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Media, Persuasion and Propaganda

Marshall Soules

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Using case studies and exercises, this innovative study poses challenging questions

Living in a saturated media environment, we are crowded from all sides by persuasive messages and information. Advice, promotion and propaganda form a spectrum of persuasion – and everywhere we see it performed in its full theatricality, complete with actors, scripts, props and costumes.

Based on enduring rhetorical principles, these persuasive techniques and the psychology behind them have become increasingly sophisticated during the ‘age of persuasion’, a century of applied research in advertising, advocacy, public relations, mass entertainment and social control. Media, Persuasion, and Propaganda guides the reader through the many varieties of persuasion and its performance, exploring the protocols of rhetoric unique to the medium, from orality and print to film and digital images. Using case studies and exercises, this innovative study poses challenging questions:

  • How do individuals and organisations exert influence to build communities and networks?
  • What role do media play in communicating persuasive messages?
  • How do we use recent discoveries in cognitive science to promote a cause, advocate social change or market ideas and products?
  • How do we defend ourselves against manipulation and undue influence, and when does persuasion turn into propaganda?

Key Features

  • Uses global examples and case studies to define the spectrum of persuasion, from promotion to propaganda
  • Examines the performance of propaganda, from orality to new media
  • Includes exercises in each chapter to reinforce the key themes and promote discussion


Preface: Tricksters at Play
Introduction: The Spectrum of Persuasion
1. Rhetoric and Persuasion
2. Compelling Images
3. Public Opinion and Manufacturing Consent
4. Advertising and Consumer Culture
5. Psychology of Influence
6. Propaganda and War
7. Toward a Rhetoric of Film
8. Propaganda and Global Economics
9. Making News
10. Performing Propaganda

About the Author

Marshall Soules is former Chair of the Media Studies Department at Vancouver Island University teaching across a range of media studies and media theory topics, including propaganda.


This new text will be welcomed for its comprehensiveness and for the sheer density of information distilled from an extraordinarily complete bibliography running to more than 730 titles. The many examples and case studies used to illustrate theoretical issues are often as fresh as today’s news, and each chapter ends with a list of genuinely useful exercises for students. The writing is admirably clear throughout. Issues of ethics in communication form a thread that runs through the text and Soules, in the realist tradition of the best of critical theorists, tackles head-on the often difficult questions raised.

Dr Wade Rowland, York University, Toronto

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