Course description

Propaganda has been a factor in politics since antiquity, but in an age when social media has made disseminating ideas easier than ever and the terms fake news and alternative facts have entered the popular lexicon, it appears particularly pernicious. Studying what political propaganda is, as well as by whom (and how) it is disseminated and what its goals are, is therefore particularly relevant today. This course begins by looking at the history of the term and its theoretical underpinnings, distinguishing it from related but nevertheless distinct forms of persuasive speech (for example, advertising, op-eds, and polemics) and obvious misinformation. Next, we examine various examples of propaganda and their manifestations, both historical as well as more contemporaneous (for example, World War I and World War II, Russian and Chinese troll farms, and the 2021 US Capitol riot). The course concludes by considering the normative implications of political propaganda for the societies we live in. For complete and current details about this Harvard Extension course, see the description in the DCE Course Search.


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