Fake News, Propaganda, and Narrative Force Book Reviews

What we are reading:

We Are Where? Lost in the Disinformation Jungle

Lynn E. Patyk, Associate Professor of Russian Studies, in the Los Angeles Review of Books

TAKE TWO OF the most insoluble and complex problems afflicting our world today — climate change and our polarized media environment — and create a "mash-up" that guides us through the chaos. You will then have the intensely smart, engaging, and at times frustrating new book You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape by Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner.

Exposing Bonaparte's Lies, or, Propaganda Analysis

ca. 1809: Heinrich von Kleist, "Primer of French Journalism"

Petra S. McGillen, Associate Professor of German Studies, on a classic of fake news analysis worth rediscovering

"French journalism is the art of convincing the people of whatever the government considers good," wrote German intellectual Heinrich von Kleist in 1809. Kleist, a practicing journalist himself, had read his share of Napoleonic propaganda, and had grown increasingly concerned about its effectiveness. In his "Primer of French Journalism," he struck back: determined to expose the mechanisms behind Bonaparte's manipulation of public opinion, Kleist crafted a satirical treatise that assumed an imagined insider's perspective to reveal the design of the French government's propaganda machinery "just as it might be found in a secret archive in Paris." Kleist had no idea how right he was—the rules of the game that he hypothesized from reading the French press attentively and carefully watching the interaction between governmental and non-governmental papers had a real-world counterpart in editorial directives and letters with which Bonaparte took control of the press, as archival research by scholars such as Gustav Mathieu demonstrates. Kleist had come pretty darn close, and his key hypothesis, that successful propaganda is based on the interaction between two newspapers of which "one never lies" and the other one "always tells the truth," is as insightful today as it was 200 years ago.

(Read Heinrich von Kleist; Primer of French Journalism. Trans. Allan Paddle. October 2017 (160): 131–136.)