Syndicate content


Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Beyond Propaganda: How authoritarian regimes are learning to engineer human souls in the age of Facebook.
Foreign Policy
Pity the poor propagandist! Back in the 20th century, it was a lot easier to control an authoritarian country’s hearts and minds. All domestic media could be directed out of a government office. Foreign media could be jammed. Borders were sealed, and your population couldn’t witness the successes of a rival system. You had a clear narrative with at least a theoretically enticing vision of social justice or national superiority, one strong enough to fend off the seductions of liberal democracy and capitalism. Anyone who disagreed could be isolated, silenced, and suppressed.  Those were the halcyon days of what the Chinese call “thought work” — and Soviets called the “engineering of human souls.” And until recently, it seemed as if they were gone forever. Today’s smart phones and laptops mean any citizen can be their own little media center. Borders are more open.

Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective
International Monetary Fund
Widening income inequality is the defining challenge of our time. In advanced economies, the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest level in decades. Inequality trends have been more mixed in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs), with some countries experiencing declining inequality, but pervasive inequities in access to education, health care, and finance remain. Not surprisingly then, the extent of inequality, its drivers, and what to do about it have become some of the most hotly debated issues by policymakers and researchers alike.

Nothing New Under the Sun? Social Media, the Arab Spring, and the Reformation Era

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

A few weeks ago, the Economist provided an interesting take on social media, the Arab Spring, and the Reformation era. The article, How Luther Went Viral, claims that centuries before Facebook and the Arab Spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation era.  Led by Martin Luther, the Reformation was a period of religious revolt that led to the division of Western Christianity and the start of Protestantism. The developments of this period were propelled by the advent of the printing press, which the article describes in rich detail. But it begins by making an interesting claim about how Luther and his allies promoted the message of religious reform with the social media of their day—pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts. So basically, the central argument of the piece states that what happened in the Arab Spring is what happened in the Reformation era: a new form of media provided the opponents of an authoritarian regime an opportunity to voice their concerns, affirm their discontent, and mobilize their actions.

Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Our definition of propaganda focuses on the communication process – most specifically, on the purpose of the process: Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”

“To identify a message as propaganda is to suggest something negative and dishonest. Words frequently used as synonyms for propaganda are lies, distortion, deceit, manipulation, mind control psychological warfare, brainwashing, and palaver. A term implying propaganda that has recently gained popularity is spin, referring to a coordinated strategy to minimize negative information and present in a favorable light a story that could be damaging.”

Garth S. Jowett Victoria O’Donnell in Propaganda and Persuasion, 1999, p. 3 and p. 6.