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Leap 3 Top 10 Insights on Learning About Propaganda

Updated: May 3, 2019

Tom Reardon's Top 10 Insights on Learning Propaganda

  1. Propaganda is EVERYWHERE

  2. Propagandists Adapt why haven't we

  3. Something isn't always what it seems to be

  4. Networks are Biased!

  5. Propaganda wants you to argue

  6. Propagandas entertaining

  7. Use technology to your advantage

  8. You have to weed through the forest of Lies

  9. Social Media is the breeding ground for propaganda

  10. No one has all the answers


#1 Propaganda is EVERYWHERE

Going into this class I didn't know what to expect other than the class was about propaganda. I had learned in high school history class and other communication courses had touched upon examples of it, but after the first week I learned that it isn't just used by the government during wars. I learned that everything and anything is propaganda as shown by the following definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view."(Merriam-Webster) This definition shows that this matters because anything that you see now especially with social media is used to promote you to feel or look at in on a certain side. This could be a tweet about song or an instagram post promoting a new restaurant or even a meme sent to you by a friend.

Even your clothing is walking propaganda as certain clothing brands can be used to spread a political stance as well as insight an argument.This is important to me because before taking this course I never had realized that by going on instagram or watching a television program every single thing going on was trying to persuade me to feel or look at something in a certain way.

Now that I have taken the course, I am definetly more aware of what is going on around me. Once you realize that everything is propaganda and it is everywhere you then start to notice the vastly different ways that it is trying to be hidden. This happened to me while taking this course as I started to notice that I gravitated toward what was promoted as being popular brands and relied on social media as my source for what was going on in the world and my opinion too. While grasping this idea is easy applying it to change yourself is difficult. This will help me in the future as I continue to notice the message that the propaganda wants me to see and this shall help me thoughtfully choose how to react or respond to it. One thing I didn't believe until this course was that every course I have taken is a form of propaganda in it's own way even the course on propaganda.


#2 Propagandists Adapt why haven't we

This is important because while we may think that companies find new ways to get people to feel a certain way these companies and governments are still doing the exact same things that they have been doing for hundreds of years. This is shown from the activities Instagrammers create fake sponsored content as well as the reading of Lexicon of Lies. As before taking this class I naively believed that all the advertisements that popped up while on social media where employees or models hired by these companies. Though after completing these readings, I discovered especially from the Instagrammers article that not all people are paid to produce the propaganda as shown by the following quote "Sydney Pugh, a lifestyle influencer in Los Angeles, recently staged a fake ad for a local cafe, purchasing her own mug of coffee, photographing it, and adding a promotional caption carefully written in that particular style of ad speak anyone who spends a lot of time on Instagram will recognize. “Instead of [captioning] ‘I need coffee to get through the day,’ mine will say ‘I love Alfred’s coffee because of A, B, C,’” Pugh told me. “You see the same things over and over on actual sponsored posts, so it becomes really easy to emulate, even if you’re not getting paid.”(Lorenz 2018) This quote has helped me discover that you have to see that the same messages are being pushed across while also hidden in different representation as starting from saying they pay you to wear or use their product when in reality those people are putting propaganda to increase themselves in the eyes of their followers.

This course made it possible to learn that the example from the Lorenz article is a form of gaslighting which is "Gaslighting been used to describe situations in which a person orchestrates deceptions and inaccurately narrates events to the extent that their victim stops trusting their own judgments and perceptions."(Jack - 9) This shows that the propagandists want and can trick you into going against what you believe is true, such as the person isn't paid to post about a coffee shop, but you've seen so many posts pushing products that you trust this post also is true.

These exercises resonated a thought while rereading them and that is how do propagandists adapt but students and the public as a whole fall for the same thing over and over again. Which I have learned is because they change a tiny piece of how they go about getting the idea out and when the audience catches on to something they change another small part of how they do it. This is similar to how I have approached studying as when I am doing well I keep doing the same thing but once something goes wrong I have to tinker with my method.


#3 Something isn't always what it seems to be

Over the course of this course I have learned something about propaganda that I did not realize about commercials and the new and that is that everything isn't always what it's made out to be. The following quote from Trust Me I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday emphasizes this statement "It is not news that sells papers, but papers that sell news." (Holiday p.11) An example of this quote and why it matters is with Donald Trump and "Fake News" as news channels and papers such as Fox,CNN, and the New York Times are going to push their views of what is important or what they want the public to see. While also a learning activity we had done in this course shows how relevant and emphasizes the importance of noticing what is real and what is not. The learning activity was the Bad News game where you are tasked with spreading news that will get the page more followers you are tasked to get the page trending not focusing on if the news was true just focusing on the quantity of people talking about what you posted on social media.

The game is described on the COM 416 Pathwright as "In this game you take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate. But keep an eye on your ‘followers’ and ‘credibility’ meters. Your task is to get as many followers as you can while slowly building up fake credibility as a news site. But watch out: you lose if you tell obvious lies or disappoint your supporters!"

This shows the importance of researching media that you see as something you see on social media may be completely false and this can ruin your credibility with certain groups of people depending on the topic. While disregarding this can also lead you to look foolish.

Personally this helped me to understand that propaganda really is hiding everywhere and that if you are not careful then especially with social media you will be caught quoting a lie from someone. The activity also helped to enforce that you have to have a reliable source and that you cannot rely on the media as they themselves have an agenda they want you to follow. Also this activity allowed for me to realize that if I allow for my views to be based off of


Insight #4 Networks are biased

One thing that I didn't pay enough attention to during this course was how biased media and especially the big networks really are in spreading their ideas. I have learned now especially after rewatching The Washington Posts video on partisan propaganda that depending on the channel that you watch you may be getting the same message over and over from different shows as well as different people. This stood out to me the second time watching the video as 6 different people on the same network but different shows stated or used the same phrase "coup d'état" to describe the Mueller trials. This shows that the network must have told the hosts of their show to focus on and push the same idea to the different shows viewers. This matters in my life as it shows that while you may work for a gigantic corporation your views will come second to the views of the company and the message that it wants to be given out to the masses, which is similar to a basketball team as the goal of the team is much bigger the your own personal goal and teams who are successful embrace the view of the team. This also helped me to learn that news stations are not that different it is just a representation of what it wants the public to be talking about and who they want talking about it.

Another exercise that helped me to get the point across was the padlet of networked partisan propaganda especially two of my class mates posts one showed Times magazine cover with the white house becoming the Kremlin in which my class mate Taylor Stickles states "The May 2017 cover of Time magazine shows an image of the White House merging with "Russia" during the time the reports came out about its interference in the election of Trump. It suggests that the White House is responsible for Russia's disinformation campaign, using paranoid logic." While another classmate of mine used the White House with Neon FOX NEWS signs on top of it to show how it is partisan in which my class mate states "This piece of propaganda stood out to me because it is very current and displays the skewed and incredibly negative relationship between President Trump, his cabinet, and the whole Fox News organization, including Fox and Friends." This activity really shows how the media networks are biased and the information that they put out almost always reflects a certain parties side.

This right here will allow for me in the future to look at a news broadcast and be able to notice right away what parties side their on and how they want me to feel about an event thats occurring. I wouldn't have known this unless I had taken this class as coming into course I believed I would be reading a textbook like every other class at URI and not actually searching for ways the news wanted me to feel.


#5 Propaganda wants you to argue

An important thing that helped me in this course was that propaganda wants you to pick a side and that it wants to cause you to feel strongly about the side that you are on. This was reinforced throughout the course. Whether it was posting and commenting about different types of propaganda or ones view on how you can change a view the course just like propaganda allowed for contrasting views to be created and discussed. This is enforced in the video from one second to the next where one of the questions was "Should corporations be expected provide public service propaganda like this on issues of public concern? Why or why not?" This question allowed for us as students while also being part of the population who drives to discuss and share are views on a subject that is simple while also being a large topic of debate. This matters because usually teachers will put facts on a powerpoint which doesn't allow for individuals to state their own view on something causing them to accept the views of their teachers as the correct way to view something as simple as texting while driving.


#6 Propaganda is entertaining

I have learned from this course that Propaganda is entertaining and this course has shown there are many ways that learning about it is entertaining. One example of this was from the reading Trust Me I'm Lying where Ryan Holiday touches upon how just like many people in the media today used to deceive and push the audience away from the fact. This is shown in this text by the following quote "A click is a click and a pageview is a pageview. A blogger doesn’t care how they get it. Their bosses don’t care. They just want it.* The headline is there to get you to view the article, end of story. Whether you get anything out of it after is irrelevant—the click already happened. A comments section is meant to be used. So are those share buttons at the bottom of every post." (Holiday-87) This is similar to a trailer of a movie as the whole movie may be terrible but if the trailer has a good minute of intense action then the audience will be enticed to go see the film. I learned this from the activity "Identify an Example of Entertainment Propaganda" where we searched for a piece of entertainment that was used to push a view onto its audience. Something that I took away from the activity was that even though I may love a movie its purpose may be to influence the way that I think about a certain subject. Which will then cause for my ideas to be biased similarly to if you allow for someone to tell you the answer to a question on the test you won't learn anything you will just learn what someone else thinks. This matters because propaganda and school can be entertaining and learning the examples of how a message can hide in a film is similar to seeing how a teacher incorporates entertaining ways to get students to learn about a subject. This will carry with me into thew future as I myself will incorporate entertainment to disguise how I want my message to be perceived as well as to get tasks completed.

This film is an example of entertainment propaganda as it is used to show that the Americans are heroes and we could be under attack at any minute


#7 Use Technology to your advantage

This course on propaganda has incorporated technology into my education in a way that I have not used before. Most classes even the online ones assign work that is due at the end of the week and discourages communication with peers out of class while this course has done the opposite. My previous online classes never once had professor and student real time interaction as well Some of the main reasons that I have been able to grow as a student is due to the difference in meeting online instead of in a classroom where I know that I will be surrounded by people I do not know very well. Technology allowed for this course to change that and similarly to its effect on the spreading of propaganda I learned technology helped enhance my learning too. I have learned that being able to use technology to your advantage is important because if you are unable to adapt to the growth in technology as a student or a business than just like print media you will be put in a disadvantage to the companies or peers that do. This will stick with me and was reinforced by an idea from Edward Bernays Propaganda which was "Whatever of social importance is done today, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture, charity, education, or other fields, must be done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government." (Bernays-47) This quote shows the importance of being able to use technology as if you can't then you will be behind those who do while enforcing that society will always evolve and you need to keep up.


#8 You have to weed through the forest of lies

Everybody lies plain and simple the fact of the matter is that unless you are able to spot the truth in between all the lies than you yourself will get caught up in the lies. I have learned in this course that if you can't spot or notice a irregularity then you are going to end up being pushed in ways that are farther from the facts. I learned that these past twelve weeks I was able to better spot especially on social media platforms exaggerated statements or news that was over exaggerated hoping to get clicks from its audience. Similarly I noticed that as the semester went on I was using less social media due to the amount of what I learned from the activity on propaganda blurring because I knew that the news outlets are dying to get clicks so they themselves start to slowly become biased. This is important because now with so many opinions being spread so quickly that it becomes difficult to tell what headline is going to be true and what headline is there to get a click. The following quote from Trust Me I'm Lying highlights the importance of getting your attention"For media that lives and dies by clicks (the One-Off Problem) it all comes down to the headline. It’s what catches the attention of the public—yelled by a newsboy or seen on a search engine."(Holiday-104) This is an important idea as although the title may be compelling the content can be unsatisfying. Similarly I have learned the importance of not just relying on a headline based off of Leap 2 as I read a poster was from the Vietnam war from a unscholarly sight and I believed the headline which resulted in a poor grade as well as embarrassment of not fact checking.


#9 Social Media is the Breeding ground for todays propaganda

Throughout this course social media has come up every single week and almost every single activity incorporates the use of social media. The importance of social media in learning as well as with propaganda I have learned in this course are extremely similar. The importance of social media to propaganda is simple it gives an individual a platform to spread an opinion or idea to millions in a second that before the internet would have taken days. Social Media pushes the ideas of those onto the rest of the population. The ideas that obvious lies make great propaganda is enhanced by social media as it allows for people to become somebody that they are not while this idea is similar to learning online as if you are not good with time management and rely on an in class meeting to learn than you may struggle with this course especially if you are easily distracted while you are online as this class required the use of platforms such as twitter to share ideas and get if you're not careful you could lose track of what you're doing. This happened to me this semester as I was tweeting about conspiracy theory activity and ended up on tweets about sports for 30 minutes. It is important to realize that why the freedom of being able to use social media with this course you also have to focus on facts and not be influenced by the propaganda you are learning about.


#10 No one has all the answers

This idea that no one has all the answers is shown by the activity Ten-Step method for analyzing propaganda especially the following quote "Analysis of propaganda is a complex undertaking that requires historical research, examination of propaganda messages and media, sensitivity to audience responses, and critical scrutiny of the entire propaganda process. One may be tempted to examine the short-term aspects of propaganda campaigns, but a true understanding of propaganda requires analysis of the long- term effects. Propaganda includes the reinforcement of cultural myths and stereotypes that are so deeply embedded in a culture that recognizing a message as propaganda is often difficult."(Jowett -269) This quote shows that like any other topics the so called "experts" still do not know everything there is on this topic similarly students as well as teachers do not know all there is to know and that you have to be open to new ideas otherwise you will not learn. While also knowing that in an online course you are not going to get all the tasks done on time similarly to an in class course where you won't get all your courses work done it is important to note that a way that I balanced not being able to answer a question was basing my answer off of the rest of the classes ideas to then formulate and create something that was my own but not knowing the answer helped me create a understanding from my peers.This is meaningful to me because I used to beat myself up for not getting an answer right but I have learned with the help of this course that it is ok to not have all the answers.


Works Cited

Jowett, Garth and O’Donnell, Victoria (2012). Chapter 6. How to Analyze Propaganda.

Propaganda and Persuasion. 5th Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Jack, Caroline (2017). Lexicon of Lies: Terms for Problematic Information. New York: Data and Society.

Lorenz, T. (2018, December 18).Rising Instagram stars are posting fake sponsored content. The Atlantic.

Holiday, Ryan. Trust Me, I'm Lying . Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Bernays, Edward. Propaganda . Ig Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Hobbs, R. (2013). The blurring of art, journalism and advocacy: Confronting 21st century propaganda in a world of online journalism. I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society 8(3),625 – 638.

(2018, August 15). Retrieved May 03, 2019, from

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