CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS LIBRARY
Part III: After Viewing the Exhibit/Novel (90 minutes)
Tell students that you are going to read aloud a scenario, and that you would like them to listen silently and to imagine themselves in this situation. Read aloud from the handout, Hate Group Propaganda, and then discuss some of the following questions:
- How did your feelings about this group change from the beginning of the scenario to the end? Explain.
- What do you already know about the Ku Klux Klan? Did this influence your response to the Web site?
- What if you encounter a Web site or literature on a group that is equally attractive, free to join and seems to be “Pro-Rights,” but is a group that you’ve never heard of before? How will you know whether it is a hate group or not?
- What, if anything, would you do to find out more about the group?
- What are some of the things you could do to verify the information
provided or to cross-reference the sources?
- Write the word propaganda on the board or a sheet of chart paper. Ask students to define it and create a web of their responses. Read aloud the following definition from the Media Awareness Network:
The term propaganda refers to persuasive techniques that attempt to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes or behavior of a group of people. Propaganda itself is neither good nor bad – it’s merely a means of persuasion and can be used for positive or negative purposes.
Ask students for examples of propaganda that they encounter in their everyday lives (e.g., product advertisements, political campaigns, public service announcements, etc.).
- Emphasize that while some propaganda is benign—such as an ad persuading us to buy a particular brand of toilet tissue—other forms of propaganda can be incredibly destructive, such as the Ku Klux Klan message read earlier and the messages contained in The Protocols. Ask students to think back on the exhibit/novel they viewed/read about The Protocols and post the following quotes while students reflect.
[The Protocols are] probably the most widely distributed book in the world after the bible…1
It is no exaggeration to say that [The Protocols] cost the lives of many thousands of innocent persons and that more blood clings to their pages than to those of any other mendacious document in the world’s history. 2
- Post a sheet of chart paper divided into two columns, labeled “Message” and “Techniques.” Ask students to consider what specific messages are contained in The Protocols and what techniques have been used by its purveyors to persuade masses of people that this deception is actually true. Use one or both of the options below to generate discussion, and chart students’ responses in the appropriate columns (see One Lie, Many Versions for examples of propaganda and techniques).
- Project the images in One Lie, Many Versions, which shows the cover art from various editions of The Protocols over the past century and throughout the world. Elicit from students the stereotypes that have been used to convince people of a Jewish “plot.”
- Project/play the song, Protocols, a satire created by the Hasidic rabbi, Rav Shmuel. Elicit from students the stereotypes that have been used to convince people of a Jewish “plot.”
NOTE: If option (b) is chosen, make clear that the song is a parody and that while it is humorous, the problem of anti-Semitism is not. Be certain that your students are mature enough to appreciate satire and to refrain from sharing the song in contexts that might perpetuate rather than challenge prejudices.
- Distribute a copy of the handout, Propaganda Techniques on Hate Web Sites, to each student. Have students read it to themselves or read together as a group. Compare the information on the handout with the chart created earlier and invite students to add new ideas to the chart.
- Tell students that they will be investigating the rhetoric of various hate groups (using printed excerpts from their Web sites) to deepen their understanding of propaganda techniques. Divide the class into small groups of three to four students and assign each one of the following groups (but do not provide the URLs):
The content on these sites is graphic and may be upsetting to some students. Conduct this part of the activity only if your students have had the requisite preparation, and you are able to provide the support needed to process the misinformation and hateful messages. In order to help students understand what they are viewing, share information from the following pages on ADL’s Web site, which provide background on the hate groups included in this lesson: Extremism in America
and Hate Symbols Database
. It is strongly suggested that students remain on the ADL Web site when conducting this research. Students may not be mature enough to comprehend or handle information they may come across if they visit Web sites designed and supported by hate groups.
Distribute a copy of the handout, Hate Propaganda, to each group and provide them with the pages that correspond with the site they have been assigned. Direct groups to identify the purpose of the propaganda and the propaganda techniques for their assigned site, and to record their conclusions on the handout. Allow about 20 minutes for groups to work.
Reconvene the class and have each group briefly share its findings. Reinforce the importance of being critical consumers of information so that students can avoid falling prey to some of the seductive hate sites, video games and music that mask their true intentions.
1 Norman Cohn in Larsson, Goran. 1995. Fact or Fraud? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Jerusalem: AMI-Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and Research.
2 Valentin, Hugo. 1971. Anti-Semitism Historically and Critically Examined. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press.