Book Reviews -- Propaganda Edited by Robert Jackall

Article excerpt

Written as part of Robert Jackall's "Main Trends of the Modern World" series, Propaganda sets out "in the classical tradition of social theory" to analyze "the origins and ethos of propaganda, which is now a pervasive feature of all institutions in modern society." Unfortunately, it does not succeed.

One of the biggest weaknesses is that Jackall blurs the distinction between propaganda and persuasion rather than dividing them. In fairness, some of the classic works cited do the same, but to lump advertising and public relations into the "propaganda" classification, as the book does in two contemporary articles, does both professions a disservice.

This is not to say that the book is without merit or value to the journalism historian. There are some classic articles: Harold Lasswell on propaganda, Walter Lippmann on public opinion, C. Wright Mills on the mass society, Leonard Doob on Nazi propaganda, Robert Merton on mass persuasion, and George Orwell on the English language. One of the most interesting articles is on American propaganda films made for the military during World War II, citing the experience of directors John Ford, Frank Capra, and John Huston.

These strengths are diluted because some articles are archaic, such as one on World War I propaganda, with offhand references to incidents which may have been widely known at the time but are now lost to the reader. …

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