Essay Contest: The Ethics of Persuasion in the Digital Age

Democratic principles grew out of a belief in rationalism, a sense that by putting aside emotions, it would be possible to come to reasonable, enlightened discussion of the way forward. Ironically, brain science, the pinnacle of empiricist science, seems to dispute that view. Many point out that emotions not only cloud our vision; they dominate, even when papered over with enlightenment rhetoric.


Meanwhile, the science and art of persuasion has developed exponentially both in terms of its triggering and its targeting abilities. It’s now easy for social media “bots” to amplify points of view, creating or exploiting tribal thinking.


We are looking for thoughtful, well-researched, forward-thinking essays that map out a new citizen-based ethic of communication, mapping the porous boundaries between weaponized propaganda and honest, authentic persuasion. Your essay should be publication ready, about 1000 words, plus a bibliography and notes. The ideas should be your own; other people’s ideas should be attributed appropriately.

Your essay should foreground your own biases, including strategies you use to see through the potential blinders inherent in your biases.
Here is a non-exclusive list of possible topics:
•What is the line between persuasion and propaganda? What ethical issues apply to the act of persuasion?
•How do traditional lists of faulty reasoning (e.g. ad hominem attacks) apply to contemporary communication?
•What strategies can citizens use to neutralize harassment (such as hate speech) on social media platforms?

All decisions are final.

By submitting your essay, you agree that Fireside Books has first publication rights for both web and print for all or any submissions
Essays are due May 31st.

*Fireside Books is offering up to $1000.00 in prizes ($500.00 in cash, and $500.00 in books from Fireside Books) Depending on the quality of the submissions, the prize may be divided among several contestants – or it may be awarded to one stellar essay.

Please download the .pdf document below for more information.

Files: 

Date: 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 1:30pm