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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Are We Being Propagandized?

Several decades ago, I did a stint teaching freshman composition at a community college. The unit on persuasive writing included a section on techniques of propaganda. The hope was that students would use well-researched facts and good logic in making their arguments, while learning to recognize propaganda in advertising or political campaigns.

Though the following list is very incomplete, see how many of these techniques you recognize in speeches and news reports in the current political campaigns.

  • Red Herring – using data or issues that are irrelevant to the discussion or question at hand, then claiming they validate the argument
  • Ad hominem – attacking an opponent’s character, as opposed to attacking his or her argument
  • Ad nauseam – Using tireless repetition of an idea, that when repeated many times, may be taken as truth
  • Bandwagon – Attempting to persuade the target audience to take the course of action everyone else is taking
  • Name-calling – inciting fears and arousing prejudices to cause hearers to think negatively of an opponent
  • Scapegoating – assigning blame to an individual or group to distract attention from the need to fix the problem for which blame is assigned
  • Testimonials – using famous or beautiful people to deliver the message

The issues that this country faces call for a serious discussion of the issues. I hope that you will join me in requiring that those seeking election speak their positions honestly and clearly so that we can make informed decisions when we vote.

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