Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tracts (1): Satan's Propaganda Agency

This little leaflet is just one example of the countless inexpensive evangelical tracts that have been printed and distributed over the years by various churches and other religious organizations. This one was the work of one Rev. Harold Mongerson (1910-1988), who was associated with the Community Church of the Nazarene in Moline, Illinois, and includes testimony from several of the faithful, one of whom declares sagely that "It's true, there are some good programs, but as my husband says, 'There are just enough good things on T-V to send you to hell.'" The tract must date from no earlier than 1958 (and I suspect from not much later than that either), as it refers to a Saturday Evening Post article from that year. Below are scans of the first interior spread and the last page.

Sixty years on, it's easy to chuckle at the Rev. Mongerson's moral panic in the face of a new medium, but if one leaves Satan out of it (and ignore the conflation of film with video) the message on the cover isn't, arguably, entirely wrong:
The film is an extremely subtle instrument of propaganda. Read a book and you are likely to read it critically and carefully. Not so with a skillfully prepared audio-visual presentation. The careful marshalling of scenes, fortified by well-chosen background music, opens the mind unwittingly to seduction. When the presentation is finished, you are often quite unaware of the ideas which have slipped into your thinking.

The first requirement of good propaganda is that it be not easily recognized.

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