John M. Phelan
A Sample of Course Offerings



Critical Praise


Framing Terror

Short Takes







Mass Opinion: Its Measure and Meaning
Versions of Censorship
Class and Taste in Mass Culture
Comtech and Global Politics
The Nature of Adaptation
Op-Ed on the WEB

Culture and Communication
Community and Communication
Propaganda and Persuasion
Government and Its Publics
United Nations Onsite Communications Seminar:
The UN System & NGO Disarmament
Comprehensive Seminar in Ethics and Communication


"My teaching interests involve the philosophical and social science analysis of propaganda, censorship, and ethics in the contexts of modern industrial global communication systems. These interests converge in the study of modern lobbying techniques in American politics and public information compliance campaigns with global reach, the net effect of which has greatly contributed to the collapse of journalism into a distribution system for corporate public relations, partisan propaganda, and obscurantizing mass entertainment.

Plato noted that a well governed republic required 'noble lies,' beliefs that were not in accord with the facts but which helped government keep order for the good of all. Pierre Boule's mythic Planet of the Apes cast this idea in novel form - although the apes of the story were in fact descendants of man, this truth was denied by their leaders because they felt it would demoralize the apes and lead to the destruction of law and order. In Plato, who approved, and in Boule, who disapproved, the concept is based on the elitist premise that only a select few can tolerate the disillusioning power of the truth. Common people must live in and on fairy tales or they will not 'carry on.' It is the logic of the Grand Inquisitor.

Is this governing principle somehow operative in today's democratic 'information society'? If so, the most pervasive modern high-tech form it takes, 'public service information,' deserves at least as much scrutiny as media watchdog groups have accorded both news and entertainment programming. The noble lie may have devolved into noble hype."