How Propaganda Works
Jason Stanley's father, Manfred Stanley and his mother Sara Stanley escaped the holocaust and his father taught at Syracuse University, focusing on how societies collapse into evil and or grow to support human dignity. Jason Stanley teaches philosophy at Yale and works in the philosophy of language and epistemology. How Propaganda Works presents a sophisticated, well articulated argument for social, racial and economic equity. Stanley builds on the work of his father and applies his philosophical training to study propaganda which he defines as "the employment of a political ideal against itself." His definition of propaganda is essential for studying our world with clarity. He tells us that flawed ideological beliefs, which support propaganda - emerge from disparities in the distribution of wealth and power. Stanley suggests that our system is an oligarchy where only those with sufficient access to wealth have access to the political process. He expresses concern over seemingly robust liberal democratic states that use democratic ideals to conceal an undemocratic reality. Privileged groups control the under privileged through propaganda supported by flawed ideological beliefs. When society divides into rich and poor, then flawed ideological beliefs emerge to justify the position of the rich. Throughout history privileged groups have held the ideology that they have achieved their success through merit. Stanley exposes this belief as flase. Ideologies are flawed and false when they block the acquisition of knowledge. The wealthy divide the world into thinkers and doers to justify the hierarchical distribution of wealth. Flawed ideological beliefs erode rational debate. Propaganda's appeal to emotions blocks rational debate by cutting emotions off from their ideas. Stanley digs deep into linguistics, semantics and pragmatics to show us how to identify demagogic claims and flawed ideological beliefs. He reaches back to Plato's republic to warn us of the demagogue who instills the people with fear so he can emerge as 'the people's protector.' Stanley argues that in a liberal democracy propaganda erodes the respect for targeted groups. One danger of propaganda in a democracy is that it becomes unnoticed. In Stanley's analysis of ideologies that support racism, he discusses the constant search for words that do not appear to be racial slurs but have the same effect. He uses the tools of semantics and pragmatics to understand the linguistic methods of subordination. Stanley sorts through different types of meaning to identify biased conduct. Stanley shows us that in a democracy the demagogic argument ultimately undermines the reason for the argument. In asymmetrical power relations, proposals may become commands. He also argues that propaganda can impact perception and give us a biased view of the world through background beliefs. The result, people can be demagogues without being aware of it.He explains how flawed social structures create flawed ideological beliefs. Stanley establishes reducing material inequalities within society as a precondition for democracy. This is an important book that will change the way you think and give you the tools and skills needed to distill and make sense of the current reality. I highly recommend it.