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Is Propaganda Keeping Americans From Thinking for Themselves?

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Moderated by Carla Hall, Editorial Board Member, Los Angeles Times

In 1931, philosopher John Dewey warned that “democracy will be a farce unless individuals are trained to think for themselves, to judge independently, to be critical, to be able to detect subtle propaganda and the motives which inspire it.” But in the 21st century, humans are deluged with increasingly sophisticated propaganda produced not only by governments and media but by our friends and neighbors. How is anyone supposed to think clearly, or critically, amidst all this agitprop? Is contemporary propaganda damaging our attention spans, our relationships, and our ability to ponder bigger questions? Or does it offer some benefits, like nudging us to eat healthier, save the Earth, or maybe even vote? UCLA Anderson marketing scholar and psychologist Hal Hershfield, Texas A&M historian of rhetoric Jennifer Mercieca, and UC Santa Cruz social psychologist Anthony Pratkanis visit Zócalo to examine what propaganda is doing to our brains and our society.

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