Why Propaganda Matters

Sunday, February 4, 2018
First Aired: 
Sunday, May 31, 2015

What Is It

Governments and other political institutions employ propaganda to sway public opinion, instill ideas, and exert a degree of control over people. While totalitarian regimes have been known to do this explicitly, democratic governments often disguise their propaganda with persuasive rhetoric. So what exactly constitutes propaganda and how does it work? Does it always involve lies or falsehoods? Can propaganda ever be morally justified or is it a pernicious form of communication? John and Ken trade slogans with Jason Stanley from Yale University, author of How Propaganda Works.

Listening Notes

John starts the show by commenting on how propaganda is like pornography—in that he doesn't know how to define it, but he knows it when he sees it. Ken answers with a definition from the dictionary, which characterizes it as being of false or exaggerated nature and spread for ulterior motives. John and Ken continue on to discuss some of the difficulties of defining where to draw the line between persuasive language and propaganda.

James Stanley, professor of philosophy and author of How Propaganda Works, joins this conversation. Stanley clarifies between two different forms of propaganda: one directly appeals to ideals without rational argument, while the other uses a cherished ideal to back a cause that will actually undermine that ideal. He explains several examples of propagandist vocabularies in modern debates, stemming from both sides of the aisle. Ken then questions what kind of political discourse is not considered propaganda, and if classifying something as propaganda is a matter of fact or something swayed by opinion. John and James then examine an debatable example from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

A listener's question brings up the relation between advertising and propaganda, and whether they are one and the same. The conversation then steers to why propaganda is effective, and Stanley explains how it exploits positions of authority to forward its agenda. When a caller suggests that John and Ken are coloring propaganda too negatively, Jason replies that propaganda can indeed also be used to undermine immoral ideals—effectively fighting propaganda with propaganda. Branching off from this, they end with a discussion on what marks the difference between good and bad propaganda.


Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 7:13):  Shuka Kalantari examines the use of propaganda use in today's news media and how it is shaped through deliberate language.

60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 46:05): Ian Shoales discusses the life of Edward Bernays and his many contributions to propaganda’s place in the history of the United States.



Comments (1)

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, September 27, 2019 -- 7:33 AM

Much less than any of this,

Much less than any of this, "to sway public opinion, instill ideas, and exert a degree of control."

It's much more than that. They already have the control. They just need to make their control look reasonable or completely obscure it to begin with.

Take the widely accepted "Race" propoganda for instance. Would they ever let someone shine who once said, "race" was an equivocation fallacy started by the british to justify nepotism and slippery slope for aristocracy?

They'd put maximum effort to stop something like that from happening. If that story ever had to be broken by anyone they'd have to find some way for an aristocrat or a nepotist to do it. The original poster would be banned from everywhere till they made a page and dated it badly.

Honestly tho, if anyone came up with it before me, i'd like to meet them.

To hide their actual agenda is paramount to them. People would have to suspect things like britain funding "racial" unrest in america through soros while their catholic buddies invade from the south.

Seems they were a tad bit upset about us funding the ira through Gaddafi and not quite able to let ut go even tho we let them walk away from it with all of Gaddafi's gold.

I suppose the whole thing would just be transparent to one guy and that one guy might leverage your survival againt his freedom of speach but, have to start somewhere.

After that, propoganda builds a base of hatred. Who really carries any movement to fruition? After most people would be satisfied with their accomplishments, what carries it further? What brings a movement to the fringes of extremism? The people who really care. So called "love" stops. "Love" gives up. "Love" has enough short of when it's had the whole goal. The people who really care are the haters. Look at feminism, long since accomplished all its goals, more extremist than ever. Now its supported by outright gender masochists(its true you can find them on fetlife) and jealous eunuchs(catholics)

You might even call the black lives matter movement a bunch of racists but this much is too obvious. We'd know thats just counter propaganda to say they're the racists they make themselves self-evident. It's actually just another tool of all the groups and peoples mentioned so far.

There's lots of ways the british continue their racist agenda even while masking it. They've even used the vast bloated expanse of their own language to further bigotry in the services of nepotism.

It wasnt till obscenely and obviously late that they all admitted the irish to "the white people club". How is that exactly? There's no one on earth more "white" than the Irish. If they were any more white they'd you'd see food moving through their guts as they ate. They crushed the galic and celtic languages this way for centuries.

We all like to use the nazis as examples of racist propaganda, but thats really just a whitewashing of history and the plain connection with the catholics is most evident with the British. Hitler was really just their player hater when you measure it all up.

Assasinations are a wonderful wonderful use of propaganda. From ji(Zeus) to jfk, assasinations have been a tool for eliminating tretorous aristocrats and fueling movements at the same time. A treasonous whore aristocrat could be eliminated and serve the needs of the country at the same time. This is how it was done long before ji(zeus) but recently was banned(may have been clinton erra.) Its really the only way to keep aristocrats and politicians in line. Without it, our politicians have become solid straightup whores, even real actual whores, not just metaphorical political whores.

If there are three things id say should absolutly be kept from higher office in america, "British loyalists(every single dixiecrat), catholics, and feminists.

Egalitarians, might be okay tho.