Here’s a great introduction to Propaganda as supported by Jacques Ellul’s book, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. Lots of great food for thought and overall a great primer.

I would disagree with the video author’s assessment that Ellul thought propaganda was necessary in the modern society. In fact, as is stated later in the video, Ellul understands correctly that a democracy that is controlled by propaganda loses it’s essential quality as a democracy and becomes totalitarian and authoritarian instead.

Ellul thought emerging propaganda had to attach itself to the fundamental currents of the society it sought to influence and that the four great collective sociological presuppositions in the modern world are …

1. Man’s aim is happiness

2. Man is naturally good

3. History develops in endless progress

4. Everything is matter

Here is Ellul’s definition of propaganda.

Propaganda is a set of methods employed by an organized group that wants to bring about the active or passive participation in its actions by a mass of individuals, psychologically unified through psychological manipulations and incorporated in an organization.

Mass society and Propaganda

One of the first conditions for growth of propaganda is that the society becomes more individualistic. Generally the nineteenth-century witnessed a profound disintegration of small groups such as the church, the family and other organizations, leaving the modern individual isolated and much more vulnerable to mass propaganda. Ellul also believed that the most obvious result of public education and mass literacy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was to make citizens more receptive to super-propaganda.

Because propaganda techniques have advanced so much faster than the reasoning capacity of man, Ellul did not believe that raising the intelligence of modern society could sufficiently thwart the effects of propaganda.

I however do not believe that simply raising intelligence is the issue but rather raising awareness of how propaganda is being used is just as important and how it has been used in the past.

Let’s call this propaganda literacy or propaganda IQ. This type of attack will definitely help people to break out of the system. Learning about twenty first century propaganda techniques and identifying the vulnerabilities that makes us such easy prey is important. There is so much more to modern propaganda than just the “7 Propaganda Types”.

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