Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Propaganda (But Were Afraid To Ask)


"To be effective, propaganda must constantly short-circuit all thought and decision. It must operate on the individual at the level of the unconscious. He must not know that he is being shaped by outside forces (this is one of the conditions for the success of propaganda), but some central core in him must be reached in order to release the mechanism in the unconscious which will provide the appropriate—and expected —action."

"Propaganda reveals our hoaxes even as it encloses and hardens us into this system of hoaxes from which we can no longer escape."

"Besides, modem man is called upon for enormous sacrifice, which probably exceed anything known in the past. First off work has assumed an all-pervading role in modern life. Never have men worked so much in our society. Contrary to what is often said, man works much more nowadays than, for example in the eighteenth century. Only the working hours have decreased. But the omnipresence of the duties of his work, the obligations and constraints, the actual working conditions, the intensity of work that never ends, make it weigh much more heavily on men today than on men in the past."

"Every modern man works more than the slave of long ago, standards have been adjusted downward. But whereas the slave worked only because he was forced to, modern man who believes in his freedom and dignity, needs reasons and justifications to make himself work. Even the children in a modern nation do an amount of work at school which no child was ever asked to do before the beginning of the nineteenth century; there too justifications are needed. One cannot make people live forever in the state of assiduous, intense, never-ending labor without giving them good reasons and creating by example a virtue of Work, like that of the bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century, or a myth of liberation through Work, like that of the Nazis or Communists."

"The news is only about trouble, danger, and problems. This gives man the notion that he lives in a terrible and frightening era, that believes amid catastrophes in a world where everything threatens his safety. Man cannot stand this; he cannot live in an absurd and incoherent world (for this he would have to be heroic, and even Camus, who considered this the only honest posture, was not really able to stick to it) nor can he accept the idea that the problems, which sprout all around him, cannot be solved, or that he himself has no value as an individual and is subject to the turn of events."

"It is well known to what extent modern man needs escape. Escape is a general phenomenon of our civilization because man has to battle against far too many contradictions and tensions imposed on him by the conditions of life. He seeks to flee these difficulties, and is encouraged to do so by the contemporary ideology of happiness. Propaganda offers him an extraordinary possibility of escape into action."

"This role is even more prominent in the presence of another phenomenon: anxiety. Anxiety is perhaps the most widespread psychological trait in our society. Many studies indicate that fear is one of the strongest and most prevalent feelings in our society. Of course, man has good reasons to be afreid—of Communist subversion, revolution, Fascism, H-bombs, conflict between East and West, unemployment, sickness. On the one hand the number of dangers is increasing and, because of the news media, man is more aware of them, on the other, religious beliefs which allowed man to face fear, have disappeared almost entirely. Man is disarmed in the face of the perils threatening him and is increasingly alarmed by these perils because he keeps reading about them. For example, the many medical articles on illnesses in the major papers are disastrous because they attract mans attention to the presence of illness: information provokes fear."

"TV, for example, creates feelings of friendship, a new intimacy, and thus fully satisfies those needs. But such satisfactions are purely illusory and fallacious because there is no true friendship of any kind between the TV personality and the viewer who feels that personality to to be his friend."

"TV is destined to become a principal arm, for it can totally mobilize the individual without demanding the slightest effort from him. TV reaches him at home, like radio, in his own setting, his private life. It asks no decision, no a prior participation, no move from him (such as going to a meeting). But it holds him completely and leaves him no possibility of engaging in other activities (whereas radio leaves a good part of the individual unoccupied). Moreover, TV has the shock effect of the picture, which is much greater than that of sound."

Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes