Friday, April 04, 2008

I Taunt You a Second Time

There are several books which have had a profound impact upon my life, that in one sense or another were life changing. Some are genuinely profound (The Bible, St Augustine's Confessions, Pilgrim's Progress, All Quiet on the Western Front, Cyrano de Bergerac and Plato's Dialogues), others were more superficial (Atlas Shrugged, Stranger in A Strange Land, Lord of The Rings, and The Machine Stops). But those are all famous to one degree or another. There are two books that have influenced me profoundly that very few people have even heard of, much less read. The first is Propaganda by Jacques Ellul and the second is Psychological Warfare by Paul M A Linebarger. Both books are considered to be modern classics. They are both well written and quite deep. They were both written by intellectuals who were also men of action (M. Ellul was prominent in the Resistance in WWII, Prof. Linebarger was also a colonel in the U S Army who was in active service in both WWII and Korea). They were also both Christians and devout ones at that.

Propaganda is about just that, the unbridled advocacy of a position in disregard of the truth. Something with which attorneys are intimately familiar. Propoaganda can be factual. The best propaganda usually is. It can also be false, in part or completely. What it is is information presented for advocacy, that is to promote a position of some sort. M. Ellul strips away all of obfuscations that surround propaganda in its many forms and shows how dangerous it is to leave unchallenged. I think he would be dismayed and delighted at how the blogosphere has turned out in that regard. It's an important book. One more people should read. And I own it. I have owned it for over twenty five years.
(Taunt number one)

Psychological Warfare is a textbook written on the subject described by its title by one of the world's foremost practitioners of the art. In it he describes how to turn men's minds away from the cause for which they are fighting and over to ceasing to fight. Lest you think I'm indulging in hyperbole, Col. Linebarger came up with a method for persuading Chinese soldiers to surrender during the Korean War that produced more prisoners of war than any other cause. He was that good at his trade. The techniques he describes have been adopted by just about everyone currently in the business of altering and forming opinions. It is well worth reading if you want to know why a candidate or an advertising campaign or what have you has adopted a certian methodology. And I own it. I have owned it for over ten years.
(Taunt number two)

These are books well worth reading before you let your mind get shaped by the current thinking, the buzz, the trendy websites, shows or publications. They are well worth reading by everyone.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

And aside from you and me, who ELSE do you know that actually read and owns both of these books?

Matthew said...

Okies, I taunt everyone but you.

Darn you and your logic.......

non-metaphysical stephen said...

Ellul had a similar impact on me to, for his The Subversion of Christianity. He truly understood the dangers of our time. Thanks for recommending Propaganda!