- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: SAGE Publications, Inc; Fifth edition (April 12, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1412977827
- ISBN-13: 978-1412977821
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Propaganda & Persuasion Fifth Edition
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About the Author
Garth S. Jowett is a professor of communications at the University of Houston. He obtained his PhD in history and communication from the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as the director for social research for the Canadian government′s department of communication and has been a consultant to various international communication agencies. He has been widely published in the area of popular culture and the history of communication. His book, Film: The Democratic Art (1976), was a benchmark in film history. His other publications include, Movies as Mass Communication, Children and the Movies: Media Influence and the Payne Fund Studies, and Readings in Propaganda and Persuasion, co-edited with Victoria O′Donnell. He is on the boards of several communication and film journals.
Top customer reviews
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After attempting to define propaganda, the authors devote the first half of the book to a historical survey of the subject, from ancient times to the present. The second half of the book is devoted to an analysis of the techniques of propaganda. My only negative critique of this book is that the authors are not fluid writers. But this did not put me off from reading the book in its entirety. I'm often impatient with awkward wording, or choppiness of phrase in a book, but the authors' thoroughness of documentation, and their commitment to survey and summarize the academic literature thoroughly, makes the text worthy of close (if sometimes painful) reading.
My first complaint is that the book spends a lot of time tripping over the definition of propaganda. There is obviously quite a bit of rigorous academic debate on exactly what propaganda is but the book has trouble deciding how, when and in what format it wants to present the debate. Rather than coming up with a coherent, consistently used definition of propaganda (or even multiple definitions that are used in parallel) it haphazardly loops back on itself covering the same information two and three times.
I think this accounts for roughly 75-100 extra pages that would have been more useful as examples of propaganda throughout the ages, more rigorous analysis using the constructs presented, or even just pictures. The book has a few very cool pictures of propagandistic architecture, art, and old posters from wars. I would have been much happier with more pictures of actual propaganda that were deconstructed using the theories presented.
Coverage of the propaganda leading up to and through the first gulf war was better than nothing but certainly not what I would expect from academic material. The authors managed to strip down a fairly interesting subject into kind of blah coverage. It should also be noted that this book covers a reasonably basic view of history, something that might be suitable for first or second year undergraduates. That's not a complaint per se, just something you should know.
The book also takes on a lot of info regarding abstract theories of communication. In this respect I think this book would work quite well as a reference for a communications class but even there it is a little weak on explanations in some places.
Although my review may seem overly negative there is a lot of good content in this book that will REALLY make you think. Very quickly I could see that most people use the term propaganda incorrectly. The perfect example of this is the other reviewer who thought the book itself was propaganda because of a "liberal" slant.
Even if you accept the (dubious) argument that the book has a liberal bias that does not meet even the lightest qualifications for propaganda. Does the book contain intentional lies that are psychologically designed to subvert the readers own best interest? Do Jowett and O'Donnell hide or misrepresent their own identities in order to perpetuate this deception? Do they use creative artisanship to promote poorly reasoned support for government programs? NO, NO, NO and if anonymous reader has gotten past the third chapter they would know this book is not propaganda!
Since reading the book it appears that when most people say "x is propaganda" what they really mean is "x is an opinion/fact that I don't really like and want to suppress by labeling it propaganda." In this sense the word propaganda is frequently a "white" form of propaganda itself. Whoa....meta! Admittedly the book does dig on Rush Limbaugh in passing but justly so, he's said some insanely stupid stuff. If you're a fan of his parts of the book will make your ego a bit sore.
The book also impacted to a very large degree the way I conceive of political maneuvering by all governments. It appears that most leaders are not in fact agents of a populace but instead working out what they can get the populace to put up with. That is of course something that I took away not anything the book proclaims. Prop and Persuasion wins stars because it is awash in compelling anecdotes that I ended up sharing with friends and family. Despite what I said above there is some crucial explorations of propaganda taxonomy. Perhaps the book is even worth a read for these alone.
However, this book failed to pass the ultimate textbook test, at the end of the semester almost all of the students I took the class with trashed or resold the book. Even more telling is that most people decided not to read it at all. My complaint was that the book was poorly ordered everyone else in my class thought it was dry and uninspiring. I can see where they are coming from and accept that maybe my personal interest in the subject influences my opinion. I even showed the book to 2 other friends and they both found the writing unengaging. I certainly don't think that was the case but I since this is a review I want to encompass as many opinions as possible. Personally, I was actually looking forward to the class and read 80% of the book before the semester even started.
My final say is that this is a decent book for a classroom setting. I would have enjoyed reading it for it's own sake but among my peers (whom I consider to be highly educated, intelligent and witty) it was a dud. If you liked this or are generally interested in the subject matter I would also recommend Toxic Sludge is Good For You by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton. It manages to tell many of the same stories in a more interesting way while using less space. Another winner is Noam Chomsky's short and sweet Media Control:Spectacular Achievements in Propaganda. You won't agree with ALL of his views but it's concentrated, hard hitting and rigorous.
Cheers and Happy Reading!