Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Propaganda Machine Revisited
The campaign propaganda we are seeing from McCain, Palin and the Right is shown rather well in this work by Randall Bytwerk of Calvin College. From a quote of his at the site:
“Propaganda is a tricky matter to define. My favorite, but not very useful, definition is F. M. Cornford's: "Propaganda is the art of very nearly deceiving one's friends without quite deceiving one's enemies."
My own approach to propaganda follows the work of Jacques Ellul, whose book Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes remains to my mind the best book on the subject. Ellul views propaganda as part of a larger system. His definition is:
Propaganda is a set of methods employed by an organized group that wants to bring about the active or passive participation in its actions of a mass of individuals, psychologically unified through psychological manipulation and incorporated in an organization. (p. 61)
However, he insists that propaganda is not something done by evil propagandists to ignorant citizens:
But in order for propaganda to be so far-ranging, it must correspond to a need. The State has that need: Propaganda is obviously a necessary instrument for the State and the authorities. But while this fact may dispel the concept of the propagandist simply as an evil-doer, it still leaves the idea of propaganda as an active power vs. passive masses. And we insist that this idea, too, must be dispelled: For propaganda to succeed, it must correspond to a need for propaganda on the individuals part. One can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink; one cannot reach through propaganda those who do not need what it offers. The propagandized is by no means just an innocent victim. He provides the psychological action of propaganda, and not merely leads himself to it, but even derives satisfaction from it. Without this previous, implicit consent, without this need for propaganda experienced by practically every citizen of the technological age, propaganda could not spread. There is not just a wicked propagandist at work who sets up means to ensnare the innocent citizen. Rather, there is a citizen who craves propaganda from the bottom of his being and a propagandist who responds to this craving. Propagandists would not exist without the potential propagandized to begin with. To understand that propaganda is not just a deliberate and more or less arbitrary creation by some people in power is therefore essential. It is a strictly sociological phenomenon, in the sense that it has its roots and reasons in the need of the group that will sustain it. (p. 121)”
If any of the current Republican ministrations look familiar, it may be because the “brain” of the NeoCon Republican Movement seems to have read extensively from the history of an early 20th century failed regime. Only this time he’s incorporated contemporary ideas. There are numerous fascinating examples of propaganda from Randall Bytwerk who took it farther than an art at this site.
The author has done an meticulous and exquisite job of compiling data on Germany of the 20s, 30, and 40s and the way they used the press and fear mongering to advance their own agendas. Sound familiar? It is like a play book.
Listening to Sarah Palin and John McCain along with the right wing talking heads, then reading the material this gentleman provides, especially sections V and VI, it seems to this writer, at least, that reincarnation be a valid argument.
Of particular interest is the section on “Faith and Action” and “Hitler Speeches and Foreign Radio Station” with emphasis on the “Radio Stations” and the section on the “Material on the Nazi Speaker System.” Of course, some of the comments are directly related to the situation at the time but if you read between the lines, you can see where someone like Rove developed his plan. It is textbook stuff.
It’s a long read but well worth the effort if only to understand how the public is so easily manipulated. Skim it first then if you find continued interest read more. The more you read, the more you will see uncanny parallels to the NeoCons and today’s Republican Leadership. It also employs methods that have been seen in the religious sectors of the Right Wing.