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Public Speaking: Propaganda


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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 8:09
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 87 MB
  • Posted: 07/01/2009

This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Public Speaking. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers getting started, preparing a speech, presenting the speech, audience considerations, types of speeches, small group communication, and more. The course features three renowned professors: Jess K. Alberts of Arizona State University, Brenda J. Allen of the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dan West of Ohio State University.

Jess K. Alberts is a professor of communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, where she was Director from 1995 until 2004. She currently serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project and is an associate with Project for Wellness and Work-life. Her research appears regularly in academic journals, and she recently co-authored “Human Communication in Society”. Undergraduates at Arizona State honored her classroom teaching skills with a "Last Lecture Award," and she has twice been a finalist for Professor of the Year at ASU. A nationally known speaker on interpersonal communication, Professor Alberts has given numerous presentations across the country on humor, conflict, and developing and maintaining a passionate life.

Brenda J. Allen is departmental chair and a professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, where she teaches organizational communication. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on organizational communication and diversity and she serves on the editorial boards of several communication journals. In 2004, she authored the book “Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity”. While at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, she has been recognized with the First Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement for Commitment to Diversity and she received the Francine Meritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication from the Women’s Caucus of the National Communication Association. Professor Allen is frequently invited to speak at community and professional events.

Dan West is the John A. Cassese Director of Forensics at Ohio University. Previously, he was a distinguished lecturer at Rice University, where he also acted as Director of Forensics. Under his direction, the team consistently placed in the top ten at national debate tournaments. While at Rice, Prof. West won the Outstanding Faculty Associate for Brown College (1999) and the award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (four times). He is well known for using his engaging speaking style in a variety of settings; his annual presentation of the Rice University Alcohol Policy to the freshman class was always a hit.

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Recent Reviews

Public Speaking: Propaganda
~ Arlene1

Clear and understandable; very interesting and not boring listening to the speaker.

Public Speaking: Propaganda
~ Arlene1

Clear and understandable; very interesting and not boring listening to the speaker.

And the people of the United States, an angry people, whose resources and privileges are the envy of the world, offering these without stint. Fighting in the factories and the foxholes, fighting in the jungles, the deserts, the frozen wastes, fighting on all the oceans, fighting for survival, fighting the war which would be hard and might be long, but which they would win.
In World War I and World War II, both sides engaged in campaigns to increase hatred for the enemy and motivate national loyalty. For example, they dropped leaflets containing venomous messages about their enemy from airplanes over enemy country. This is an extreme example of propaganda, a systematic or widespread promotion of a particular set of ideas or practices. Propaganda also can be defined as furthering your own cause and opposing someone else's. We still live in an age of propaganda, and it's most prevalent in politics, journalism, and advertisement. Propaganda is used to do everything from win elections to sell soft drinks.
Although propaganda has negative connotations, propaganda also can be used for positive purposes, such as campaigns against drunk driving. Despite examples like this, in the United States propaganda is mainly seen as negative; therefore, it is very important for you to consider this as you develop your persuasive speech. Notice I emphasized "develop." I want you to be on the lookout for propaganda--negative uses of propaganda, that is--while you're doing your research, and I want you, while you're developing your own words to share with your audience, to avoid using negative propaganda.
There are a lot of different propaganda strategies; for example, the use of symbols or using a well-known person to endorse a product, another person, or an idea. There's also interesting ways that people use words, and that's what I'm going to focus on. What happens is that people carefully select words to either arouse or diminish emotions and enhance people's acceptance of their message. In the early 1990's the then Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, had his political action committee mail a booklet entitled "Language" A Key Mechanism of Control" to Republicans across the country. This pamphlet offered rhetorical advice to Republican candidates who wanted to "speak like Newt." It had two lists of words that the Republican candidates could use for themselves that they called "positive governing words" and then another set that they could use against their opponents.
Here's a sample of some words from each list. For the Republicans: vision, tough, liberty, pioneer, courage. Now listen to words suggested when talking about the Democrats: ideological, self-serving, permissive, radical, coercion. Notice how these word pairs seem to describe similar concepts, and yet one has a more negative connotation than the other. For example, "pioneer" and "radical."
The term for these two types of words are glittering generalities and name-calling. A glittering generality is an ambiguous use of a virtuous term to gain approval and acceptance. These "virtue" words try to invoke strong values. For example: civilization, democracy, patriotism, motherhood, fatherhood, science, medicine, health, love. The name-calling technique, on the other hand, links a person or an idea to negative symbolism. The person who uses this technique hopes that the audience will reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative symbolism, instead of looking at the available evidence. The most obvious type of name-calling involves bad names. For instance, "pig" for policeman or "femi-nazi" for feminist. What happens, then, is that propaganda encourages stereotyping, either with positive or negative connotations, to establish loyalty to its message and hostility to other ideas. Propaganda tends to appeal by fear, a threat to those virtues or deeply held beliefs, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Another use of words and propaganda is euphemism. Have you ever heard of a euphemism? Euphemism is a use of a more positive term to represent something negative; for instance, "liquidation" instead of "murder." For war trauma, a relatively new term is post-traumatic stress syndrome. If you didn't know that words, you probably wouldn't even connect it to war. Civilian casualties are called "collateral damage." What happens then is that persons who use euphemisms try to make an unpleasant reality more palatable by using these kinds of words. One last example: Under the Reagan administration the MX missile was renamed "The Peacekeeper."
As you process the research that you're doing for your persuasive speech, as well as your informative speech, you need to be alert to these various propagandist devices. This is a good place for you to use critical thinking skills of identifying assumptions, of noticing the difference between a fact, which is data that can be verified, and an opinion, which is a personal observation or a personal interpretation. You also can remember to use denotation, which is a dictionary meaning, versus connotation, which is positive or negative emotional overtones or associations with words or terms.
Speaking of connotation, propaganda tends to have a negative connotation, but don't forget, it also has positive ones. Actually, this is a very complex issue. I mean, we could have an entire course just on propaganda. The most important thing I hope you take from this discussion is awareness: awareness that propaganda exists, awareness of the various tools that I've shared with you. Be a critical listener and a responsible speaker.
Wood for war. Wood for peace. Wood for us now. Wood for him 20 years from now. Our armed forces need steel, tin, and aluminum, but milady can still carry on, for forest products now supply household and toilet requirements.
Types of Speeches ! The Ethics of Persuasion [page 3 of 3]
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 83044/8/02
Types of Speeches ! The Ethics of Persuasion [page 1 of 3]
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 83044/8/02

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