Propaganda and the Authority of Pornography

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 31, Issue: 3, Page: 329-343

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Aidan Neil McGlynn
UPV/EHU Press, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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Jason Stanley's How Propaganda Works characterises and explores one democratically problematic kind of propaganda, 'undermining propaganda', which involves '[a] contribution to public discourse that is presented as an embodiment of certain ideals, yet is of a kind that tends to Erode those very ideals'. Stanley's model for how undermining propaganda functions is Rae Langton and Caroline West's treatment of moves in pornographic language games. However, Stanley doesn't consider whether his theory of propaganda might in turn illuminate the harmful nature of pornography, in light of the familiar contention that some pornography acts as a kind of misogynistic propaganda. Drawing on Catharine MacKinnon's writings on pornography, this paper will explore one way of developing the claim that pornography sometimes functions as undermining propaganda, in something close to Stanley's sense. Moreover, I will suggest that the discussion points to a new response to the so-called authority problem for Rae Langton's silencing argument against the protected status of pornography.

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