Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes
Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes


Jacques Ellul


1965 (English version)


Conditioning, Oligarchical control, Propaganda, Social engineering



Propaganda: The Formation Of Men's Attitudes is a book written by Jacques Ellul.

On democracy Edit

Democracy no obstacle to dictatorship Edit

"Similarly, a Communist propagandist can disseminate a nationalist or a democratic ideology because it is useful, effective and profitable, and because he finds it already formed and part of public opinion, even if he himself is anti-nationalist and anti-democratic. The fact that he reinforces a democratic belief in the public is of no importance: one now knows that such beliefs are no obstacles to the establishment of a dictatorship. ..." Public opinion is so uncertain and unclear as to the content of its ideologies that it follows the one that says the magic words, not realizing the contradictions between the proclamation of a catchword and the action that follows it." - p.198

On democracy's need for propaganda Edit

"On one fact there can be no debate: the need of democracy, in its present situation, to "make propaganda". We must understand, besides, that private propaganda, even more than governmental propaganda, is importantly linked to democracy. Historically, from the moment a democratic regime establishes itself, propaganda establishes itself alongside it under various forms. This is inevitable, as democracy depends on public opinion and competition between political parties. In order to come to power, parties make propaganda to gain voters.

Let us remember that the advent of the masses through the development of the democracies has provoked the use of propaganda, and that this is precisely one of the arguments of defense of the democratic State - that it appeals to the people, who are mobilized by propaganda; that it defends itself against private interests or anti-democratic parties. It is a remarkable fact worthy of of attention that modern propaganda should have begun in the democratic States." - p232

On progressives Edit

"In this fashion we see the progressives make some "variations" around the basic propaganda tenets of the Communist party. But the field of such variations is strictly limited." - p169

On propaganda Edit

Deliberate mindlessness Edit

"Remember that propaganda seeks to induce action, adherence and participation - with as little thought as possible. According to propaganda, it is useless, even harmful for man to think; thinking prevents him from acting with the required righteousness and simplicity. Action must come directly from the depths of the unconscious; it must release tension, become a reflex. This presumes that thought unfolds on an entirely unread level, that it never engages in political decisions. And this is in fact so. No political thought that is at all coherent or distinct can possibly be applied." - p180

Slogans and catchwords Edit

"On the one hand, an ideology can be expressed in a catchword, a slogan. It can be reduced to a simple idea, deeply anchored in the popular consciousness. And public opinion is used to reacting automatically to the expressions of a former, accepted ideology: words such as 'Democracy', 'Country', and 'social justice' can now set off the desired reflexes." - p199

On torture Edit

On public acceptance of torture Edit

"The humanist ideology no longer provokes a response: in the face of modern propaganda, intellectuals have been completely disarmed and can no longer evoke the values of humanism. Torture (of political enemies) is implicitly accepted by public opinion, which expresses its dismay only in words, but not in action." - p201

References Edit

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