The last time I talked to a producer at CNN was during the Ferguson Riots several years ago. They wanted me to discuss the shooting of Michael Brown, the "gentle giant" who had attempted to disarm a police officer after committing a strong-arm robbery minutes before. When the pre-production talking points got around to the riot control response of the law enforcement agencies the producer asked me a question to the effect of, "Of course this horrible militarization of police needs to be stopped?!" To which I replied that the safety of the officers demanded proper equipment and I was far more concerned about the federalization of local agencies than the militarization of them. Needless to say, I did not get on the show, and never heard back from the aforementioned network.
What I was left with was the distinct impression that the propaganda effort around the Ferguson Riots was something deeply rooted in a political agenda with dubious aims. We are now pretty familiar with the reality of the "war on cops," which the media refuses to acknowledge, while academics, news media elites, social networking sites, and a large number of politicians constantly promote the myth of the homicidal law enforcement officer, which as no statistical validity. What is going on?
Well, researching the subject of this bizarre social, political effort led me to the pages of a 1965 study by a Frenchman named Jacques Ellul and his book, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. This remarkable book predicts the rise of propaganda in our society as the power of modern communication continued and continues to grow. He speaks of the United States often and gives us ample warning of what was to come. Sadly, I never even heard of this opus until I Googled "propaganda" and a commentary about the book appeared.
What separates Mr. Ellul from most authorities is his in-depth analysis of both the propaganda of totalitarian societies, i.e.: Stalin and Hitler, and democratic societies, i.e., The Voice of America and Soviet operatives in the United States. Further, he adds the definition that the ultimate goal of true propaganda is social and political action, and changing attitudes is only a side effect. If votes do not change or people do not take to the streets propaganda has failed.
The shooting of would-be cop killer Michael Brown in Ferguson was a remarkable example of this as it allowed the activists an opportunity to work with the political and social propagandists to trigger an almost Pavlovian response that activated a mob. I will not use the absurd propaganda term "protestor" to give validity to the debased thieves and assailants that hit the streets in the following days. The Sarge and I had to sit there watching in disbelief as commentator after commentator described this mob as some socially enlightened group of selfless protestors finally standing for a societal change long overdue.
Reading Ellul's book Propaganda, it is easy to see why the American intellectual class hasn't promoted its ideas. In 1965, he predicted the weaponizing of certain terms like democracy, country, and social justice so they immediately trigger an emotional response in the listeners, leading to action. He believed that once language had been so empowered, logic and reason would be extinguished. Law enforcement is one of the foundations of a free society that is attacked constantly and irrationally, but with powerful emotion. The way in which headlines are written, Twitter explodes, and academic studies are couched, they never seem to require a factual foundation, and they are often contradictory. But arguing that all of these things are nonsense is always futile since successful propaganda becomes an emotional, not logical, trigger.
Today, we live in a society constantly wondering what trigger event will be aggravated by the elites, creating a new crisis, a new riot, a new demand for government control. And when it comes, law enforcement will be stuck right in the middle. What are the truly caring chiefs, sheriffs, directors, and legislators to do? How dangerous is this phenomenon? Well, let me quote the good Professor Ellul, who fought the Nazis in World War II as a member of the underground and loved freedom very deeply:
"…the side of freedom and truth for man has not yet lost, but that it may well lose—and that in this game, propaganda is undoubtedly the most formidable power, acting in only one direction (toward the destruction of truth and freedom), no matter what the good intentions or the good will may be of those who manipulate it."
Upon finishing this book I was left with the unshakableconviction that to counteract the constant anti-police propaganda that is part of the war on cops all of us must constantly speak truth to falsehoods and remind the community we protect that we stand for the safety, security, and freedom of all the people!
Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.