The Humanist Café

Wednesday, August 16, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons
234 Menzies Street James Bay

Topic: Mass Media, Propaganda, & Democracy


Presenter:  Alan Danesh

Political Scientist and Jurist

Moderator: John Pope


Most people are easy prey for propaganda because of their firm but entirely erroneous conviction that it is composed only of lies and “tall stories” and that, conversely, what is true cannot be propaganda. But modern propaganda has mostly disdained the ridiculous lies of past and outmoded forms of propaganda.

It operates instead with many different kinds of truth, half-truth, limited truth, truth out of context. However in recent decades certain leading states have resorted to pure lies in preparation for their foreign aggression, which has led to these states and their leaders being totally discredited later on when the lies have become known world-wide.

Contrary to what most people believe, the chief aim of propaganda is not to change opinion but to intensify existing trends towards conformity, and, above all, to lead its intended audience to action.

Mass propaganda is only possible in technological societies, as Jacques Ellul has shown in his monumental work Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s attitudes.

Central in Ellul’s thesis, is that modern propaganda cannot work without “education”; he thus reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda.

On the contrary, he says, education, or what usually goes by that word in the modern world, is the absolute prerequisite for propaganda. the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes and posing as “facts” and as “education.”

The mainstream mass media, which are readily digested by the “educated” classes, but to which the illiterate peasants of the old are immune, are today the main vehicle of propaganda for engineering public opinion, or what Professor Chomsky calls “manufacturing consent.” The uniformity of perspective, seen in every direction, makes it impossible for the “submerged” media-audiences to see or imagine an alternative reality, just as the bottom-living fish of the oceans cannot perceive the lands that harbor the diversity of life known to us.


To access Ellul’s two major works:


To access Noam Chomsky’s work: Media Control


Erin Steuter and Deborah Wills:

At War with Metaphor: Media, Propaganda, and Racism in the War on Terror


Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder:

How to Detect Media Bias & Propaganda


Douglas Kellner:

Spectacle and Media Propaganda in the War on Iraq


Paul Craig Roberts:

The Reign of Propaganda


Questions for discussion:


Are Western democracies “spectator democracies”?

Could democracy survive without well-informed citizens?

Is democracy an impossibility in the age of mass propaganda?

Is it possible, or ethical, to counter propaganda with propaganda?

What avenues must we choose to bring about “participatory democracy”?