Michiko Kakutani provides me with another addition to my nightstand in his review of Jason Stanley’s “How Propaganda Works“. Leaving the Belfer National Conference for Educators years ago I completely re-wrote how I taught “propaganda”, but often felt I missed something from the conference. This description of Stanley’s definition (and its unfortunate timeliness) is a sign that his book will help me re-write those lessons this year:
Mr. Stanley begins by offering a definition of propaganda that extends beyond dictionary descriptions of biased or misleading information used to promote a particular political cause or point of view. “Propaganda is characteristically part of the mechanism,” he writes, “by which people become deceived about how best to realize their goals, and hence deceived from seeing what is in their own best interests.” This is achieved by various time-tested means — by appealing to the emotions in such a way that rational debate is sidelined or short-circuited; by promoting an insider/outsider dynamic that pollutes the broader conversation with negative stereotypes of out-of-favor groups; and by eroding community standards of “reasonableness” that depend on “norms of mutual respect and mutual accountability.”
And yes, I am going to try and write again/more in 2017.