The Standard of Liberty Voice
A publication of The Standard of Liberty Foundation
May 4, 2006, #20
Propaganda, Freedom, and the Heterogeneous Family
I’ve been slowly making my way through a fascinating book called Propaganda, The Forming of Men’s Attitudes, by Jacques Ellul translated from the French and published way back in 1965. It’s an intense super-analysis that rings true as far as I understand it, reading like a sort of nonfiction 1984 and ending up as a severe warning of the many dangers of propaganda to the freedom and progress of human beings and civilized society.
Propaganda is a complex sociological phenomenon even Ellul declines to succinctly define. But needing a working definition for the purpose of this piece of writing, I looked it up in the dictionary and found it defined as “deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread.” But that doesn’t do it justice, not today. From what I’ve learned from Ellul and observed around me, my own clumsy, impromptu definition of today’s type of propaganda would be: unscrupulous psychological group manipulation and intimidation through ideologically-based, technological mass media and existing educational systems, conscious and unconscious, for the purpose of societal change, conformity, and control.(!)
I was calmly highlighting this-and-that when my reading came to a screeching halt on page 82. Ellul reports that one of the essential goals of Mao Tse Tung’s communist regime included the dissolving of the strong Chinese family institution in order to more easily spread enslaving political propaganda. Why, I wondered, would the family inhibit the spread of propaganda? Ellul explains that one of the types of propaganda used to convert China to communism is called horizontal propaganda wherein “Each individual must be inserted into a group, if possible several groups with convergent actions. The groups must be homogeneous 1, specialized, and small . . . The group must comprise individuals of the same sex, class, age and environment. Most friction between individuals can then be ironed out and all factors eliminated which might distract attention, splinter motivations and prevent the establishment of the proper line.” Ellul goes on to say, “This is why the Chinese Communists insisted on breaking up traditional groups, such as the family. A private and heterogeneous 2 group (with different ages, sexes and occupations), the family is a tremendous obstacle to such propaganda.”
Hold everything. The traditional family acts as a tremendous obstacle to spreading false information meant to systematically rob human beings of personal freedoms, as in communism? I call this amazing information that bears closer scrutiny.
The traditional American biological family definitively consists of both sexes, all ages, and multiple roles and occupations, representing a veritable cornucopia of human beings living under one roof in stages ranging from birth to death. It has a female mother and a male father and one or more boy and/or girl children. In addition, it has visiting grandparents and often uncles, aunts, and cousins who are all either male or female and variously occupied. Although some family tasks may intermingle, the conjugal family obviously has a certain order, including some very fixed and specific age and sex roles. (Inevitably, all families encounter problems but are ideally equipped with the motivation and resources coming from within their group to solve them. It’s true that many families today are broken, but that does not mean we should abandon or redefine the institution. It means we should support and fix it.)
Another interesting book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman (1997), portrays how in the strong southeastern Asian Hmong culture the family trumps any kind of national responsibility. The good of the family comes before absolutely anything. Hmong immigrants are shocked to see that in America it’s the individual, not the family, that trumps everything, that in America it’s every man for himself. They are right to be concerned. It is a gross understatement to say that America’s radical individualism is detrimental to family and society.
Of course the ideal natural family, with its many altruistic goals, concerns, and responsibilities, with its children being guided by role-differentiated, opposite-sex parents, with its respect for the wisdom of opposite-sex grandparents, with its generational transmission of family values and traditions independent of popular or national trends, with its assortment of gender roles and interests and points of view, would prohibit a tunnel-vision, mob mentality-type of mind set necessary to the sliding in of political propaganda and the success of state control such as socialist and totalitarian regimes!
In light of this information the sexual revolution becomes even more suspect with its radical feminists and homosexuals. What we have here are all the characteristics Ellul describes as ripe for the spreading of propaganda: Mao’s anti-family, same-gender, adult groups in the same social class and environment with shared central motivations. In the case of feminists, that goal is a genderless utopia, an androgynous 3 culture where there are no differences between males and females. In the case of homosexuals, this motivation is sex and sexual ideologies. (If sex weren’t the basis of their relationships, they would be content to be close friends or roommates). If they are political activists, they certainly belong to groups which are led by integrated leaders through whom they are given their marching orders. What it seems we have in the feminist and gay communities, even in “gay marriages”, are Ellul’s small homogeneous groups ripe for the easy spreading of false information among themselves and among the general population. Scary, isn’t it?
Add the trend toward homogeneousness to modern technology to a liberal prestige media and we are sitting ducks. Even back in 1965 when TV had only three channels and had just gone color, Ellul discussed at length and knew the power of technology to promote propaganda. What would he think of our inexhaustible, round-the-clock, world-wide, instantaneous, satellite-based mass media today?
Obviously, more than ever, the heterogeneous family, the kind with a father and a mother and children, is an essential mediating institution safeguarding democracy and protecting objective standards of truth. In a word, the natural family is a much-needed propaganda-repellent. Renewed support of the natural family and traditional family values should be a priority in American culture if we still value freedom.
1. Homogeneous means all of the same or similar kind or nature.
2. Heterogeneous means composed of parts having dissimilar characteristics or properties.
3. Androgynous means neither distinguishably masculine or feminine as in dress, appearance or behavior.
Copyright 2006 by Standard of Liberty Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
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