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The largest danger to intellectuals: Propaganda

Philosopher and writer Jacques Ellul wrote that one of the strongest dangers to the intellectual mind is propaganda. Ellu follows through by designating intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable to modern propaganda, for three reasons:

  1. They absorb the largest amount of secondhand, unverifiable information.
  2. They feel a compelling need to have an opinion on every important question of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all such indigestible pieces of information.
  3. They consider themselves capable of "judging for themselves." They literally need propaganda.

In fact, the need for propaganda on the part of the "propagandee" is one of the most powerful elements in Ellul's thesis. Cast out of the disintegrating microgroups of the past, such as family, church, or village, the individual is plunged into mass society and thrown back upon his own inadequate resources, his isolation, his loneliness, his ineffectuality. Propaganda then hands him in veritable abundance what he needs: a raison d'être, personal involvement and participation in important events, an outlet and excuse for some of his more doubtful impulses, righteousness - all factitious, to be sure, all more or less spurious; but he drinks it all in and asks for more. Without this intense collaboration by the propagandee the propagandist would be helpless.

Excerpt from Jacques Ellul Propaganda: The formation of men's attitudes

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