Jacques Ellul

Jacques
Ellul
1912
1994

Leader of the French Resistance, Author

Author Quotes

Hate, hunger, and pride make better levers of propaganda than do love or impartiality.

Propaganda does not aim to elevate man, but to make him serve.

The most favorable moment to seize a man and influence him is when he is alone in the mass. It is at this point that propaganda can be most effective.

In the midst of increasing mechanization and technological organization, propaganda is simply the means used to prevent these things from being felt as too oppressive and to persuade man to submit with good grace. When man will be fully adapted to this technological society, when he will end by obeying with enthusiasm, convinced of the excellence of what he is forced to do, the constraint of the organization will no longer be felt by him; the truth is, it will no longer be a constraint, and the police will have nothing to do. The civic and technological good will and the enthusiasm for the right social myths — both created by propaganda — will finally have solved the problem of man.

Propaganda tries to surround man by all possible routes in the realm of feelings as well as ideas, by playing on his will or on his needs, through his conscious and his unconscious, assailing him in both his private and his public life. It furnishes him with a complete system for explaining the world, and provides immediate incentives to action. We are here in the presence of an organized myth that tries to take hold of the entire person. Through the myth it creates, propaganda imposes a complete range of intuitive knowledge, susceptible of only one interpretation, unique and one-sided, and precluding any divergence. This myth becomes so powerful that it invades every arena of consciousness, leaving no faculty or motivation intact. It stimulates in the individual a feeling of exclusiveness, and produces a biased attitude.

A principal characteristic of technique … is its refusal to tolerate moral judgments. It is absolutely independent of them and eliminates them from its domain. Technique never observes the distinction between moral and immoral use. It tends on the contrary, to create a completely independent technical morality.
Here, then, is one of the elements of weakness of this point of view. It does not perceive technique's rigorous autonomy with respect to morals; it does not see that the infusion of some more or less vague sentiment of human welfare cannot alter it. Not even the moral conversion of the technicians could make a difference. At best, they would cease to be good technicians. This attitude supposes further that technique evolves with some end in view, and that this end is human good. Technique is totally irrelevant to this notion and pursues no end, professed or unprofessed.

People think that they have no right to judge a fact — all they have to do is to accept it. Thus from the moment that technics, the State, or production, are facts, we must worship them as facts, and we must try to adapt ourselves to them. This is the very heart of modern religion, the religion of the established fact, the religion on which depend the lesser religions of the dollar, race, or the proletariat, which are only expressions of the great modern divinity, the Moloch of fact.

In point of fact there are a certain number of values and of forces which are of decisive importance in our world civilization: the primacy of production, the continual growth of the power of the State and the formation of the National State, the autonomous development of technics, etc. These, among others — far more than the ownership of the means of production or any totalitarian doctrine — are the constitutive elements of the modern world. So long as these elements continue to be taken for granted, the world is standing still.

Faith lived in the incognito is one which is located outside the criticism coming from society, from politics, from history, for the very reason that it has itself the vocation to be a source of criticism. It is faith (lived in the incognito) which triggers the issues for the others, which causes everything seemingly established to be placed in doubt, which drives a wedge into the world of false assurances.

Propaganda begins when dialogue ends.

Technique has taken over the whole of civilization. Death, procreation, birth all submit to technical efficiency and systemization.

Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity.

It is the emergence of mass media which makes possible the use of propaganda techniques on a societal scale.

In sum, thought and reflection have been rendered thoroughly pointless by the circumstances in which modern men and women live and act.

Action makes propaganda’s effect irreversible. He who acts in obedience to propaganda can never go back. He is not obliged to believe in that propaganda because of his past action. He is obliged to receive from it his justification and authority, without which his action will seem to him absurd or unjust, which would be intolerable.

Every new idea will… be troublesome to [the individual’s] entire being. He will defend himself against it because it threatens to destroy his certainties. He thus actually comes to hate everything opposed to what propaganda has made him acquire. Propaganda has created in him a system of opinions and tendencies which may not be subjected to criticism… Incidentally, this refusal to listen to new ideas usually takes on a vigorous propaganda will declare that all new ideas are propaganda.

Propaganda by its very nature is an enterprise for perverting the significance of events and of insinuating false intentions… The propagandist must insist on the purity of his own intentions and, at the same time, hurl accusations at his enemy.

The cult of the hero is the absolutely necessary complement of the massification of society… The individual who is prevented by circumstances from becoming a real person, who can no longer express himself through personal thought or action, who finds his aspirations frustrated, projects onto the hero all he would wish to be. He lives vicariously and experiences the athletic or amorous or military exploits of the god with whom he lives in spiritual symbiosis.

Author Picture
First Name
Jacques
Last Name
Ellul
Birth Date
1912
Death Date
1994
Bio

Leader of the French Resistance, Author