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COMM 515T -- (Professional Problems in Specialized Fields)

Propaganda & Media in an Age of Terrorism & War
California State University, Fullerton
Department of Communications

Nancy Snow, Ph.D.


This course explores life as we know it today, including propaganda and media efforts in the US, UK and elsewhere, the U.S. global war on terrorism (GWOT), and U.S. efforts, both governmental and non-governmental, to reshape and improve America’s image, reputation, and influence in the world (public diplomacy). We will focus on relevant propaganda and media theory, as well as research and trends in the modern communications era.


  • 1. To understand the interplay among propaganda, terrorism, war, and media.
  • 2. To demystify the body of knowledge in propaganda (mass persuasion) and the role and activities of propagandists in the global war against terrorism
  • 3. To build familiarity with the concepts and practices of U.S. propaganda and media in the 21st Century, with a special focus on the role of the United States to inform, engage, and influence overseas publics as well as “rebrand�? its image overseas
  • 4. To learn the basic protocols available for measuring and reporting propaganda (attitudes, beliefs, perception) in media
  • 5. To examine both governmental and nongovernmental efforts to communicate, by both public and private organizations, to diverse overseas publics in the context of American foreign policy.
  • 6. To review foundational work done on the study of American propaganda and conduct a historical review of the ways in which the United States attempts to manage its image internationally.

    The class is organized as a graduate-level effort to define strategic political communications (public diplomacy, propaganda, social influence) as a field of study against the backdrop of terrorism and war. In addition to reading and reviewing course texts, students will also be asked to help develop a comprehensive bibliography of materials related to this study. Students will be assigned to thoroughly review the readings, including supplemental reserve reading materials, formulate questions and help locate additional resources. A beginning bibliography of web resources in strategic political communication and public diplomacy is available from my USC faculty colleague Gordon Stables at

    Students will complete a substantive research paper due no later than the last class meeting. Your topic may be on any aspect of media, propaganda, or terrorism in modern times. Alternatively, you may choose any U.S. president from the 20th Century (the modern propaganda era) to the present and examine a propaganda vehicle or organization of the presidency (i.e., the role of USIA under Eisenhower; Kennedy’s Peace Corps, Wilson’s Creel Committee). I have chosen the latter topic since this is a presidential election year and since the president, as commander-in-chief, must lead and persuade in wartime. Further, I am currently completing a book-length manuscript on the role of the president as “chief persuader�? and your research will not only contribute to my analysis but be duly noted and referenced in the book.

    Regarding paper length, I am much more impressed with quality over quantity. I do not put an exact length on your papers, but if you are interested in publishing them, they should be around 15 pages in length (minimum) and 30 pages in length (maximum.) The course paper comprises 60% of your final grade while weekly reading spot research assignments and discussion leadership efforts comprise 30% of your final course grade. 10 percent of your final grade involves class participation, attendance, and other tangible measures of student learning and involvement in a graduate course.


    • Thomas Friedman. (2003) Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism. New York: Anchor.
    • Karen S. Johnson-Cartee & Gary A. Copeland. (2004). Strategic Political Communication: Rethinking Social Influence, Persuasion and Propaganda. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
    • Yahya Kamalipour and Nancy Snow, Eds. (2004). War, Media and Propaganda: A Global Perspective. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
    • Nancy Snow. (2003). Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Opinion Control Since 9/11. Foreword by Greg Palast. New York: Seven Stories Press.
    • Nancy Snow. (2002). Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America’s Culture to the World. Foreword by Herbert I. Schiller, Introduction by Michael Parenti. 2nd edition. New York: Seven Stories Press.



    • William J. Bennett. (2003). Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism. New York: Regnery.
    • Paul Berman (2004). Terror and Liberalism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
    • James Bovard. (2003). Terrorism and Tyranny. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Jacques Ellul. (1965). Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York: Vintage Books.
    • Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell. (1999). Propaganda and Persuasion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
    • Aldous Huxley (1958). Brave New World Revisited. New York: Harper & Row.
    • Shawn J. Parry-Giles. (2002). The Rhetorical Presidency: Propaganda and the Cold War, 1945-1955. Westport, CT: Praeger.


  • • Attendance is mandatory. It is clearly in your best interest to attend all classes and participate actively. Since we meet only once a week, you are allowed to miss one class without receiving any formal penalty. Persistent absenteeism can translate into a full letter grade drop or even the possibility that you will either fail the class entirely or be asked to drop it. If your time is better spent elsewhere or if you have trouble attending class regularly and on time, consider taking another class that does not have this attendance policy.
  • • No late papers or incompletes (I)
  • • No letter grades will be assigned before the final grade; upon request I will provide a general range for you; your focus should be on classroom performance, which includes being prepared, disciplined, and arriving on time.
    • • In our first class meeting, take down the name, telephone number and e-mail of two classmates who will be part of your persuasion network:
    • (1) ___________________________;
    • (2)_____________________
    • In the event that you miss class, you should contact your network members for any lecture notes or assignments you missed. Do not contact your instructor to ask if you “missed anything important�? or to request lecture or discussion notes. You are adult learners and have personal responsibility to make-up any missed work.
  • • Writing assignments: Written assignments should be typed, double-spaced and carefully proof-read for typographical and spelling errors. You should pay proper homage to syntax and grammar. You will be graded on the quality of your writing style as much as on the substance of your ideas since the meaning and importance of ideas are inseparable from the language through which they are conveyed. A complete reference must be provided whenever you refer to the words, ideas, statistics or other information provided by an author. Failure to do so counts as plagiarism. In your semester paper you should demonstrate that you possess graduate-level writing skills. Your writing should also display your thinking ability; the ability to understand theories, grasp complex concepts, discover interrelationships, and generate your own insights. If your approach is entirely descriptive in nature, (e.g., you just reiterate what the research shows), you will not receive an “A�? on the paper. The length of your paper may vary; I’ll be reading the papers, not weighing them, to determine grades.
  • • Academic integrity policy: Both CSUF and the Department of Communications are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct and academic excellence. Any student found guilty of plagiarism, fabrication, cheating on exams, purchasing or downloading papers or other assignments and passing them off as their own will receive a grade of “F�? in this course.

    Nancy Snow is Assistant Professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. Snow also serves as a Senior Research Fellow in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

    Snow is the author of Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America's Culture to the World, 2nd edition, (Seven Stories Press, 2002); Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Opinion Control Since 9/11 (Seven Stories Press, 2004); and co-editor of War, Media and Propaganda: A Global Perspective (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004). Her fourth book, Persuader-in-Chief: American Propaganda by President, is forthcoming from Routledge in 2005.

    Her government service includes two years in the Presidential Management Intern (PMI) Program as cultural affairs and educational exchange specialist at the U.S. Information Agency and refugee and migration analyst at the U.S. State Department. While a PMI, she was co-chair of the Japan-America Leadership Exchange Committee (JALEC) and traveled twice to Japan as USIA representative.

    She served most recently as a public diplomacy advisor to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy and U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee overseeing changes in U.S. public diplomacy legislation since 9/11.

    Snow received a Fulbright scholarship to the Federal Republic of Germany at the height of the Cold War in the mid-80s. She was subsequently awarded a summer research fellowship by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study German history and language at the University of California, Berkeley. Doctoral studies in the School of International Service at American University focused on international communication, intercultural communication, and peace and conflict resolution.

    Her doctoral dissertation, Fulbright Scholars as Cultural Mediators, earned an honorary "fourth best" dissertation of 1992 by the Speech Communication Association, Division of International and Intercultural Communication.

    Nancy Snow was Assistant Professor of Political Science at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire (1995-2000), where she was voted the "most enthusiastic and engaging professor" of 1999 and received membership in Who's Who Among America's Teachers. While pursuing her tenure on the New England College faculty, she served three years as Executive Director for Common Cause in New Hampshire (1997-2000), a nonpartisan citizens' advocacy organization that lobbies for greater accountability and ethics in government. From 1990-1995, she taught as Professorial Lecturer in intercultural communication, global communications, and peace and conflict resolution at American University's School of International Service. She also served as an international exchange administrator for the international nongovernmental organization Delphi International before joining USIA.

    From November 2001 until August 2002, Snow served as a faculty associate to the UCLA Center for Experiential Education and Service Learning, where she taught media and social change as a lecturer in the Department of Sociology. From June 2000 until November 2001, Snow served as Associate Director of the UCLA Center for Communications and Community, a research and training organization that focuses on media coverage of diverse neighborhoods and cities. Snow regularly writes and speaks both nationally and internationally on U.S. foreign policy, American persuasion, influence, and propaganda, entertainment and media culture in American society, communications in the public interest, and the impact of global communications theory and practice on democratic participation and community development. Her speaking includes advocacy for media accountability and alternative/independent media, a result of her experience as a member of the board of directors and Vice President of the Cultural Environment Movement (CEM), a national coalition of more than 150 community-based organizations united to advance gender equity and general diversity in media employment, ownership, representation and perspective.

    She is a contributing writer to Common Dreams and O’Dwyer’s PR online news sites, faculty advisor to Media Channel, and contributing writer/speak to the Institute for Public Accuracy. She has acted as a political consultant to The History Channel and Douglas, Cohn and Wolfe. During Election 2000, Dr. Snow served as an online American Politics expert for Hungry Minds, Inc. of San Francisco, California, which also featured her in its national advertising campaign in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. In 2002, Snow received a Knight Fellowship to the University of Mississippi for an inaugural workshop on "The Fourth Estate and the Third Sector: Press Coverage of Nonprofits."

    Dr. Snow has been interviewed by the media over five hundred times since the mid-1990s. Media appearances include CNN, ABC News, Fox News Channel, National Public Radio, BBC, CBC, German Radio and TV, Voice of America and Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Her writings have been featured in the Washington Post, Birmingham News, Newsday, and the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Snow is a magna cum laude Ph.D. graduate in international relations from American University and a summa cum laude B.A. graduate in political science from Clemson University.


    • Barrett, Edward W. Truth is Our Weapon. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1953.
    • Bernays, Edward. Propaganda. New York: Horace Liveright, 1928.
    • Bogart, Leo. Cool Words, Cold War: A New Look at USIA’s Premises for Propaganda. Washington, D.C.: The American University Press, 1995.
    • Bourdieu, Pierre. On Television. New York: The New Press, 1998.
    • Brodie, Richard. Virus of the Mind. Seattle, Integral Press, 1996.
    • Carey, Alex. Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
    • Chomsky, Noam. Necessary Illusions: Though Control in Democratic Societies. Toronto: Anansi, 1989.
    • Cialdini, Robert. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Rev. Ed. New York: William Morrow (Quill), 1993.
    • Creel, George. How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information That Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1920.
    • Debord, Guy. Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red, 1983.
    • Dizard, Wilson. The Strategy of Truth: The Story of the U.S. Information Service. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1961.
    • Doob, Leonard. Propaganda: Its Psychology and Technique. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1935.
    • Ewen, Stuart. PR! A Social History of Spin. New York: Basic Books, 1996.
    • Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999.
    • Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
    • Goldberg, Bernard. Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. New York: Regnery, 2001.
    • Green, Fitzhugh. American Propaganda Abroad. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1988.
    • Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. New York: Touchstone, 1996.
    • Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Propaganda Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1938.
    • The Fine Art of Propaganda. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939.
    • Joyce, Walter. The Propaganda Gap. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
    • Keen, Sam. Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1991.
    • Kurtz, Howard. Spin Cycle: Inside the Clinton Propaganda Machine. New York: Touchstone Books, 1998.
    • Lasn, Kalle. Culture Jam. New York: Quill, 2000.
    • McKibben, Bill. The Age of Missing Information. New York: Random House, 1992.
    • Mowlana, Hamid, George Gerbner and Herbert I. Schiller. Triumph of the Image: The Media’s War in the Persian Gulf—A Global Perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
    • Nye, Jr., Joseph S. The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone. London: Oxford University Press, 2002.
    • Pratkanis, Anthony, Elliot Aronson. Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. Rev.ed. New York: W. H. Freedman, 2001.
    • Richmond, Yale. Cultural Exchange and the Cold War. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2003.
    • Schiller, Herbert. Living in the Number One Country. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000.
    • Schwartz, Tony. Media: The Second God. New York: Random House, 1981.
    • Snyder, Alvin A. Warriors of Disinformation: American Propaganda, Soviet Lies, and the Winning of the Cold War. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1995.
    • Stauber, John and Sheldon Rampton. Toxic Sludge is Good for You! Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995.
    • Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq. New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2003.
    • Streitmatter, Rodger. Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997.
    • Taylor, Philip. War and the Media: Propaganda and Persuasion in the Gulf War. 2nd edition. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1998
    • Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda From the Ancient World to the Present Day. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995.
    • Wright, Robin. Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam. New York: Simon & Schuster, updated edition, 2001.


    Note: This schedule is subject to change. Please be patient if I move around discussion topics to correspond with guest speakers and/or “breaking news�? developments.

    • 2/2/04 Course Overview: Background of the instructor; overview of the syllabus and discussion of course goals and expectations.
    • 2/9/04 What is propaganda? Propaganda through the Ages
      • Propaganda & Persuasion, Chapter 1, pp. 1-23; 41-46, Chap. 2
      • Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, Introduction and Preface
      How is propaganda defined in the most neutral sense? What is the significance of the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide? What are synonyms for propaganda? Key terms: White propaganda, black propaganda, gray propaganda. What are the key characteristics of propaganda as communication? What are its limits? What three interweaving elements make up propaganda history? What makes Alexander “The Great�? so great at propaganda? How do propaganda and religion interweave? We will consider whether or not it is possible to consider propaganda studies separate from an association with war (Cold War, terrorism and counter terrorism) and as an integral part of our modern life.
    • 2/16/04 Washington’s Birthday—campus closed
    • 2/23/04 Propaganda vs. Public Diplomacy in History
      * Jeffrey Gedmin and Craig Kennedy. "Selling America -- Short," The National Interest, Winter, 2003/04, pp. 71-75. Gedmin, Director of the Aspen Institute Berlin, and Kennedy, President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, examine a "U.S. public diplomacy crisis" in the heart of Europe. The authors call for a "serious campaign to open European minds" drawing on the Congress of Cultural Freedom and other "lessons from the Cold War." (R)
      • Nancy Snow, Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America’s Culture to the World.
      What was the U.S. Information Agency? Explore the website of the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs ( What’s the marketing message from the Undersecretary’s Office? How does the State Department office’s mission today compare and contrast to the anticommunism and pro-market democracy mission of the USIA in the Cold War and 1990s?
    • 3/1/04 Global War on Terrorism; Against a Backdrop

    of Terrorism: The War of Words I

      * W. Lance Bennett. "Operation Perfect Storm: The Press and the Iraq War," Political Communication Report, International Communication Association & American Political Science Association, Vol. 13 No. 3, Fall 2003. Bennett analyzes press cooperation in implementing government communications strategies in the run up to the 2003 Iraq war.
      • “The Media in Iraq: War Coverage Analysis,�? Media Education Foundation (MEF) study
      • Nancy Snow, The Citizen and the Publisher, Common Dreams, December 28, 2001.
      • Selections from Nancy Snow, Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Opinion Control Since 9/11.
      We will discuss the role of the press in wartime over the last two years. This includes the free speech controversy of Sacramento Bee publisher and president, Janis Heaphy, whose December 15, 2001 commencement address at Sacramento State was interrupted by hecklers. Is it hard to hear each other since September 11th?; We’ll examine free speech in wartime and during heightened security alerts.
    • 3/8/04 Against a Backdrop of Terrorism: The War of Words II -- Propaganda in an Open Society
      • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited
      Come to class prepared to compare propaganda in a democracy to propaganda under a dictatorship. In light of our education vs. propaganda debate, how does Huxley propose that we become educated for freedom? How might you revise and expand a current edition of Brave New World Revisited? Identify any modern threats to democracy.
    • 3/15/04 War & the Global War On Terrorism:

    Diverse and Dissident Perspectives

      • William J. Bennett, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism
      • Finish reading Nancy Snow, Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech & Opinion Control Since 9/11
      • Nancy Snow, “Brainscrubbing: The Failures of U.S. Public Diplomacy After 9/11�? in David Miller, Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq. Select readings from Tell Me Lies.
      What role should the public play in forging American national interests in wartime? When and how does political ideology drive media campaigns? What perspectives do international journalists offer the American reader about the U.S. role and image in the world?
    • 3/22/04 Government-led Public Diplomacy since 9/11
      2003 marked what would have been the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Defunct as an independent government agency since 1999, its cultural and educational programs were transferred to the U.S. State Department. It will be very interesting to see how Margaret Tutwiler, the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, handles the PD challenge. Two recent articles worth reading on the subject are by two senior Foreign Service alumni Wilson Dizard and William P. Kiehl.
      • Stephen Johnson and Helle Dale, “How to Reinvigorate Public Diplomacy,�? Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, April 23, 2003. The paper, in its entirety, can be found at
    • 3/29 Spring Break (Enjoy!)
    • 4/5/04 Rethinking Patriotism in Wartime: Dissidents and Dissent
    • 4/12/04 Persuasion and Propaganda Techniques; Modern Spin
      • We will discuss selections from Jowett & O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, including Chapter 3, “Propaganda Institutionalized�?; Chapter 4, “Propaganda and Persuasion Examined,�? Chapter 5, “Propaganda and Psychological Warfare�?; and “The Gulf War: Mobilization of World Opinion,�? pp. 312-331
      • Read Chapters 4,6 & 7 of Strategic Political Communication.
      • Handout: The 7 Propaganda Devices from The Institute for Propaganda Analysis: Name calling (omnibus negative words that we reject and condemn), Glittering Generality (omnibus virtue words that we approve and accept) Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon
      Spot research assignment: What was the IPA? When was it in existence? Why did it disband? Who were the key leaders involved in IPA?
    • 4/19/04 Culture Jamming: New Propaganda or Counterpropaganda?
      Read Hand-to-Brand-Combat about the transformed life of No Logo author, Naomi Klein; Choose a selection from Adbusters or from Adbuster publisher Kalle Lassn’s book Culture Jam. Journal: Using the Klein article, Adbusters articles or Culture Jam as examples, explain what is the attraction of the culture jamming movement. Is it a form of counterpropaganda? Why or why not?
    • 4/26/04 Alternative and Independent Media Coverage of the War Against Terrorism
      I will likely be in Valencia, Spain at a conference on information warfare. Class will not formally meet. Read articles from alternative/independent online media like Alternet, Common Dreams, Indy Media, Media Channel, and Tom Paine. Is there a prevalent theme regarding media’s role in war or terrorism coverage?
    • 5/3/04 The Future of Terrorism; Case Studies
      Read selections from Networks and Netwars and The Emergence of Noopolitik Explain the growing power of networks. What distinguishes networks from netwar? Identify the five critical levels of theory and practice that networks waging netwar must get right to be fully effective. Of the five, what do the editors think defines Netwar more than technology?
    • 5/10/04 Discussion of Thom Friedman’s Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism and Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism
      What ideology, if any, is Berman critiquing in Terror and Liberalism? Is the terror war he describes a clash of civilizations? Why or why not? What is the appropriate response of liberalism to terrorism? How might you apply Berman and Friedman to any of our class discussion and/or readings over the semester? In the end, will ideology continue to dominate our mental landscape in the 21st century?
    • 5/17/04 Wrap-up; Research Paper Due

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