The Persuaders Truth as a Malleable Entity Discussion

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Most disciplines in the humanities convey their expertise via the written word: even in the visual arts, commenting on or offering criticism of art requires command of relevant vocabularies to express the distinctiveness of the piece. Thus, students in this introductory course should begin to develop skills that enable them to easily “read” or “listen to” a piece of art and convert their personal reaction into a form accessible to others. Twice during the quqrter, each student will write a brief Reaction Paper that will develop the student’s ability to analyze an argument, interpret material, and convey that knowledge in a concise manner.


For each essay, the professor will provide multiple prompts. You may select which of these prompts to respond to. Papers are due one week after the question is assigned. Each essay will be graded on a 100 point scale and will count 10% of the course grade each. Unless otherwise specified, essays should range between 400-600 words long (roughly, 2-3 pages).

All essays must be typewritten and double-spaced using a standard sized font and standard margins. Do not exceed the requested length by more than a half a page. You will upload these Reaction Papers into Canvas via the turnitintool. Expect to upload a .pdf version of your file. (Never delete your files until after the quarter is completely over!).

Academic work always requires you to cite sources when relying on the ideas of another individual. When quoting, always remember the citation. For this assignment, parenthetical citations will be acceptable. Example: (Thompson, 44) or (Trend, 32) or (Lecture, 1/21/2020). Please note that citing lecture is less persuasive as evidence than finding a related idea in a published text. If the idea contains general information—even if you did not previously know it—no citation is required. Original ideas, precise phrasings, interpretations—these should always be cited. When in doubt, cite!


A reaction paper is a brief piece of writing so come to the point quickly: dispense with the usual slow, ponderous introduction and state the paper’s focus immediately. If interpreting art, remember that interpretation is subjective: issues you perceive are often in the eyes of the beholder, so don’t be afraid to be creative. Conversely, writers of secondary sources (commentary about art) are making arguments, and everyone should perceive more or less the same main points. Whenever possible establish links between ideas you discern in primary sources and the arguments presented in secondary sources. This will buttress your case.


  • Subject Matter: Thompson, Culture as a Weapon
  • Assigned: Thursday, January 16
  • Due: Thursday, January 23, 11:59 pm via upload to Canvas
  • Length: 400-600 words
  • Format: double-spaced, typed, standard font and margins


Select one of the prompts below and compose an essay in response. You may use any assigned reading or art work from this course, but primarily focus on Thompson. This assignment is not a research project—do not use outside sources.

  1. Thompson presents the culture war as a clash over values. This clash manifested in a debate over the funding of artists through the National Endowment of the Arts. Relying on the art assigned for Week 2 as well as discusions of these events in Hunter and in Thompson, explain what values you believe NEA 4 threatened?
  2. Thompson suggests that “truth” can be manipulated—it can never be a “fixed quantity” (Thompson, 27) Explain what Thompson means by this statement with particular reference to the influence of “the persuaders” (discuss ideas from Chapters 2-3).
  3. Thompson titles Chapter 4 “Fear Machines.” Explain what he means by this statement and connect that meaning to the culture war as described in lecture and/or in the reading by Hunter. In addition, to ONE of the following:

A)Analyze one or two pieces of assigned art from Weeks 1-3 and explain how that piece might either inspire “the fear machine” into action; OR,

B) Analyze how one or two pieces of assigned Art from Weeks 1-3 might defuse or subvert the “fear machine.” OR,

C) Describe how the “fear machine” phenomenon has impacted your own life.

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