One hundred years ago, Everett Dean Martin was appointed to serve as chairman of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures in an effort to advance the emerging movie entertainment genre. Having spent nearly a decade of his life as the First Congregational Church in Lombard, Illinois, he became a national evangelist for the psychological paradox he saw unfolding with the proliferation of technology outpacing education of citizens sufficient to keep them fully informed of how to consume media and messages. Having seen how the technology of late 19th and early 20th century religion had been effectively co-opted by business, politics, and civil society, he campaigned against those who appealed to self-serving and “ignoble” instincts to shape public behavior, belief, actions and thought. In the wake of the demagoguery that inflamed the horrors of World War I, he knew that, “the crowd is a state of mind,” and the capacity for masses to fixate on delusional ideology gave near omnipotence to the “enemies of humanity”. In his 1920 essay The Mob Mind vs. Civil Liberty, Martin anticipated the “pandemonium of propaganda” that was inevitable when technology afforded greater access to ideology than to expansive and liberal education. It is with some irony that the motion picture board to which he was appointed would one day help fulfill his greatest fears.
“Certain crowd-movements in America today give marked evidence of this unconscious motivation. Notice how both the radical and reactionary elements behave when, as is frequently the case with both, the crowd-spirit comes over them. Certain radicals, who are fascinated with the idea of the Russian Revolution, are still proclaiming sentiments of human brotherhood, peace, and freedom, while unconsciously they are doing just what their enemies accuse them of-playing with the welcome ideas of violence, class war, and proletarian dictatorship. And conservative crowds, while ostensibly defending American traditions and ideals against destructive foreign influence, are with their own hands daily desecrating many of the finest things which America has given to the world in its struggle of more than a century for freedom and justice. Members of each crowd, while blissfully unaware of the incompatibility of their own motives and professions, have no illusions about those of the counter-crowd. Each crowd sees in the professions of its antagonist convincing proof of the insincerity and hypocrisy of the other side. To the student of social philosophy both are right and both wrong. All propaganda is lies, and every crowd is a deceiver, but its first and worst deception is that of itself.”
This critique, written one hundred years ago today could be republished in 2019 with no editing and be seen as the epitaph to the century past.
*This article or video was created before We The People and our editorial standards came to be. There may not be a clear distinction between facts and opinions.