Saturday, April 10, 2010

Giving Idea Manipulation A Name

One of the most influential teachers I had was my 8th grade journalism teacher, Judy Murray. Our class of 1970s 8th graders were not a politically charged bunch, nor did we think about being manipulated, but she set out to change that. In doing so, she solidified my lifelong interest in advertising and media manipulation (thanks, Ms. Murray!).

Naming the techniques of argument and advertising is powerful. By doing so, Ms. Murray gave me the tools to separate the actual argument from the distracting technique and a way to label specious arguments (and those who rely on them too much). Propaganda was not fully taught in college speech, college logic, or law school--but it should have been.

The reason I bring this up is that I don't see these techniques taught or discussed, not in school, not in the media. What I do see is people struggling to explain why an argument doesn't sound right. And I don't see any attempt to discuss patterns of arguments beyond appeals to fear. I've been guilty of not using the correct terminology as well, and I pledge to do better.

Recently @Shoq talked about fact-checking as the core of reliable journalism. We have to loudly call out lies as lies. The next step in draining the swamp is to call out misleading argument techniques for what they are.

The PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUE LIST plus historical examples from around the world--hours of teaching material! Be sure to scroll down to the tiny links at the very bottom of the page. There is even more here than I learned in 8th grade, and it's all important.

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