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Examine some older texts on philosophy, some Freudian psychology, even some theology, and you’ll come across the term proton-pseudos.

Proton-pseudos is described by the International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis as ‘the link between false premises and false conclusions.’ Sigmund Freud borrowed the term from Aristotle and applied to it to the category of hysteria.

In short, the Proton-pseudos is the ‘original error’. The proton-pseudos sits behind and within the lies we tell ourselves, or the lies we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves, society, politics, theology and a whole range of other areas. The proton-pseudos is the outworking of a negative self-belief caused by exposure to trauma, abuse, and agitation, manipulative or sociological propaganda.

The proton-pseudos is a false idea or belief based on limited or distorted knowledge. It’s an assumption lived out as fact, even though it’s a conclusion derived from a broken reality, one re-pieced together, without a relevant tangible factual basis. In other words, the proton-pseudos is a broken lens. It imagines oppression where no oppression exists, created by a negative self-belief long ago triggered by a genuine traumatic event.

The Freudian understanding of the proton-pseudos is exemplified by ‘Emma, who at the age of thirteen fled the laughter of the sales staff in a shop, consciously believing that they were laughing at her clothes. However, Emma’s reaction in the shop was triggered by a repressed first event from years before, a grocer who had sexually touched her when she was eight.’

French intellectual Jacques Ellul’s aggressive critique of helpful and harmful propaganda, from 1965, assists in providing a framework to explain how propaganda relates to the proton-pseudos as an ‘inner control over the individual by a social force.’ Manipulative, agitation and sociological propaganda preys on the collective social consciousness of a society in an ‘age of anxiety’. Fear is used to control, mobilize and permit.

The manipulative use of fear engineers a desensitizing of sensitivities and objections to an idea, in order to implement it.

As Ellul explains, ‘propaganda will permit what so far was prohibited, such as hatred…propaganda offers him an object of hatred for all propaganda is aimed at an enemy. This hatred is not shameful, evil hatred that must be hidden, but justified because propaganda has pointed out enemies that must be slain, transforming crime into a praiseworthy act.’

Propaganda utilizes proton-pseudos to create conformity. According to Ellul this conformity is the consequence of integration propaganda – political reeducation. This means that any ‘statement whatever, no matter how stupid, any “tall tale” will be believed once it enters into the current of hatred’ perpetuated by the prevailing proton-pseudos; the false doctrine, half-truth, outright harmful or blasphemous lie or deception. The collective social consciousness of society can then be controlled through ‘key words of magical import, which are believed without question.’

The proton-pseudos becomes authoritative through an ongoing maintenance of propaganda. Questioning of the proton-pseudos is viewed as irrational. Even though the proton-pseudos is, itself an irrational conclusion held captive by the ‘original error’.

To borrow further from Jacques Ellul, propaganda instills in the person held captive to the proton-pseudos ‘a system of opinions and tendencies which may not be subjected to criticism…the individual has received irrational certainties from propaganda and feels personally attacked when these certainties are attacked’.

Agitation, manipulative and sociological propaganda reinforces the proton-pseudos by way of affirming its grip on the person held captive by it.

Consequently, ‘ironically, the man or woman who has been successfully subjected to a vigorous propaganda will declare that all new ideas are propaganda.’

This comes back to Freud’s story of Emma.  The proton-pseudos sees oppression where there is none. It confuses a past event with current circumstances, magnifying fear and stopping Emma from distinguishing fiction from real thing. Emma’s negative self-belief affects her interpretation of the intentions of the people who surrounded her in the shop. There may have been good reasons for her to be suspicious and feel uncomfortable, but Emma’s consciousness was governed by a lie based on past abuse; the proton-pseudos which she believes and projects onto others, despite her current context clearly saying otherwise.

Ellul and Freud don’t just give us legitimate reasons for a constructive self-critique, they provide a diagnosis for the current malady affecting the socio-political make-up of Western Civilization.

One example is the proton-pseudos which dominates the Left. The proton-pseudos at work here imagines Nazis in every opponent, or behind every politician or journalist not Left of centre.

There’s no doubt that Nazism is evil, but like Freud’s story of Emma, context matters.

As Dennis Prager recently said, “fighting Nazis in World War two makes you a hero. Fighting Nazis today, in the United States, doesn’t”. Why? Because today’s Nazis are largely phantoms created by the Left. Imagined into existence, but based on an historical event, in order to promote fear, take control and justify an inability (or worse, lack of desire) to engage in reasoned debate. The proton-pseudos provoked by propagandist slogans permits all sorts of viciousness and violence against their political opponents.

Take as examples the propagandists perpetuating the proton-pseudos. They create an oppressor, where one doesn’t exist, with terms such as, toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, cultural appropriation, white privilege, islamophobia, Jesus was a socialist, homophobia and mansplaining, unborn babies are a bunch of cells/a parasite, all men are dogs, and all white people are racist, et.al.

All of these and others, as asinine as “love is love”, are designed to incite ‘conditioned reflexes’ (Elull). To ensnare, trap and control the argument through an appeal of the social consciousness of the West which has long embraced the truth of love your neighbor as you love yourself, and long since rejected the evils of racism/fascism.

Anyone who questions the slogan, questions the propaganda, threatening the power of the propagandist and their ability to use the proton-pseudos to feed their own self-interest.

Ellul and Freud share a strong relevance to the current practice in psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The practice of identifying the proton-pseudos, of replacing lies with truth.

They join with Paul of Tarsus in challenging us to discern between the lies we’re told, the lies we tell ourselves and the truth.

For the Christian, and those who heed Paul’s instruction, this will mean wholeheartedly owning the theological truth that ‘the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds; destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ESV)

Beware the auctioneers: outsmart the propagandists. Challenge the proton-pseudos both without and from within. Be a factivist, a liberator, one who see the lies for what they are and where they originate, and then replaces them with the truth.

As Paul teaches: ‘don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind’ , not the emptying of it. (Romans 12:2)


References:

Ellul, J. 1965 Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Vintage Press (pp.87 & 152)

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

First published on Caldron Pool, 5th September, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

In August, 2016, I posted a quick response to the hysteria surrounding the election of Donald Trump. I headlined that post, ‘Why Trump is Not Hitler, & Why American Evangelicals Are Not German Christians’. My aim was to counter a lot of what I was seeing posted on social media by people who were usually level-headed and intellectually responsible.

It was disappointing to see normally sane individuals suddenly join in the anti-trump rants – which really were, I’m angry because the Leftist power structures, and its monopoly on power, has been diminished – tantrums.

Worse still,  some Christian conservative academics, took to social media to virtue signal to the all-powerful Left in what I can only describe as a sycophantic attempt to validate themselves in the eyes of those on their friends on the Left. Even I felt pressure to censor my view of Trump, and the current political scene, so as to not fall foul of the power brokers in my field of academic work and study.

For example, generally balanced academics picked up Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, forged both into anti-Trump weapons, and started swinging them around in unison with the “Trump is Hitler” chorus.

Despite the intimidation, I made an effort to work back towards unity; shared ground.

Informing my post at the time, was the fact that both Barth and Bonhoeffer, who were anti-Nazi theologians, would be unlikely to leap before they looked, when it came to the political scaremongering surrounding Trump. They weren’t fans of political labels, generalised slogans, and false doctrines. Nor were they supporters of the imposition of new cultural laws, restrictions on freedom of speech, inciting the mob, Nazi flags in churches and, collective conformity to party-lines. That’s part of what made them anti-Nazi theologians.

Did some Christians commit the blasphemy of looking to Trump as though God Himself had been elected to the White House? Sure, but no differently to how people deify celebrities, or how people fell apart when their demi-god, Barack Obama was constitutionally moved on, and Clinton lost.

I agreed that there are similarities between the power structures in the 1930s and today. However, I disagreed on where those parallels exist. The similarities, between the 1930s and today, (as I’ve pointed out many times in my writing), fall parallel with socialism, repression and control of the universities by the Left. Include in this other points of contact with the 1930s, such as celebrity endorsement of socialism, abortion, and the Leftist tendency to dismiss, destroy and dehumanise anyone who disagrees them.

The danger should be clear enough. From a psychological point of view this rampant ad hominem is recognised as emotional manipulation. Recklessly calling someone a “Nazi” is a shaming technique designed to control the opponent in an attempt to discredit, and silence them. The same goes for those who would paint all white people as racist.

Link both the reckless labelling of people as Nazis and the slogan “all white people are racist” together, and the cocktail of hate is complete. All that’s needed are chambers filled with the pesticide Zyklon B, cyclone fencing, and all those determined by the Left to be “life unworthy of life”.

Any well-informed reader who knows the history behind the genocidal rampaging in Rwanda, of the Tutsis against the Hutus, will see that there is good reason for concern.

Another similarity is the indoctrination of those on the Left by their ideological masters. Some may say that this is ridiculous. That those on the Left aren’t indoctrinated. That there is no, as I call it, leftist cult of modern liberalism. If that is true, then why has the past few years only served to show the Western world that something is amiss and, although the man has his moments, it’s not Donald Trump or the “Christian right”.

Examples of how the culture of repudiation and its dehumanising has taken hold in the psyche of the average individual are magnified by social media, and those examples are incriminating. Such as the comment to this YouTube video.

This person is a victim of the times. Here’s five reasons why their statement is flat-out wrong:

1. Unlike, Venezuela or North Korea, People aren’t risking their lives to escape America into Mexico, Cuba or Canada.
2. Unlike Zimbabwe, North Korea or Turkey, soldiers aren’t defecting from the United States, nor are America’s defences forces attempting a coup.
3. Unlike Syria, the United Nations is not monitoring the Government because of previous gas attacks on the Syrian people.
4. Unlike Turkey, the media and academics, despite their vicious and continued harassment of the Trump administration have not been rounded up and arrested.
5. It’s a logical fallacy, involves a poor reading of theology and it’s reckless labelling. One just doesn’t name-drop the anti-Christ or Hitler without qualifying the accusation in order to say why.

The real tragedy in all of this is that by crying wolf about Nazism, the Left desensitises people to the heinous crimes of Nazism. It reduces Nazism to the absurd; reducing the desire to call out the real thing, when it, or an equivalent, God forbid, rises once more.

False accusations turn the blood brother of Communism into a joke, potentially doing great damage to the legacy of the millions who fell, and suffered at the hands of both their Nazi, and Communist oppressors. The meaning and reverence in the words “never again” and “Solidarity” are not the battle cries of cultural Marxists, Antifa, Leftists or Trump haters.

Those words are prayers, and their meanings are forged in the fires of hell on earth. Something far removed from the Nike Air, Apple iphone, iMac, ivory tower professors, simple minded millennials, and anyone else, sucked in by those on the Left who feed them lines about oppression, privilege, the need for safe spaces, and all manner of pejorative phobias used to conveniently dismiss opposing opinions.

Accusing other people of being Nazis, without an absolute justification to back that claim up, is doing exactly what Nazis did. If we’re to truly be anti-Nazi, then the right to “punch a Nazi” falls on those victimised by the fascist behaviour of Leftists, who use a pejorative to dehumanise, and dismiss, their opponents.

Like its Marxist brother, Nazism is pure evil. We cannot allow these attacks on the legacy of its victims. We must not let their memory fade at the hands of those who would rather use the fallacy of moral equivalence, for cheap applause, or to maintain the power structures of the Left, than think through what it really means when they accuse Trump of being Hitler, and most Trump supporters of being fascists.

Perhaps the best statement about Trump, I’ve read so far, comes from Mark Landsbaum,

‘Yeah, his style is rude, crude and clumsy, to say nothing about childish. But we’ve tried polite, considerate and grownup and guess what – that’s what got the country where it was a year ago. I don’t much care how crude and clumsy he is as long as he continues on the trajectory he’s charted: millions of babies saved and 150 victories in 10 months. He’s not my pastor. He’s my mechanic.’

I am, when it comes to President Donald Trump, as I have been from the beginning, a cautious optimist. I see him as a diamond in the rough. I’m not yet a fan, but those, and thousands like them on the internet, who are quick to call Trump another Hitler, should be called out for what they are mindlessly repeating. Word for word, Leftist dogma and its own fascist, party-line propaganda.


 

 

“The Titanic is unsinkable. Therefore we don’t need the extra lifeboats.We’ll get there faster without them.”

“But…”

“Oh. Shut up will you. You have a hidden bias. You’re bigoted and intolerant; a complete fool who doesn’t believe in ‘progress’.”

Karl Barth:
.
“There is a lie to be seen in the contrast between all the fuss and bother [the luxuries & arrogance] on board this ship and the helpless way in which it then had to submit to a very elementary force of nature.
 .
The catastrophe brought this lie to light. God will not be mocked. He certainly intends us to work and to achieve something in the world. But He does not intend us to act as though we were done with working, and could now go fooling around.
 .
…If we have to say of the Titanic and its 1500 victims today…the blame for this lies with humanity.”
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(On The Sinking of The Titanic, 21st April 1912)

Related reading:

A Slow Turn To Starboard

Let The Pharaohs of Our Age Also Learn: Pride Comes Before a Fall