Card stacking is a propaganda technique that seeks to manipulate audience perception of an issue by emphasizing one side and repressing another.1 Such emphasis may be achieved through media bias or the use of one-sided testimonials, or by simply censoring the voices of critics. The technique is commonly used in persuasive speeches by political candidates to discredit their opponents and to make themselves seem more worthy.2
The term originates from the magician's gimmick of "stacking the deck", which involves presenting a deck of cards that appears to have been randomly shuffled but which is, in fact, 'stacked' in a specific order. The magician knows the order and is able to control the outcome of the trick. In poker, a deck can be stacked so that certain hands are dealt to certain players.3
The phenomenon can be applied to any subject and has wide applications. Whenever a broad spectrum of information exists, appearances can be rigged by highlighting some facts and ignoring others. Card stacking can be a tool of advocacy groups or of those groups with specific agendas.4 For example, an enlistment poster might focus upon an impressive picture, with words such as "travel" and "adventure", while placing the words, "enlist for two to four years" at the bottom in a smaller and less noticeable point size.5
- Institute for Propaganda Analysis (1939). The fine art of propaganda: a study of Father Coughlin's speeches. Harcourt Brace and Company. pp. 95–101. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- C. S. Kim, John (1993). The art of creative critical thinking. University Press of America. pp. 317–318. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Ruchlis, Hyman; Sandra Oddo (1990). Clear thinking: a practical introduction. Prometheus Books. pp. 195–196. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- James, Walene (1995). Immunization: the reality behind the myth, Volume 3. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 193–194. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Shabo, Magedah (2008). Techniques of Propaganda and Persuasion. Prestwick House Inc. pp. 24–29. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
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