NPJ Book Review: Propaganda, The Formation of Men’s Attitudes by Jacques Ellul

Propaganda by Jacques Ellul (1973, Propagandes; original French edition: 1962) Though this book is over 50 years old, Ellul, a French philosopher, professor, sociologist and lay theologian, focused his research on the character  and affect produced by propaganda, in the context of modern technology, particularly on people’s lives in making decisions and how they interpret the world around them.

Ellul’s approach leans towards the holistic and he leaves few stones unturned in how every person is affected by propaganda every hour of the day especially in a technological age; and this was written prior to today’s social media, digital public relations, “reality television,” digital surveillance, cyber warfare and the current state of mass communications.

The question may be – have we systematically imprisoned ourselves through our technology rather than having that technology offering us greater freedom? Ellul’s insights have chilling relevancy for the 21st century and the fine line between factual information and the deluge of misinformation. Can we become so “knowledgeable” that we become subservient to our own propaganda?