Like all propaganda, the objective was to exert a power of fascination that would lead citizens to stop thinking and automatically vote for the party. This was therefore about mass manipulation, propaganda and rhetoric. To achieve this, the students used different channels such as television (campaign video), social networks (the influencer), pseudo-science (logos), direct contact with citizens' meetings and distribution of leafleting.
This immersive exhibit showed just how fragile knowledge is and how easy it is to manipulate the masses, even in the age of multimedia horizontal information canals.
Since the main goal was to win over the audience, the students practised structuring a persuasive speech using Aristotle’s rhetoric devices, in particular the three argumentation devices: ethos, logos and pathos.
i) Ethos is about the credibility that the speaker inspires with the audience. People are more likely to believe people they respect or that have a pompous title. Therefore the students decided to include a scientist who had supposedly done extensive research on the two moons theory.
ii) To win the argument, they deployed a second rhetorical device, pathos to persuade the audience by appealing to their emotions. The campaign created an environment of fear by "revealing" to the citizens, the information that they had been spied on for ages. To do this, they emphasised the fact that they were taking a big risk by revealing a truth that had been hidden from the citizens for a long time. In other words, the party made people believe that their priority was the welfare of the citizens and they were prepared to take big risks for their well being. This allowed visitors to identify with the President.
These methods of persuasion are omnipresent in propaganda campaigns and in many public information campaigns. Thus, communication and propaganda are closely linked. To sum up, the students used a scientific figure who represented legitimate knowledge, mathematical formulas that seemed irrefutable, an influencer and a strong presidential candidate to sell lies as truth. Using the services of modern day influencer amplified these lies via social media much in the same way that past propaganda campaigns have done during major historic events (world wars, pandemics, natural disasters, etc) via the mass media.
This immersive exhibit in which the three female students themselves took part is a nod to the era of fake news, of alternative facts and of conspiracy theories that saturate social media especially in the last two years with the emergence of the Covid19 pandemics, Trump’s alt-universe. Designed as a presidential campaign for the next French presidential election of 2022, the candidate of the Truth Party claimed that she was there to tell the truth which has been hidden from the French people after all these years and called them to vote for her as the next French President. They acted the role of the presidential candidate, of a famous influencer and of a scientist. In order to make the election credible, they created an election campaign video, as well as flyers and posters which visitors could take away with them as they would if they went to a political rally. It was a very convincing campaign done with brillant visual aids and props.
iii) Finally, they supported their argument with logical and rational arguments, thus using logos.
They therefore placed mathematical formulas on some of their posters to convey the impression of scientific legitimacy to their claims. In addition, their scenario wasn't entirely fictitious. There had actually ben claims about the existence of a second moon, hence, they dug up real articles which had circulated in the past. Even though all of the claims about the existence of a second moon had been disproved, the students cunningly selected sentences from theses articles which they took out of context to support their claims. As these were real scientific journals, they managed to win convey credibility in the minds of some of their audience. To further gain in credibility, they rigged election polls which attributed to their entirely fictitious candidate an honourable score in the future presidential election of 2022, thus giving the impression that their party was real.
The art of persuasion