Satire and Propaganda

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Many see propaganda as undermining reason. Propaganda works with the emotions to get a mass to do a certain action. Since propaganda tries to remain hidden, are there any in the world who see it and try to uncover such propaganda? Satirical television and radio shows as well as newspapers challenge the conceptions of which we take for granted and of which are propaganda. How does satire function in relation to propaganda?

First, one must define propaganda and since many have done so already, I shall use the Sheryl Ross model. Her model defines propaganda as “an epistemically defective message designed with the intention to persuade a socially significant group of people on behalf of a political institution, organization, or cause.” She also claims that a message is epistemically defective “if it is false, inappropriate, or connected to other beliefs in ways that are inapt, misleading, or unwarranted.” This definition is needed as to explain how satire functions in relation to propaganda. Four examples of which I will be using are The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, and The Onion.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a television show, which satirizes the twenty-four hour news broadcasts, such as CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and FOX as well as political figures. One can treat the pundits featured on the twenty-four news broadcasts as propaganda because of the way the pundits are epistemically defective, such as claiming Obama is a Muslim or even a tyrant. This is not to say that all pundits are making such claims; however, because the pundits are putting out their opinion, which may or may not be correct, to an audience watching these broadcasts on behalf of their own cause, whether it be dem...

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...veryone to vote in the “upcoming” election. The Onion does make references to what is actually happening in the news, but it does so in such a way as to make the connection vague; therefore, one can consider The Onion as propaganda.

Satire in relation to propaganda plays a very interesting role. One position it plays is by deconstructing propaganda. It does so in such a way as to make the propaganda obvious in its dubious intents as not seen directly when viewing the propaganda. However, since satire is epistemically defective, it may also be considered propaganda itself. There is a fine line in this though. Since satire hides the truth of its argument in entertainment, the entertainment is considered propaganda; however, if one were decipher the arguments and references cited or not, one can find that satire is not propaganda, but only means to deconstruct it.

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