Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Rational and Irrational Propaganda

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rational and Irrational Propaganda

The differences in rational and irrational propaganda is like the difference between information and propaganda. Information is to address reason, it completes facts where propaganda is to address feelings and passion. The key word there is passion. When you can discover what people are passionate about you have a discovered a very powerful weapon.

Rational propaganda is based on facts, statistics, and economic ideas. Even though this mostly information it can be propaganda, for it uses to show rationality. When these facts are proven, it will demand everyone's support. To create irrational propaganda is a little different.

Ellul says "The problem is to create an irrational response on the basis of
rational and factual elements. That response must be fed with facts, those
frenzies must be provoked by rigorously logical proofs. Thus propaganda in
itself becomes honest, strict, exact, but its effect remains irrational
because of the spontaneous transformation of all its contents by the
individual."


Elluls continues to say that it is more powerful to use one piece of information instead of many, many facts because you keep the information in the person's mind. If you give him a great deal of information on the topic, he will not retain it all and will just get a general summary of the information. If you give him one statement the reader will not only retain the information, but it will be hard for him to put the information into his own words, which can decrease the passion of it. For example. If you give someone a great deal of information on all the good points of American he might come up with the opinion that America is a good nation, but if you simply but America is the world's superpower, the reader can only think that America is a world super power, instead of just being a good nation.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mike Moore said...

You made some good points in your post. There is only one part that I would draw a distinction on. In regards to "rational propaganda" you say that "When these facts are proven, it will demand everyone's support". One of the biggest obstacles in meaningful political debate in contemporary politics is disagreement over what is accepted as "fact". It is often very difficult to get political partisans to believe anything that conflicts with there ideological beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming factual evidence (people who still think Saddam had WMD, don't believe in evolution, ect).

2/02/2006 3:43 PM  
Blogger A. Mattson said...

I think that this is a key point. The use of rational means to create irrational, emotional ends is not a contradiction. The marshalling facts to create specific emotions is an art. The quote you chose is a good one.

Mr. Moore is correct. The debate over what the facts are continues. Clearly, the Bush Administration was seeking to use the 'facts' of WMD to create an emotional support for the invasion of Iraq.

2/13/2006 11:23 PM  

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