Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 1, 1966
NUMBER 17, PAGE 11b-12

Propaganda Methods (V)

Arthur W. Atkinson, Jr.


Last week in our series on the subject of Propaganda Methods we studied briefly the device known as transfer. This device is used when the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction and prestige of something we respect and revere to something that he wishes us to accept. This device was very pointedly shown in the election of this past week here in California. A man by the name of Pierre Salinger won the democratic nomination for U. S. Senator. Two and a half months ago this man was not even in the state of California. Yet in ten weeks he accomplished the feat of beating men who were well known in the state. How did he do this? He did it through "transfer. " He transferred the prestige of the late President John F. Kennedy and his association with him, to the California scene and thus garnered votes that carried him to victory. This is a classic example of "transfer." It is used quite extensively in politics and in religion as we saw last week.

In today's article we want to study what is known as "Testimonial," Once again we quote from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Inc.

The "Testimonial" is a device to make us accept anything from a patent medicine or a cigarette to a program of national policy. In this device, the propagandist makes use of testimonials. "When I feel tired, I smoke a Camel and get the grandest lift." "We believe the John Lewis plan for labor organization is splendid; C. I. O. should be supported." This device works in reverse also; counter-testimonials may be employed. Seldom are these used against commercial products like patent medicines and cigarettes, but they are constantly employed in social, economic and political issues. "We believe that the John Lewis plan of labor organization is bad; C. I. O. should not be supported."

This device was greatly used during the past campaigns for election that we viewed here in California. It is used at every campaign. A prominent figure testifies that he is for a certain candidate. This testimonial is all that is needed to sway certain people to vote for that candidate. They do not study the issues involved; they simply cast their vote because of the testimony of the prominent person they respect.

In the commercial world testimonials are used very very often to create a desire for products in the minds of the people. More and more prominent Hollywood stars are being used to the "pitch" for certain products. Their testimony that they use the product is both "transfer" and "testimonial" combined to cause us to desire the product.

In religion the "testimonial" is also used. It is usually used when someone wishes to sell some product such as a book just written or tracts that have been published. Usually in our advertising we quote what "others are saying" about the tract or book. If you will take careful note of these "testimonials" you will find that for the most part they are quotations from men who are prominently known. Very few times do you read a "testimonial" from an obscure preacher. To use such would defeat the purpose of the testimonial. A testimonial to have an effect has to have behind it the transfer authority of a "famous" person.

But not only do we use this device to sell our literature we also use it to get people to accept our projects. If we have some large project that we are undertaking we seek out prominent preachers or educators to testify to the worthwhile benefits of said project. We may.even choose a well known person or church to head this project and we can then in this way transfer the prestige of this person to the project.

Sometimes testimonials are used from obscure persons to show supposed good that a thing is accomplishing. However, this type of testimony is not used to launch the project--but rather to show that the project is accomplishing, supposedly, the purpose for which it was launched. We quote letters of people who have received a paper, or have read an ad in a national magazine or have heard a certain radio program. This type of testimonial lends support to the need for continuing the project after it has been started.

Another way that "testimonials" are used is that of quoting the number that write in or attend a certain service. Recently it was reported that 2800 persons attended two special services at the World's Fair. It was at this service that the church shed its "inferiority complex" as the CHRISTIAN CHRONICLE reported. Understand that I do not object to the reporting of numbers. However, when our purpose for reporting is to impress people with numbers rather than with the truth--something is wrong. I trust that I have not misjudged my brethren in this respect and I do not feel that I have, I have seen this emphasis being placed on numbers for the sake of numbers now for several years. We like to report of having the largest Bible Study attendance even if we have to import big name golfers, olympic champions, millionaires and what have you to accomplish our desired end. The end of this is numbers for the sake of numbers. While I am speaking on this I might well add that I was not aware that the church ever had an "inferiority complex." Of course, I am not as well versed in psychiatry as I could be and I have obviously missed this particular malady that has afflicted the church.

Let us be sure that our use of any of these devices is one which is motivated by that which is right. Also, let us be sure that we do not accept or reject something just because of the testimonial of some prominent person. The person who is a Christian is not tossed about by every wind of doctrine but is one who studies carefully to make sure that what he is doing is in accord with the word of God. I feel certain that the apostle Paul would not have used the device of transfer and testimonials as brethren today use them. He recognized that the power to save man was in preaching the word of God. The modern day trappings that surround our methods do nothing to adorn the word and attract to the church the thoughtless, unthinking people that are impressed with material things and have little or no spirituality.