If we live in an Age of Messages as much as in an Information Age, the challenge for us is to learn to separate the messages that are being used to influence us from the information that doesn't carry any hidden intentions or agendas.
Some of the messages are designed to manipulate us without our knowing it. That's a good working definition to start with for propaganda: it seeks to manipulate. While some of the most disturbing kinds of propaganda originated during 20th century wars, we can find examples of propaganda all around us today, spin-offs of what was learned during national crises.
This is another area where it is important to be skeptical and alert - to learn to question and to arrive ultimately at our own informed conclusions. With these thoughts in mind, we will set as the main goal of this lesson understanding the nature of propaganda and strengthening our ability to recognize it and to interpret it in different forms.
We will look at the history of propaganda beginning with World War I. We will follow the thread of how the Nazis developed and used it. They were exceptionally good at propaganda, and they can provide us with frightening example of its darkest side. Along the way, we will try to link this historical information to current issues and to the role that propaganda plays in our lives today.
As we try to answer what propaganda is and why it works, we will have to look at ourselves, at our own perceptions and assumptions, in new and possibly startling ways. That's the touchstone of important learning though, isn't it?
. . . so, if you are ready . . .