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Propaganda in the Classroom

Propaganda Resources on the Web

This documentary shows the lengths to which marketers go to manipulate even the youngest children in their effort to create lifelong customers. Riveting! The book on which the documentary is based is available here:

You may purchase a DVD of the documentary via a link at

This one hour documentary, part 4 of Kevin Brownlow's Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film, is must viewing for all teachers and students.

Based on Alfred and Elizabeth Lee's The Fine Art of Propaganda, this site identifies common propaganda techniques, then suggests ways an individual can counteract them.  It also provides many examples of "real world" propaganda from World War I through the mid-1990s.  Finally, it shows the user how to distinguish between bad logic and propaganda.

Hugh Rank was the first chair of the National Council Teachers of English's Committee on Public Doublespeak. His is a very rich site, chock full of information and teaching suggestions.

Each year since 1975, the National Council Teachers of English has given an Orwell Award to recognize "writers who have made outstanding contributions to the critical analysis of public discourse", and a Doublespeak Award as "an ironic tribute to public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered." You may read the list of recipients for each by clicking on the following links.

This PBS site for kids is a great introduction to the ways of modern media.  There they can explore many of the tricks used by advertisers and content providers, see how well they can differentiate the real world from its image as portrayed on TV, and much more.

In this essay, Jeffrey Schrank explains, clearly and directly, how advertising works and why we should care.  He identifies common deceptive techniques, giving many examples of each.  Those wanting more of Schrank's work should visit his site.  For his most recent work on advertising and propaganda issues, look through his video catalog; especially the Modern Consumer and Everyday Economics sections.  Take special note of:






Jeff has posted two terrific slideshare presentations:


Here are links to pages where you'll find plenty of ads for analysis and discussion.

Tobacco ads (from

Tobacco ads (from Tobacco.Org)

Alcohol ads (from The Media Literacy Clearinghouse)

Alcohol ads (from CAMY - the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth)

This site, an exhibit from the American Museum of the Moving Image, allows you to explore U.S. presidential campaign TV advertising since 1952.  It is a marvelous resource.

POV (a PBS documentary series) covered the 1996 presidential campaign ad war.  Its website for that effort, Dissect an Ad, allows you to view many of the spots online, then read and respond to analysis of each.

The site for the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary the :30 second candidate is also worthy of your time.

Ease History also provides access to a library of TV ads from presidential campaign history.

The University of Maryland's Library of American Broadcasting presents these online samples of radio spots from the 50s and 60s.

The Northwestern University Library presents this collection of over 300 World War II posters.

The National Archives also has posted a part of its voluminous World War II poster collection.  It also makes available a lesson plan for teachers wanting to see how the posters can be incorporated into their classrooms.

A nice collection of US propaganda posters from World Wars I and II is available from

A superb collection of World War I posters can be found here.

Use them to extend the Dueling Posters activity.

American Rhetoric's list from its online speech bank. The list contains links to full audio (where it exists) and transcripts.

Another website for a PBS documentary series, this one provides the text for a great many speeches made in the U.S. during the 20th century.  Some also include audio and video samples.  In our audio-visual age, it is easy to overlook the persuasive power of great speakers.  Don't make the mistake of doing so.

The History Channel site also presents a good speech collection.

If you want to look at speeches related to Gulf War II, Britain's Guardian has links to a great collection.

"PR Watch offers investigative reporting on the public relations industry.  We help the public recognize manipulative and misleading PR practices by exposing the practices of secretive, little-known propaganda-for-hire firms that work to control political debates and public opinion."  Their quarterly journal contains articles that are clear, concise and exceptionally well-written. 

This site presents PR industry news from the inside.

This is the news source for the ad industry.  From it you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about daily life in the ad business.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.  On their web site they say of themselves, 'We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.' They also have a site designed specifically for teachers and students - This latter site offers:

The Newspaper Guild has posted a page of links to articles examining the ways in which the news media function as part of the war effort.  It is a great resource. "exposes and analyzes the increasingly pervasive use of manipulative and subrational rhetoric in American politics."  You can use the articles you'll find posted here as models to help show your students how to evaluate the truth of assertions they read.

Polling can also be used as propaganda.  Poll taking itself can be manipulative, and its results easily twisted.  Learn more about polls and how to read them by exploring the polling sites to which I've setup links.

While not always propaganda, fallacious argument is often used by propagandists.  The best sites I've found to identify categories of fallacious argument, then show us how to deal with them are:

If you teach about, or are interested in, media literacy, you cannot afford to miss this site.  It is a resource treasure trove.  The propaganda section is a must-see for anyone interested in this section of  The link you'll find there to's virtual propaganda lesson is just one jewel among many.  Prepare yourself to spend some time exploring.

In May 2003, the Clearinghouse posted an article from the New York Times (written by Elisabeth Bumiller) that pulls back the curtain just a bit on the White House Propaganda Machine.

This 2002 BBC documentary is a video history of the use of psychological insights in the development of 20th century propaganda.  If you have any interest in advertising and/or political propaganda, it is a must-see.

The Internet Archive has made the complete four hours of video available in four MP4 (QuickTime) files.  They are big (each about 170 megabytes), so you'll need a fast internet connection to download them in a reasonable amount of time, but I think you'll find your patience rewarded.

Part 1 - Happiness Machines - video - description

Part 2 - The Engineering of Consent - video - description

Part 3 - There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed - video - description

Part 4 - Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering - video - description

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original web posting: Wednesday, October 10, 2001
last modified: Friday, July 03, 2015