This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Democracy necessitates propaganda

“[I]n a democracy, a government that is honest, serious, benevolent, and respects the voter cannot follow public opinion. But it cannot escape it either. The masses are there; they are interested in politics. The government cannot act without them. So, what can it do?…Only one solution is possible: as the government cannot follow opinion, opinion must follow the government.”

~ Jacques Ellul[1]

Propaganda is the subject of a later section of this manual, because it is a very modern phenomenon and because it shapes the minds of our people and determines their fates. And so, while avoiding too much depth at this moment, we must explain how and why democracy requires the existence of propaganda, both for the operation of the state and for the peace of mind of the people.

It is an inescapable rule of democracy that any public operation, however complex, must be addressable to all of the citizenry, regardless of whether or not this populace has the experience or perspective to assess the information they receive. If it is not actually addressable to the entire population, it must at least appear addressable to them. The populace, believing itself the true engine of public policy, will not have it any other way. As a consequence, the operations of democracy must be simplified, either in reality or in presentation.

If they are simplified in reality, then we immediately see that democracy will only be able to address those problems that even the most ignorant of its citizenry would be able to understand. We then come to understand why democracy has been called the most primitive of systems, because in this case any sort of action would be reduced to the level of comprehension of the lowest elements in society. Such a mode of operation will prevent the government from ever rising to meet any significant issue, such as the formulation of a coherent foreign policy, for it is evident from experience that the general population has no possible way of achieving this.

However, we find that democracies do indeed carry out foreign policy, and that they do so in a very complex and coordinated fashion, along with many other vast projects on the national and local level. Therefore, we must assume that the simplification chosen was not the simplification of problems in reality but only in presentation. In short, the problems always remain complicated (since reality is complicated and reality cannot be altered) but the solutions proposed to the public are ultra-simplified so that the public can have the power of responding yay or nay.

This is why the social authorities in democracy, unable to honestly present the problems with which they, as government officials, must cope, must resort to propaganda, the main purpose of which is to offer artificial simplifications of reality to an audience unable or unwilling to acknowledge reality as it actually is. Propaganda, and the ideologies it develops and encourages in order to further its ends, is the life-blood of democratic operations.

The various elements of propaganda are then combined and refined to distill a beverage that the average man can comfortably drink, and which will intoxicate him so that he happily applauds resolutions he does not understand, and confidently fills out ballot sheets covered with names of men he does not know.

We recognize the fruits of this distillation in various forms: political slogans, catchphrases, party platforms, and most of all ideologies (which are by definition over-simplifications of reality). All of these represent pre-packaged sets of opinions, most of them meaningless or at least too vague to present any specific and useful meaning, which serve to comfort the consumer, telling him that he comprehends the actions of the State and agrees with them—nay, that they are his actions. The program offered is the program he himself wanted. This function—the manufacturing of certainty for the individual—is one of the primary functions of propaganda. The individual thirsts for it; and the government cannot do without it. It satisfies both, and so both collude to keep the intoxicating beverage flowing.

[1] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda (New York: Vintage, 1973), p. 126.

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