump

What is the propaganda model?

The propaganda model tires to explain how the news media operates within the capitalist economy. The propaganda model says that media outlets will produce media content based on the interests of the elite class. The five filters within the propaganda model are exactly what filter the information that is out out my media outlets, therefore limiting or shaping what the audiences receive.

Both of the videos by Vox and the Washington Post are great examples of how these 5 filters function. The five filters are as follows:

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Particularly seen in the video by the Washington Post, is flak and kind of the creation of an external enemy or threat. Trump is directly seen putting down other news networks, such as MSNBC, and directly hiring people with like-mindsets. This works to not only put in place sanctions to discipline the media, determining which channels are good and which are bad, but it is also directly creating FOX News versus the rest of the news channels attitudes. This is especially showcasing how the news media works to benefit the political elites and directly creates a concentrated ownership and feedback loop between the Trump administration and profit-orientation of the dominant mass-media firms. Seen in the FOX News video is that Corporate media firms share common interests with other sectors of the economy, and therefore have a real stake in maintaining an economic and political climate as related to their profitability. Policy are featured based on their benefit to the elite class. Therefore, people who are hired within the Trump administration circle are not necessarily credible sources, but are sources established through corporate ownership and elite interests. These videos and the filters of the propaganda model help us to understand how the information may be becoming mainstream: by way of Trump’s alliance with FOX News.

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The Media Monster

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Ryan Holiday’s book, Trust me, I’m Lying, rightfully compares the media to a monster and shows the tricks that bloggers use to get their stories read. Holiday even shows how effective these tricks are by explaining the ways he used them to get this every book to sell.

Tactic number two, “tell them what they want to hear” hit me hard while I was reading it. This book has made me all too aware of how trusting I am of some of the information I read, even when I thought I was being careful. When talking about this tactic, Holiday takes the time to explain the large “gray area” between fact and fiction that exists in journalism, as they are relying solely on information from their sources. Not to be too dramatic, but this section kind of made me question, ‘is anything real?’ I know that people’s inattention to the importance of fact-checking is a huge issue currently, but somehow this is different. From reading this book, we already see the role blogs play in the news and this tactic just goes to show how easy it is to pretend to be a credible source (not that bloggers seem to care if their source is credible or not).

Another disheartening tactic is tactic number three, “give ‘em what spreads.” This tactic especially highlights what the media does to spread information, which is to fluff up a story and make it look prettier. In this case, in order to make their content more reader-friendly, they capitalize on people’s desire for feel-good information, and therefore they do not portray the world accurately. Unfortunately, often times it is the sad stuff that actually needs to be shared, and it just can’t be talked about because people won’t read it. Depressing.

Tactics two and three are also strategies that where used a lot during the 2016 presidential election. People capitalized on spreading gossip, especially about Hillary Clinton, because they were just fueling the fire, and no one bothered to fact check! Reporters neglected to do the same to Donald Trump until it was too late and they had to face what they had done.

Finally, tactic number nine, although not new information, “just make stuff up (everyone else is doing it)” is important again to highlight how false information is spread. We must remember: even if a story is mostly true or not entirely false, it at least has an angle.

Propaganda, Feminism, and Muslim Women

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I am a feminist.

Throughout the years, particularly in 2019, the feminist movement has become strategically dependent on the development of media networks, as many other social movements have, as a key component to their political mobilization. However, and more importantly, there has been inattention to the media produced within feminist movements, as well as the intersection of various political movements both within and with the media. A political movement would hold very little ground in the 21st century if it could not further its political agenda through circulation and broadcasting to a wide audience. It is also important to consider the gender norms and stereotypes that ironically play an immense negative role in mass media and are constantly being perpetuated in various shapes and forms.

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UN Women produced a series of advertisements in 2013 to help bring attention and awareness to sexism and discrimination against women. In 2010, UN Women was formed in the United Nations to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. The idea for this advertisement campaign, titled “The Autocomplete Truth,” was developed by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai. Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai is a communication company that helps company’s build their brands based on their needs, specifically using data insights to track their unique consumer’s buying patterns and behavior. Thus, the idea of placing Google search bars over women’s mouths was born as a way to showcase prevalent ideals and narratives concerning women, as well as to insinuate that there is still a lot of work to be done in the fight for gender equality.

There are many things that must be considered when looking at this piece of propaganda:

(1) Google algorithms. Although this advertisement was meant to showcase common negative Google searches pertaining to women and that women are being silenced, both metaphorically and literally, as a viewer and consumer of the media we must first consider how the media operates. The question I am getting at is: Can we rely on a Google algorithm to tell us that these ideas about women are prevalent and are hegemonic ideals? Essentially, was this the best and most effective method to create discourse and discussion around sexism, which is a serious issue in our current world? Although the campaign does reflect prevalent stereotypes of women’s rights and gender inequality, and although the results of the campaign were a resounding success and gained a ton of attention, it relies on the viewer’s ability to think simply and to not over-complicate the idea of a Google search. To what extent does the public let generated algorithms complete our thoughts? Instead of slowing our brains down, and relying on a Google algorithm, I would argue that we need to instead be using our brains; which is something this propaganda does not promote. Similarly, although seemingly holding a positive viral impact in the media, as discussed in the book Propaganda and Persuasion, journalists reactions to public propaganda, “… should not be mistaken for the target audience’s attitudes in opinion polls and surveys reported in the media” (Jowett and O’Donnell 285). This is to say, just because this advertisement was welcomed with open arms in the news, which I agree is a great measure of success to the advertisement itself, it not a direct reflection of the impact of the universal public’s feelings. The way the Google algorithm functions, what appears in the autocomplete search bar that is designed to give our fingers a break from typing, is not necessarily connected to what that person may actually be looking for. Therefore, while sexism is a real and pressing issue, Google search suggestions can be misleading and misinterpreted. This is by no means to say that I do not get what UN Women was trying to do: using language to “manipulate sacred and authority symbols,” AKA Google, and using “[i]nnuendo” by directly putting these phrases over the women’s mouth to reference the silencing of women’s voices (Jowett and O’Donnell 284). I get it. Speaking a so-called ‘universal’ language means utilizing so-called ‘universal’ tools and explicitly showing the words that are forcefully put in our mouths as women. However, this brings me to my next point.

(2) This issue is NOT simple and the message is NOT universally inclusive of all cultures and places. Particularly in the single ad above showing the woman wearing the hijab; a head covering worn by some, not all, Muslim women. The automated Google search text covering the mouths of all the women featured in the advertisement campaign is different. However, the text covering the mouth of the seemingly Muslim woman is somehow even more different than the rest. Whereas the ads concerning three other women are more forward and directly linked with stereotypes, such as, “Women shouldn’t have rights” and “Women should stay at home,” the text over the mouth of the Muslim woman reads: “Women need to be put in their place/know their place/ be disciplined/ be controlled.” The problem here is that while trying to be inclusive and recognize intersectionality within a feminist issue, UN Women is perpetuating a stereotype that, to simplify, Muslim women need saving by the US/UN. There is no mistake of placing these words specifically over the mouth of a woman with a hijab. As we know, when analyzing propaganda we must look at the, “messages to examine the visual symbolization of power. Do visual representations have an iconographic denotation of power and ubiquity?” (Jowett and O’Donnell 282). Communication Studies majors learn that words are far more powerful when paired with images and symbols. We also learn that advertisements are extremely purposeful in every. Single. Decision. They. Make. Period point blank. The specific historical significance and context of this advertisement also differs from the rest because of the reference to the cultural and religious meanings of Islam, and Muslim women in general, to find reasoning behind the horrific attack on the New York World Trade Center in September of 2011. This focus was used as a mode of explanation as opposed to taking a closer look at political and historical explanations; thus creating an us versus them mentality, and using the excuse of freeing Muslim women as a justification for the War on Terrorism (Abu-Lughod 874). My point being: the text covering the mouths of these women is not the only insinuated sign of oppression. My fear is that some of the universal audience will see a woman wearing a hijab with these words displayed and think of the hijab as a symbol of the oppression of Muslim women, which is entirely an issue in today’s world. These are topics beautifully outlined in a favorite article of mine, titled Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod. She writes,

“Finally, I need to make a crucial point about veiling, Not only are there many forms of covering, which themselves have different meanings in the communities in which they are used, but also veiling itself must not be confused with, or made to stand for, lack of agency…we need to work against the reductive interpretation of veiling as the quintessential sign of women’s unfreedom, even if we object to state imposition of this form,…What does freedom mean if we accept the fundamental premise that humans are social beings, always raised in certain social and historical contexts and belonging to particular communities that shape their desires and understandings of the world?…Second, we must take care not to reduce the diverse situations and attitudes of millions of Muslim women to a single item of clothing, Perhaps it is time to give up the Western obsession with the veil and focus on some serious issues with which feminists and others should indeed be concerned (Abu-Lughod 786).

Author Abu-Lughod makes a point in her article of respecting, at its rawest form, the differences of women as key to their equality. Circulating the idea that Muslim women are in need of saving is damaging in that it continues to reinforce the superiority of Western culture.

I am a feminist and these ideals are important to me. I love that this piece of propaganda was so widely received and circulated; it did have a positive impact when you look at it on a broad scale. Nevertheless, we must also consider the effect on the smaller populations. The feminist movement is already ignored in the media enough. It is fighting a complex issue: it must be antagonistic in nature to fight hegemonic ideals, but does not want feminism to be seen as a non-hegemonic ideal. I hate to reduce this concept to binaries, but you get the point. We must not confuse what it means to simplify ideals to speak a universal language with respecting differences between cultures; differences between women. In the words of Edward Bernays, “[p]ropaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos” (Bernays 168). Although, if I could make one edit, I would change “intelligent men” to “all.”

 

Works Cited

Bernays, Edward (1928). Propaganda. Brooklyn: Ig Publishing.

Jowett, Garth and O’Donnell, Victoria (2012). Chapter 6. How to Analyze Propaganda.

Propaganda and Persuasion. 5th Edition.Thousand Oaks: Sage.

LILA ABU-LUGHOD Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, NY

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Real or Fake: How Will You Decide?

I played the bad News Game a total of two times. The first time, I played the ethical way, and I obviously failed. The second time, I played the way that the game was designed: throwing all ethics and morals out the window–– I played to win.

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I believe that playing the Bad News Game in this sequence shows me the power the game has to teach players about disinformation and fake news. By putting the player in the position of a fake news monger, it reveals exact tactics mongers use to spread their messages, their propaganda, and to create credibility and influence. I think that the Bad News Game does a great job of drawing our attention to the ways in which misinformation is spread. This is futher emphasized when the game awards you with certain badges outlining the tactics players are using in the game to gain followers and spread disinformation.

This Game teaches us an important lesson about people’s attempts to deceive and how easily they can do it. We are all bombarded with excessive amount of information from countless sources and we do not bother to put in the extra work to fact check. It is unnerving to think that with as many technological advancements and as much access to the internet we have: information is at our fingertips, but we don’t actually know any of it.

If Hitler Came Back, Would We Recognize Him?

The movie Look Whose Back uses humor to convey a highly sobering message. The humor in the movie quickly gives way to reveal an important message that is startlingly relevant in today’s world— I can’t help but think that this blog/movie assignment is especially timely. The plot moves from an amusing take on what would happen if dictator Adolf Hitler woke up in contemporary Berlin. What was particularly unnerving to me were the unscripted scenes where actor Oliver Masucci interacted with ordinary people. For example, at the 31:00 minute mark, Oliver Masucci is talking with a woman who works at a restaurant and is rambling about conspiracy theories and talking negatively about immigrants. She then proceeds to take a picture with modern day Adolf Hitler, holding onto his arm.

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Similarly, when Adolf was speaking to the woman at the dog training park and was using the mixing of dog breeds as an analogy to why races shouldn’t “mix. The woman just stood there smirking and agreeing.

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As a viewer sitting and watching these scenes, my insides were turning and every bone in my body was screaming out at these people, wanted to tell them to do something, to say anything––let him know he’s wrong! There are plenty of other scenes like this throughout the movie, and they only escalate as people’s responses to Hitler get increasingly disturbing.

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It’s disgusting how easy it was for people’s true colors to show with only the gentlest of direction from actor Oliver Masucci. However, the movie does what is was supposed to do and leaves us with the chilling questions of: if someone with a lot less of an incriminating history than Adolf Hilter showed up in modern times, would we even be able to recognize them and stop history from repeating itself?