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Propaganda in the Classroom
Face-off Over Guns

Triggering Emotions

Effective propaganda almost always works below the level of consciousness, leaving its target feeling a powerful urge or belief that s/he "knows" is true; a position that s/he is certain was arrived at completely on his/her own.  It never encourages discussion, thought or exploration, unless such a tactic is deemed useful in manipulating the target into a desired action or belief.

The propaganda pieces below express two basic positions in the gun control debate.  I believe their designers hoped to trigger immediate emotional responses in those already holding similar ideas.  To print an image, click on it.  It will open in a new browser window.  Use your browser's print command to print it from there; then close the standalone window, being careful not to exit your browser program.

Here is a suggestion for presenting these images to your students.

GunTruths.com
 
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
(formerly the National Coalition to Ban Handguns)

Suggestion for using the propaganda pieces shown above

  1. Print one of the images. (To print an image, click on it.  It will open in a new browser window.  Use your browser's print command to print it from there; then close the standalone window, being careful not to exit your browser program.)
  2. Make a copy of it for each student in your class. Distribute the copies.
  3. Ask your students to complete a Propaganda Analysis sheet for the image you distributed.
  4. After all have had an opportunity to complete the sheet, lead a discussion where your class attempts to reach a consensus response to each item on it. (Here are my analyses of the GunTruths poster and the Coalition mailer.)
  5. Repeat the process for the second image.
  6. After you've discussed both pieces, you might want to have your class take an overall look at the gun control debate as represented by these two items.  For example, it seems clear to me that gun control opponents see any regulatory proposal as leading inexorably to confiscation of all weapons owned by individuals.  On the other side, the gun control organizations are proposing what seems to be relatively limited regulation of handgun sales and military issue combat weapons; nothing even remotely approaching weapons confiscation.

    Fear seems to motivate both sides - the pro-gun side fears its members will be unable to protect themselves from criminals and tyrants; while the pro-gun control side fears the death, injury and pain its members see stemming from easy access to handguns and "assault" weapons.  As long as these fears go unaddressed, I am unable to see the rift ever closing - both sides will simply continue shouting past each other, never beginning the communication necessary for successful problem solving.
  7. If you and your students want to continue to explore the argument over guns, proceed to Dueling Facts.

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original web posting: Tuesday, January 1, 2002
last modified: Sunday, January 08, 2006