FYS-114 Propaganda, Persuasion and the Public Sphere: Democracy in an Age of Mass Media

Instructor: Assistant Professor Gary A. Mullen
Department: Philosophy

Course Description:
The success of the American experiment in popular government has rested heavily on its ability to maintain a free press and to cultivate an informed citizenry. In the words of James Madison, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” This course will take a careful look at the role of the press and mass media in the shaping of elections, public opinion and policy. We will consider current practices in journalism and advertising through the lens of various theories of communication and rhetoric stretching from Plato and Aristotle to Frank Luntz, George Lakoff and Robert McChesney. We will also be drawing from the expertise of other practitioners in the field, including Ellen Weintraub (FEC Commissioner) and Bob Biersack (Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics).