A seemingly ongoing debate back home in Spain is the ever-lasting discussion about Catalonia’s Independence and the Catalan language. I have always thought about what it means to be Catalan and what prejudices it seems to come with. We have our own views and the rest of Spain has their own. We are a “bother” but at the same time succeeding is never an option, after all we are the greatest source of tax money for the central government. The situation back home is obviously not a dystopian setting but there is certainly a lot of information masking and how the population of Catalonia is portrayed to the rest of Spain through the main TV channels and newspapers.
I have thought about this topic since we first started talking about propaganda and compared the situation to the different novels we have discussed. It amazes me just how many similarities the situations shared. While in the dystopian governments we have encountered along the semester focus on promoting their personal image and whatever favors their power stance, this is not only a part of the fictional world. Government image and marketing is obviously very important in nowadays political world, now so more than ever maybe, since a lot of debates and issues appear to arise every other day.
I came to believe that Catalonia’s population stand against the situation definitively reminded me about the role that the “rebels” have in the novels we have discussed. In the past decade we have got to manage a referendum and the pacific demonstrations that are held every September 11th have become famous worldwide. It is amazing the amount of people that get together to support “La Diada” that day, and fill the streets of Barcelona. Every year there is a different approach to make the biggest impact and send the most powerful message. However it always revolves around the idea “we want freedom, we want our rights, we are our own people”.
Another issue that makes me think about how propaganda and the government oppress their citizens in our dystopian novels can be compared to this situation, is how many people in Spain and a scarily substantial number of the politicians of opposing groups believe that the Catalan language should be banned. This idea is so frightening to me and it would completely shatter me and my values, since practically my whole persona revolves around my language. It would be something that certainly would be a direct attack against the freedom and culture of the people back home.
Overall, I think that this whole semester has helped me learn about dystopian literature and understand many concepts much more in depth, but what I have learned didn’t necessarily stay inside the classroom in my case. These ideas have been in my mind, especially when I thought about home and the whole situation that been unfolding these past few years. It can be scary to think our reality holds parallels with fictional dystopian plots, but in the end, we all hope for the best.
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.
I stumbled across an article written by Joshua Garrison for the American Educational History Journal that I think could be incredibly useful for many people’s papers. This article surrounds the topic of how education is portrayed and utilized in dystopias, and compares this with how people view eduction in the “real” world.
The article opens with a real Presidential speech about school, and discusses the negative backlash to the speech. This opens up the article into a further discussion about the role of education in politics, and different political views on, or fears of, public education. The article talks briefly about the definition of dystopia, and how it essentially represents the writer’s “worst fears”. Garrison mentions how both political parties employ “dystopian imagery” to push their own agendas, and bring down the other side. Next, Garrison names several dystopian novels, more or less in chronological order starting in the 1800s and moving to present day, and describes the role of education in each one. He compares and contrasts the novels, and explains how the educational set-up in each one was inspired by real life events, such as the rise of the Ford-style Model-T industrial line, where everyone works as a part of a larger system in a pre-determined group. Though each novel is different, Garrison ultimately argues that every author saw children’s schooling in their dystopia as a way to impose control. Garrison concludes with some examples from various novels, where the kid is the “corrupt” one, brainwashed by society, and the parent is the one who recognizes he or she is in a dystopia. I thought this was an interesting contrast to our class, where most protagonists are still school-aged.
The author argues that the role of education, both in real life and in dystopian novels, is a political tool. In dystopias, education is used to brainwash children into believing false statements, or into believing a specific way the world “works”. In real life, Garrison argues, the role and implementation of public education is a controversial topic because both sides of the political spectrum fear the other side will promote their ideas. Thus, modern day dystopias can be created, because the “worst fears” of a certain political group will come true with the success of another group. Ultimately, Garrison’s point is that the role of public education in “real life” is very complicated, as some argue it is the key to equality and democracy, while others argue it strips the rights and freedoms of citizens. This constant debate and fear of role of education being in the wrong hands is mirrored in several best-selling dystopias.
Garrison makes a clear and fair argument since he never takes a political stance on public education, or sides with a political party. The article gives evidence in form of direct quotes from people of varying political identity, but never deems one as right or wrong.
For my research, I decided to look at subliminal messages and whether they are possible or not in real life, and I found that subliminal messages do not work. Thus, I decided to look into what else could cause the human mind to start thinking a certain way. While researching I came across the following video by Veritasium on truth and different ways that humans perceive information.
Derik Muller who is the creator of the video argues that information that the human mind is familiar with is more likely to be perceived as true (even if the information is false). He explains this phenomenon through the scope of cognitive ease which he describes as how hard the brain must work to perform a task, and information that has cognitive ease is less likely to be perceived as a threat, so it is more likely to be thought of as true. Muller then talks about ways that people form cognitive ease, and he explains that the easiest way to build cognitive ease is simply repeated exposure to a stimuli. I know that this talk of cognitive ease may not seem relevant to the many people who are looking at dystopias literature; however, I feel that this video actually can help those who are researching the aspect of propaganda in dystopias because I find that one aspect of propaganda is that it is constantly exposed to the masses of a dystopia. Thus, I feel that if your research is on the aspect of propaganda in dystopias, then this video can be critical for research because it can explain that the reason the majority of citizens believe the propaganda is due to the repeated exposure to it. Thus, even though I am using this video to look at the psychology of truth, I find that others may find it helpful to adapt to areas of research in propaganda.
In Scholes and Ostenson’s article, the two identify the components which make up dystopian literature, and why the dystopian genre has become so typical in the young adult generation. In the article, Scholes and Ostenson make their work easy to follow along by recognizing which elements frequently appear in dystopian fiction and analyzing why these methods are significant to dystopian literature. The authors also include a chart of sixteen popular dystopian novels, and the characteristics which are key to the creation of the books. For example, in the row containing Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, the authors point out that the book contains elements of “Excessive Measures to Police Safety,” “Media Manipulation and Propaganda,” “Measures to Cover Up Flaws and Lies in Society,” and “Limited or Complete Lack of Individual Freedom.” The authors then proceed to describe which elements are used in order to catch young adult readers’ attentions.
This source was incredibly useful in looking for other features which seem to be essential to the development of the young adult dystopian novel. The authors convey solid points as to why dystopian novels have become so integrated into young adults’ reading habits and how a variety of components create enthusiasm and interest in the youthful crowd. I find it intriguing that the authors are able to explore what is going on the young reader’s mind as the children become introduced to the adult world and slowly leave their childhood behind. The authors point out the settings, themes and characters which also seem to be undergoing serious changes as the dystopian plot progresses which overall draws correlations to the young reader’s situation of growing older. Scholes and Ostenson argue that dystopian stories allow the young audience to become engaged with the author’s world of romance, fighting for freedom and manipulation which occurs in the dystopian novels. By presenting the young reader with a world wrought with unethical and immoral standards, the reader is able to address these types of problems, forming their own values.
Scholes, Justin and Ostenson, Jon. “Understanding the Appeal of Dystopian Young Adult Fiction.” The ALAN Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013, https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/scholes.html.
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.
I will be presenting my research for the conference presentation on Friday, titled “Corporations, the Media, and Propaganda: A Modern Day Dystopia?” I will be discussing the influence and power of corporations, the media, and propaganda in today’s world and how they reflect a modern day dystopia. I will use my independent reading novel Champion by Marie Lu (as well as the other books in her series) and The Hunger Games to provide examples and support to my claims.
This presentation is one that you won’t want to miss, because I will be discussing real problems that are going on in our world. These are the sorts of problems that you read about in dystopias, but that most people do not realize are actually happening in real life! For example, did you know that in the past, big fossil fuel companies paid the US Chamber of Commerce to block energy reforms?! Big corporations and the government have become so heavily intertwined that we often don’t realize it!
In my presentation, I will continue to discuss how big corporations have gained so much power in our world, and how they control many aspects of our society. These points will be exemplified by the fictional corporations in Champion and The Hunger Games and how they had a lot of power. I will show the reflection of power in the real world by presenting what I have found about big corporations today.
For my other point I will be discussing the media and propaganda, how they go hand-in-hand, and how they hold great influence over our society as well. Once again this will be exemplified by the media and propaganda in Champion and The Hunger Games. Then I will discuss how the media has taken over our own lives with propaganda that we don’t always recognize.
We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our world, and how we have tip-toed into becoming a dystopia. My presentation touches on this issue, and therefore it is one you will not want to miss!
For my conference presentation on Monday, March 13th, I will be giving an overview of my research paper The Fortitude of Selflessness in Undermining Propaganda in Dystopian Societies, and highlighting a few of the main and most compelling arguments within it. I will argue that in dystopian societies, there is a reoccurring theme that those who are in power (the upper-class, the government, etc.) will create a façade to hide their imperfect lives behind and control the masses through propaganda in the form of social entrenchment, oppression, and fear. I will further argue that this method of control is adept at pitting the citizenry against themselves, but is structured on the assumption that they will act in their own self interests. Cracks in the façade begin to form and propaganda begins to lose its grip when a selfless hero emerges and is thrown into the midst of the ruling class and is put in the spotlight for the nation to see. It is through the hero’s selflessness and refusal to be used as the government’s pawn, that allows him/her to rouse a rebellion and begin to bring down the government.
My paper uses Red Queen and The Hunger Games as contextual evidence. Since Red Queen is a recently published novel, little scholarly writing on it has been published. Consequentially, I will present my argument through the lens of The Hunger Games and show how Red Queen exhibits strong correlation.
I will first address the methods of propaganda and control the Capital uses in the districts; in “I Was Watching You Mockingjay”, Sean Connors presents a compelling argument that the Capital maintains internal class divisions in the districts in order to pit the citizenry against themselves and not the Capitol. Secondly I will present the selflessness Katniss exhibits throughout The Hunger Games. Finally, I will analyze how serving Rue and caring for her, as well as Katniss putting Peeta’s interests before her own, highlight her refusal to be used by the Capital, and are the actions that defeated the Capitol’s propaganda and began to unite the districts. As a result, the Capitol had to increase its use of violence to maintain order, and eventually declare war in an attempt to suppress the rebellion.
If my thesis sounds compelling and, and you want to know how Red Queen supports my thesis and strongly correlates to The Hunger Games, you will have to read my paper and listen to my conference presentation to find out. Feel free to be actively engaged and ask questions after I present and/or tweet me with any material you have questions about, or think I should address in my paper.
Davidson, James. A question from the audience. Business 2 Community, 31 July 2012,www.business2community.com/strategy/pulling-off-the-perfect-conference-presentation-0237 170#ja8odJQiywP6Fpj1.97. Accessed 4 Mar.2017.
I think it is really cool that dystopias, specifically YA dystopias, are able to take some pretty serious subjects and turn them into stories that a wide variety of people can read and understand. Furthermore, I think what interests me most about dystopias is how much they can be related to the world that we live in today. I have seen all sorts of topics in dystopian novels such as role of government, media, surveillance, power, etc. Specifically in my independent reading book, Champion by Marie Lu, as well as in the prequels to Champion, a lot of what happens in the fictional society is influenced by the Media. I hope to discover more about the role of the media and propaganda in dystopia and how it relates to the role of media and propaganda in real life as well. Additionally in the novels, big corporations play a huge role in their society. The Colonies are ruled by four corporations, which demonstrate just how much power the corporations have. I know that the corporations in our world tend to have a certain degree of power, and therefore I am interested in finding out more about the amount of power that corporations in our capitalist society have, and how much power they have over the people.
I would also like to relate this back to dystopian novels, and address the reasons that so many of these sorts of novels include themes relating to the media and big corporations. Ultimately I would also like to know what the popularity of these sorts of novels says about our society, or if it says anything at all. Do the themes that I have focused on offer a glimpse into the way our society works now, or possibly what we may face in the future? Or are they just entertaining books that sell?
Image Source: MediaChannel.org