Glittering Generalities: Reconsidering the Institute for Propaganda Analysis

A.J. Bauer


Political communication and journalism studies scholars have focused on how present conditions have resulted in the epistemological crisis known as “post-truth.” This new push toward mis/disinformation studies parallels a movement during the Interwar era, when early mass communication scholars began studying the perils of propaganda. Among media historians, there has been renewed interest in the U.S.-based Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA), a short-lived progressive educational initiative concerned with teaching the public how to spot and not be swayed by propaganda campaigns. This article contends that the IPA’s public-facing messaging against propaganda masked its own propagandistic aims. Using scientific language and claiming to be above the political fray, the IPA unwittingly exacerbated the problem it claimed to combat. This article concludes by drawing lessons for contemporary communication researchers invested in understanding and counteracting mis/disinformation.


propaganda, post-truth, misinformation, disinformation, media literacy, history

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