Bianca Cepollaro and Giuliano Torrengo
In this paper we discuss two issues addressed by Stanley in How Propaganda Works: the status of slurs (Section 1) and the notion of positive propaganda (Section 2). In particular, in Section 1 we argue contra Stanley that code words like ‘welfare’ are crucially different from slurs in that the association between the lexical item and an additional social meaning is not as systematic as it is for slurs. In this sense, slurs bring about a special kind of propagandistic effect, even if it typically concerns informal contexts rather than public debates. In Section 2, we consider positive propaganda and its relation to emotional effects. For Stanley, positive propaganda relies on the production of emotional effects, feature which risks to erode rational debates even if there is a good purpose behind. Instead, we argue that positive propaganda can work with no appeal to emotions. To this end, we focus on the use of ‘she’ as the default personal pronoun in academic writing and suggest that this measure can count as positive propaganda which rather than eroding rational debates by relying on emotional effects, closely resembles affirmative action aimed at counterbalance a pre-existing form of injustice and inequality.
Maria Cristina Amoretti
In this paper I focus on the connection between some of Stanley’s claims about propaganda and flawed ideologies, and the idea of the social situatedness or perspective-relativity of knowledge. More precisely, I will try to show how Stanley’s reflections on the nature of propaganda and its relationship with flawed ideologies push us towards the empiricists’ characterisation of the social situatedness of knowledge. Not only do these reflections reveal some important weaknesses of standpoint theories (that is, the claim of epistemic asymmetry between advantaged and negatively advantaged groups, and the necessity of actively achieving a standpoint), but they also support the request for the pluralism, rational critique, cooperation, fair discussion and epistemic integration fostered by social empiricism. This means that the broad idea of the social situatedness of knowledge should be defended and further developed along the lines sketched by social empiricism.
Olúfémi O. Táíwò
Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works roots the danger of undermining propaganda in an ideology based account of politics, treating individuals’ beliefs and social belief systems as the primary target and mechanism of undermining propaganda. In this paper I suggest a theoretical alternative to the role ideology plays in Stanley’s theories and theories like it, which I call practice first. A practice first account instead treats public behavior as the primary target of propaganda, and analyzes undermining propaganda as altering the incentive structure that sets the terms for public behavior.