David Foster, associate professor of communication, recently authored “Repackaging Republican Appeals: The Use of Propaganda by Conservative Presidential Candidates in the Years from 1969 through 2012,” published by Common Ground Publishing LLC.
In late 2009 and early 2010, Foster, a political communication expert, began writing the book in response to what he saw in the media.
“I teach argumentation and debate, and we talk a lot about logic and critical thinking, good sound logic and fallacies,” said Foster. “I was hearing some arguments in the media that people were persuaded by that went against what I was teaching in my classes.”
Foster argues in his book that there was a time of GOP domination between the election of Richard Nixon in 1968 and the election of Barack Obama in 2008, in which the Republicans held the U.S. presidency for all but 12 years. The book explains how the Republican Party used a number of techniques classified as propaganda.
“I called it propaganda because there are a lot of tactics used to persuade others,” said Foster. “Religious appeals were used and what we call framing,”
When many people were confused between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, Foster saw people persuaded by arguments that did not meet the standards of good sound logic. He decided to do a study on how well people met good sound logic appeals.
“I wanted to focus on political figures,” said Foster. “These are educated people; they should be using good sound logic. They should be doing what I’m teaching,”
Foster listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and gathered information from material printed in other sources. “I probably consulted 200 to 250 other books,” he said.
“I got into neuro science and how the brain is persuaded,” said Foster. “I studied why it was working, what Bush said, what Limbaugh says every day on the radio, and why people were being persuaded because students in my class could see right through that stuff.”
Foster explained that when people hear things that go against what they believe or what they want to believe, they find ways to dismiss it so that they can’t be persuaded.
“Both parties are doing this, but people try to stay clear from anything that causes them discomfort, thus perhaps a false reality is being created for people who follow republican views,” he said.
Foster wrote about how the Republican Party developed its own media machine to deliver news on its own network and avoid getting screened out, which is where Fox news and conservative talk radio came from. “It worries me because I believe it’s creating another reality,” said Foster.
“There is conservative research that tells people what to think and what to believe,” said Foster. “Conservatives can basically get in a secluded vacuum where they don’t have to hear anything that goes against them.”
Foster claims that he has never been a political activist, but noticed that his teachings did not demonstrate what was happening in the media.
“I’m paid every day by The University of Findlay to talk about what good arguments and solid evidence is and I saw it not happening out there,” said Foster. “I saw people lying, using fallacies and persuading people and getting away with it.”
As Foster wrote the book, he realized that both parties do this and no one party is guilty. “It got more where I just wanted to have a well-researched historical account of presidential campaigns.”
Foster started writing the book for a general audience until an academic publisher published it. He says that it is half written for professors and scholars, but also worded so that the average person can read and understand it.
His book can be found in Barnes and Noble, Books A Million and on Amazon.com.
“After awhile, I found more pride in finding the academic examples of where things were different from what we teach in our communication classes,” said Foster. “The best defense against the unenlightened public would be for people to take more communication and critical thinking classes. We would be better off as a democracy.”