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Admitting that he takes a ``progressive critical line on the phenomenon of propaganda,'' Sproule manages to write a balanced and thoughtful analysis of propaganda in modern society, despite certain biases. Sproule's assertion that propaganda weakens democratic institutions indicts both conservatives and liberals alike. The first chapter reads like a college textbook but, once it has been sufficiently digested, the balance of the book is an enlightening (and often humorous) foray into covert activities, half-truths and special-interest practices in the arenas of government, religion, research, education, journalism and entertainment. With nods to Alexis de Tocqueville, Jacques Ellul and Walter Lippmann, the author has fashioned a fine introduction to the world of propaganda analysis. Sproule's definitions and examples of propaganda are excellent, but his suggested antidotes-persuasive oration, open public discussions and authentic community-are naive. He considers both the antebellum New England town and ancient Athenian government as archetypes for a ``true and literally political community.'' However, the effects of urbanization, industrialization and immigration have long since curtailed the likelihood of those models. Sproule's commentary is a valuable, thought-provoking examination of propaganda, but one wishes that his proposed solution to this uniquely 20th-century problem transcended narrow 19th-century conventions.
Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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