Tag Archives: Propaganda

The Impact of Science on Society, Part 4 – Mass Psychology and Education

Mass Psychology and Education

Originally Posted February 4, 2008

“For some reason which I have failed to understand, many people like the system [scientific totalitarianism] when it is Russian but disliked the very same system when it was German. I am compelled to think that this is due to the power of labels; these people like whatever is labelled ‘Left’ without examining whether the label has any justification.”- Bertrand Russell, 1952 (p56)

What exactly is the purpose of education? Does the government want to teach young people how to think and reason for themselves or is it a form of mass psychology aimed at propagandising the young? These questions are examined through Bertrand Russell’s 1952 book entitled The Impact of Science on Society*.

Education, a Modern Method of Propaganda

From Bertrand Russell’s The Impact of Science on Society:

“I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically speaking, not a very advanced study… This study is immensely useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based upon a kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of

modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called ‘education’. Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the Press, the cinema and the radio play an increasing part.

What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler’s with a speech of (say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.

This subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship. Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakeable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate. It is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark grey.” [emphasis mine] 40

The Intended Result of Education

“The completeness of the resulting control over opinion depends in various ways upon scientific technique. Where all children go to school, and all schools are controlled by the government, the authorities can close the minds of the young to everything contrary to official orthodoxy. Printing is impossible without paper, and all paper belongs to the State. Broadcasting and the cinema are equally public monopolies. The only remaining possibility of unauthorised propaganda is by secret whispers from one individual to another. But this, in turn, is rendered appallingly dangerous by improvements in the art of spying. Children at school are taught that it is their duty to denounce their parents if they allow themselves subversive utterances in the bosom of the family. No one can be sure that a man who seems to be his dearest friend will not denounce him to the police; the man may himself have been in some trouble, and may know that if he is not efficient as a spy his wife and children will suffer. All this is not imaginary, it is daily and hourly reality. Nor, given oligarchy, is there the slightest reason to expect anything else.” [emphasis mine] – 58

“Scientific societies are as yet in their infancy. It may be worthwhile to spend a few moments in speculating as to possible future developments of those that are oligarchies.

It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” [emphasis mine] – 61

That is really worth repeating.

“Diet, injections, and injunctions [a command, admonition, etc.] will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible.”

Some Miscellaneous Uses of Education

“…result from the elimination of war [and the establishment of a world government]. A great deal, also, is to be hoped from a change in propaganda. Nationalist propaganda, in any violent form, will have to be illegal, and children in schools will not be taught to hate and despise foreign nations. Active instruction in the evils of the old times and the advantages of the new system would do the rest. I am convinced that only a few psychopaths would wish to return to the daily dread of radioactive disintegration.” – 108

“The nations which at present increase [their populations] rapidly should be encouraged to adopt the methods by which, in the West, the increase of population has been checked.

Educational propaganda, with government help, could achieve this result in a generation.” [emphasis mine] – 116

The idea of using education or rather sex education to reduce the population of the west was further promoted in 1968 by Paul Ehrlich in his book The Population Bomb**: “We need a federal law requiring sex education in schools – sex education that includes discussion of the need for regulating the birth rate and of the techniques of birth control. Such education should begin at the earliest age recommended by those with professional competence in this area – certainly before junior high school.

By “sex education” I do not mean course focusing on hygiene or presenting a simpleminded “birds and bees” approach to human sexuality. The reproductive function of sex must be shown as just one of its functions, and one that must be carefully regulated in relation to the needs of the individual and society.” – 133

For more on Paul Ehrlich’s views on the use of education and other means of population control please read this previous article, Population, Religion and Sex Education .

The Governing Classes Only

Most people reading this article are the products of a state run educational system. If the above is not enough to make you reflect on the merits of universal education and on all of the things you were ‘taught’ as a child (and since then), hopefully the following quote will.

“Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen…” [emphasis mine] – 41

*Quotes from Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (1952). ISBN0-41510906-X **Quotes from: Paul R. Ehrlich. The Population Bomb: Revised & Expanded Edition (1968, 1971). SBN 345-24489-3-150.

The Scientific Outlook, Part 9 – Two Examples of Scientifically Created Artificial Societies: Japan and Soviet Russia

Two Examples of Scientifically Created: Japan and Soviet Russia

Originally posted August 24, 2008

“No sharp line can be drawn between scientific technique and traditional arts and crafts. The essential characteristic of scientific technique is the utilization of natural forces in ways not evident to the totally uninstructed.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p137)

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“As we approach modern times, the changes deliberately brought about in social structure become greater. This is especially the case where revolutions are concerned. The American Revolution and the French Revolution deliberately created certain societies with certain characteristics, but in the main these characteristics were political, and their effects in other directions formed no part of the primary intentions of the revolutionaries. But scientific technique has so enormously increased the power of governments that it has now become possible to produce much more profound and intimate changes in social structure than any that were contemplated by Jefferson or Robespierre. Science first taught us to create machines; it is now teaching us by Mendelian breeding and experimental embryology to create new plants and animals. There can be little doubt that similar methods will before long give us power, within wide limits, to create new human individuals differing in predetermined ways from the individuals produced by unaided nature. And by means of psychological and economic technique it is becoming possible to create societies as artificial as the steam engine, and as different from anything that would grow up of its own accord without deliberate intention on the part of human agents.

Such artificial societies will, of course, until social science is much more perfected than it is at present, have many unintended characteristics, even if their creators succeed in giving them all the characteristics that were intended. The unintended characteristics may easily prove more important than those that were foreseen, and may cause the artificially constructed societies to break down in one way or another. But I do not think it is open to doubt that the artificial creation of societies will continue and increase so long as scientific technique persists. The pleasure in planned construction is one of the most powerful motives in men who combine intelligence with energy; whatever can be constructed according to a plan, such men will endeavour to construct. So long as the technique for creating a new type of society exists there will be men seeking to employ this technique. They are likely to suppose themselves actuated by some idealistic motive, and it is possible that such motives may play a part in determining what sort of society they shall aim at creating. But the desire to create is not itself idealistic, since it is a form of the love of power, and while the power to create exists there will be men desirous of using this power even if unaided nature would produce a better result than any that can be brought about by deliberate intention.” – 204

“There are in the world at the present time two Powers which illustrate the possibility of artificial creation. The two Powers in question are Japan and Soviet Russia.” – 206


“Modern Japan [1930] is almost exactly what it was intended to be by the men who made the revolution in 1867. This is one of the most remarkable political achievements in all history, in spite of the fact that the purpose which inspired the innovators was simple and such as every Japanese might be expected to sympathize with. The purpose was, in fact, nothing more recondite than the preservation of national independence. China had been found impotent to resist the Western Powers, and Japan appeared to be in like case. Certain Japanese statesman perceived that the military and naval power of the Western nations rested upon Western education and Western industrial technique. They decided to introduce both, with such modifications as Japanese history and circumstances demanded. But whereas industrialism had grown up in the West with very little assistance from the State, and scientific knowledge had developed very far before the Western Governments undertook the task of universal education, Japan, being pressed for time, was obliged to impose education and science and industrialism by governmental pressure.

It was clearly impossible to effect so great a change in the mentality of the average citizen by mere appeals to reason and self-interest. The reformers, therefore, skilfully enlisted the divine person of the Mikado and the divine authority of the Shinto religion on the side of modern science. The Mikado had been for centuries obscure and unimportant, but he had already been restored to power once before in the year A.D. 645, so that there was a precedent of respectable antiquity for what was being done. The Shinto religion, unlike Buddhism, was indigenous to Japan, but had been for ages thrust into the background by the foreign religion imported from China and Korea. The reformers very wisely decided that in introducing Christian military technique they would not attempt to introduce the theology with which it had hitherto been correlated, but would have a nationalistic theology of their own, Shinto, as now taught by the State in Japan, is a powerful weapon of nationalism; its gods are Japanese, and its cosmogony teaches that Japan was created sooner than other countries. The Mikado is descended from the Sun Goddess, and is therefore superior to the mere earthly rulers of other States. Shinto, as now taught, is so different from the old indigenous beliefs that competent students have described it as a new religion. As a result of this skilful combination of enlightened technique with unenlightened theology, the Japanese have succeeded not merely in repelling the Western menace, but in becoming one of the Great Powers and achieving the third place on the sea.

Japan has shown extraordinary sagacity in the adaptation of science to political needs. Science as an intellectual force is sceptical and somewhat destructive of social coherence, while as a technical force it has precisely the opposite qualities. The technical developments due to science have increased the size and intensity of organizations, and have more particularly greatly augmented the power of Governments. Governments have, therefore, good reason to be friendly to science, so long as it can be kept from dangerous and subversive speculations. In the main the men of science have shown themselves amenable. The State favours one set of superstitions in Japan, and another in the West, but the scientists both in Japan and of the West have, with some exceptions, been willing to acquiesce in governmental doctrines, because most of them are citizens first, and servants of truth only in the second place.

In spite of the extraordinary success of Japanese policy, there are certain unintended effects which are likely in time to cause serious difficulties. The sudden change of habits and of conscious opinions has induced a certain nervous strain, at any rate in the urban part of the population. This may produce a tendency to hysteria in time of national stress; indeed, such a tendency was shown in the massacres of Koreans that occurred after the earthquake of Tokio. What is more serious, the position of Japan demands the growth of both industrialism and armaments. Owing to the expense of the latter the industrial workers are poor; they tend, consequently, to acquire a rebellious mentality, and the circumstances of their work make it difficult for them to preserve that close family organization upon which Japanese society is built. If Japan should become engaged in an unsuccessful war, these stances might produce a revolution analogous to the Russian Revolution. The present social structure in Japan is likely therefore in time to become unstable, but it may be that the same skill which has rendered possible the triumphant career of Japan throughout the last seventy years will enable the Japanese to adapt themselves to changing circumstances gradually without any violent upheaval. The one thing that seems fairly certain is that, whether gradually or by revolution, the social structure in Japan will have to be profoundly modified. Remarkable as it is, therefore, it is not a perfect example of scientific construction. I do not mean by this that it could have been bettered at the time, but only that it is not in all respects a model for the future.” – 206

Soviet Russia

“The attempt at scientific construction which is being made by the Soviet Government is more ambitious than that which was carried through by the Japanese innovators in 1867; it aims at a much greater change in social institutions, and at the creation of a society far more different from anything previously known than is that of Japan. The experiment is still in progress, and only a rash man would venture to predict whether it will succeed or fail; the attitude both of friends and enemies towards it has been singularly unscientific. For my part, I am not anxious to appraise the good or evil in the Soviet system, but merely to point out those elements of deliberate planning which make it so far the most complete example of a scientific society. In the first place, all the major factors of production and distribution are controlled by the State; in the second place, all education is designed to stimulate activity in support of the official experiment; in the third place, the State does what it can to substitute its religion for the various traditional beliefs which have existed within the territory of the U.S.S.R.; in the forth place, literature and the Press are controlled by the Government, and are such as are thought likely to help it in its constructive purposes; in the fifth place, the family, in so far as it represents a loyalty which competes with loyalty to the State, is being gradually weakened; in the sixth place, the Five Year Plan is bending the whole constructive energies of the nation to the realization of a certain economic balance and productive efficiency, by means of which it is hoped that a sufficient degree of material comfort will be secured for everyone. In every other society of the world there is enormously less central direction than under the Soviet Government. It is true that during the war the energies of the nations were, to a considerable extent, centrally organized, but everyone knew that this was temporary, and even at its height the organization was not so all-pervasive as it is in Russia. The Five Year Plan, as its name implies, is supposed to be temporary, and to belong to a time of stress not wholly unlike that of the Great War, but it is to be expected that if it succeeds, other plans will take its place, since the central organization of the vast nation’s activities is too attractive to the organizers to be abandoned readily.

The Russian experiment may succeed or may fail, but even if it fails, it will be followed by others which will share its most interesting characteristic, namely, the unitary direction of a whole nation’s activities. This was impossible in earlier days, since it depends upon the technique of propaganda, i.e., upon universal education, newspapers, the cinema, and the wireless. The State had already been strengthened by railways and the telegraph, which made possible the rapid transmission of news and concentration of troops. In addition to modern methods of propaganda, modern methods of warfare have strengthened the State as against discontented elements; aeroplanes and poison gasses have made revolt difficult unless it obtains the support of aeronauts and chemists. Any prudent Government will favour these two classes and take pains to secure their loyalty. As the example of Russia has shown, it is now possible for men of energy and intelligence, if they once become possessed of the governmental machine, to retain power even though at first they may have to face the opposition of the majority of the population. We must therefore increasingly expect to see government falling into the hands of oligarchies, not of birth but of opinion. In countries long accustomed to democracy, the empire of these oligarchies may be concealed behind democratic forms, as was that of Augustus in Rome, but elsewhere their rule will be undisguised. If there is to be scientific experimentation in the construction of new kinds of societies, the rule of an oligarchy of opinion is essential. It may be expected that there will be conflicts between different oligarchies, but that ultimately some one oligarchy will acquire world dominion, and will produce a world-wide organization as complete and elaborate as that now existing in the U.S.S.R.” – 209

The Scientific Outlook, Part 8 – Free Trade and Labor in a Scientific Society

Free Trade and Labor in a Scientific Society

Originally posted August 17, 2008

“In the old days it was expected that about half the children in a family would die before they grew up; this involved pain, illness, and sorrow to the mother, often great suffering to the children, and a waste of natural resources in the care of children who never lived to become productive.” – Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p196)

The Scientific Society and the Enlargement of Organization

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“Such a state of affairs will have both merits and demerits; more important than either, however, is the fact that nothing less will enable a society imbued with scientific technique to survive. Scientific technique demands organization, and the more it becomes perfected, the larger are the organizations that it demands. Quite apart from war, the present depression has made it evident that an international organization of credit and banking is necessary to the prosperity not only of some countries, but of all. The international organization of industrial production is being rendered necessary by the efficiency of modern methods. Modern industrial plants can easily supply, in many directions, much more than the total needs of the world. The result of this, which should be wealth, is in fact poverty, owing to competition. In the absence of competition, the immensely enhanced productivity of labour would enable men to arrive at a just compromise between leisure and goods: they could choose whether they would work six hours a day and be rich, or four hours a day and enjoy only moderate comfort. The advantages of world-wide organization, both in preventing the waste of economic competition and in removing the danger of war, are so great as to be becoming an essential condition for the survival of societies possessing scientific technique. This argument is overwhelming in comparison with all counterarguments, and renders almost unimportant the question whether life in an organized world State will be more or less satisfactory than life at the present day. For it is only in the direction of an organized world State that the human race can develop unless it abandons scientific technique, and it will not do this except as the result of a cataclysm so severe as to lower the whole level of civilization.

The advantages to be derived from an organized world State are great and obvious. There will be, in the first place, security against war and a saving of almost the whole effort and expense now devoted to competitive armaments: there will be, one must suppose, a single, highly efficient fighting machine, employing mainly aeroplanes and chemical methods of warfare, which will be quite obviously irresistible, and will therefore not be resisted. The central government may be changed from time to time by a palace revolution, but this will only alter the personnel of the figure-heads, not the essential organization of government. The central government will, of course, forbid the propaganda of nationalism, by means of which at present anarchy is maintained, and will put in its place a propaganda of loyalty to the world State.” – 212

Free Trade

“We have seen that scientific civilization demands world-wide organization if it is to be stable. We have considered the possibility of such an organization in matters of government. We shall now consider it in the economic sphere. At present, production is organized as far as possible nationally be means of tariff walls; every nation tries to produce at home as much as possible of the goods that it consumes. This tendency is on the increase, and even Great Britain, which has hitherto aimed at maximizing its exports by means of Free Trade, appears to be on the point of abandoning this policy in favour of comparative economic isolation.

It is, of course, clear that, from a purely economic point of view, it is wasteful to organize production nationally rather than internationally. It would be an economy if all the motorcars used throughout the world were manufactured in Detroit. That is to say, a car of given excellence could be produced with less expense of human labour in that case than it can at present. In a world scientifically organized most industrial products would be thus localized. There would be one place for making pins and needles, another place for making scissors and knives, another place for making aeroplanes, and yet another for agricultural machinery. When, if ever, the world government that we have considered comes into being, one of its first tasks will be the international organization of production. Production will no longer be left, as at present, to private enterprise, but will be undertaken solely in accordance with government orders. This is already the case with such things as battleships, because in regard to war efficiency is thought to be important; but in most matters production is left to the chaotic impulses of private manufacturers, who make too much of some things and too little of others, with the result that there is poverty in the midst of unused plenty. The industrial plant at present existing in the world is in many directions far in excess of the world’s needs. By eliminating competition and concentrating production in a single concern, all this waste could be avoided.

The control of raw materials is a matter which in any scientific society would be governed by a central authority. At present the important raw materials are controlled by military power. The weak nation possessed of oil soon finds itself under suzerainty of some stronger nation. The Transvaal lost its independence because it contained gold. Raw material ought not to belong to those who, by conquest or diplomacy, have happened to acquire the territory in which they are; they ought to belong to a world authority which would ration them to those who had the most skill in utilizing them. Moreover, our present economic system causes everybody to be wasteful of raw materials, since there is no motive for foresight. In a scientific world the supply of any vital raw material will be carefully estimated, and as the moment of its exhaustion approaches scientific research will be directed to the discovery of a substitute.

Agriculture, for reasons which we considered in an earlier chapter, may have less importance in the future than it has at present, and has had in the past. We shall have not only artificial silk but artificial wool and artificial timber and artificial rubber. In time we may have artificial food. But in the meantime agriculture will become more and more industrialized, both in its methods and in the mentality of those who practise it. American and Canadian agriculturists have already the industrial mentality, not the mentality of the patient peasant. Machinery will, of course, be increasingly employed. In the neighbourhood of large urban markets intensive cultivation with artificial methods of warming the soil will yield many crops every year. Here and there throughout the country-side there will be large power stations forming the nucleus around which the population will cluster. Of agricultural mentality, as it has been known since ancient times, nothing will survive, since the soil and even the climate will be subject to human control.” – 239

Labour in a Scientific Society

“The gain from an economic point of view will be enormous: there will be no waste in competitive production, no uncertainty as to employment, no poverty, no sudden alternations of good and bad times; every man willing to work will be kept in comfort, and every man unwilling to work will be kept in prison. When owing to any circumstances the work upon which a man has hitherto been employed is no longer required, he will be taught some new kind of work, and will be adequately maintained while he is learning his new trade. Economic motives will be employed to regulate population, which will probably be kept stationary. Almost all that is tragic in human life will be eliminated, and even death will seldom come before old age.” – 213

“It may be assumed that every man and woman will be obliged to work, and will be taught a new trade if for any reason work at the old trade is no longer required. The pleasantest work, of course, will be that which gives the most control over the mechanism. The posts giving most power will presumably be awarded to the ablest men as a result of intelligence tests. For entirely inferior work negroes will be employed wherever possible. One may, I suppose, assume that the most desirable kinds of work will be more highly paid than the less desirable kinds, since they require more skill. The society will not be one in which there is equality, although I doubt whether the inequalities will be hereditary except as between different races, i.e., between white and coloured labour. Everybody will be comfortable, and those who occupy the better-paid posts will be able to enjoy considerable luxury. There will not be, as at present, fluctuations of good and bad times, for these are merely the result of our anarchic economic system. Nobody will starve, and nobody will suffer the economic anxieties which at present beset rich and poor alike. On the other hand, life will be destitute of adventure except for the most highly paid experts. Ever since civilization began men have been seeking security more avidly than they have sough anything else. In such a world they will have it, but I am not quite sure whether they will think it worth the price that they will have paid for it.” – 242

“Take again the question of work, both the kind of work and the method of performing it. At present young people choose their own trade or profession, usually because at the moment of their choice it seems to afford a good opening. A well-informed person possessed of foresight might know that the particular line in question was going to be much less profitable a few years hence. In such a case some public guidance to the young might prove extremely useful. And as regards technical methods, it is seldom in the public interest that an antiquated or wasteful technique should be allowed to persist when a more economical technique is known. At present, owning to the irrational character of the capitalist system, the interest of the individual wage-earner is very often opposed to the interest of the community, since economical methods may cause him to lose his job. This is due to the survival of capitalistic principles in a society which has grown so organic that it ought not to tolerate them. It is obvious that in a well-organized community it should be impossible for a large body of individuals to profit by preserving an inefficient technique. It is clear that the use of the most efficient technique should be enforced, and no wage-earner should be allowed to suffer by its enforcement.” – 220

The Scientific Outlook, Part 5 – Behaviorism, Psycho-Analysis and Physiological Manipulation in Education

Behaviorism, Psycho-Analysis and
Physiological Manipulation in Education

Originally posted July 27, 2008

“Education in a scientific society may, I think, be best conceived after the analogy of the education provided by the Jesuits. The Jesuits provided one sort of education for the boys who were to become ordinary men of the world, and another for those who were to become members of the Society of Jesus. In like manner, the scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and women will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and biochemistry will be brought into play.”

– Bertrand Russell, 1931 (p243)

Behaviourism and Psycho-Analysis

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“As a technique for acquiring power, behaviourism is, I think, superior to psychoanalysis: it embodies the methods which have always been adopted by those who train animals or drill soldiers; it utilizes the force of habit, the strength of which has always been recognized; and, as we saw when we were considering Pavlov, it makes it possible both to cause and to cure neurasthenia and hysteria. The conflicts which appear in psycho-analysis as emotional re-appear in behaviourism as conflicts between habits, or between a habit and a reflex. If a child were severely beaten every time it sneezed, it is probable that a phantasy world would in time build itself up in his mind around the conception of sneezing; he would dream of Heaven as a place where the spirits of the blest sneeze unceasingly, or on the contrary he might think of Hell as a place of punishment for those who live in open sternutation. In this sort of way the problems brought to the fore by psycho-analysis can, I think, be dealt with on behaviourist lines. At the same time it should be admitted that these problems, whose importance is very great, would probably not have come to the fore but for the psycho-analytic approach. For the practical purposes of educational technique, I think it will be found that the educator should behave as a psycho-analyst when he is concerned with matters touching powerful instincts, but as a behaviourist in matters which a child views as emotionally unimportant. For example, affection for parents should be viewed in the psycho-analytic manner, but brushing teeth in the behaviourist manner.” – 182

“The most important applications of psycho-analytic theory are to education. These applications are as yet in an experimental stage, and owing to the hostility of the authorities they can only be made on a very small scale. It is, however, already evident that moral and emotional education has hitherto been conducted on wrong lines, and has produced maladjustments which have been sources of cruelty, timidity, stupidity, and other unfortunate mental characteristics. I think it possible that psycho-analytic theory may be absorbed into something more scientific, but I do not doubt that something of what psycho-analysis has to suggest in regard to education will be found permanently valid and of immense importance.” – 181

Physiological Manipulation

“So far, no experiments have been made to test the effect of X-rays on the human embryo. I imagine that such experiments would be illegal, in common with many others that might make valuable additions to our knowledge. Sooner or later, however, probably in Russia, such experiments will be made. If science continues to advance as fast as it has done recently, we may hope, before the end of the present century, to discover ways of beneficially influencing the human embryo, not only as regards those acquired characters which cannot be inherited because they do not affect the chromosomes, but also as regards the chromosomes themselves. It is likely that this result will only be achieved after a number of unsuccessful experiments leading to the birth of idiots and monstrosities. But would this be too high a price to pay for the discovery of a method by which, within one generation, the whole human race could be rendered intelligent?

Perhaps by a suitable choice of chemicals to be injected into the uterus it may become possible to turn a child into a mathematician, a poet, a biologist, or even a politician, and to ensure that all his posterity shall do likewise unless prevented by counter-irritant chemicals.” – 172

“So far we have been considering those ways of influencing the mental life which proceed by mental means as in psycho-analysis, or by means of the conditioned reflex as in behaviourism. There are, however, other methods which may in time prove of immense importance. These are the methods which operate through physiological means, such as the administering of drugs. The curing of cretinism by means of iodine is so far the most remarkable of these methods. In Switzerland all salt for human consumption is obliged by law to be iodized, and this measure has been found adequate as a preventive of cretinism. The work of Cannon and others concerning the influence of the ductless glands upon the emotions has become widely known, and it is clear that by administering artificially the substances which the ductless glands provide, a profound effect can be produced upon temperament and character. The effects of alcohol, opium, and various other drugs have long been familiar, but these effects are on the balance harmful unless the drug is taken with unusual moderation. There is, however, no a priori reason why drugs should not be discovered which have a wholly beneficial effect. I have never myself observed any but good effects to flow from the drinking of tea, at any rate if it is China tea. It is possible also that psychological marvels may become possible through pre-natal treatment. One of the most eminent philosophers of our day regards his superiority to his brothers, perhaps humorously, as due to the fact that shortly before his birth his mother was in a carriage which rolled down the Simplon in an accident. I do not suggest that this method should be adopted in the hope of turning us all into philosophers, but perhaps in time we shall discover some more peaceable means of endowing the foetus with intelligence. Education used to begin at eight years old with the learning of the Latin declensions; now, under the influence of psycho-analysis, it begins at birth. It is to be expected that with the advance of experimental embryology the important part of education will be found to be pre-natal. This is already the case with fishes and newts, but in regard to them the scientist is not hampered by education authorities.

The power of psychological technique to mould the mentality of the individual is still in its infancy, and is not yet fully realized. There can, I think, be little doubt that it will increase enormously in the near future. Science has given us, in succession, power over inanimate nature, power over plants and animals, and finally power over human beings. Each power involves its own kinds of dangers, and perhaps the dangers involved in power over human beings are the greatest, but that is a matter that we will consider at a later stage.” – 183

“Whether men will be happy in the Paradise I do not know. Perhaps biochemistry will show us how to make any man happy, provided he has the necessaries of life; perhaps dangerous sports will be organized for those whom boredom would otherwise turn into anarchists; perhaps sport will take over the cruelty which will have been banished from politics; perhaps football will be replaced by play battles in the air in which death will be the penalty of defeat, they will not mind having to seek it in a trivial cause: to fall through the air before a million spectators may come to be thought a glorious death even if it may be that in some such way a safety valve can be provided for the anarchic and violent forces in human nature; or again, it may be that by wise education and suitable diet men may be cured of all their unruly impulses, and all life may become as quiet as a Sunday school.” 214

Bertrand Russell would later write in a similar book entitled The Impact of Science on Society (1952) [2] that:

“It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” – 61

The Scientific Outlook, Part 4 – Propaganda: From the Class Room to Hollywood

Propaganda: From the Class Room to Hollywood

Originally Posted July 20, 2008

“I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically speaking, not a very advanced study… This study is immensely useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based upon a kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of

modern methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called ‘education’. Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the Press, the cinema and the radio play an increasing part.” – Bertrand Russell, 1952 (p40)

Mass Psychology

From The Scientific Outlook:

[Italicised text is original emphasis and bolded text is added by author.]

“There is, however, a large amount of genuine experimental science in social affairs. Perhaps the most important set of experiments in this realm is that which we owe to advertisers. This material, valuable as it is, has not been utilized by experimental psychologists, because it belongs to a region remote from the Universities, and they would feel themselves vulgarized by contact with anything so gross. But anybody who is in earnest in studying the psychology of belief cannot do better than consult the great advertising firms. No test of belief is so searching as the financial one. When a man is willing to back his belief by spending money in accordance with it, his belief must be regarded as genuine. Now this is precisely the test which the advertiser is perpetually applying. Various people’s soaps are recommended in various ways; some of these ways produce the desired result, others do not, or at any rate not to the same degree. Clearly the advertisement which causes a man’s soap to be bought is more effective in creating belief than the one which does not. I do not think any experienced advertiser would suggest that the merits of the respective soaps had any share whatever in bringing about the result. Very large sums of money are paid to the men who invent good advertisements, and rightly so, for the power to cause large numbers of people to believe what you assert is a very valuable power. Consider its importance, for example, to the founders of religions. In the past they often had to adopt the most painful forms of publicity. How much pleasanter their lives would have been if they could have gone to an agent who would have purchased the respect of their disciples in return for a percentage on the ecclesiastical revenues!

From the technique of advertising it seems to follow that in the great majority of mankind any proposition will win acceptance if it is reiterated in such a way as to remain in the memory. Most of the things that we believe we believe because we have heard them affirmed; we do not remember where or why they were affirmed, and we are therefore unable to be critical even when the affirmation was made by a man whose income would be increased by its acceptance and was not backed by any evidence whatever. Advertisements tend, therefore, as the technique becomes perfected, to be less and less argumentative, and more and more merely striking. So long as an impression is made, the desired result is achieved.

Considered scientifically, advertisements have another great merit, which is that their effects, so far as is known through the receipts of the advertisers, are mass effects, not effects upon individuals, so that the data acquired are data as to mass psychology. For the purposes of studying society rather than individuals, advertisements are therefore invaluable. Unfortunately their purpose is practical rather than scientific. For scientific purposes I suggest the following experiment. Let two soaps, A and B, be manufactured, of which A is excellent and B abominable; let A be advertised by stating its chemical composition and by testimonials from eminent chemists; let B be advertised by the bare statement that it is the best, accompanied by the portraits of famous Hollywood beauties. If man is a rational animal, more of A will be sold than of B. Does anyone, in fact, believe that this would be the result?

The advantages of advertisement have come to be realized pretty fully by politicians, but are only beginning to be realized by the Churches; when the Churches become more fully alive to its advantages as compared with the traditional religious technique (which dates from before the invention of printing), we may hope for a great revival of faith. On the whole, the Soviet Government and the Communist religion are those which hitherto have best understood the use of advertisement. They are, it is true, somewhat hampered by the fact that most Russians cannot read; this obstacle, however, they are doing their best to remove.” – 187

Education as Propaganda

“This consideration brings us naturally to the subject of education, which is the second great method of public propaganda. Education has two very different purposes; on the one hand it aims at developing the individual and giving him knowledge which will be useful to him; on the other hand it aims at producing citizens who will be convenient for the State or the Church which is educating them. Up to a point these two purposes coincide in practice: it is convenient to the State that citizens should be able to read, and that they should possess some technical skill in virtue of which they are able to do productive work; it is convenient that they should possess sufficient moral character to abstain from unsuccessful crime, and sufficient intelligence to be able to direct their own lives. But when we pass beyond these elementary requirements, the interests of the individual may often conflict with those of the State or the Church. This is especially the case in regard to credulity. To those who control publicity, credulity is an advantage, while to the individual a power of critical judgment is likely to be beneficial; consequently the State does not aim at producing a scientific habit of mind, except in a small minority of experts, who are well paid, and therefore, as a rule, supporters of the status quo. Among those who are not well paid credulity is more advantageous to the State; consequently children in school are taught what they are told and are punished if they express disbelief. In this way a conditioned reflex is established, leading to a belief in anything said authoritatively by elderly persons of importance. You and I, reader, owe out immunity from spoliation to this beneficent precaution on the part of our respective Governments.

One of the purposes of the State in education is certainly, on the whole, beneficent. The purpose in question is that of producing social coherence. In mediaeval Europe, as in modern China, the lack of social coherence proved disastrous. It is difficult for large masses of men to co-operate as much as is necessary for their own welfare. The tendency to anarchy and civil war is always one to be guarded against, except on those rare occasions when some great principle is at stake which is of sufficient importance to make civil war worth while. For this reason that part of education which aims at producing loyalty to the State is to be praised in so far as it is directed against internal anarchy. But in so far as it is directed to the perpetuation of international anarchy, it is bad. On the whole, at present in education, the form of loyalty to the State which is most emphasized is hostility to its enemies.” -190

Uniformity of Opinion – The Press

Modern inventions and modern technique have had a powerful influence in promoting uniformity of opinion and making men less individual than they used to be. […] But in the modern world there are three great sources of uniformity in addition to education: these are the Press, the cinema, and the radio.

The Press has become an agent of uniformity as a result of technical and financial causes: the larger the circulation of a newspaper, the higher the rate it can charge for its advertisements and the lower the cost of printing per copy. A foreign correspondent costs just as much whether his newspaper has a large or a small circulation; therefore his relative cost is diminished by every increase in circulation. A newspaper with a large circulation can hire the most expensive legal talent to defend it against libel suits, and can often conceal from all but serious students its misstatements of facts. For all these reasons, of which advertisements are the chief, big newspapers tend to please small sets of cranks or high-brows, and there are journals devoted to special interests, such as yachting or fly-fishing, but the immense majority of newspaper readers confine themselves either, as in England, to a small number of newspapers, or, as in America, to a small number of syndicated groups of newspapers. The difference between England and America in this respect is, of course, due to size. In England, if Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook desire anything to be known, it will be known; if they desire it to be unknown, it will be unknown except to a few pertinacious busybodies. Although there are rival groups in the newspaper world, there are, of course, many matters as to which the rival groups are agreed. In a suburban train in the morning, one man may be reading the Daily Mail and another the Daily Express, but if by some miracle they should fall into conversation they would not find much divergence in the opinions they had imbibed or in the facts of which they had been informed. Thus for reasons which are ultimately technical and scientific, the newspapers have become an influence tending to uniformity and increasing the rarity of unusual opinions.” – 191

Uniformity of Opinion – The Radio

“Another modern invention tending towards uniformity is the radio. This, of course, is more the case in England, where it is a Government monopoly, than in America, where it is free. During the General Strike in 1926 it afforded practically the only method of disseminating news. This method was utilized by the Government to state its own case and conceal that of the strikers. I was myself at the time in a remote village, almost the furthest from London, I believe, of any village in England. All the villagers, including myself, assembled in the Post Office every evening to hear the news. A pompous voice would announce: “It is the Home Secretary who has come to make a statement.” I regret to say that the villagers all laughed, but if they had been less remote they would probably have been more respectful. In America, where the Government has not interfered with broadcasting, one must expect, if the same policy continues, that there will be a gradual growth of big interests analogous to the big newspapers, and that these will cover as large a proportion of the ground as does the syndicated Press.” – 193

Uniformity of Opinion – The Cinema

But perhaps the most important of all the modern agents of propaganda is the cinema. Where the cinema is concerned, the technical reasons for large-scale organizations leading to almost world-wide uniformity are over-whelming. The costs of a good production are colossal, but are no less if it is exhibited seldom than if it is exhibited often and everywhere. The Germans and the Russians have their own productions, and those of the Russians are, of course, an important part of the Soviet Government’s propaganda. In the rest of the civilized world the products of Hollywood preponderate. The great majority of young people in almost all civilized countries derive their ideas of love, of honour, of the way to make money, and of the importance of good clothes, from the evenings spent in seeing what Hollywood thinks good for them. I doubt whether all the schools and churches combined have as much influence as the cinema upon the opinions of the young in regard to such intimate matters as love and marriage and money-making. The producers of Hollywood are the high-priests of a new religion. Let us be thankful for the lofty purity of their sentiments. We learn from them that sin is always punished, and virtue is always rewarded. True, the reward is rather gross, and such as a more old-fashioned virtue might not wholly appreciate. But what of that? We know from the cinema that wealth comes to the virtuous, and from real life that old So-and-so has wealth. It follows that old So-and-so is virtuous, and that the people who say he exploits his employees are slanderers and trouble-makers. The cinema therefore plays a useful part in safeguarding the rich from the envy of the poor.

It is undoubtedly an important fact in the modern world that almost all the pleasures of the poor can only be provided by men possessed of vast capital or by Governments. The reasons for this, as we have seen, are technical, but the result is that any defects in the status quo become known only to those who are willing to spend their leisure time otherwise than in amusement; these are, of course, a small minority, and from a political point of view they are at most times negligible. There is, however, a certain instability about the whole system. In the event of unsuccessful war it might break down, and the population, which had grown accustomed to amusements, might be driven by boredom into serious thought. The Russians, when deprived of vodka by war-time prohibition, made the Russian Revolution. What would Western Europeans do if deprived of their nightly drug from Hollywood? The moral of this for Western European Governments is that they must keep on good terms with America. In the American imperialism of the future it may turn out that the producers of cinemas have been the pioneers.” – 194