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The Rise of Weaponized Flak in the New Media Era

Beyond the Propaganda Model


Brian Michael Goss

The Rise of Weaponized Flak in the New Media Era presents the first book-length examination of flak as a form of political harassment, authored by a seasoned researcher on political discourse and mass media. Flak against news media was a component of the Edward Herman-Noam Chomsky seminal "Propaganda Model." However, in the thirty years since the model was introduced, flak has become an increasingly significant and prevalent sociopolitical force in its own right, in large part for the proliferation of new media platforms. Flak is not simply good faith or tough criticism. Rather, flak discourses and actions go on attack for the purpose of delegitimizing, disabling, and even criminalizing political foes, however tendentiously. The book presents cross-disciplinary appeal for students and scholars of mass media, new media, political science, and sociology—as well as for anyone concerned with today’s sociopolitical environment.

Given the book’s seminal examination of the topic, the introductory chapters in Part I extensively map out flak’s current forms and delineate similarities and distinctions from scandal and activism. Newly-minted terminology is introduced to flesh-out contemporary flak (for example, flak-in-discourse, boutique flak, phantom flak).

The balance of the book is organized around case studies of flak mills (Part II) and flak issues (Part III). In particular, Part II drills down into the flak discourses and techniques of dedicated flak mills that characterize themselves as, respectively, journalistic and think tank organizations. Part III of the book features case studies of flak around elections and universities in the United States.

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As concerns the genesis of this volume, I will acknowledge that one title that I floated for it was Political Ebola. Instead, The Rise of Weaponized Flak finally won out over the perhaps more colorful if morbid and commercially suspect title.

As for people who have helped summon the book into being, I will name names. I thank the members of the Professional Development Advisory Committee at Saint Louis University-Madrid and its chair, Dave Howden, for granting me a teaching release in Spring 2019. The release enabled locked-on focus and completion of the book in a timely fashion.

While the book was in progress, I had the chance to rehearse and refine evidence and arguments through a series of presentations at different moments in the two-and-a-half-year sojourn through flak. I thank my colleagues Simona Elena Rentea and Joan Pedro Carañana for scheduling me three times (2016–2018) to deliver presentations for the Humanities and Social Sciences Division Research Seminars as I prepared the book proposal and while writing was in progress. Mulțumiri to Emilia Parpala-Afana and her colleagues at University of Craiova, Romania for giving me hospitality and the opportunity to address the Comparativism, Identity and Communication Conference as a plenary speaker. In Spring 2019, Tony Ozuna enabled the chance to present ←ix | x→findings at Anglo-American University in Prague, Czech Republic—with further support from Rob Warren and Andrew Giarelli who brought their students en masse. Arne Saeys was hands-on in...

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