Most of the recent work on propaganda in philosophy has come from a narrowly epistemological standpoint that sees it as flawed messaging that negatively impacts public reasonableness and deliberation. This article posits two problems with this approach: first, it obscures the full range of propaganda's activities; and second, it prevents effective ameliorative measures by offering an overly truncated assessment of the problems to be addressed. Following Ellul and Hyska, I argue that propaganda aims at shaping actions and not just beliefs, and that the propaganda activities that shape action include modifying beliefs but also much more. Examining this larger set of activities results in a shift in how we conceptualize the way that propaganda works. In particular, I add a novel argument that propaganda works by creating and reshaping publics, transforming who they are and their characteristic action. This article concludes that a more complete philosophical account of propaganda cannot just draw on epistemology but must also call on the tools of social ontology and political philosophy to create a more robust critical account.
Wimberly, C. (2023), Propaganda: More Than Flawed Messaging. J Appl Philos. https://doi.org/10.1111/japp.12651
Journal of Applied Philosophy