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‘Trumpaganda:’ Students will study Trump tweets in Illinois college journalism class

University of Illinois - Champaign students will be able to take a “Trumpaganda” class studying President Trump’s use of Twitter, insults and “disinformation” to spread “propaganda,” according to the school.
University of Illinois - Champaign students will be able to take a “Trumpaganda” class studying President Trump’s use of Twitter, insults and “disinformation” to spread “propaganda,” according to the school. AP

Students at the University of Illinois - Champaign will have a new subject to study in October: President Trump’s “Trumpaganda.”

The new course is called “Trumpaganda: The war on facts, press and democracy.” It will start Oct. 22 and will meet twice a week until the end of the year, according to the university.

The class aims to teach students how the Trump administration’s “war” on the media, “disinformation” campaign, fondness for name-calling and more affects both American democracy and the press, according to the course description.

Propaganda is effective only if it is concealed and camouflaged as something else, such as news, advertisements or PR releases, and it is critical to learn how to detect propaganda and recognize propagandistic features of any communication, including presidential,” said professor and course instructor Mira Sotirovic, according to the student newspaper The Daily Illini.

The class, which is offered through the school’s journalism program, will focus on President Trump’s contentious relationship with the news media. Trump has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” and has suggested taking away news broadcasters’ licenses after critical stories.

“Previous American administrations have had a contentious relationship with the news media, but the Trump administration’s conflict with the press is different in strategies and tactics, challenging Americans’ tendency to think of propaganda as something that doesn’t happen in democratic societies,” the class description says.

“This particular course is the first of what we hope will be a series of what we’re thinking as pop-up courses, where we’re trying to identify things that are very in the news and build an eight-week course around it that would be of interest to the broader University community, not just journalism majors,” said journalism program head Stephanie Craft, according to The Daily Illini.

Sotirovic, the class instructor, has a Ph. D. in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has done research on Trump’s rhetoric before, according to her faculty profile.

In an essay called “Donald Trump Tells You What He Thinks,” Sotirovic and co-author Christopher Benson examined how Trump spoke about race during the 2016 campaign.

“Trump’s populist campaign message expressed in tough talk was among many reasons for his electoral victory, creating an impression that Trump ‘tells you what he thinks,’ even when those messages had racist and sexist overtones,” the authors wrote.

The researchers also examined how the media covered the campaign and the debates, and found failures in both CNN and Fox News’ approaches.

“CNN prioritized conflict and the emotional displays it engendered at the expense of explaining and analyzing, and FOX provided uncritical rationalization of Trump’s statements,” the authors wrote.

When asked during a NATO press conference if President Trump will tweet differently once departing on Air Force One, the president said he will not because he is a "stable genius."

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