ENG 1213:  Analyzing Propaganda

Unit 2 Essay


DUE: Check Cruiser for due date.


SUBMISSION: Attached as file (doc, docx, rtf, or odt) in the Essay 2 assignment area in CRUISER (not on message board)



  • From the LB Brief handbook

    • Chapter 10, “Writing Arguments” (pp. 103-20)

    • Fallacy section in Ch. 10 (pp. 113-16)

    • Chapter 8, “Critical Thinking and Reading” (pp. 78-93)

  • Richard Nixon, “Senator Nixon’s Checkers Speech” (online only)
  • Donna Woolfolk Cross, “Propaganda: How Not to Be Bamboozled” (Power of Language version on pp. 47-56)
  • Video: Nixon's "Checker's Speech"  Part 1 and Part 2

  • Sample Student Essay with Comments

  • Video Lectures on Unit 2 - SUPPLEMENTAL ONLY: Historical Overview, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

  • Nixon Essay Worksheet

  • Cruiser Message Board Post: Cross and Wheeler

    Read both Donna Woolfolk Cross's "Propaganda: How Not to Be Bamboozled" (in our Power of Language text) and the LB Brief's section on "Fallacy" (pp. 113-16). Post a response to the following questions:

    1. What is propaganda? Give an example that you see in the world.

    2. What is a logical fallacy? Identify one specific fallacy (e.g., post hoc ergo propter hoc) then give an example of it that you have found.

    3. Is it ethical to use either or both when trying to persuade someone to do something? Why or Why not?

    4. Name a context that would make this information useful and important to have.

    5. Identify a potential audience who might need to be informed of or reminded that people use these techniques to manipulate or persuade us all the time. When done, post a response to one other classmate's post. Remember also to share your ideas with your peer group before posting your formal response.

  • Cruiser Message Board Post: Nixon

    Post a 150-250 word response to Nixon's "Checker's Speech." Read the text and watch the YouTube 13 minute video of the speech before posting.

    • How could an audience during Nixon's speech (given in 1952) have known or suspected he was not being truthful or straightforward.

    • Remember, some people heard this on the radio. There were no VCR, DVR, or DVD recorders, no 24-hour news shows to breakdown and fact check what Nixon said, no Internet to do it as well.

    • Considering the stakes here for Nixon, his political future, what were the important consequences of so many people falling for his propaganda and logical fallacies?

    •  Over 3 million people contacted the Republican National Committee in support of Nixon after this speech, and he remained the vice presidential candidate for the GOP, eventually winning with Eisenhower. He eventually became president.

    • What strikes you as particularly persuasive, outrageous, and funny in this speech?

    • Respond to one other classmate's post.



    Note about Chapter 10 reading:

    • On p. 105, Aaron discusses different types of claims made in arguments. In this essay, we are working with the first one, a claim made about a past or present reality. Using Nixon (the past) as an example, we are showing people in the present how easy it can be to be fooled by propaganda and how manipulative some people will be in how they use propaganda and logical fallacies. So the claim is in part that we can learn from the past by analyzing Nixon's famous speech in order to learn about the nature of these techniques.

    • In this essay, we will not be making counterargument. You can read this section in Chapter 10, but do not worry about implementing it in your essay. We will be incorporating counterargument in the last essay for this class.

    • I have provided below a suggested outline for your argument using the most logical and traditional development and progression of ideas in academic writing. Your book offers several patterns. Since some of these incorporate different components of argument we are not using in this assignment, please stick to the most basic pattern.

    • Do not get bogged down in the inductive/deductive reasoning section.  My simplest explanation of these two patterns is this: Using inductive reasoning to make an argument is like a detective who finds a lot of evidence at the scene of a crime but has no idea of motive or suspect. Using the clues, he pieces them together to arrive at a possible solution to the crime.  Using deductive reasoning is like the detective who begins with a theory of the crime - why and who did it, looks for evidence to support her belief, and then presents her claim.  For this paper, we already are aware of motive and criminal when it comes to propaganda and logical fallacies. We must lay out our argument to our readers using deductive reasoning: we present them with a supposition  (using a particular fallacy or propaganda technique is bad), we provide evidence to support that supposition (we define the fallacy/propaganda, we give them an example from Nixon of that technique), and we then connect the dots by arguing why this is a problem (we explain why Nixon's use is unethical and then connect it to the present).


    LENGTH: Your paper must be a minimum of 3 pages (@ 900 words).


    AUDIENCE: Your default audience for this assignment consists of intelligent, college-level readers. You may specify a more particular audience, using examples that will resonate with them.



    This essay assignment asks you to persuade an audience that knowing about propaganda techniques and logical fallacies is important. To do so, you must define in general what these are, and then, in the body of the essay, present to your audience three types of fallacies with examples from “Senator Nixon’s Checkers Speech.” You then must walk readers through the example, showing them exactly why the example is a fallacy and what the dangers are in not being able to recognize it as such.  When defining each logical fallacy, you MUST cite from Cross or LB Brief. When setting up your argument and discussing propaganda and fallacies in general, you may also cite from Cross or LB Brief to add weight to your argument.


    In your body paragraphs, you MUST cite passages from Nixon’s speech. Deciding when to quote or summarize depends on what you are doing. Follow these guidelines when deciding:


    Quoting: If your argument and the fallacy/propaganda technique you are pointing out deals with misstatements by Nixon, a problem with how he says something, or a problem with his logic, then you must quote his exact words. We cannot take your word that he misspoke or used vague language - we must see what he did.  For example, let's consider the logical fallacy of the complex questions. Wheeler defines this as "phrasing a question or statement in such as way as to imply another unproven statement is true without evidence or discussion."  Since I am dealing with the way someone phrases his/her words/statements, I must quote the original so the audience can see exactly what the person says. Here is an example from Hitler's "Nation and Race" from Mein Kampf.  Using the pattern for your body paragraphs, this is how I would develop the argument:

    An insidious form of logical fallacy is the complex question that phrases a "question or statement in such as way as to imply another unproven statement is true without evidence or discussion" (Wheeler). This technique is very useful when dealing with an unknowledgeable or ignorant audience. Hitler is a master of the complex question, inserting statements throughout his writings that seem hard fact but are not. One particularly striking example occurs near the beginning of "Nation and Race." Hitler is beginning his argument about the dangers of mating between different species, offering proof of this in that mating across species is infertile and offers various examples as proof using finches, storks, and wolves as some examples of species who only mate together. This makes sense. However, in the next paragraph, Hitler begins using the word "race" and refers to humans breeding not animals of different species. His argument here is scientifically unsound because humans are all part of the same species and race, though they have different ethnicities.  A Caucasian mating with a Hispanic is not a matter of different races/species. The complex question arises when Hitler claims that "racial purity" is "universally valid in Nature." Nowhere does he prove this argument. In fact, he does not treat it as argument but instead offers it as fact. For those without an understanding of basic biology or the classifications of species vs. ethnicity (or that race is equivalent to species not to ethnicity), this statement might not register as problematic. If prejudice and ethnic fear also form part of the argument, then an audience might swallow this statement as fact without even questioning it.  This is what propagandists do: they use words and confidence, facts out of context, words with imprecise meanings, and listener's fears to persuade people to do their bidding. People who do not listen critically or who let prejudice and fear rather than reason guide their responses are vulnerable to this unethical manipulation and can easily become pawns in someone else's power play. The results can be devastating, as Hitler's rise to power and the resulting Holocaust can attest.

    Summarizing: If your argument is about a pattern of technique and information or topics that he uses to try and win his audience's support, then you can use summary instead of quotes. However, you will also benefit by following up a summary of basic trends with a specific example that uses a quote. Using appeal to patriotism, I would use the summary followed by a quote technique as follows:


    The patriotic approach is a specific type of argument ad hominem. Wheeler defines the latter as "Using an appeal to popular assent, often by arousing the feelings and enthusiasm of the multitude rather than building an argument" and specifies that the appeal to patriotism "asserts that a certain stance is true or correct because it is somehow patriotic, and that those who disagree are unpatriotic." Usually, propagandists use several appeals to patriotism in one speech, building the emotion of the audience. One allusion to patriotism may be harmless, but a consistent barrage of patriotic references, especially when they are not relevant to the situation, can only be a technique meant to prey on an audience's emotion rather than supply a logical reason for supporting the speaker's cause. Nixon, in his "Checkers Speech," came before his listeners to argue why his use of campaign funds was not morally unethical. He soon abandons that argument and falls back on a multitude of propaganda and logical fallacy techniques, with appeal to patriotism being one of the more common ones. He mentions his military service and honors, his fight against Communism, and ultimately his love of his country as reasons to trust him.  One of his strongest patriotic appeals comes at the end when he tries to make his audience believe America is in danger. He says:

    Why do I feel so deeply? Why do I feel that in spite of the smears, the misunderstanding, the necessity for a man to come up here and bare his soul? And I want to tell you why. Because, you see, I love my country. And I think my country is in danger. And I think the only man that can save America at this time is the man that's running for President, on my ticket, Dwight Eisenhower. (Nixon)

    The fact that Eisenhower is a retired Army general much respected and loved by the country makes the patriotic aspect of this appeal even stronger. Nixon uses the element of fear to place listeners in a position of seeming unpatriotic or uncaring of America's safety if they continue to criticize or disbelieve his past actions and current motives.  Not to long ago, President G. W. Bush used the same appeal in making the case of war against terrorism. In a speech meant to justify American plans to attack terrorists, Bush argued, "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror" ("Bush Says"). The person guided by emotion and great love of country might overlook the logical error in this statement and quickly embrace patriotism. The fact is, many more alternatives existed besides the two Bush offered. A person could love country but not want to jump immediately into war without proof, as was the now clearly documented case in this situation. The propagandist may have the best intentions in the world when making his/her appeal to an audience. Not all people using these techniques are monsters like Hitler. As Donna Woolfolk Cross points out, propaganda is neutral (47). The intent behind the use is what makes an appeal evil, good, or misguided.  That is why people need to be aware of these techniques so that they can make an informed decision when presented with an argument, not be blindly swept away by emotion and lies.

    Works Cited

    "Bush Says It Is Time for Action." CNN.com. Turner Broadcasting System, 06 Nov. 2001. Web. 20 June 2011.

    Cross, Donna Woolfolk. "Propaganda: How Not to Be Bamboozled." The Power of Language; The Language of Power. Ed. Christian Morgan. 3rd ed. New York: Learning Solutions, 2010. 47-55. Print.

    Hitler, Adolf. "Nation and Race." Mein Kampf. Tropic of Rhetoric. Kelli McBride, 2011. Web. 20 June 2011.

    Nixon, Richard M. "Checkers Speech." The History Place. Philip Gavin, 2011. Web. 20 June 2011.

    Wheeler, L. Kip. "Logical Fallacies Handlist." Dr. Wheeler's Website. Carson-Newman College, 2011. Web. 20 June 2011.

    You should make it clear to your audience what may happen if they do not think about what the speaker is saying or do not question the validity of, practicality of, or intent behind the arguments a writer presents.  Your discussion must incorporate your own ideas and opinions regarding this subject, but may also make use of ideas presented in assigned readings and class discussion. Students must follow MLA documentation rules when citing from outside sources, which the handbook clearly addresses.  If you have any further questions, please consult with me.


    The analysis essay should have a minimum of 3 body paragraphs according to the outline given below and discussed in class.  In your thesis statement, you must make your position clear, and list your three points of discussion.



    Following a strict, academic format, your essay would outline like this (though a lot of variations exist):

    • Introduction: open with an attention getter, provide context/background for this discussion, and state thesis/claim. You do not define or start arguing about individual fallacies you want to point out in Nixon in the introduction. Instead, you focus on the issue of fallacies and propaganda on the big picture level.

    • Body Paragraphs: Present in each paragraph a different logical fallacy pattern; define it using Cross and/or LB BRIEF; explain the problems with this type of thinking according to your source(s); point out an example in Nixon’s speech that uses this fallacy; explain why it is a logical error. When referring to examples from Nixon’s speech, you must QUOTE the text, not summarize it. This is important because you are analyzing Nixon’s use of words, and to do so fairly, you must present the reader with Nixon’s exact words. With fallacies that Nixon uses more than once, you may cite more than one quote to show a repeated use of this logical error. You would then explain what Nixon hopes to gain by using this fallacy repeatedly.

    • Conclusion: Restatement of thesis, provide big picture comments – why it is important not to be bamboozled, as Cross calls it.


    In addition, you must:

    • use proper tone and voice for a formal essay (use formal, not conversational or casual, language)

    • employ correct punctuation and grammar.

    • follow page format guidelines as described in your syllabus.

    • Include correct and complete MLA documentation for each source