[Paleopsych] How can Steve be successful with propaganda?

Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Mon Jan 3 00:49:35 UTC 2005

Steve asked, apropos of "Jesus = Liberal"   
 >From a social- or cognitive- science point of view, what makes it 

Steve Hovland

Steve, excellent question.
    First, there is an evaluative process when a person sees / hears a 
propaganda message, such as "Who is saying this, why are they telling me 
this?" Successful propaganda must come from authorative sources. If you 
haven't established yourself as a scholar of christianity, the link 
rings terribly hollow. Symbols don't occur in vacuum; those that try to 
do so are irritating since they don't have the imprimatur of authority. 
Can you get the Pope to endorse the link (ex cathedra)? I doubt it.     
Second, when you use a universal iconic symbol, whom are you targeting? 
Liberals will already believe such links (Jesus = Liberal) whereas 
conservatives will be offended. They will say, and with considerable 
justification, that it is clear that Jesus revered life and were he here 
on earth today he would be revolted by the practice of abortion, 
something that liberalism tied itself to. One such contradiction will 
cause your Christian targets to reject the link.
    People in the middle - moderate christians - might be offended 
because if they have even a passing acquaintance with history, they know 
how people appropriate religious themes for selfish, destructive ends. 
That is an empirical question, of course, but such use of icons, 
especially by "out-group" people, are especially upsetting to the "in 
group."  Have you established your bona fides as an in-group member?
    Third, scholars will immediately know that Libeal/Conservative 
labels do not apply to epochs other than our own. For example, to label 
Washington "liberal" creates much discomfort to those who have studied 
the early history of our country (Federalists = liberal? I don't think 
so!0 Republicans under Jefferson waged an intense hate speech campaign 
asserting that the Federalists were elitists who simply wanted a kind of 
big business aristocracy. Conservatives? But Hamilton expanded the 
Federal Government enormously, and instituted deficit spending. 
Liberals? Jefferson appealed to the masses and used emotional language 
much more than Federalists (liberal?) yet he hated and distrusted all 
government (conservative?). The issues weren't the same. The labels 
simply don't fit that era.
    Similarly, during the time of Jesus there were two "political" 
parties, the Sadducees and the Pharasees. They are not liberal or 
conservative, except by special pleading which makes the comparison 
invalid. Sadducees doubted life after death and were more inclusive 
(liberal?) and Pharasees were concerned with preserving traditional 
Judeism and were big on "letter of the law" (conservative?) but Jesus 
eschewed both sides. He tangled with both, and appeared to have no 
interest at all in political institutions. I speak as one who has read 
the New Testament dozens of times in various translations and two 
languages, and read several commentaries on the life of Jesus. So to 
label him that way immediately makes you lose any credibility in the 
eyes of people who know history and theology.
    If I could offer some advice, I would say drop the labels and use 
something that is already successful. The word"liberal" is so full of 
negative meanings to the majority of US citizens I don't think it can be 
redeemed for perhaps fifty years. Your efforts to redeem it will be seen 
as clumsy and manipulative. You as a source will be discounted.
    Piggyback on a successful idea. Take the tsunami devastation. A 
photo of the suffering with the (already successful) question, "What 
would Jesus do?"  That is likely to produce a positive affective 
response from almost everyone.*
    *(Actually, he would probably say to ignore what governments do and 
take independent action, sacrificing your own purse to help those in 
need. He would be more pleased with the enormous church-based fund 
raising going on now than with forced contributions via taxes. Jesus 
never taught corporate response [Sinai covenant] but instead emphasized 
individual response [Elijah covenant], so Jesus says "sell all you have 
and give it to the poor and come and follow me" but only to the rich 
    To me, one reason that liberalism has become morally bankrupt is 
that it substitutes the Sinai covenant for the Elijah /Christian 
covenant, and substitutes corporate action for individual virtue. I am 
not sure how you can overcome that, without changing the fundamentals of 
    Thanks for the question,
Lynn Johnson

Steve Hovland wrote:

>>From a social- or cognitive- science point 
>of view, what makes it offensive?
>Steve Hovland
>-----Original Message-----
>From:	Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. [SMTP:ljohnson at solution-consulting.com]
>Sent:	Saturday, January 01, 2005 5:31 PM
>To:	The new improved paleopsych list
>Subject:	Re: [Paleopsych] Another well-known liberal
>Crude, but at least it is highly offensive . . .
>Steve Hovland wrote:
>>Steve Hovland
>>paleopsych mailing list
>>paleopsych at paleopsych.org
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>paleopsych mailing list
>paleopsych at paleopsych.org
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