In groups of 4 or 5 people:

  1. Choose either:

– one major current or historical issue where a side is using propaganda
– an institution or group of institutions employing propaganda about a specific issue or with particular purpose.

These include things such as:

ISIS recruitment efforts
Walmart’s propaganda on its labor relations
The right to life movement’s propaganda
Oil or Coal Industry Propaganda
Environmental accident or any major extended corporate scandal PR “spin control”
Armed Forces recruitment
Coffee industry’s efforts to get more drinkers
NRA working against gun control
Pharmaceutical Industry propaganda on mood drugs
Hutu propaganda to get people to kill Tutsi’s in Rwanda
Republicans debunking climate change

It should be more than the advertising of a product. If you’re interested in consumer/advertising as propaganda, then pick the PR campaign for a whole category, such as Dairy or Corn or Cosmetics. Look at the industry’s PR efforts, not just a product – unless it’s a true giant, like McDonalds, Coke, Dupont, Monsanto, Boeing, Uber…and then, it’s not just the product but the benefits of genetic modified food, or of ending the taxi system.

2. Use the net to do preliminary research in class, as a group, to find:

A – some of the kinds of propaganda about this issue or from this institution, and categorize them into types, such as TV ads, magazine articles, lobbying, public relations videos (VNRs), polls, studies, placing guests on interview/news shows, preparing talking points for politicians, posters, bumper stickers, and so on. You may also choose to categorize them by subject or argument instead of media type. So that might be categories like fear, racism, humor, fake facts, anti-intellectualism, jingoism, diversion.

B – the most trustworthy account(s) you can find of the facts about the issue

3. Discuss this case study, as a group. Is the propaganda fair and accurate? Where does it bend the truth? Which of the seven techniques of propaganda are being used? Which of Brooke Gladstone’s “biases of news media” are in effect? Which of the Fox techniques are being used? Or how is it exemplifying Chomsky’s Propaganda Model?

4. Assign one or more media or messaging type to each of three members of the group. The fourth member is responsible for the facts of the case, and for leading a presentation. (If a group has five members, then you have four members assigned to media/propaganda type.)

5. During the two weeks before class on April 27, each member of the presenting group should collect several representative samples or media from their assigned genre (either on a web page or powerpoint you create or as a link you bring), and be prepared to show and talk about them in class. Discussion should include what we have learned already in class, such as which of the Seven Techniques are being used, as well as what makes the effort particularly good/bad/interesting. What insights are the propagandists using? What are the underlying assumptions of their work? The lead presenter should be prepared to give an overall case study, with or without media aid, BRIEFLY explaining the facts of the issue and what the propagandists were attempting to argue or accomplish. The lead presenter is also responsible for running the group presentation, introducing each member, and contextualizing that member’s findings into the bigger story. Telling the basic facts should take two minutes or less.

6. When we meet on April 27, groups will have an additional 30 minutes at the beginning of class to prepare. Then, each group present to the class for about 10 or 15 minutes. The lead presenter will begin the presentation, explain the issue or story or event to which propaganda is being applied. S/he will explain the facts of the case. S/he will introduce each of the other members of the group so that they may present their findings, and s/he will create a coherent “whole” out of their contributions.

 

The main purpose of the in-class working session is to decide how you are going to categorize your case study – by media type, or by kind of argument/tactic – and then assign those categories to individual members. Then, you should try to be in touch over the break and following week, so when you get to class you know what to do. The group facilitator should probably collect everyone’s presentations and get them into one thing, or at least know what’s going on.

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