One of the painful parts of spiritual and information warfare is watching people you like and respect fall for propaganda. Last night I was reading the latest essay from Daniel Pinchbeck on Jewish Identity, Anti-Semitism, and Tikkun Olam. I don’t need to pull apart the problems in what he says on Israel, Biden, Musk, Pelosi, Satanism, or more. What it worth saying is that he is an excellent writer who often offers knowledge and insight that I value, so dismissing him as intellectually substandard simply doesn’t work. I resisted the temptation to respond, and instead slept on how I might engage.
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. In fact, education is largely identical with what Ellul calls “pre-propaganda”—the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes and posing as “facts” and as “education.”
My sense is that our education drills us on being “right” and getting “the answer”, offering little chance to acquire skills of unlearning and being comfortable with uncertainty. We then hang out with other “educated” people who are equally spiritually stunted. I went to a top private school and notorious university, and it has been fascinating to watch my cohort divide between the bulk of “respectable” people (who are swayed by propaganda), and the misfits who ended up straying away from conventional success — and escaping the mind-centric framing of everything. If we seek to persuade others that they may have bought into popular lies, then it has to come from a humble spiritual place, and not an intellectually overpowering one.
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