Turn Me on Ad Man: A Great Book on the Dark Arts of Persuasion

The book, Age of Progaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion (Holt 2001), attempts to demystify propaganda and the persuasion process, and it does so in a scholarly, fluid, and engaging manner.

The authors, Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, walk the reader through the social psychology academic literature, discussing pivotal studies, and how they apply to what we see in the world around us. I especially like the section provocatively titled, “How to Become a Cult Leader.”

If you’ve ever wondered how media, advertisers, politicians, and religious charlatans manage to so effectively manipulate audiences, this book will tell you their standard tricks. 

In fact, an unethical person might get this book for the purpose of learning the techniques of manipulation. It is a witch’s brew of information about how to subvert and manipulate a person’s reasoning processes. This is, of course, not the authors’ intentions. Their intent is to help readers defend themselves against manipulation.

The book is also a sobering reflection on the difficulties inherent in having a fully functioning, and fully informed, democracy in an age of advertising, packaging, spin, and big-media manipulation.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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