Trans-substantial Catholics

Watch this. What are the priests doing? Catholic Litmus Test If you are Catholic, then I hope for the sake of your soul you said he is welcoming Christ bodily into the world. If you didn’t you aren’t looking too […]

Poor Hanno

According to the pop-psychologist-pseudo-science writer Malcolm Gladwell in his magnum lite-opus, the Tipping Point we as a species need risk takers. Individuals who are willing to put it all on the line in pursuit of a goal will, if they […]

Intelligence and Happiness?

A while ago, the Inquisition pondered the nature of intelligence, and whether a certain outlook or attendant mental abilities are guides to or from happiness. This has been obliquely in the news of late…

Buried by the Sea

Its odd. Most graveyards in Connemara appear to be near water, if not actually right on the coast. Why? West Galway, or Connemara, has a lot of unused space. Admittedly, much of the land Connemara is industrially and agriculturally useless, […]

Cycling Two Abreast

Cycling two abreast in Ireland is legal, a protected practice, and it is safer.

Indoors / Outdoors (Defuse)

A talk given by The Inquisition at Defuse, on Wednesday 7th November 2012, as part of Designweek in Dublin, Ireland

Nürnburg’s Extra Bombs

Nürnburg got ripped to shreds by Bomber Harris’ boys. By how much appears to be open to debate.

Law & Morality

The preface to HLA Hart’s publication of his 1961 lecture series on the meeting of law and morality is as prevalent today as it ever was.

Foy – The Bodiless Head

A bodiless head is revered as being Saint Foy, who died a cruel death.

Coffee Haters

There are people out there who pretend to like coffee. Coffee Haters – you have been warned.

False Flags 2

False flag, covert ops by Americans against Americans? Sounds crazy, and so it was deemed.

Plastic 55 Years Ago

55 years ago Roland Barthes considered the importance of plastic and what it meant, as a substance and a symbol.

Cesare Borgia’s Party

The Pope, his son and fifty prostitutes – Cesare Borgia’s party.

Marriage – A Potted History

Marriage is thought by many to be a fixed rite, one which is immovable and inflexible. The truth is that it has not always seemed so…

Blinking Morse

The world was shocked when a victim of torture started blinking morse. The story of a US aviator captured in Vietnam.


Synecdoche is a powerful, expressive linguistic device

The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Passive Coercion

Unrestricted information is the greatest propaganda

The Inquisition is not going to write an entire diatribe to add to the exhaustive canon about propaganda. It is its very absence which concerns us.

Preying on our fears

The manifest use of forthright wartime propaganda seems to us now to be a desperate act when losing; you are using coercive tactics to get your people to conform to your ideology. Classic propagandist techniques are based on creating a fear/threat that needs to be held in check, and consequently they tell us more about ourselves than our enemy.

Scolding a child against doing something, is much less effective than explaining why not to do it and offering incentives. The most effective tools of corecion are open education and discussion. Its as if to say; “why would we use propaganda? We have nothing to hide”.

As with self-initiated learning, you leave people to make their own conclusions. This is the key tenet of the west- freedom. But those conclusions can be pre-empted. Opinions are based on the information received, which can be manipulated and cherry-picked.

Edit 10th December 2010

It has long been argued that it is only a perception that the press are actually free. The Wikileaks controversy has thrown a sharp light over this argument showing it in sharp relief. The heavyweight media commentator takes no prisoners when he declares that the media are simply a mouthpiece.

Embedded media provide the justification, but with the full context?

Embedded media provide the justification, but with the full context?

So the real question is if what we know is true?

Throughout the previous decade we became used to terms such as embedded media; in a Marxist light we can see that by controlling the means of information production you control the recipients’ opinions. Try Googling “Falluja bodies” and you will find you are less opposed to the ridiculously heavy-handed tactics used by the Americans.

Dealing with communists in Vietnam

Dealing with communists in Vietnam

Partisan reporting is a softly-softly propaganda; documentary evidence can be an ideologues friend. Sometimes, though, you might have to admit your your side’s wrongs; but “to err is human”. These admissions evoke empathy: “it’s a tough job they are doing out there, but at least our guys admit their mistakes”.

Heartfield and Riefenstahl two sides of the one coin.

Heartfield and Riefenstahl two sides of the one coin.

Propaganda, as we knew it, no longer works

Heartfield Vs Riefenstahl was, in many ways, the paradigmatic propaganda war. In reality, there was no tactical difference. Both portrayed others as reprehensible and their own side as heroes. Both were to a lesser or greater degree state controlled or sponsored.

In the greater picture, of course, control of the arts was exercised with gusto in Nazi Germany but less so in the UK. Political dissenters were summarily dealt with by the brownshirts while Oswald Mosely kept on keepin’ on in wartime England. Approaches vary; dissent was ostensibly allowed but closely monitored for subversion in Russia.

Emperor by Boris Orlov, 1975

Emperor by Boris Orlov, 1975. Sots art was separate from but had parallels to contemporary western art.

A straightforward documentary about pairing-off dances or a shift away from a supremacist past?

A straightforward documentary about pairing-off dances or a shift away from a supremacist past?

After the war Riefenstahl sought to reclaim her name away from her colourful past. She did so by transposing her aesthetic from aryan subjects to African ones. Although the photos themselves stand supreme, it is surmised that this was her way of telling us she never bought into Nazism but was just fascinated by its embodiment of the corporeal. The sceptical opinion is that for this reason the real subject of these African photos was Leni herself. Not that she ever told us that directly, and so the debate continues.

North Korean state's official depiction of US soldiers

North Korean state's official depiction of US soldiers

North Korea

To Western eyes these Korean images are patently untrue. We are shocked by the lies. They ring hollow – painting is no longer considered a documentary format, the claims are too exaggerated, too farcical. And yet, Koreans must see them in a similar vein; but, with their minds in the shadows of the atrocious nature of twentieth century clashes of cultures in the Far East, they must recognise at least a kernel of what they perceive to be truth.

And yet, we in the west thirst for actual knowledge of North Korea. When we find it, from independent sources, it confirms our outlook. This is the key – we can fight regimes that disgust us – so we are shown screengrabs of suicide bombers’ websites, videos of atrocities, we can read their texts.

Short John Heartfield Bio
Leni; The life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl, Steven Bach, Abacus, 2007
Africa: Leni Riefenstahl, Ed. Angelika Taschen, Taschen, 2005
University of Virginia page on propaganda posters
Christopher Hitchens on North Korea in The Slate
It’s The Real Thing; Soviet & Post Soviet Sots Art and American Pop Art, Regina Khidekel, University of Minnesota, 1998
Loads more images from North Korea
About Looking, John Berger, Bloomsbury, 2009

This article was posted by on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 22:05.
It is archived in Art, Culture, History, Media and tagged , , , , , .

8 Responses to Passive Coercion

  1. Stephen says:

    So by sticking to our values of a free and open press we in the west are actually winning the “propaganda war”? I wouldn’t imagine we are winniing over the entrenched hardline fundamentalists though?

  2. Sal Attal says:

    Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

  3. Stephen Ryan says:

    Found your blog – not vague at all when you write about fact!

    Well researched piece, you didn’t really touch on the politcs of spin and PR, which can be propaganda by annother name. Out of interest, during WW2, the irish media had to report both sides announcements on the war, which generally made things even more confusing

    • Ronan says:

      Hi Stephen – thanks for your comment, I’ll see what I can dig up on Irish media during the emergency (how quaint that we didn’t see it as a war?). Regarding spin and PR, I didn’t want to touch that because it is such a vast expansive issue.
      Also I have been thinking about the notion of vagueness, and have decided that you were right. Maybe a ‘precise ambiguity’ might be a better way to go!

  4. Alex says:

    Any idea when the posters showing the GI’s sawing on the guy’s head were made?

Rummage Through Inquisition's Archives

The Index