On propaganda

Just below this post, there is a brief quote about the power of words. I’m reminded of Jacques Ellul’s book Propaganda: The Formation of Attitudes, which I read some years ago. I found it absorbing, because at that time I was realizing just how much we were all subjected to propaganda via advertising but also via Movies (supposedly meant for pure entertainment) and by means of the educational system. And it seems that now, in recent years, we are bombarded with heavy-handed and obvious propaganda — which somehow is not recognized as such by many of our folk.

Our current situation is one in which we are being told many conflicting stories and facts or factoids that we can hardly process to determine the truth or the reality of our situation.

I think the quote below is true; hearing so many clashing analyses and pronouncements by various experts only serves to confuse and cloud our perceptions. And maybe that’s by design. Maybe a confused and distracted population becomes more passive and docile.

Jacques Ellul’s book about propaganda was thought-provoking for me, as I was in college then and just beginning to understand a few things. I brought up the subject of the book and its contents some years ago on the old blog, and a reader (sorry I’ve forgotten just who it was) sent me some notes he had written up. The reader pointed out that, contrary to what we were taught in school, education does not condition the hearer to recognize or to reject propaganda, but rather is meant to prepare us to absorb and receive propaganda. And it’s more obvious than ever that the more educated people today are the most susceptible to being propagandized and mind-conditioned. That’s why so many young people from right-leaning and Christian homes end up being far-left when they get just a semester or two of college. I’ve seen it happen in some very right-wing families.

In my experience it seems that those with the most formal education are the most likely to become strong believers in what they are taught by the educational establishment. This is part of what the book also put across. Ellul seems to say that because the educated intellectual takes in a lot of unverified facts or assertions, and if they come from a respected source (trusted friends, media, fellow scholars, etc.) they are accepted uncritically — which should not be the norm among scholars, should it? Some verification should be involved if facts or science rather than personal opinion are involved. But the reality is there is too much credulity if the hearer is hearing or reading what he wants to hear and believe. Hence all the belief in Anthropogenic Global Warming or the Climate Catastrophe, so called.

Also at play here is the fact that propaganda is also meant to excite the hearer/reader; the idea is to get people stirred up, and eager to act on what the hearer is being told — but then being thwarted from acting by some inhibiting factor. I suppose for the ever-agitated left, the inhibiting factor or obstacle is the non-believer, the Enemy, as far as the Left is concerned. Sooner or later it seems this kind of thing leads to an open clash.I suppose the propaganda-meisters know how to orchestrate this. Ellul notes that this kind of overstimulation by means of constant manipulation of emotions can lead to disintegration. I would say we’ve already passed that point with the leftist zealots. They seem consumed by all the overheated rhetoric and raw emotion.

Can that be de-fused? It seems that another feature of propaganda that Elllul mentions is the polarization of sides, the mutual hardening of attitudes which adds another layer to the misunderstandings and the antipathy which the left displays so openly.

So round and round we go. I don’t know what could calm the situation and bring about a change for the better — maybe nothing can be done, humanly speaking.

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