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Jason Stanley

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Before coming to Yale in 2013, he was Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University.[…]
  • Propaganda is ubiquitous, and everyone uses propaganda. It’s a kind of communication that makes a case for a goal, bypassing reason. Propaganda is a method to urge you to mobilize towards something while concealing from you things that you reasonably should think, should consider.
  • The word propaganda by itself is neither good nor bad because we talk of abolitionist propaganda. We talk about the propaganda that people use in social movements. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the need for propaganda because you need to get people to reconsider their racist assumptions. The goal of propaganda is to connect neutral words to other things. 
  • Propaganda will always be here. Our words always have these associations, any word I have. The goal is to have lots of different ways of living and lots of different ways of thinking and to recognize that we’re not a threat to each other. 

JASON STANLEY: Propaganda is ubiquitous, and everyone uses propaganda. It's a kind of communication that makes a case for a goal, bypassing reason. So what it does is it's a method to urge you to mobilize towards something while concealing from you things that you reasonably should think, should consider.

We have these irrational biases, and what propaganda does is it takes notions like freedom, integrity, and it weds them to these irrational biases. Operation Iraqi Freedom is what the Iraq War was called. Why was killing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis called Operation Iraqi Freedom? Because the idea was somehow, freedom is what Americans do. If we're doing it, it must be freedom.

The word propaganda by itself is neither good, nor bad, because we talk of abolitionist propaganda. We talk about the propaganda that people use in social movements. Social movements need propaganda. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the need for propaganda, because you need to get people to reconsider their racist assumptions.

If you're doing a social movement that's trying to change people's attitudes towards, for example, gay marriage, you're gonna have to use art. You're gonna have to appeal to people's emotions to sort of undermine the biases they have. And what other way do we have to undermine the biases they have by challenging those biases in often non-rational ways? You know, the goal in propaganda is to connect neutral words to other stuff. Propaganda will always be here. Our words always have these associations, any word I have.

When I talk about my cat, you get a warm, fuzzy feeling. The propaganda campaign involves connecting our words to these things. It's inevitable that people have these associations between words and images. Democracy involves having many such associations, having lots of different words, and lots of different discussions that are happening, so we can kind of pick and choose among them.

When there's like two views standing off each other, when one group thinks that the conservatives are all fascists, and the other group thinks the liberals are all communists, well, then democracy starts to disappear. So the goal should not be to talk in neutral ways. The goal is to have lots of different ways of living and lots of different ways of thinking and to recognize that we're not a threat to each other.

That some of us can be Orthodox Jews and others of us can be deeply evangelical Christians, and others of us can be gay and Muslim or gay and Atheist, that we can have lots of different ways of living, and they don't threaten each other. But our goal shouldn't be to sort of disassociate our words with life because all of our words are embedded in life.

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