Some tips on effective propaganda with some help from Jacques Ellul
It is essential for the budding propagandist to understand that effective propaganda has to be total propaganda.
There is no use in implementing your message in piecemeal way - a bit of a campaign here, a bit there, some in this quarter some in that.
No. This will not be effective.
A blanket approach is needed, utilising all media and all institutions that the propagandist has under his influence. This is modern propaganda.
Each medium has its own particular ways of penetrating the lives and minds of the people and each medium has to be utilised together, in a dovetail fashion, each complimenting and reinforcing the other. Print media, social media, mainstream media, even breakaway independent media should be captured and scripted for the dissemination and amplification of the broad propaganda message.
Every direction a person looks, every voice he hears, should present him with the propaganda message from whatever strata of society he comes from. Each medium finely tuned to break down resistance and garner massage acceptance in the emotions, intellect and the social fabric.
To leave a gap in the propaganda net is to leave opportunity for questioning, doubts, and independent thought. The people must be surrounded on all sides, nothing of the intellectual, emotional or social life is to be left to itself. The realms of feeling, ideas and social fitness must be carefully controlled so that the conscious and unconscious, the private and public lives of everyone is continually, and from every angle, washed with the intended perspectives. A complete and unquestioning reality is provided with a synthesised feeling of purpose and inner drive so that the organised myth of the propaganda possesses the entire person and all those around him.
It is important to instill a feeling of individual empowerment, exclusiveness, and a biased attitude toward the constructed myth, so much so that an inner force compels people to propagate that myth of their own volition. The myth has to generate such a force, and when it does, the individual becomes immune to other contrary influences.
Effective propaganda cannot tolerate dissent nor debate. Discussion, in a free and open forum, can lead to contradiction of the propaganda message and can quickly run away like a cancer - this must be dealt with swiftly. There cannot be any segment of opinion that is outside the sphere of the propaganda, nor can there be any independence. Contradiction, discussion, any form of free thinking must be extinguished until there is a frictionless ease of unconscious acceptance of the new reality. Contradiction must be exposed as so extreme, so ridiculous, so dangerous to the common good, that the individual or group is quickly brought into line by peers and colleagues before any official action need take place.
Of course, beyond media, there needs to be a legal framework established to reinforce the myth - legislation must be proposed and passed, swiftly and without publicity, and anyone in public office who objects should be publicly shamed and humiliated for their lack of virtue and the strongest supporters should be well rewarded in secret and praised in public.
Education too, plays a critical roll in all manner of indoctrination - from the arts to sciences, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, all levels of education must be penetrated for the sake of the propaganda. Everything can serve the propaganda and everything must be used. The aim is to create a total reality - no gaps - no slits to let in an alien light. For if a person can be indoctrinated completely, from kindergarten to graduate school, the propagandists most significant work is done. The next generation will naturally take up the baton in the relay of life and with much enthusiasm carry the myth forward. A significant amount of resourcing should be directed toward the education sector and its educators.
In conjunction with education, all forms of literature must be rewritten according to the propaganda’s needs. Fortunately most people do not read hard copy books anymore and so this leaves the digital realm open for correction and forced agreement. In this respect the Chinese have taken the lead in re-imagining (a better term than rewriting) the Holy Bible to better agree with the party’s world view.
Literature that cannot be adequately re-imagined should be banned outright as unethical, corrupt, or simply dangerous. If the propagandist does not have control over the repository of literature, progress will be slow as long as people have access to alternative points of reference. Internet access for the masses and the unregulated printing of books and periodicals needs serious attention for modern propaganda to be effective.
Economics is obviously another key area that needs to be brought under control of the total propaganda campaign. Thankfully the digital economy, as with the digitization of literature, gives the modern propagandist many creative opportunities to control the flow of finances. The concept of financial independence for any individual is extremely dangerous for any attempt at total propaganda. This is a complex and rich area of influence, providing many levers of control for the propagandist. The new digital currency landscape should be exploited completely and can create useful constraints over most aspects of modern life.
The modern propagandist needs also to understand that there is pre-propaganda that softens the ground for direct propaganda. Pre-propaganda creates ambiguities, reduces prejudices, and inconspicuously prepares the mind of the masses for direct propaganda. The use of images, memes, emphasis in reporting, the subtle change of language, are all part of the pre-propaganda process that is slow, broad, and can take decades to achieve it’s purpose. Often these techniques of exposure do not require any context or explanation, they just need to be increasingly impressed upon the minds of the people - later, the new elements of the propaganda will seem familiar, but they won’t be able to put their finger on exactly why such things seem familiar and even right. Direct propaganda, the more explicit act of modifying opinions and attitudes, must be preceded by well executed pre-propaganda for the whole campaign to be successful. Minds do not change overnight - the sociological preparation is the ploughing of the field for the sowing of direct propaganda.
By it’s very nature pre-propaganda is primarily covert, but direct propaganda is both covert and overt. For example, the complete synchronisation of media outlets announcing a certain thing is obviously overt, people can see there is a coordinated effort, and it is done in a way that it is seen as a reasonable and responsible action. And there is the coercive influence, and even abuses, to force obedience, but not nakedly, but with the full support of covert groundwork. Behind every overt action are a number of layers of covert plays that compliment the overt action. For example, quietly suppressing alternative views, manufacturing evidence to support claims and covertly planting that evidence for anyone eager to seek it out, or manipulating social media messaging to bolster conscious and unconscious agreement with the overt action. There are a myriad of covert actions to compliment any overt action. The modern propagandist must use both in a highly synchronised way.
Total propaganda must be continuous, without gaps, and long lasting - it must, for the longest time fill every moment and every aspect of the citizen’s days, weeks, months, and years. The world of the propaganda, the points of reference it sets up, should be the only world, the only points of reference the citizen has. This will create convictions and compliance through a myriad of imperceptible influences washing continuously over the mind - every outside point of reference carefully and thoroughly censored from conscious awareness. The immersion of which should grow steadily deeper until the trance is total. Sustaining the trance, the myth, will be much easier in subsequent generations and once any memory of the old world has passed away the propagandist can shift into a maintenance mode.
As long as the continual propaganda exceeds the individual’s capacities for attention or adaptation (and thus resistance), then consistency is not a great concern. A thing that was approved today may be condemned tomorrow, and then approved the day after - the citizen will continue to follow the logic of the propaganda because he is completely captured by the system. Ultimately truth is whatever is presented as such by the propagandist and is never fixed but always at the discretion of the propagandist. Of course when a truth is turned on its head the propagandist needs to flood the citizen with a dizzying array of proofs and arguments and experts to explain why such a sudden change has taken place. With little energy to look into things himself, or to construct a counter argument, or even to defend the opinion of yesterday, the citizen will concede. If he does resist it will be fleeting. The propagandist can always align any such fleeting resistance with the enemy, and quickly you will find the resistance melts away as no one wants to be associated with an enemy of the State.
Finally the modern propagandist wishing to implement total, and thus effective, propaganda, should always tie ideas to actions. It is a mistake to think that propaganda is only a psychological operation, concerned only with opinions - this is only half the picture. Effective propaganda must rigorously tie together psychological and attitudinal elements to action. The citizen must act on the convictions instilled by the propaganda - only then, rooted in action, will the propaganda be complete. And so many opportunities for action must be supplied - be it rallying together in the street, wearing masks, becoming vaccinated, dropping dissenting ‘friends’ from Face Book, or any other number of social signals to demonstrate solidarity with the cause and what’s ‘right’ - whatever is the current ‘right’ determined by the propagandist.
Needless to say total propaganda requires enormous resources and led by highly dedicated and influential people. We have seen some encouraging attempts by the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, the pharmaceutical industry and a handful of billionaires who have demonstrated that such endeavours are indeed possible, ushering in an exciting new era of totalitarianism for many generations to come.
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For more helpful tips to hone your propaganda skills, I highly recommend “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes” by Jacques Ellul.
Curious that he only wrote about men ;-)