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WHAT IS PROPAGANDA? Alternatives to the Common View.

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1 WHAT IS PROPAGANDA? Alternatives to the Common View

2 I. Refuting Common Views A. Problems with Common Dictionary Definitions 1. Overbreadth: Anything with a point of view qualifies

3 2. Insufficient discrimination between concepts: persuasion vs. propaganda Definition of persuade is to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action

4 3. The identification problem For the purpose of makes categorization depend on the one who spreads ideas, information, etc difficult to know or prove

5 4. The uncertain roles of bias and truth Oxford English Dictionary: The systematic dissemination of information, esp. in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view. Also: information disseminated in this way; the means or media by which such ideas are disseminated. Note that bias is an esp. – not a requirement Political cause is specific but point of view is not – who has no point of view?

6 B. A Popular Conception

7 C. Problems With the Popular Conception 1. Relies on intent of speaker – but this is unknown to the listener 2. Assumes that good reasoning makes for good argument – but good reasoning can be used to sell the wrong thing, i.e. giving someone the means to commit unspeakable ends 3. The difference between evidence and emotions is slippery. Emotions are often triggered by evidence. 4. Ignores the consequences is unduly restrictive. Fear is often triggered by worst case scenarios, and excitement by best case scenarios.

8 D. A Cynical View Propaganda is any argument with which I disagree, or persuasion by anyone with whom I disagree. We inform and educate, they use demagoguery and propaganda Problems: Refusing to make a distinction renders the concept empty (of little use to academic study) Requires us to believe that e.g. Triumph of the Will cannot be distinguished from e.g. King of Communism Ignores third-party perspectives

9 E. Problems With Common Views 1. Rely on truth/misinformation and objective/biased distinctions but these are not simply present or absent (recall just the facts) 2. Assume that persuasion is possible with logos alone, ignoring the audience 3. Intent of speaker is used, but no agreement on what intention makes an argument propaganda or how one can know this intent

10 II. The Continuum Model A. Replaces binary distinctions of common views with a continuum of persuasion that incorporates many insights of common view

11 B. Sample Continuum Model Information Propaganda Multiple perspectives Uses evidence in context Uses quality evidence – reliable and valid Describes how to perform a task Relies on field-recognized experts Experts explain their findings All relevant evidence Single perspective Takes evidence out of context Uses invalid or unreliable measures Urges performance of political act Relies on testimonials or out-of- field experts Expert conclusory statements are used as authority Partial truths (omissions) or false statements

12 C. Assessing the Continuum Model 1. Some of the same weaknesses as common views 2. No one factor is determinative = some protection against ambiguous concepts 3. Allows for persuasion to mix with propaganda – but can still draw distinctions between levels of propaganda 4. Which factors are included may vary – see definitions for some ideas 5. Requires simultaneous evaluation of many characteristics (high information model)

13 III. The Contract Model A. Theory of Documentary Film 1. Power: a. People respond to documentaries in different ways than fiction b. Claim to being real is critical to power c. People also expect films to reveal a point of view (possibly a neutral one)

14 2. Contract a. People agree to watch documentaries (consent) and filmmakers agree to produce them implied contract between viewer and filmmaker b. Terms: What the audience sees is an authentic depiction of reality, from the filmmakers declared or implied point of view i. Note that audience is assumed to know of and even desire that this film has a point of view ii. Audience does not consent to misinformation, pretensions to an inauthentic point of view, or disrespect through crass manipulation

15 From Aufderheide (2007): A documentary film tells a story about real life, with claims to truthfulness. How to do that honestly, in good faith, is a neverending discussion, with many answers. Documentary is defined and redefined over the course of time, both by makers and by viewers. Viewers certainly shape the meaning of any documentary, by combining our own knowledge of and interest in the world with how the filmmaker shows it to us. Audience expectations are also built on prior experience; viewers expect not to be tricked and lied to. We expect to be told things about the real world, things that are true.

16 Aufderheide (2007) continued: We do not demand that these things be portrayed objectively, and they do not have to be the complete truth. The filmmaker may employ poetic license from time to time and refer to reality symbolically (an image of the Colosseum representing, say, a European vacation). But we do expect that a documentary will be a fair and honest representation of somebodys experience of reality. This is the contract with the viewer that teacher Michael Rabiger meant in his classic text: There are no rules in this young art form, only decisions about where to draw the line and how to remain consistent to the contract you will set up with your audience.

17 B. Propaganda as Breach of Contract 1. Propaganda is persuasion that breaks the contract between viewer and filmmaker 2. Implications a. Even very partisan material might not be propaganda – if it is presented as such and represents the filmmakers experience of reality b. Seemingly objective material might be propaganda if the filmmaker doesnt believe in the material

18 C. Problems with the Contract View 1. Retains the identification problem -- Impossible to know authenticity of filmmaker by viewing film alone 2. The same film might be both legitimate persuasion and propaganda – depending on who made it!

19 C. Problems with the Contract View 1. Retains the identification problem -- Impossible to know authenticity of filmmaker by viewing film alone 2. The same film might be both legitimate persuasion and propaganda – depending on who made it!

20 IV. The Herman-Chomsky Model 20

21 A. Defining Propaganda: A Form of Social Control by the State Herman and Chomsky (1998): [ it is ] … our belief, based on many years of study of the workings of the media, that they serve to mobilize support for the special interests that dominate the state and private activity, and that their choices, emphases, and omissions can often be understood best… by analyzing them in such terms. … the democratic postulate is that the media are independent and committed to discovering and reporting the truth… If, however, the powerful are able to fix the premises of discourse, … the standard view of how the system works is at serious odds with reality.

22 B. The Five Filters (Updated: More info in the film) 1. Corporate: Size and ownership limits stories that can be reported (owners are elite) 2. Advertising: Appeal to affluent audience, avoid killing the buying mood 3. Sourcing: Reliance on government and interest group PR (need for flows of information) 4. Flak: Institutions (e.g. AIM, embedding) to enforce discipline 5. Ideology (Anti-Communism Spread of Free Markets Anti-Terrorism): Need for national religion Propaganda Information

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26 B. The Five Filters 1. Corporate: Size and ownership limits stories that can be reported (owners are elite) 2. Advertising: Appeal to affluent audience, avoid killing the buying mood 3. Sourcing: Reliance on government and interest group PR (need for flows of information) 4. Flak: Institutions (e.g. AIM, embedding) to enforce discipline 5. Ideology (Anti-Communism Spread of Free Markets Anti-Terrorism): Need for national religion Propaganda Information

27 a. Advertisements = high % of TV Revenues 27 Broadcast Television: Almost 100% ads. Newspaper: 75% ads, 25% subscription (Toronto; also NYT) 7.5% of accounts = 80% revenues Public media: only 14% ads Even public broadcasting depends a little bit on ads. Sources: Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Educational Telecommunications Association

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29 b. Global data: Pay TV/ Subscriptions growing, but ads still more lucrative

30 c. What about new media? Top blogs and Top political blogs – Reliance on venture capital and advertisers. Top blogsTop political blogs

31 d. Elite blogs drive discussion, general blogs reinforce, and others follow

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33 B. The Five Filters 1. Corporate: Size and ownership limits stories that can be reported (owners are elite) 2. Advertising: Appeal to affluent audience, avoid killing the buying mood 3. Sourcing: Reliance on government and interest group PR (need for flows of information) 4. Flak: Institutions (e.g. AIM, embedding) to enforce discipline 5. Ideology (Anti-Communism Spread of Free Markets Anti-Terrorism): Need for national religion Propaganda Information

34 a. Citation Bias: Do reporters choose biased sources?

35 b. Official source bias i. Government sources overrepresented, particularly in foreign affairs stories (limited information, desire to preserve contacts) ii. Business journalism dependent on industry insiders as sources

36 Sources used by business journalists (2011 Survey)

37 c. Case Study: Vietnam Some argue that the media tend to undermine rather than support government Sample claim: TV coverage of the gritty reality of war – or misrepresentation of reality – caused viewers to turn against the Vietnam war.

38 i. Test: Gritty reality? = 2300 evening news reports on Vietnam Only 76 showed both fighting and casualties within view Gear prevented most close-up shots (nearly impossible to film while prone) or instantaneous reporting in the field (Vietnam was a videotaped war) All three networks agreed not to air recognizable images of US dead (feet only, not faces)

39 ii. Test: A New Kind of War? Compare to Korea… Iraq Afghanistan (Support War) Afghanistan (Not a Mistake) US Battle-Deaths and Support for Military Operations,

40 iii. Test: Elite Support for War

41 iv. Test: Media Bias and Opinion Journalism Before Tet: Speakers in favor of war quoted 26.3% of the time, speakers against war quoted only 4.5% of the time After Tet: 28.4% supporters, 26.1% opponents Opponents: 49% are government officials, 16% are reporters expressing opinions, 35% are antiwar activists or soldiers What happened? Bias towards official sources change in reporting when officials turned against the war Media opposition actually lagged public opposition! Opponents consistently underrepresented compared to share of US population

42 B. The Five Filters 1. Corporate: Size and ownership limits stories that can be reported (owners are elite) 2. Advertising: Appeal to affluent audience, avoid killing the buying mood 3. Sourcing: Reliance on government and interest group PR (need for flows of information) 4. Flak: Institutions (e.g. AIM, embedding) to enforce discipline 5. Ideology (Anti-Communism Spread of Free Markets Anti-Terrorism): Need for national religion Propaganda Information

43 Example: Caitlin Curran Journalist at WNYC Fired after this photo of her at a OWS protest went viral

44 Direct discipline? Reporters Without Borders 2011 Report US ties for 47 th place – of 179 countries -- in 2011 The crackdown on protest movements and the accompanying excesses took their toll… In…two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.

45 B. The Five Filters 1. Corporate: Size and ownership limits stories that can be reported (owners are elite) 2. Advertising: Appeal to affluent audience, avoid killing the buying mood 3. Sourcing: Reliance on government and interest group PR (need for flows of information) 4. Flak: Institutions (e.g. AIM, embedding) to enforce discipline 5. Ideology (Anti-Communism Spread of Free Markets Anti-Terrorism?): Need for national religion Propaganda Information

46 Example: Media Coverage of Tea Party vs. Anti-Corporate ProtestsAnti-Corporate Protests

47 C. Recent Findings on Media Bias 1. Hostile Media Effect – Most people think media is biased against their side

48 2. Systematic Bias a. Partisan Bias (preference for one party): Appears to be rare (ratios of positive:negative stories about each party roughly similar) b. Ideological Bias (preference for left or right) i. Some studies find right-wing (Fox, WSJ) or left-wing (NYT, CSM) bias BUT ii. Differences in news reports are quite small: Owners are conservative but reporters tend to be liberal iii. Opinion/editorial biases much more pronounced

49 D. Effect of Bias: Remarkably Small? 1. Selection Effect: People choose to watch news sources with which they agree 2. Example: Availability of Fox News did not increase pro-conservative views among viewers. Instead, people who were already conservative tuned in. 3. Neutral Biases (Spin and Official Source) probably most influential: hard to filter out

50 E. Evidence Against the Model 1. Public/elite gap on policy – especially foreign and economic policy Herman responds (2000): It is a model of media behavior and performance, not of media effects. Problem: if no effects model, why do we care? 2. Reversing the causal arrow: Alleged CNN Effect (news shapes and alters state policy, contrary to official source bias) 3. General issue: Is the model falsifiable? How much opposition is required?

51 Huge Elite-Public Gaps Exist

52 E. Evidence Against the Model 1. Public/elite gap on policy – especially foreign and economic policy Herman responds (2000): It is a model of media behavior and performance, not of media effects. Problem: if no effects model, why do we care? 2. Reversing the causal arrow: Alleged CNN Effect (news shapes and alters state policy, contrary to official source bias) 3. General issue: Is the model falsifiable? How much opposition is required?

53 E. Evidence Against the Model 1. Public/elite gap on policy – especially foreign and economic policy Herman responds (2000): It is a model of media behavior and performance, not of media effects. Problem: if no effects model, why do we care? 2. Reversing the causal arrow: Alleged CNN Effect (news shapes and alters state policy, contrary to official source bias) 3. General issue: Is the model falsifiable? How much opposition is required?

54 Is the CNN Effect Real? Somalia 1992:

55 The path to intervention in Somalia

56 E. Evidence Against the Model 1. Public/elite gap on policy – especially foreign and economic policy Herman responds (2000): It is a model of media behavior and performance, not of media effects. Problem: if no effects model, why do we care? 2. Reversing the causal arrow: Alleged CNN Effect (news shapes and alters state policy, contrary to official source bias) 3. General issue: Is the model falsifiable? How much media opposition is required?

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58 V. Conclusion: No Perfect Model The common view has many flaws Each of three alternatives – the continuum model, the contract model, and the Herman-Chomsky model -- avoids some of these flaws while retaining others Your task: To justify one model as better than the others and use it to: Distinguish propaganda from persuasion that is not propaganda Determine the ethical status of propaganda and its production


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