In a recent Facebook post, Daniel Turcotte makes a statement about people who say that Claude Vorilhon/Raël is not a prophet. Let’s deconstruct the meme and see how valid his statement is.
“The same people saying that RAEL is not a prophet, would have said the same for… Muhammad, Jesus, Joseph Smith”
Although there is no credit cited, I suspect Turcotte to be the author as the edit history of the post shows the image was replaced three times. I was fortunate enough to capture one of the earlier versions which shows that the word “probably” was removed.
The Post in Question
I was surprised by the post. As I read through the comments, one piqued my curiosity enough to have me research how propaganda works.
At first it looks harmless enough. We see images and memes like this all the time, especially on social media sites such as Facebook. However, when you apply the body of knowledge of persuasion techniques (propaganda) you’ll notice that the content relies entirely on persuading the audience and provides no factual information.
Let’s breakdown the different propaganda techniques that are being used in this image. (If you’d like to learn more about a particular technique, click on its name.)
The focus of the post is directly on people who say Raël is not a prophet. There is no discussion or reasoning supporting Vorilhon’s claim as being true, or that the people saying he is not a prophet are wrong.
The implication here is that either you accept Claude Vorilhon as a prophet or not. If not, then you are like the others who said Jesus, Mohammed and Joseph Smith were not prophets. There is no other option. The argument is much more complex than this. Each prophet’s claims should be evaluated independently, and one outcome does not necessarily affect the other.
While the question of Vorilhon being a prophet appears to be the essence of this communication, no information supporting this is presented – the framing is set to focus on the people who have an opinion of Vorilhon’s claim of being a prophet and attempts to group all the people who do not agree that any of these men were prophets together. It is the equivalent of saying that all sportspeople who win, use drugs – that cyclists, table tennis and poker players are all the same.
Guilt by Association
The post associates Raël with 3 men who are generally identified as “Prophets”. Not everyone would agree that all of them are genuine prophets, but the idea is that the label of prophet is attached to these people in some way. Through this association, (all these men are prophets) the assumption is that all of their detractors are the same.
This means that one thing does not follow another. In this example, it is expected that if you accept any or all of the 3 other men as prophets, then you should accept Claude Vorilhon as one as well. What should occur is that each case should be evaluated on its own merits.
There are no facts presented that could assist the reader in evaluating whether other people’s opinion about these prophetic claims were valid or not. There is no demonstration of how the four prophet claims are equally valid, who the people disagreeing with them are, or what their various arguments were.
The issue of whether Claude Vorilhon is a prophet and whether he should be considered as having the same status as the three other religious personalities is more complex than what is presented. There’s no definition of what constitutes being a prophet, no supporting evidence for these claims, nor of the relationship between the four personalities presented.
Due to the intentional vagueness, it is assumed that saying someone is not a prophet is a negative thing. In the context of what little information is presented, we can extrapolate that the 3 figures presented are considered by many people today, to be prophets therefore people who said they weren’t prophets were wrong. Following the presented logic, if you say that Vorilhon is not a prophet you are wrong as well, and all that that implies.
Cultic Methods of Persuasion
In regards to persuasion methods employed by cultic groups or charismatic leaders, the following techniques were also identified:
- Leadership dictates how to think or behave
- Questioning or Dissent Discouraged
- Unquestioning Devotion to Leader
So is Daniel Turcotte the Joseph Goebbels of the Raelian Movement?
Daniel Turcotte is a Level 5 Bishop Guide therefore when he makes such a post, it carries a certain level of authority within the movement. I do not have enough information to suggest that he is, or isn’t, a master manipulator, even though his post was a very strong form of propaganda. What little I do know of him is that he is very passionate and dedicated to the Raelian Messages, and it is understandable that he would want to make a strong impact against detractors of his spiritual leader.
What is most likely is that he has picked up these techniques unwittingly from people who do actively and intentionally attempt to persuade people. In fact, if you’ve ever attended a Guides’ Course, you may recall training that was given to help persuade people when diffusing the messages or managing press conferences. We are all capable of creating propaganda, without even realising we are doing it.
By the way, did you notice the headline of this section? How did it make you feel? It too is a form of propaganda. A more appropriate and less sensationalist title would have been “Is Daniel Turcotte intentionally using persuasion techniques to manipulate people?”
Propaganda techniques are real and are used everyday. They are so prevalent that we sometimes use them ourselves, unwittingly. By understanding how they work we are able to identify when they are being used and to defend against them. If we truly desire to be critical thinkers and to exchange ideas in pursuit of the truth without trying to convince, then we also need to stop using these sorts of techniques against others.
Don’t be like other people who didn’t leave comments for other prophets, share your thoughts below!
- Daniel Turcotte – Facebook Post 13/08/2017