Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Closer Look at Propaganda

Jacques Ellul, was a French philosopher and Christian anarchist (which makes him interesting unto itself). Not an anarchist in the violent anti-government sense, but rather apathetic towards any government.

He published a book in 1965 called "Propaganda". I haven't read this cover to cover, but I thought there were a few excerpts worth mentioning already. As news reports start to come in about fears about the resurgence of fascism in Germany and Austria, and the surge towards Statism and socialism in various countries, I thought it was worth knowing more about propaganda.

First, in the foreword, written by Konrad Kellen

"A related point, central in Ellul's thesis, is that modern propaganda cannot work without 'education'; he thus reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda. On the contrary, he says, education, or what usually goes by that word in the modern world, is the absolute prerequisite for propaganda."

You can read the first few pages for free here. He goes on to suggest that the educated, and especially the intellectual, are most susceptible to propaganda. Once you realize that people with little education tend to just follow what their parents and community tell them, you realize that only the educated are truly open to new ideas, many of which are poorly supported.

On who falls for propaganda and why, Ellul writes (p.147-8):

"Above all he is a victim of emptiness-he is a man devoid of meaning. He is very busy, but he is emotionally empty, open to all entreaties and in search of only one thing-something to fill his inner void. To fill this void he goes tot he movies-only a very temporary remedy. He seeks some deeper and more fulfilling attraction. He is available, and ready to listen to propaganda. He is the lonely man...

He feels the most violent need to be re-integrated into a community, to have a setting, to experience ideological and affective communication. That loneliness inside the crowd is perhaps the most terrible ordeal of modern man; that loneliness in which he can share nothing, talk to nobody, and expect nothing from anybody, leads to severe personality disturbances. For it, propaganda, encompassing Human Relations, is an incomparable remedy. It corresponds to the need to share, to be a member of a community to lose oneself in a group, to embrace a collective ideology that will end loneliness. Propaganda is the true remedy for loneliness."

Is it any wonder why so many seem emotionally attached to Obama? They are psychologically driven by the story. To reject him for many is to reject meaning in their lives. How pathetic.

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