Propaganda Tactics used in “The Dancer Upstairs”

The Dancer Upstairs

Movie Poster

Propaganda Tactics used in The Dancer Upstairs

From the Original Post written by Dr. D.E. Clark:

This film, directed by John Malkovich, demonstrate propaganda tactics that are typically unethical communication practices with a very rich and robust history!

Historically, mediated propaganda dates back to the first penny press newspapers of the late 1800s and then formative and famous propaganda communication research of the 1920s and on…that focused on war rhetoric and propaganda employed by the USA and Hitler. The bulk of the research was led by Walter Lippman regarding the effects of mediated propaganda…they concluded that mediated propaganda had limited effects regarding behavior modification.

However, this led to the diverse body of research studies we still write and publish about today. Due to concerns about propaganda tactics and previous mediated disasters…ready the history, and because the USA had the First Amendment, news producers and editors are self-regulated. The propaganda studies led to the news formats we see practiced today with delineated sections for specific news stories so as not to confuse or mislead the reader. (

Choose an example or incident (ONE) from either movie that illustrates one of the propaganda tactics and explain how this type of communication can lead to terrorist acts as demonstrated in both films. (Terrorist acts are broadly defined and can be overt, or subtle…I will leave it up to you all, via what you learned from your readings and what you now know about propaganda to decide.)

In your comment, be clear about the propaganda tactic you are discussing and the terroristic act you are discussing. To further elaborate your point, bring in a recent news event (anywhere in the world) that is similar to the point you are making.

There are four aspects/parts to your blog comment. Try to go in order of what is being asked so the following students can follow and we can all read different opinions and information is similar formats.

My Response

The Dancer Upstairs has examples of communication practices that make viewers question the messages ethical value. The film’s ideologies follow the fascist bourgeois government who are opposed by fanatical marxist rebels. Both sides are violent and use propaganda to further their causes. Historically, this communication device has been used to by political entities to foster their causes and gain support (Retrieved from on March 27, 2014).


According to the psychology wiki on, propaganda’s aim is to influence people’s opinions actively, rather than to merely communicate the facts about something. The subtle and emotional aspects of the message of propaganda is what make it influential. There are numerous tactics in the creation of propaganda. The message, method and volume are all important aspects of a propaganda agenda. One persuasive device involves oversimplification; or using generalities to provide simple answers to complex problems. This tactic explains the terrorist’s use of message and method through the film. The terms are defined below:


The simplest act of using a dead dog’s is explained by one of the investigator. “In China, a dead dog is symbolic to a tyrant, condemned to death by his people.” The messages on display with the dogs are oversimplified give a farther reach. The first dog seen in the film has a sign that reads: “The point of the next century will be for man to rediscover his god. Long live President Ezequiel.” The another dead dog has a sign that reads” Equal Strategy: only two things fill me with wonder. Stars in the sky and moral law in my land.” Using these simple messages gives the propaganda a longer reach.


In Pakistan, there is a war on terrorism and they are calling it the Irregular War. This is because there is no uniformed enemy or specifically drawn battlelines. The country is using an inter-agency three pillar framework to keep control based on Security, Political and Economic. This counterinsurgency (COIN) theory of oversimplification is helping keep control. This three pillar framework is “a brutal oversimplification of an infinitely complex reality” (Haider, E. Irregular War. Retrieved from on March 27, 2014).

Oversimplification has it’s place in propaganda in that complex issues are made easy to understand; giving the message a better chance at reaching the targeted audience.

Posted on August 11, 2014, in Digital Media, Film Discussion, Global Issues in a Digital Society, School, UHCL and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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