meus intuitus

The Brief, Sad History of Propaganda Analysis

with 2 comments

“Children are nowhere taught, in any systemic way, to distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless statements.  Why is this so?  Because their elders, even in the democratic countries, do not want them to be given this kind of education.  In this context the brief, sad history of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis is highly significant.  The Institute was founded in 1937, when Nazi propaganda was at its noisiest and most effective…  Under its auspices, analysis of non-rational propaganda were made and several texts for the instruction of high school and university students were prepared…  The institute was closed in 1941…  There were many persons to whom its activities seemed profoundly objectionable.  Certain educators, for example, disapproved of the teaching of propaganda analysis on the grounds that it would make adolescents unduly cynical.  Nor was it welcomed by the military authorities, who were afraid that recruits might start to analyze the utterances of drill sergeants.  The clergymen were against propaganda analysis as tending to undermine belief and diminish churchgoing.  The advertisers objected on grounds that it might undermine brand loyalty and reduce sales.” ~Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

Those who oppose propaganda analysis education essentially oppose critical thought.  The military would disintegrate as soldiers questioned seemingly eternal ideologies (like patriotism or duty to your country), religions would meet troubles as churchgoers analyzed statements like “he is the one,” and “God almighty,” et cetera.  Government, advertisers–all organizations require propagandist elements to function and to survive.  The phrases, “war on terror,” or “fresh, clean feeling,” are not meant to be contemplated.  To be effective, they must only be repeated–externally, then internally, then subconsciously.  Such is the process by which propaganda becomes truth.  It is not in the interest of any organization or country to educate people about propaganda for educating people about propaganda undermines organizations and countries.

Addendum (07/28/2009, 1:54 P.M.):  As Huxley also discusses, an absolutely propaganda-critical nation would be as unpleasant as a propaganda-controlled nation.  In the former, citizens would cease to be moved by anything; soul-rousing statements that would fuel movements, be they good or evil, would all be cut down.  What we need, then, is a “happy median.”  Propaganda analysis education should be taught as it would give the masses a weapon against mental enslavement, thereby strengthening our democracy, but by no means should it stand alone as a philosophy.

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Written by meusintuitus

July 26, 2009 at 11:31 am

2 Responses

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  1. I had a complete set of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’s newsletter, about four years worth. The real reason the Institute closed is because they realized that the very techniques they were advocating to analyze propaganda could be threatening to allied war propaganda in World War II and they said as much in their newsletter. They planned to restart the Institute after the war but it never happened. The point of all this is that propaganda analysis, if honest, is a double-edged sword. I agree that it should be widely taught, however, but just be ready for some novel consequences.

    Laird Wilcox

    July 27, 2009 at 3:10 am

  2. Hmm, very interesting. I’m all for critical thought, but I’m glad that you mentioned that even that could be taken too far. I would really appreciate it, though, if people thought critically about the phrase “war on terror” because it is such a ridiculous term.

    missra

    July 28, 2009 at 10:06 am


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