Written Word Used as Propaganda
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave is an account of Frederick Douglass’ life written in a very detached and objective tone. One might find this normal for a historical account of the events of someone’s life if not for the fact that the narrative was written by Frederick Douglass himself. Frederick Douglass used this tone purposefully in an attempt to use his narrative as propaganda to convince others to join in the abolitionist’s movement. According to Donna Woolfolk Cross in “Propaganda: How not to be Bamboozled,” propaganda is “simply a means of persuasion” (149). She further notes that we are subjected daily to propaganda in one form or another as advertisers, politicians, and even our friends attempt to persuade us to use their product, vote for them, or adopt their point of view. Propaganda is usually considered in a negative sense. However, when viewing propaganda as just persuasion, one can readily appreciate that it is neither good nor evil; the good/evil effect is the direct result of the purpose for which it is used. Politicians and leaders have used propaganda to further their goals; Hitler’s use of propaganda as a means of controlling the population of Germany is the most recognizable example of propaganda used for evil. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he urges non-violent resistance in the cause of racial equality, portrays persuasion used with good intentions. Although speeches are highly effective at delivering ideas, the written word can be even more influential. In the early days of America, literature was used extensively as a means of persuasion. As early as 1589 Richard Hakluyt published stories in a book he wrote for the sole purpose of persuading people to sail to America and settle land. These stories which were told to Hakluyt by captains and sailors appeared to be straightforward and narrative, however Hakluyt edited each...
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