Communication: Fake News + Propaganda


Merlan, A. (2020, February 28). Anti-Vaxxers are terrified… URL

…the advertisements exploited Facebook's interactive design and used an insider's voice to share real news about racial inequality, [used by] actors [to] hack and deploy cultural knowledge to spread disinformation through social media platforms.

Foster Bhusari, Vasudevan, K., & Nasrin, S. (2022). Hacking Culture Not Code: How American Racism Fuels Russia's Century-Long Memetic Disinformation Campaign. Journal of Communication Inquiry.46(4), 342–360.

Since the general opinions of large numbers of persons are almost certain to be a vague and confusing medley, action cannot be taken until these opinions have been factored down, canalized, compressed and made uniform. The making of one general will out of multitude of general wishes… consists essentially in the use of symbols which assemble emotions after they have been detached from their ideas.

Stanley. (2015). How Propaganda Works.

Popular in general, means "easily read and understood by many audiences with varied levels of literacy and education" Also:

words, meaning making, rhetorical style middle school level vocabulary, easy to understand points & phrasing, giving you everything in as simple terms as possible
sources & references typically the author is "the source", but they'll casually quote people and other sources with a minimum of citation.  Rarely has a references list or bibliography
author's scope of writing authors typically write about a broad range of topics
graphic design cues advertising is present, images can be used to influence the reader or add to the point of the article, clip art and non-related images can be used.


Scholarly in general terms, means "focused on a particular academic discipline (like nutrition, physics, sociology, etc.) and written for audiences with a high level of education and expertise in that field"

words, meaning making, rhetorical style high-level specialized vocabulary, assumes you're familiar with the field of study (masters, Phd), rhetoric is neutral and objective ("the evidence suggests", "the data may provide")
sources & references citation of sources and credit given for other's ideas is strictly adhered to, everything is accounted for with footnotes, inline citations and references lists.
author's scope of writing authors typically write about a focused/narrow range of topics
graphic design cues imagery and color are rarely used unless directly related to evidence presented


more psychology

Politics and fake news

Political news can trigger a defensive response in audiences, which makes them resistant to updating their beliefs. That reaction has recently been applied to the tendency of audiences to consider news that challenges their worldview as “fake.”

Duncan, M. (2019). The effectiveness of credibility indicator interventions in a partisan context. Newspaper Research Journal, 40(4), 487–503.

About confirmation bias.

Those papers that report most crime (particularly crimes involving personal violence) and in the most salient fashion (visually and stylistically) have readers who have the highest Fear of Crime levels.

Williams, P., & Dickinson, J. (1993). FEAR OF CRIME: READ ALL ABOUT IT? The British Journal of Criminology, 33(1), 33–56.

Negativity bias

News is likely negative in part because news consumers are more attentive to negative information. But the propensity to over-represent negativity in mass media need not be a product of profit-maximization alone. Journalists and editors are also humans, after all, and thus have the same tendencies as their audience.

Soroka, S., & McAdams, S. (2015). News, Politics, and Negativity. Political Communication, 32(1), 1–22.

conspiracy theories

We find that, although consumers of scientific and conspiracy stories present similar consumption patterns with respect to content, cascade dynamics differ. Selective exposure to content is the primary driver of content diffusion and generates the formation of homogeneous clusters, i.e., “echo chambers.”

Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., Stanley, H. E., & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(3), 554–559.




Hi! Dale the Librarian here! This particular guide was used as a resource for an in-class library workshop and isn't intended as a stand-alone resource.  If you want to learn more, reach out to me at -OR I highly recommend this book (even just reading the intro and first chapter are incredibly contextualizing):
Stanley, & Project Muse, distributor. (2015). How Propaganda Works.

1. Students will learn the primary differences between popular and scholarly sources of information.

2. Students will learn how (and how to find) scholarly sources' declarations of research methods, experimental design, supporting scholarly literature, conclusions, sources cited, and other common academic writing elements.

3. Students will be able to talk about common psychological concepts of bias and how they can affect our perceptions of information.

Let's get judgy!

Whenever you're not sure of the quality of information you're hearing/reading/seeing, here's some criteria to help you separate the better from the worse:

PADRE (more info at this link)

PURPOSE: Can I find out why the information exists?
-to inform, to persuade, to sell, to help, etc/

AUTHORITY: Do I know who is saying it?
-do they have related credentials/education/experience?

DATE: How old is the information, and does that matter?

RELEVANCE: Was I seeking the information for a specific need? -or did the info find me?

EDITOR: Who agrees with the author, does the publisher represent a field of scholarship, is it self-published?

Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library