Principles of Propaganda

At Purdue I took a dual-level course on Hitler and 20th Century Germany — just because I got so fascinated with history and political science the previous year (and I had an interest in World War II anyway). I was the only undergrad in the entire class, which was a bit daunting, because my classmates blew me out of the water with their knowledge. But at the same time, that’s what was so great about it. I was there to soak up as much as I possibly could, and what better way than to be around people who immerse themselves in that level of study.

By no means am I an expert on Nazi Germany, but reading Mein Kampf gives you some special insight into diabolical evil — which is why I find it so absurd when politicians of any party are so casually compared to Hitler. But slinging childish ignorance for political gain is not even in the same galaxy of insightful analysis that involves drawing historical parallels.

No rational argument could be made that we didn’t wage war in Iraq by employing the principles below — you could document the behavior and prove it with pie charts if you took the time. That the Bush Administration and a complicit Congress were nowhere near the evil of Nazi Germany is immaterial to the principles that drive delusion. As Hermann Goering put it: “It works the same way in any country.”

Propaganda . . . must always be essentially simple and repetitious. In the long run, only he will achieve basic results in influencing public opinion who is able to reduce problems to the simplest terms and who has the courage to keep forever repeating them in this simplified form despite the objections of the intellectuals. If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

— Joseph Goebbels’ diary, 1/29/42 (Third Reich Minister of Propaganda)

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

— Hermann Goering. (Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia and, as Hitler’s designated successor, the second man in the Third Reich)

All this was inspired by the principle — which is quite true in itself — that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.

— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (James Murphy translation, page 134)