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The Dark Side of Media and Technology

A 21st Century Guide to Media and Technological Literacy

Edited By Edward Downs

The Dark Side of Media and Technology: A 21st Century Guide to Media and Technological Literacy is Herculean in its effort to survey for landmines in a rapidly changing media landscape. The book identifies four dark outcomes related to media and technology use in the 21st century, and balances the dark side with four points of light that are the keys to taking ownership of a media- and technology-saturated world. The text contains an impressive list of multi-disciplinary experts and cutting-edge researchers who approach 25 separate dark side issues with concise, highly readable chapters, replete with unique recommendations for navigating our mediated present and future.

The Dark Side of Media and Technology is grounded in theory and current research, but possesses an appeal similar to a page-turning dystopian novel; as a result, this volume should be of interest to scholars, students, and curious lay-readers alike. It should be the "go-to" text for anyone who is interested in learning what the research says about how we use media and technology, as well as how media and technology use us.

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Chapter Two: Propaganda’s Dark Shadow in History, Rhetoric, and Media (Michael William Pfau / David Charles Gore)


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Propaganda’s Dark Shadow in History, Rhetoric, and Media


Propaganda stands for a domain within the theory and practice of persuasive communication that is potentially very powerful, yet also dangerous and morally dubious. Propaganda is most commonly associated with a kind of persuasion that is almost always ethically questionable—fundamentally biased, ill intentioned, deceptive, manipulative, verging perhaps on coercive. This chapter seeks to understand propaganda in theory, history, and practice; as a technology of persuasion uniquely enabled by media technologies. During the 20th century some actors sought to harness the power of propaganda for their own purposes even as others were deeply concerned about the power of propaganda to subvert political democracy.

Propaganda marks a domain of powerful and dangerous persuasion that for most of European history was described by the term rhetoric. The term rhetorike was coined to describe an earlier technology of persuasion based primarily in the medium of language and the medium of orality. For most of European history, and indeed within our own time, rhetoric has also been a term of questionable distinction marking out a domain of persuasion characterized by equal parts power and danger. Parallels between the terms propaganda and rhetoric inform this chapter’s analysis of how contemporary scholars within Communication Studies departments have developed a variety of rhetorical approaches to the theory and reality of propaganda. In what follows we define “propaganda,...

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