Propaganda’s persuasive powers have enduring interest because we see so much of it and we know it is shaping our lives, yet we seem to have few opportunities to answer back. At its best, propaganda is in our faces where we can see and hear it; at its worst, it is operating covertly behind the scenes to create earth-shattering consequences. As the Irish poet W.B. Yeats warned, this may be a time when “the best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”
Besides my interest in propaganda and compliance gaining, I’m interested in the protocols of performance (the subject of my PhD at Rutgers University). Most propaganda is a performance for a mass audience; there is a stage (figurative or real); and the symbolic and dramatic elements making powerful performances equally apply to propaganda. From politics and diplomacy to public relations, lobbying, advertising, and advocacy, persuasive actors make their pitches on the public stage and behind closed doors. Media screen the spectacle, providing the stage, pulpit, soap box, loudspeaker, subliminal whisperer for these persuasive narratives.
I’m trying not to take sides and find the middle way a difficult path to follow when I witness injustice, dishonesty, and lack of discernment. But my goal is not to judge. It is to observe with curiosity the techniques of persuasion and learn from them.