Summary of Politics: The Art of Bamboozling


According to Donna Woolfolk Cross, in her article “Politics: The Art of Bamboozling”, propaganda is a form of distraction from the truth. It is a way of clouding minds with no hard evidence to back it up with. Name-calling, faulty logic, and stirring emotions are three forms of propaganda.
Name-calling has been used since the days of children in schoolyards and is exactly what it is named. This technique is very effective in politics. A conservative politician would use name-calling in a way of saying his opponent is very liberal. This would persuade conservative voters to vote for a conservative and not a liberal. Argumentum ad hominem is a variation of name-calling. This is used to destroy a representation of a specific issue by destroying the credit of those who support the issue. Glittering generalities are another form of name-calling. These attempt to get people to agree or disagree with something they know nothing about.
A second form of propaganda is faulty logic. It is sneaky because it “appears” to be normal and of good intent, but is not. A form of faulty logic is post hoc, ergo propter hoc which means “after this, therefore because of this.” People sometimes relate specific things or events to specific people, and they are either good or bad outcomes. The two extreme dilemma is another form of faulty logic whereas you either completely support something or you don’t. One example of this is the saying, “America: Love it or leave it” which means “you should accept everything about America or get out.” Card stacking is yet another form of faulty logic where you use facts that support your point and conveniently leave out the rest. It is not a lie; it’s just not the entire truth.
Stirring emotions is a form of propaganda, which is a used to create a distraction of ones thinking. A red herring is a distraction that redirects people’s attention from the real issue. The plain folks appeal is a very affective red herring. This is when a person uses words to appear as just on of the crowd and not someone of higher standings. “I’m a businessman just like yourselves,” is trying to say that the politician is out there working and paying taxes just like everyone else. Again trying to appear as they are on the same social level as the plain folk. Another red herring is argumentum ad populum, also know as stroking. This is when a politician will compliment the people, such as “hardworking taxpayers”, to make them feel as if they are looked at in a personal sense rather than in a group.
Politicians use propaganda to try and get your vote, but others also use it, such as trying to keep the environment clean or getting people to give to charity. Being aware of the different forms of propaganda will help you to decide when someone is telling you the truth, or when they are just trying to get you to agree with their ideas rather then someone else’s.