All posts by Benjamin Goldenthal

One of the most important sources in my research is a book by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. This book identifies many various uses of propaganda throughout history and successfully attempts to categorize something that until this book’s publication had no precedent for its organization. This is a great source for anyone looking into government control of the public’s opinions, propaganda in general, acts of rebellion, or topics about fake news. However, attempting to tell you about the entire book in around 500 words would be an impossible feat, so I will instead focus on the first chapter which is all about the characteristics of propaganda.

The first chapter of this book is split into three parts: external characteristics, internal characteristics, and categorization of propaganda. The first part, or the external focus of propaganda, tells all about how propaganda is mainly concerned with shaping an individual psychologically by essentially creating beliefs on a certain topic through imperceptible techniques such as subliminal messaging and continuous repetition. It goes on to talk about how the constant presence of messages about a certain opinion or concepts eventually gain presence in the minds of individuals which causes propaganda to be such an effective way of getting others to agree with your point of view on an idea even though they might not have agreed with you at first.

The second part of this chapter focuses on internal characteristics of propaganda. This section of the book is written more for the creators of propaganda as it demonstrates what they need to know in order to launch a successful propaganda campaign. It talks all about understanding the environment that surrounds the “propagandist” and how those who create propaganda shouldn’t attempt to create something out of nothing, but use the ideals and beliefs already existing in a certain part of society to their advantage by linking the public’s views and beliefs to their own.

The third part of this chapter is the most interesting part to me as it expands on the categories of propaganda and the individual goals of each type of it. Ellul talks about his eight categories for propaganda including political propaganda where the focus is on achieving political gains (kind of self-explanatory), sociological propaganda where the goal is to as Ellul puts it, “the presentation of an ideology by means of sociological context.” He also discusses agitation propaganda which is essentially propaganda of hatred (example would be Nazi propaganda of the Jews in WW2) and integration propaganda which is propaganda meant to unify or stabilize a country or group of people. Moreover, he discusses vertical propaganda and horizontal propaganda. Vertical propaganda is essentially the elevating of a leader above the masses (as shown by propaganda in North Korea or China) where horizontal propaganda is used to unify people as equals in a community where everyone is treated with fairness and equality. Lastly, he talks about irrational and rational propaganda. Ellul specifies how irrational propaganda is essentially the use of myths or symbols to appeal to emotions whereas rational propaganda uses facts and statistics to appeal to emotions.

This source has greatly helped be develop my own ideas behind propaganda and helped me further my research greatly by providing a great starting point. It has allowed me to see case studies in many novels that I have read in class and use a proven classification of propaganda techniques to better explain the reasoning behind each example of propaganda that I find in my research.

My conference paper focuses on propaganda in dystopian novels and the various ways it leads us as the audience to connect to the characters on a deeper level. I include my own definition of what propaganda can be emphasizing the point that it can be considered any form of information that is intended to create a bias or mislead the audience into believing that one side of an argument or point of view is the right one. To do this, I use the research already done by notable author and thinker Jacques Ellul. Ellul is the author of the book “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes” which has been cited in a great number of propaganda studies since the years of its publication. In his book, Ellul describes eight different types of propaganda: political, sociological, agitation, integration, vertical, horizontal, irrational, and rational. In my presentation I focus mainly on Ellul’s category of political propaganda and how it is depicted in dystopian novels, and how it causes the audience to think. In addition, for my research purposes, I have expanded on Ellul’s classification to add the category of pure emotional propaganda which I feel is necessary when talking about propaganda shown in dystopian novels, and perhaps more easily in movies based of off dystopian novels, specifically the movies based off of The Hunger Games books written by Suzanne Collins and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

In The Hunger Games, I chose to focus on the propaganda shown through the actions of Peeta and Katniss and their fake relationship. My definition of propaganda as any information used to mislead an audience comes into play here as most people wouldn’t consider the act as one of mainstream propaganda and instead would focus on the propos shot by the rebellion and the Capitol’s response in the later books/movies.

In Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, both by Orson Scott Card, I choose to focus more on the mainstream propaganda shown through the elevation of Battle School as a prestigious school only for those worthy of it and the unification of the Earth (examples shown below) through vertical, horizontal, and emotional propaganda and how it affects the minds of the characters in the novels and of the audience.

Throughout my presentation I will make many references to subliminal messaging and subconscious thought, as it is of great impact to my research. As proven my many notable sources, when the brain sees something it will store information about it for later when that information is needed which oftentimes leads to feelings of déjà vu. However, in my case it makes the greatest impact through emotional propaganda, as the audience will feel various emotions ranging from sympathy to hatred depending on the propaganda in novels and movies they are exposed to, and the fact that they see or read this propaganda will help it stick in the mind and ultimately create an emotional reaction to the characters experiences in the novels or movies themselves which can lead to a stronger emotional bond to the characters themselves.

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The most interesting things to me about reading dystopias are the storylines, their relation to the real world, and the evolution of the main character(s). Anytime I pick up a book to read, dystopian or not, the main purpose for doing so is to enjoy the book. To me, reading is a way to escape reality for a few hours and immerse myself in the universe the story takes place.

In reading Ender’s Shadow, I was able to understand more about the story behind the main supporting characters in Ender’s Game and how the characters evolved alongside Ender throughout the journey of winning the war against the Buggers. In a way, it reminded me of my own education growing up (although the stakes were a little less intense in my case). The kids earned a spot in a prestigious academy in space, and took classes that pushed their boundaries in order to further their knowledge and individual abilities similarly to my journey thus far.

This leads me to why I think I enjoy novels about people around my age. If I am able to actively perceive the events of a book happening to me today, it is easier for me to become interested in the book itself. While the characters in Ender’s Shadow are slightly younger than I am now, when I first read Ender’s Game in middle school I connected to the characters on a greater level as I was intrigued by the intellectual capacity of those kids in the books and wondered how I could reach their level of knowledge. In a way, Ender’s Game also led me to become interested in flight and aerospace engineering even though I wasn’t familiar with many concepts of space flight at the time of my first experience with Orson Scott Card’s novels.

Examples of Aerospace Engineering in the movie adaption of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game (2013)

One thing that I have found draws more and more of my attention is the evolution of characters in a book or series that I read. From Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series to Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother novel to Card’s Ender’s Game/Shadow series, I have discovered my own increased interest in how characters think and how they handle difficult situations. This has allowed me to ask question like what would I have done or were there any alternative solutions to the problems addressed in a book?

For example, in Ender’s Shadow, Bean (the main character of the book) is given the chance to take control of the entire fleet during the final battle, but he does not do so as he believes in Ender. While reading this I thought to myself what I would have done. Would I have taken control of the situation, left Ender in control, or come up with an alternative such as taking control of half of the fleet? After thinking about this and how the characters have grown and created bonds throughout the book it is relatively easy for me to understand why the author wrote the book the way he did, and by asking these what if questions to myself, it allows me to become more involved in the story itself, and makes the reading experience that much more enjoyable.



The main purpose for propaganda from what I have read and seen from the Hunger Games series, the Ender’s Game/Ender’s Shadow series, and real life issues is to benefit a group of people in order to control how everyone else sees them and their enemies or counterparts. The entire concept of propaganda, young adult fiction or real life, is to make one side of an argument almost glorified or at least make it seem like the sensible and rational choice for the general public while at the same time almost criminalizing the opposing point of view. This has been the case for real life topics such as historical propaganda from the Abolitionist movement to World War Two and even to issues about food and personal health today as shown below.

There are also many examples of propaganda in modern dystopian novels. In the Hunger Games, the Capitol uses propaganda to show that the entire concept of having a yearly Hunger Games is deserved and right in the first two novels, and in the last novel it switches in order to prevent people from joining the rebellion and keeping Capitol support unwavering. The main purpose for both of these propaganda series is in order to keep the Capitol strong and in a position of power and authority; however, they do differ drastically in the message they send. The use of propaganda in the first two books helps the Capitol show how much the districts depend on them and how the districts are deserving of the punishments they receive (the games themselves) while the propaganda in the last book is more centered on keeping the support for the Capitol strong and crushing all hope of a rebellion before it actually takes place and once it does to stop it by any means necessary (including hijacking Peeta’s brain which I personally think makes this a horror novel). Some examples of fan art are shown below with each one demonstrating a different stage in the books or targeting different audiences of the Capitol’s propaganda campaign.

Shifting over to the Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series by Orson Scott Card, The IF (International Fleet) which is in charge of all military action on the future Earth uses propaganda for a multitude of purposes vastly different from the Capitol’s in the Hunger Games. While they both seek unity, the reasons for unity are at a stark contrast. In Ender’s Game the IF seeks to unify Earth’s population against the Buggers (an otherworldly threat) and to raise public opinion that the Buggers are a horrible race worthy of being wiped from the universe. The propaganda also works in order to alter the minds of the young recruits it receives that are sent to Battle School in addition to the general public. By not showing the full battle of the second formic war and its sudden conclusion, Mazer Rackham becomes a public figure, a great general the kids look up to, and a hero needed to unify the world at the time. In addition, by withholding information about the Buggers making no attempts to travel back to Earth for a third time it allows them to trick the public into supporting a preemptive strike on the Buggers’ home world. Some examples of all of these scenarios are shown below, and range from movie promos to fan art.

In conclusion, propaganda plays a key role in dystopian novels. It allows the group in power to shape the minds of their followers in order to keep everyone in check and assure that things will remain in good conditions for those who stand the most to lose or those who control the most. While propaganda may come in many different forms the goal is always to convince an audience to glorify one side of an argument and make that audience actively agree with the opinion of those in power.


Utopia, the ultimate society, and the impossible dream.

Dystopia, the harsh reality, and the inevitable outcome.

The origins for these terms go all the way back to the 1500s when Sir Thomas More wrote a book entitled Utopia, and as time went on, the concepts of utopian societies and its opposite, dystopian societies,  were found more commonly in the written world. Specifically in the past few decades, a relatively new genre has surfaced: Young Adult Dystopian Novels. A typical book in this genre will involve an attempt at creating a utopian society only to have it fall apart with the underlying reason being humanity’s own failings. This genre is centered around the idea that utopian societies are not in fact utopian but instead dystopian.

A great example of this genre is shown in the book series The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. In these books, the people of the Capitol are shown to be living the perfect life, the utopian life, whereas everyone else in the nation of Panem, specifically those living in the 12 districts, see life as a dystopia. The concept of attempting to create a utopia is clearly present in the novel; however, the society’s own faults end up leading to its downfall. Because of the oppression of the districts, the unfair treatment the districts receive, and the harsh punishment for an outdated crime, the districts unite against the Capitol to overthrow the society which they see as a means to end the dystopia that they are living in under the Capitol’s rule.

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In reading many dystopian novels including The Hunger Games, I have come to the conclusion that most if not all dystopian novels have roots in both history and society today. Many dystopian novels address inequalities based on who you are and where you were born, or serve as a warning to those who have obtained power through unjust means and use it for unlawful purposes.

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The genre of YA Dystopian novels in particular seems to be a means of educating the youth of today on the proper ethics of society without directly stating what is right or what is wrong, but instead relating experiences from their own lives (from what they’ve seen or heard) to what they have read and to apply it to their lives as they grow older and become a functioning part of society.

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This concept might not be the main reason people enjoy reading dystopian literature, but it could have contributed to the recent explosion of YA Dystopian Literature as a genre, and hopefully to a society that is closer to a true utopia in the future.