Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ellul on the conempt those who make propaganda have for their sympathizers, revisiting Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill bus observation that the nice people who just shut up but won't lead should be allowed to ride the bus

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

page 217
... Propaganda makes its agent a subject who makes the decisions and uses those systems that must obtain certain results; but the agent looks upon the mass of potential voters or sympathizers as objects. He manipulates them, works on them, tests them, changes them psychologically or politically. They no longer have any personal importance [emphasis added], especially when one realizes that good propaganda must be objective and anonymous, and the masses are considered as merely an instrument for attaining some objective. They are treated as such; this is one of the elements of the profound contempt that those making real propaganda have for all those on the outside, even--and often particularly--for their sympathizers.

Propaganda accentuates this separation between manipulators and sympathizers, even as it tends to personalize power within the party. [emphasis added] ...

It can be easy to forget that there was more in the audio clip "there's a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus" than that one notorious statement. Consider that Driscoll would go on to describe that there's a few kind of people and that opponents had to be run over, people who wanted to take turns driving the bus had to be thrown off.  But the lengthiest description Driscoll gave was of those nice people who don't do anything except ride the bus and MAYBE you could get them to volunteer in some capacity in some limited way but that they weren't going to lead the mission.
October 1, 2007

... Too many guys spend too much time trying to move stiff-necked obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God's grace it'll be a mountain by the time we're done. You either get on the bus or get run over by the bus (those are the options) but the bus ain't gonna stop. I'm just a, I'm just a guy who is like, "Look, we love ya but this is what we're doin'."

There's a few kind of people. There's people who get in the way of the bus.  They gotta get run over. There are people who want to take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off cuz they want to go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus (leaders and helpers and servants, they're awesome).  There's also sometimes nice people who just sit on the bus and shut up. They're not helping or hurting. Just let `em ride along. You know what I'm saying? But don't look at the nice people who are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, "I need you to lead the mission." They're never going to. At the most you'll give `em a job to do and they'll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that  hasn't been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader and so they're never going to lead. You need to gather a whole new core. [emphasis added]

I'll tell you what, you don't just do this for church planting or replanting, you know what? I'm doing it right now. I'm doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They're off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they're unemployed. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail.

The people on the bus who were servants and leaders were awesome but then there's those "nice people who just sit on the bus and shut up".  Read through Driscoll's description of that kind of person carefully and it will seem possible to say that this "nice person" would constitute the vast majority of contracted members of Mars Hill (oh, I know we're supposed to bear in mind that it was a "membership covenant" but at a practical level it was still a contract).

Notice, too, that "hasn't been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader" description. It "could" be interpreted to mean that the people who are on mission were not being defined by simply contracting to be a member of Mars Hill but also participating in the leadership culture of "mission". This sure seems like it could correspond with Ellul's description of a contempt with which a propagandist regards the subjects of propaganda.

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