Jacques Ellul points out the key role that “power words” play…
…to break the barrier of the individual’s indifference. They must penetrate like bullets; they must spontaneously evoke a set of images and and have a certain grandeur of their own timeliness…To the extent that propaganda is based on current events , it cannot permit time for thought or reflection. -Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965), [p. 46]
I wish I could offer a succinct exegesis of Ellul’s landmark book, but given its intricate relationship between the part and whole, that’s way beyond my pay grade. I will only say here that as I’ve been witnessing the no-holds barred organized winger resistance to all things Obama, I can’t help but conclude that his book is a cornerstone of their strategy.
Ellul observes that there are two basic phases of modern propaganda, which depends heavily on technology to provide a 24/7 immersion in the propagandists’ messaging: “integration propaganda,” the attitude formation stage evident in 40 years of well-funded and researched right wing think tank efforts to role back The New Deal and the advances in individual freedom that the Dirty Fucking Hippies embodied in the ’60s (aka “the culture wars”); and the “agitation” or activation stage, evident in today’s gun slinging, town hall crazies screaming at the top of their lungs.
A key consequence of the agitation stage is that…
…action makes propaganda’s effect irreversible. He who acts in obedience to propaganda can never go back. He is now obliged to believe in that propaganda because of his past action. He is obliged to receive from it his justification and authority, without which his action will seem to him absurd, which would be intolerable. He is obliged to continue to advance in the direction indicated by the propaganda, for action demands more action. He is what one calls committed… [p. 29]
Committed– now there’s an idea.