Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Five Propaganda Tricks

JunkScienceMom at Big Journalism reports:

My Mother's Intuition tells me there something more at play here than just trying to sell newspapers or juice up their Internet traffic.  Judging from these two reports on the study, it would appear that this idea of the SAT being racist is a movement sweeping across the nation.  In truth it isn't and in fact, both stories have many of the elements of classic propaganda techniques.  Here are a few choice excerpts from the GMU treatise, which relies on the work of Edward Filene, who created the Institute for Propaganda Analysis:

Name Calling: Propandists use this technique to create fear and arouse prejudice by using negative words (bad names) to create an unfavorable opinion or hatred against a group, beliefs, ideas or institutions they would have us denounce. This method calls for a conclusion without examining the evidence.

Glittering Generalities:  Propagandists employ vague, sweeping statements (often slogans or simple catchphrases) using language associated with values and beliefs deeply held by the audience without providing supporting information or reason.

Transfer: Transfer is a technique used to carry over the authority and approval of something we respect and revere to something the propagandist would have us accept.

Bandwagon: Propagandists use this technique to persuade the audience to follow the crowd. This device creates the impression of widespread support. It reinforces the human desire to be on the winning side. It also plays on feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Card Stacking: Propagandist uses this technique to make the best case possible for his side and the worst for the opposing viewpoint by carefully using only those facts that support his or her side of the argument while attempting to lead the audience into accepting the facts as a conclusion. In other words, the propagandist stacks the cards against the truth.

Taken as a whole these two writers have each managed to include five of a total of seven different propaganda techniques in their reporting on this issue.  Four of the five we can see for ourselves but when it comes to the Card Stacking technique, it's more difficult because it's hard to really know what the author does and doesn't know.

She's reporting specifically about the SAT, but the same techniques show up elsewhere, too.

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