Propaganda and Rush Limbaugh: Is the label the last word?

A content analysis measured the performance of much‐labeled talk show host Rush Limbaugh against traditional and modem standards of propaganda. A month of Limbaugh’s syndicated radio program was recorded off air. The tapes were randomly sampled for topic segments defined as the units of analysis. Trained coders working in pairs rated each sampled segment on 40 questions, grouped to test seven hypotheses about Rush Limbaugh’s performance, and t‐tests were used to test the variance of scores from the neutral median. Although Limbaugh was not found to use the majority of traditional and modem propaganda techniques or to conceal the source and purpose of the ideas he presented, he was found to have a political agenda, to espouse that agenda openly, and to employ a minority of propaganda techniques. The findings support the notion that analysis of the message source, individual techniques of presentation, and the totality of the message may be more important to effective understanding than the assigning of labels.

(William N. Swain, 2009)

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