Conditions for Total Propaganda

In his book PROPAGANDA, Jacques Ellul writes that four conditions are necessary for the State’s propaganda to be successful:

  1. Certain standard of living - the very poor are not susceptible to propaganda, therefore uniform middle class with spending power is the government’s nr 1 priority: "More advanced propaganda can influence only a man who is not completely haunted by poverty, a man who can be reasonably unconcerned about his daily bread, and who therefore can take an interest in more general matters and mobilize his actions for purposes other than merely earning a living".

  2. An average culture - "if man is to be successfully propagandized, he needs at least a minimum of culture. A base is needed - for example, education; a man who cannot read will escape most propaganda, as will a man who is not interested in reading". Ellul argues that push to higher literacy is needed in order to better propagandize the masses.

  3. Information - "basic education permits the dissemination not only of propaganda but of information in general. [...] To distinguish exactly between propaganda and information is impossible. [...] Information is an essential element od propaganda; for propaganda to succeed, it must have reference to political or economic reality. [...] Informed opinion is indispensable for propaganda."

  4. Ideologies - "prevalence of strong myths and ideologies in a society. [...] The fundamental myths of our society are the myths of Work, Progress, Happiness; the fundamental ideologies are Nationalism, Democracy, Socialism."

The book was originally published in French as Propagandes, in 1962. It’s not entirely dated if you add to the ideologies: neoliberalism, market economy, etc, and substitute the anti-communist rhetoric with the quickly rising fascism.

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