Galatians 6:10, So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.
According to Jacques Ellul, propaganda only works in a mass/individualist society. The old organic structures must be broken down and replaced by the sovereign individual, that is the individual is asked to be the measure of all things. At the same time, he makes himself part of a mass society, the burden of judging everything for himself being too much to bear. As part of a mass society, the “sovereign” individual inevitably makes himself a slave to mass propaganda.¹
J. Budziszewski calls these organic structures the little platoons, family, church, local businesses, clubs and local communities.² The little platoons are organic and spontaneously organizing. God created and ordained the family. It forms spontaneously. The more complex a spontaneously organizing system, the more design is implicated.
The little platoons are self-governing and largely self-sufficient if left alone. The governing organizations above the little platoons are artificial, not organic, i.e. not natural, not spontaneously forming and more contrived. The higher the governing organization the more artificial it is, the federal government for example. The principle of subsidiarity posits that the higher governing organizations should not do for the little platoons what they can do for themselves, for example educating their children, organizing their daily economic lives.
Ellul observes that when these little platoons, the organic structures, are broken down and replaced by a mass/individualist society, new groups tend to reform but as part of the mass propaganda driven society. A condition for propaganda via the reformed small group to work is a lack of contact between groups. Strong family and church ties give a person the opportunity to rethink mass propaganda and resist it. The family is a powerful obstacle to the success of propaganda.
“This is why the Chinese Communists insisted on breaking up traditional groups, such as the family…It is not necessary to break up the family in the United States and the Western societies…the family already is broken up. It no longer has the power to envelop the individual; it is no longer the place where the individual is formed and has his roots.”³
When today’s propagandists talk about a new normal the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, they mean a new mass/individualist social order that will replace what is left of the family, the church, the local community. They are intent on breaking up the naturally forming little platoons and reforming an individualist/mass society they can control. One recently formed security agency in the US government with the Orwellian mission of implementing the new Artificial Intelligence driven society euphemistically refers to “legacy” systems that must be replaced.⁴ Legacy systems are those naturally forming human relations upon which God’s social order is founded, starting with the family.
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, (NSCAI), created by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, exists to beat the Chinese in the race to an AI driven society. Why we should want to beat the Chinese to fulfill their dystopian dreams is unclear to me. In a document obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, the NSCAI euphemistically
calls the little platoons, legacy systems that must be eliminated to implement the new AI driven society.
Such groups will reform, likely initially as willing instruments of the mass propaganda society. Ellul observes of the modern family and the church:
“It is curious to see how the few remaining organic groups, such as the family and the church, try at all costs to live by propaganda: families are protected by family associations; churches try to take over the methods of psychological influence. They are now the very negation of the old organic groups.”⁵
But can dystopia last? If the little platoons form spontaneously, will that even be possible to maintain? Can we endure such a dystopian dream? No. It is not sustainable. Humans are not mere animals or material beings. We are God’s image bearers. We have to ask the age-old question in Psalm 2:1, Why do the nations rebel? Why are the countries devising plots that will fail?
No matter how loud the protests, to deny that the present situation is the judgment of God is to be whistling in the dark. “Say it isn’t so, Joe.” Oh, but it is. We ought to be looking forward to the other side of this judgment. This is not the first time God has meted out judgment on the world. From that history we know that there is salvation in judgment, that God always takes his own through the trial or calls them home. What we do not know is how long or how difficult the judgement will be. But if Christ must reign until he puts all his enemies under his footstool, we also know for sure there will be a new normal the other side of this and it will be more Christian. The little platoons will once again rule as vice-regents of God on the earth.
In the meantime, what to do? Strengthen your own little platoons, family, church, local community. Read your Bible every day. Greatest antidote to the poison propaganda pill. Patronize the businesses of your neighbors. Challenge your local magistrates to defend their neighbors, to stand up to tyranny. What other practical things can you think of?
Obey the King of kings in the little, everyday details as He has commanded us. We have no king but Jesus. Act like it.
James 1:27, Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Matthew 25:37–40, Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’
Romans 13:8–10, Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Matthew 22:36–40, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your
mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
There will be a new normal and it will be Christian. Perhaps not in our lifetimes but it is inevitable. Let us look to this future, not pine to return to the past. Christ is sovereign, resistance is futile.
¹ Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Individualist Society and Mass Society, pp. 90-99
² J. Budziszewski, from a talk given at the Wilberforce Forum conference, “Living Out Your Worldview at Street Level,” Minneapolis, Minn., September 28, 2002, adapted from What We Can’t Not Know, pp. 92-94.
³ Propaganda, p. 83
⁵ Propaganda. p. 98
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