Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia

Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia

Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia

Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia


Introductory text primarily for students undertaking social research, explaining statistical concepts in plain English, and covering basic methods of statistical analysis. Provides many worked examples, graphs and diagrams. Includes a glossary, references and an index. The author teaches at the Warrnambool campus of Deakin University, and has much experience in teaching statistics to students with non-scientific backgrounds. His other publications include the best-selling 'Handbook of Student Skills'.


The development of a theory of persuasion began as long ago as 500 BC in the Greek city-states. At that time philosophers compiled a set of rules for the use of rhetoric and persuasion. So compelling were these systems that only small changes in theory took place until the Industrial Revolution opened the way for mass persuasion through mass marketing. After 1900 marketing studies began to be made of consumers' wants and habits and their susceptibility to alternative kinds of salesmanship. It was, however, the advent of World War I which provided mass propaganda with its central place in twentieth-century political thinking. For the first time propaganda was used as a systematic weapon of war.

Two men on either side of the Atlantic were deeply affected by this development. They were the democrat Harold D. Lasswell, the first modern analyst of propaganda, and Adolf Hitler, arguably its most perverse practitioner. Lasswell wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject and called. it 'Propaganda Techniques in the World War'. Several years earlier Hitler had written Mein Kampf, in which he described how effective the Allied propaganda was in contrast to German attempts at persuasion, the incompetence of which he believed had contributed to the demoralization of German soldiers and civilians and hence to Germany's defeat.

Lasswell's overall conclusions on the importance of propaganda and on who won the propaganda war in World War I were not markedly different from Hitler's. Later the fascist Hitler was to turn his attention to managing public opinion in totalitarian Germany, while the democrat Lasswell studied the need for managing public opinion in democratic America. While totalitarian propaganda is universally condemned in the West as the loss of personal and democratic freedom, the management of public opinion in a democracy is generally considered to be good business. Why the discrepancy?

Lasswell always seemed too mesmerized by the power of propaganda to propose a pluralistic defence against the management of . . .

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