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Public Sphere--week 6 February 7, 2006. Public Communication: PR and Social Marketing propaganda theory and PR Jacques Ellul. keywords. mass society crowd theory propaganda theory civic advocacy propaganda cultural pedagogy modernity and postmodernity. outline.

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Public sphere week 6 february 7 2006
Public Sphere--week 6February 7, 2006

Public Communication:

PR and Social Marketing

  • propaganda theory and PR

  • Jacques Ellul


  • mass society

  • crowd theory

  • propaganda theory

  • civic advocacy propaganda

  • cultural pedagogy

  • modernity and postmodernity


(1) The shared history of PR and propaganda: the role of propaganda theory

(2) Jacques Ellul: the major theorist of propaganda in the 20th century

The shared history of pr and propaganda the role of propaganda theory
the shared history of PR and propaganda: the role of propaganda theory

  • crowd theory (as discussed in the unit notes) establishes an early precedent for propaganda theory in the late 19th century

  • propaganda theory brings some of the basic assumptions taken from crowd theory directly into the study of communication in the early 20th century

  • propaganda theory is the first formal body of theory developed with regard to the study of mass media specifically

  • propaganda theorywas developed by major propaganda theorists in the United States such as Harold Lasswell and Walter Lippmann in the period between WWI and II (1920s and 30s)

  • Ellul (profiled later in the Powerpoint) reflects a more mature and critical view of propaganda

  • Propaganda theory is famous for two models of media influence:

  • the hypodermic needle or magic bullet model and

  • the two-step model

Propaganda and pr how do they relate
Propaganda and PR: how do they relate?

  • propaganda and PR were effectively the same thing to Bernays and other early propaganda theorists and PR intellectuals

  • the lessons of propaganda in wartime were directly applied to peacetime PR

  • how were they similar?

  • they both assumed considerable control over the audience’s understanding of the message and the world

  • they assumed that the point of communication was to change the thinking and behaviour of an audience in a way that conformed with the interests of the sender

  • communication was essentially defined as a one-way process not requiring or expecting audience response

  • communication is closely identified with power: the power to compel an audience to accept the sender’s worldview, and the consequences of that acceptance for their economic and political welfare

  • they originated in the interests of those with concentrated political power (the state) or economic power (corporate capital)

  • they are especially implicated in ideology; they do deliberate and conspicuous ideological work, insofar as they diffuse the views of those with power within society

Bernays on propaganda and pr
Bernays on propaganda and PR

“When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans.. using it. So what I did was to try to find some other words, so we found the words Council on Public Relations.”

Edward Bernays

1st generation propaganda theory the hypodermic needle or magic bullet model
1st generation propaganda theory:the “hypodermic needle” or “magic bullet” model

  • Harold Laswell and Walter Lippman (1889-1974; image on left) develop the study of propaganda, inspired by their experiences in World War 1 and II

  • the basic premise of propaganda theory was that the (then new) mass media of radio and film were capable of bringing about enormous changes in the thought and behaviour of Western publics

  • this view of media’s relationship to public is typically captured in the idea of “strong effect”, i.e., the idea that media can radically and instantly change how people think and act

  • the favourite metaphor of propaganda theorists was to compare media to a “hypodermic needle”

2nd generation propaganda theory the two step model
2nd generation propaganda theory:the two-step model

  • Paul Lazarsfeld (1901-1976) was a media theorist who advanced the work of early propaganda theorists, and who is identified as a central figure in the “media effects” tradition

  • in his 1944 book with Elihu Katz, The People’s Choice, Lazarsfeld developed what’s called the “two-step” model

  • the two-step model argued that media influence was not direct from source to receiver; rather, it was mediated by opinion leaders (e.g., editorial writers, local politicians, bosses, other authority figures) and then had its influence on audience

  • the two-step model directs media analysis to accommodate the fact that people are the most powerful “media”, and that media messages are made real and consequential as they are made accountable to people’s lives and social and cultural factors

I magic bullet or hypodermic needle model 1st generation ii two step model 2nd generation
(i) magic bullet (or hypodermic needle) model: 1st generation(ii) two-step model: 2nd generation

Harold laswell on politics
Harold Laswell on politics generation

"Politics is the process by which it is determined who gets what, when and how.”

Harold Laswell (1902-78;

his image on left)

2 jacques ellul and the theory of propaganda
2. Jacques Ellul and the theory of propaganda generation

  • Ellul (1912-94) is the premier critic of propaganda in the 20th century, and an influence on other theorists of propaganda

  • family poverty required that he tutor other children in German, Greek, Latin and French from the age of 15

  • he was born and raised in Bordeaux, France, and influenced both by Marx and Christian thought

  • he was a theologian, an activist specializing in youth issues, and one of the greatest critics of propaganda and technology

  • his major works are:

  • Propaganda (1965)

  • The Technological Society (1964)

Origin and definition of the term propaganda
origin and definition of the term “propaganda” generation

  • the term "propaganda" comes to us from the 16th century, at the time of the Counter-Reformation in England

  • the Counter-Reformation was a period defined by Roman Catholic campaign to reverse Protestantism's spread in Europe (the Protestant "Reformation" led by Luther, Calvin, and others), and reestablish Catholic supremacy in Europe.

  • the Jesuits - the intellectual elite in the Catholic church - formed a special group called the "Society for the Propagation of the Faith" to produce information on behalf of Catholicism and against the Protestant churches

  • this is the source of the word "propaganda" - i.e., inspired by the information campaign that was "propagated" (or disseminated) by the Jesuits

  • definition of propaganda:

    "The term 'propaganda' has since come to refer to the no-holds barred use of communication to propagate specific beliefs and expectations."

  • from Stanley Baran and Dennis Davis, “The Rise of Media Theory in the Age of Propaganda”

What are the features of propaganda according to ellul
What are the features of propaganda according to Ellul? generation

  • propaganda is not restricted to war-time communication aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the enemy, or mobilizing a domestic population in support of a war

  • rather, propaganda represents a set of conditions in which any message can becomes propagandistic in nature

  • this means that propaganda exists in both war and peace time, and is factor or property of communication even in everyday mainstream media culture

  • the features of propaganda are:

    (i) scope of debate is limited to a narrow range

    (ii) messages derive from and reflect dominant political and economic interests

    (iii) messages marginalize and demonize opposing perspectives

    (iv) messages use simplistic language and images and reduce complexity of reality to digestible form. typically appeal to emotion, not to reason

    (v) messages compel conformity of audience, and do not invite dialogue or questions

The lonely crowd the audience in an age of propaganda
the “lonely crowd”: the audience in an age of propaganda generation

  • propaganda neither addresses the individual nor the mass, but instead the "lonely crowd”

  • the "lonely crowd" was his metaphor to capture the experience of living in the mass society

  • the object of propaganda is the individual in the crowd, the very condition of human identity in the mass society of modernity

    "Modern propaganda reaches individuals enclosed in the mass and as participants in that mass, yet it also aims at a crowd, but only as a body composed of individuals." (Ellul, Propaganda, p. 6)

  • the “Lonely Crowd” was also the subject of a famous book by sociologist David Riesman

How is propaganda made 1 shaky foundations and faulty logic
How is propaganda made? generation(1) shaky foundations and faulty logic

  • making bold assertions without evidence

  • use of untrustworthy authorities

  • reasoning with the wrong facts

  • moral context based on extremes and absolutes

  • rationalization (i.e., making up reasons for something we wanted to do anyway)

  • faulty premises for argument

  • hasty generalization

  • . begging the question (i.e., assuming the truth of something that you set out to prove)

  • attacking the person, not the argument (i.e., ad hominem arguments)

  • creating a convenient enemy (Nazis use of Jews to explain German hardship before WWII)

  • blending fact and opinion without distinguishing them

Ii intentional distortions
(ii) intentional distortions generation

  • twisting and distorting argument

  • selective omission

  • incomplete quotation (i.e., citing a source but changing it to serve your argument)

  • quoting out of context

  • innuendo (i.e., offering remarks with underlying criticism or accusation attached)

Iii verbal tricks
(iii) verbal tricks generation

  • use of testimonials (having celebrities or authority figures endorse idea)

  • bandwagon appeal (peer pressure involved in sense that everyone is thinking or doing something

  • plain folks and snob appeal approaches (assuming listeners are one's friends and real people, or alternately, are fellow members of an elite)

  • use of generalities ("plastic words" or "newsspeak")

  • name calling. use of stereotypes. appeals to scientific authority (i.e., use of fancy or technical phrases).

  • repetition

  • co-optation (neutralizing opposing phrases and images by changing their meaning

  • association of message or person with powerful symbols (e.g., wrapping one's self in flag)

  • audience addressed as children - as in need of instruction or direction

Questions for discussion
questions for discussion generation

  • How does the fact that propaganda research and practice in WWI directly influenced the development of PR change how you view PR today?

  • Social marketing is a frequent feature of our media culture. Non-profits present messages that counsel us to practice safe sex and not take drugs; corporations make us aware of their philanthropy; governments remind us to be patriotic or to eat according to the Canada Health Guide. Is such “civic advocacy propaganda” a form of social engineering? If so, is it something we should be cautious of?

  • What is postmodern about politics today? What is postmodern about the way we communicate politically?