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The New Propaganda: The Dictatorship of Palaver in Contemporary Politics.

Next to interpersonal communication, Combs and Nimmo argue that the "new propaganda," is the major form of communication in the modern world because it pervades our environment. "When we go to the mall before Christmas and buy a Barbie doll, or wear a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt, or put a political bumper sticker on our car, or any of innumerable daily actions, we have become part of the process of social propagandizing." (6) The authors go on to say, "It is our argument here that in the modern age, propaganda has become increasingly integral to our way of life, to the extent that as a form of communication it is now the model form of suasive learning, appropriate for and distinctive to the civilization in which we live." (15)

Besides its pervasiveness, the new propaganda can be intentional or unintentional, has consequences, and can arouse the "poetic imagination." Further, according to the authors, the new propaganda is essentially "influence talk" which takes the form of "If you do X, you will |get, have, feel, experience, gain, etc.~ Y." (21-22) Thus, there is no force or coercion involved. The receiver has the power to accept or refuse the message. Finally, as a form of "talk," the new propaganda is "palaver" or "talk that charms or beguiles." (23)

The text is divided into three parts. The first section is a historical treatment of propaganda with discussions of a few of the "foremost practitioners of propaganda" including Ivy Ledbetter Lee, Edward L. Bernays, Joseph Goebbels, David Ogilvy, and Michael Deaver. The second section examines various cultures of the new propaganda (e.g., electoral, bureaucratic, diplomatic, and war propaganda), consumer propaganda (mass advertising and public relations), and the marketing of personae, news, and education. The final section discusses various techniques of analysis and the future of propaganda. Throughout, the authors show that, "From presidential selection to movie reviews, propaganda serves a universal range of organized and vested interests seeking to sway opinion and action, whether it be the choice they make in the voting booth or at the movie box office." (179) By reconceptualizing "propaganda," the authors offer a provocative perspective and framework for interpreting modern existence.
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Author:Coleman, William E., Jr.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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