A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States

A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States

A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States

A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States


The first of three volumes that will serve as a comprehensive and inclusive finding tool, this work defines propaganda in an uncertain postmodern information age. Linked to the U.S. Constitution, mass media, and business, the role propaganda plays must be understood in terms of an information-based economy. An extensive chronology of propaganda-related events, plus an A-Z guide defining hundreds of important terms (some ill-defined in context, such as "backdoor contact" and "spin doctor"), combine to meet an immediate need for an easy-to-use resource that not only credibly defines the field but stimulates new research.


There is no question that the propaganda society we live in today derives from what went before, with the impulse to persuade others an indelible human trait. Scholars have traced the word propaganda to a Latin origin that had reference to the act of cultivating plant roots in ancient Roman gardens to make them multiply and spread rapidly. However, propaganda has evolved to mean cultivation of something with quite distinct properties--the human mind. Today, propagandists utilize print, electronic, and other media to carry their persuasive messages to individuals who taken together make up specialized and mass audiences. This wide ranging and systematic form of advocacy can be found in entertainment shows, news reports, public relations campaigns, educational programs, public information efforts, political communications, advertisements, and a myriad of other guises whose practitioners shy away from identification as propaganda conduits. This aversion to being known as a propagandist reflects the fact that the term has taken on a much more sinister popular connotation than advocacy alone. For many, "propaganda" implies the use of whatever means are at hand to influence others to believe in and act upon an idea--whether the source idea is true or not.

But dismissing something as mere propaganda is not so simple a task with two major complicating factors for those of us interested in better understanding the topic: (1) while propagandists often willingly lie, much of what they create is factually truthful and perceived as interesting or valuable by those who form the target audiences, and (2) advocacy communication has legitimate claims to legal protection from those who would actively censor controversial speech. This volatile mixture of social utility and potential harm is what makes the overall propaganda phenomenon so widespread and its impact so difficult to categorize.

In the pages that follow, you will learn more about propaganda, its history, and contemporary importance. The chefs of propaganda generally are most reticent when it comes to revealing the secrets of their recipes. But unless you are willing, like Eve and Adam, to take a bite out of the propaganda apple and also experience the consequences, there is no chance to fully know how propaganda shapes good and evil.

The story of propaganda is a remarkable one and displays a very human face.

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