Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America (Oxford Studies in American Literary History)

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9780199354900: Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America (Oxford Studies in American Literary History)

1776 symbolizes a moment, both historical and mythic, of democracy in action. That year witnessed the release of a document, which Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations and spin, would later label as a masterstroke of propaganda. Although the Declaration of Independence relies heavily on the empiricism of self-evident truths, Bernays, who had authored the influential manifesto Propaganda in 1928, suggested that what made this iconic document so effective was not its sober rationalism but its inspiring message that ensured its dissemination throughout the American colonies. Propaganda 1776 reframes the culture of the U.S. Revolution and early Republic, revealing it to be rooted in a vast network of propaganda.

Drawing on a wide-range of resources, Russ Castronovo considers how the dispersal and circulation-indeed, the propagation-of information and opinion across the various media of the eighteenth century helped speed the flow of revolution. This book challenges conventional wisdom about propaganda as manipulation or lies by examining how popular consent and public opinion in early America relied on the spirited dissemination of rumor, forgery, and invective. While declarations about self-evident truths were important to liberty, the path toward American independence required above all else the spread of unreliable intelligence that travelled at such a pace that it could be neither confirmed nor refuted. By tracking the movements of stolen documents and leaked confidential letters, this book argues that media dissemination created a vital but seldom acknowledged connection between propaganda and democracy.

The spread of revolutionary material in the form of newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, letters, songs, and poems across British North America created multiple networks that spawned new and often radical ideas about political communication. Communication itself became revolutionary in ways that revealed circulation to be propaganda's most vital content. By examining the kinetic aspects of print culture, Propaganda 1776 shows how the mobility of letters, pamphlets, and other texts amounts to political activity par excellence. With original examinations of Ben Franklin, Mercy Otis Warren, Tom Paine, and Philip Freneau among a crowd of other notorious propagandists, this book examines how colonial men and women popularized and spread the patriot cause across America.

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About the Author:


Russ Castronovo is Tom Paine Professor of English and Dorothy Draheim Professor of American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His previous books include Beautiful Democracy: Aesthetics and Anarchy in a Global Era, Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States, and Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom.

Review:


"Burke was also a shrewd political operative, who reframed issues and changed positions depending on the exigencies of the moment. It is this tactical aspect of political life-the qualities that make sports analogy often seem so apt-that comes through most clearly in Castronovo's treatment of propaganda. This focus distinguishes his approach from that of Chomsky, who critiques the mainstream news media as state-sanctioned disseminators
of misinformation and propaganda froma stance of philosophical certainty. In the political writings of the Revolutionary era, Castronovo sees something more fluid and multifaceted at work, with imaginative and even playful elements being central. At its best, this book celebrates the arts of politics. --Sandra M. Gustafson, Modern Philology


"Neo-whig historians attacked progressive historians who debunked patriot 'propaganda' by telling us that American revolutionaries were true believers, if ideological, and radical in ways we can embrace without much reservation. Too often this has devolved into another version of American exceptionalism. Russ Castronovo has another take on their political talents: he finds a creative resistance to power in the modes of dissemination as much as their message. The radicalism of the Revolution is back up for grabs in this fascinating corrective." --David Waldstreicher, author of Runaway America and Slavery's Constitution


"In this fresh, provocative look at the revolutionary era, Russ Castronovo challenges our knee-jerk assumptions about propaganda and enhances our understanding of early American politics.... Castronovo encourages a deeper appreciation for revolutionary propaganda as a way to make sense of American democracy and its fractures.... Castronovo's bold reconceptualization offers plenty of tools for rethinking this crucial-and misunderstood-phenomenon." --Journal of American History


"Castronovo deftly-even audaciously-shuttles his way back and forth across the last three centuries to uncover the democratic work of propaganda operative at the nation's founding and continuing to this day. Understanding propaganda as a lateral and volatile form of 'communications in motion,' Castronovo especially challenges our ideas about Revolutionary-era texts, redefining what they meant by recovering how they moved. Propaganda 1776 will be of great interest to scholars of U.S. literary, communications, media and political history." --Susan Scott Parrish, author of American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World


"Propaganda 1776 is an elegantly written, compellingly conceptualized book. A provocative read from page to page, it makes an original argument about the American Revolution by reviving and revivifying the concept of propaganda." --Konstantin Dierks, author of In My Power: Letter Writing and Communications in Early America


"In Propaganda 1776, Russ Castronovo sets forth a bold new paradigm of early American letters--one that describes the printscape of revolutionary era writing in vivid terms, and locates the meaning and significance of texts in their capacity to spread and propagate rather than in their truth content. This important book challenges us to reconsider pieties of the Habermasian public sphere and classical republicanism in early America and invites rich speculation on the relation of media and democracy." --Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, author of New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Propaganda 1776 reframes the culture of the U.S. Revolution and early Republic, revealing it to be rooted in a vast network of propaganda. Truth, clarity, and honesty were declared virtues of the period-but rumors, falsehoods, forgeries, and unauthorized publication were no less the life s blood of liberty. Looking at famous patriots like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine; the playwright Mary Otis Warren; and the poet Philip Freneau, Castronovo provides various anecdotes that demonstrate the ways propaganda was - contrary to our instinctual understanding - fundamental to democracy rather than antithetical to it. By focusing on the persons and methods involved in Revolutionary communications, Propaganda 1776 both reconsiders the role that print culture plays in historical transformation and reexamines the widely relevant issue of how information circulates in a democracy. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199354900

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2014. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Propaganda 1776 reframes the culture of the U.S. Revolution and early Republic, revealing it to be rooted in a vast network of propaganda. Truth, clarity, and honesty were declared virtues of the period-but rumors, falsehoods, forgeries, and unauthorized publication were no less the life s blood of liberty. Looking at famous patriots like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine; the playwright Mary Otis Warren; and the poet Philip Freneau, Castronovo provides various anecdotes that demonstrate the ways propaganda was - contrary to our instinctual understanding - fundamental to democracy rather than antithetical to it. By focusing on the persons and methods involved in Revolutionary communications, Propaganda 1776 both reconsiders the role that print culture plays in historical transformation and reexamines the widely relevant issue of how information circulates in a democracy. Bookseller Inventory # AOP9780199354900

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