Propaganda and Post-Truth Politics

Course Code
RELG 3559
Naveed Mansoori
Research Associate and Lecturer
In 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary chose “post-truth” as the word of the year. Despite the apparent novelty of this era of political culture in the United States, the relationship between truth and rhetoric has long been a topic of reflection and contestation. This course focuses on propaganda to better understand political rhetoric, truth-telling, and the lie. It will begin with the origins of the concept of propaganda in Plato’s Gorgias through to the Counter-Reformation and its emergence in modern history with the Committee on Public Information during the First World War. It will then consider its circulation as a concept referring to “lies governments tell” after the Second World War and the difficult theoretical and political questions raised by its converse ideal, rational deliberation. It will conclude with the lead-up to the 2020 Election as contending parties have circulated alternative visions of the social and historical reality of the United States.  Questions students will engage are: What is propaganda and how does it work? How do we differentiate between injurious lies and aspirational fictions? Is a public sphere that is not organized around a leap of faith among its participants possible or desirable? And finally, is rhetoric secular?