• Offered by ANU National Security College
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject National Security Policy
  • Areas of interest International Relations, Political Communication, Security Studies, Asia Pacific Studies, Politics
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Matthew Sussex
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2020
    See Future Offerings

The aim of this course is to facilitate the critical analysis of a significant national security challenge affecting contemporary nation-states: the rise of propaganda, populism, and information war, especially in the digital age. Whereas scholarly debate on the root causes, main effects and desired outcomes of propaganda is extensive in the literature on political science, terrorism/counter-terrorism studies and international relations in general, propaganda and information operations are now frequently identified as a security challenge for policymakers. Hence this course draws from the interdisciplinary nature of writing on this topic in order to provide students with the conceptual and empirical knowledge to make informed policy-focused assessments and analysis of these challenges.

Traditional assessment rubrics are married to innovative approaches (asking students to identify ‘fake’ news stories and deconstruct them) in order to underscore the national security policy relevance of the material. A seminar schedule that progresses from the nature and purposes of propaganda and populism to notions of hybrid war, the security challenges posed by charismatic and divisive leaders, and group messaging in the information age will allow students to further focus their learning in respect to the topic. A selection of case studies (on the ‘alt-right’, transnational terrorism, radical protest movements and a comparative exercise on the national security challenges posed by these themes for democratic states) rounds out the course, providing the opportunity to study current and evolving events as they occur.

Seminars will be delivered by the convenor as well as NSC academic staff with research specializations in propaganda, information warfare, and cyber security. Guest lecturers from Australian government agencies responsible for monitoring propaganda and information operations (ie Attorney Generals Department, ONA) will also present their insights on the challenge of combatting foreign interference in an Australian context.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of concepts related to propaganda, and the ability to critically analyse them in a national security context
  2. Critically evaluate contemporary local, regional, and global challenges relating to propaganda and information war
  3. Critically analyse the responsiveness of security agencies to the security challenges posed by propaganda and information war
  4. Conduct independent research
  5. Acquire highly developed oral and written communication skills in relation to national security concepts and challenges

Indicative Assessment

  1. Online 'fake news' identification and deconstruction: 1500 words (20%); (20) [LO null]
  2. Major research paper: 3000 words (40%); (40) [LO null]
  3. End of semester examination (40%) (40) [LO null]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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Standard workload for 6-credit point course, comprising:2-hour seminar (weekly)
Weekly readings
One tutorial (weekly, commencing Week 2) of one hour duration.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

Selection of readings as a course pack

Preliminary Reading

Examples of historical/conceptual literature:Harold Lasswell (1927), 'The Theory of Political Propaganda', American Political Science Review, vol. 21, no. 3.Walter Lippman (1922). Public Opinion. New York: Free Press.Nicholas O'Shaughnessy (2012), The life and death of propaganda, Journal of Public Affairs, vol. 12, no. 1.E.L Bernays (1955), The engineering of consent, University of Oklahoma Press.
Contemporary scholarship:Daniela Stockman (2011), Remote control: how the media sustain authoritarianism in China, Comparative Political StudiesKier Giles (2016), The Next Phase of Russian Information Warfare, NATO Centre for Strategic Communications.Kingsley Edney (2014), The Globalization of Chinese Propaganda: International Power and Domestic Political Cohesion, Palgrave Macmillan.M. Roscini et al, Cyber Operations and the use of force in international law (OUP, 2014).Anne Marie Brady, "Magic weapons: China's political influence activities under Xi Jinping", Wilson Center, 2017.https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/magic-weapons-chinas-political-influence-activities-under-xi-ji... Shambaugh, China Goes Global: The Partial Power, Oxford University Press, 2013.Rory Medcalf, "China's influence in Australia is not ordinary soft power," Australian Financial Review, 7 June 2017  http://www.afr.com/opinion/columnists/chinas-influence-in-australia-is-not-ordinary-soft-power-20170...


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4584 24 Feb 2020 02 Mar 2020 08 May 2020 05 Jun 2020 In Person View

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