Dave Chappelle's Positive Propaganda

In Mark Ralkowski (ed.), Dave Chappelle and Philosophy. Chicago, IL, USA: pp. 75-88 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Some of Dave Chappelle’s uses of storytelling about seemingly mundane events, like his experiences with his “white friend Chip” and the police, are examples of what W.E.B. Du Bois calls “Positive Propaganda.” This is in contrast to “Demagoguery,” the sort of propaganda described by Jason Stanley that obstructs empathic recognition of others, and undermines reasonable debate among citizens regarding policies that matter: the justice system, welfare, inequality, and race, for example. Some of Chappelle’s humor, especially in his most recent Netflix specials, but also in his earlier standup performances and his series The Chappelle Show, is akin to art that appeals to emotion in the ways suggested by Du Bois in “Criteria of Negro Art” (1926). Beauty is essential to art, but, “I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent” (p. 22). The “one side” is that which appears to extoll American ideals, but in reality undermines them, perpetuating the subordinate status of “the other”--black citizens. Replace “beauty” with “humor” or “funny”, and we see striking parallels between Chappelle’s socio-political performances and Du Bois’ call for positive propaganda, each of which constitute “civic rhetoric” broadly construed. We no longer live in Du Bois’ America of explicit denial of rights. In many ways our situation is worse, as the mechanisms of exclusion are implicit, difficult to dislodge, because they are invisible. Chappelles’ humor draws attention to subtle undermining-propaganda in our liberal democracy, transforming it through his counter-propaganda into the spectacle that it should be; ubiquitous democracy-denying propaganda should be as obvious to whites as it is to minorities. In his words, we should all see that “that shit is fucking incredible” (Killin’ Them Softly).



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Propaganda about Propaganda.Jason Brennan - 2017 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 29 (1):34-48.
Propaganda and Art: A Philosophical Analysis.Sheryl Tuttle Ross - 1999 - Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
Massmedia, Propaganda and Nationalism.Marjan Malesic - 1997 - Res Publica 39 (2):245-257.
Propaganda and the Moving Image.Sheryl Tuttle Ross - 2019 - In Noël Carroll, Laura T. Di Summa & Shawn Loht (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures. Springer. pp. 757-780.
Propaganda and the Nihilism of the Alt-Right.Cory Wimberly - 2021 - Radical Philosophy Review 24 (1):21-46.
Positive Propaganda and The Pragmatics of Protest.Michael Randall Barnes - 2021 - In Brandon Hogan, Michael Cholbi, Alex Madva & Benjamin S. Yost (eds.), The Movement for Black Lives: Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 139-159.
Conspiracy-baiting and Anti-rumour Campaigns as Propaganda.David Coady - 2018 - In M. R. X. Dentith (ed.), Taking Conspiracy Theories Seriously. London: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 171-187.
Semantics and Ethics of Propaganda.Jay Black - 2001 - Journal of Mass Media Ethics 16 (2-3):121-137.
Wittgenstein on British Anti-Nazi Propaganda.Nuno Venturinha & Jonathan Smith - 2018 - Nordic Wittgenstein Review 7 (2):195-208.


Added to PP

188 (#80,356)

6 months
62 (#30,277)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Chris A. Kramer
Santa Barbara City College

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references