What America Learned from the Germans — 2/2


(Continued from Part 1)

More on the Propaganda Techniques Employed by the Nazis

  • Glittering Generalities, which Yourman characterizes as “the use of “virtue words” to appeal to emotions of love, generosity and brotherhood. This phenomenon extends to references to German traditions dating back to the Middle Ages, especially the word “volk,” pronounced “folk.” German farmers were seduced to back the Third Reich with constant associations with “Blut und Boden,” (Blood and Soil) and bound by oaths of “Bauer honor” to tie them to the land and prevent them from changing their occupation or residence. The Nazis needed every sector of their economy dominated and running smoothly  if they were going to win the upcoming war.

Every country has its own benevolent myths regarding their own folks but the Nazis milked them dry. The Americans did something similar after the war. The myths of the “self-made man,” the “hardy frontiersman” and other old saws were elevated to such heights of nincompoopery that they gave rise to a full-blown axiomatic truth called “American Exeptionalism,” a truth just as true as “Manifest Destiny” and The Tooth Fairy.

Americans Are So Special They Have Carte Blanche

It maintains that Americans are qualitatively different from the rest of the people in the world and therefore can write their own rules and apply them to everybody. Written down in black and white, this is patently silly, but right-thinking Americans take it as holy writ. And one American administration after another interprets it as a license to wreak havoc anywhere they fancy.

  • Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. The pseudo-deification of Chancellor Hitler is an outstanding example of this device. Nazi propagandists seeked to establish him as a quasi divinity and to transfer to him the religious feelings of the German people; then to transfer from him the “divine” sanction to the policies, practices, beliefs, and hatreds which he espouses.
    The concepts of patriotism  and terrorism work in similar ways. They become “trigger words” to be transfered to any cause the power elite want to promote. The former authorizes shipping young Americans to die in far-off places with funny names; the latter is a useful wild card for use at home (immigrant bans) and abroad (the invasion/subversion/devastation of any country possessing scarce natural resources.)
  • The Testimonial makes us accept anything from a patent medicine or a cigarette to a program of national policy. From the fact that “the Fuehrer knows the goal and knows the direction,” it follows that his is the supreme testimonial. Hitler is the arbiter of everything. No specialist knows better than he does, no recommendation can be better than his. He can deny even the authority of science. Only the conclusions of “German science” as approved by the Fuehrer may be accepted. When the conclusions of science do not accord with his wishes, as in genetics, a new science has to be invented; its prestige then has to be established by his testimonial.’
    It’s the same with the arts. Only that art which is approved by the Fuehrer and his subordinates as German art may be accepted by the German people.He also decrees how men and women shall live their lives. The kind of life which has the Fuehrer’s approval is that which is surrendered to the state. In this Hitler is the arbiter; his approval is the supreme testimonial.
  • Plain Folks is used by politicians, labor leaders, business men, and even by ministers and educators to win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves, “just plain folks among the neighbors.” As for Hitler, at the same time he was canonized as a demigod an attempt was made to transform him into a “man of the people.” This plain-folks ploy has become increasingly popular since Hitler’s time. Who could be more man of the people than the current American President… “current” that is if he’s still in office by the time you read this.
  • Card Stacking is a device in which the propagandist employs all the arts of deception to win our support for himself, his group, nation, race, policy, practice, belief, or ideal. He stacks the cards against the truth, using underemphasis and overemphasis to dodge or evade facts. Thus a regime has freedom to give publicity to falsehoods. Hitler approves such duplicity in Mein Kampf  when he writes: “Propaganda does not have to seek objectively for the truth so far as it favors an opponent . .. but exclusively has to serve our interests.” This sounds eerily familiar today. In a superb ideological double back flip its prime practitioner actually gave it a name: “fake news.”
  • The Band Wagon makes us follow the crowd, to accept the propagandist’s program en masse. The technique can be used to further any agenda, no matter how vile. People in a well-ordered country love rallying behind a leader, just as they love a parade. One of the great unifying principles adopted by the National Socialists is that of hate. Among the passages deleted from the English version of Mein Kampf, Hitler has written: “Hate is more lasting than dislike, and the thrusting power for the  mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times come less from scientific recognition than from a fanaticism that fills the souls of the masses and in a forward-driving hysteria” (vorwaertsiagenden hysterie).”
    In accordance with this principle Jews, communists, liberals, and democrats became objects of hatred and scapegoats that could be made to suffer for the supposed distress the caused in German society. Unity is further encouraged by patriotic demonstrations. Typical in these are gigantic crowds of people, massed ranks of uniformed troops, bands playing patriotic and martial airs, voices declaiming from a hundred mechanical mouths, ecstatic marchers carrying flickering torches, their resinous smoke blending into the darkness, flags and swastikas everywhere.

Excellent Propaganda Won’t Do It Alone

Yourman adds a caveat to his list of propaganda techniques that worked for the Nazis.

“We must guard against assuming that German Fascism or any other variety of fascism arises from propaganda alone. German Fascism came into being not primarily because of Hitler’s masterful skill as a propagandist but because conditions of unemployment, impoverishment, despair, anger, and resentment were such in Germany that any person or group offering salvation in terms sufficiently appealing could have influenced profoundly the political and economic decisions of the German people. Hitler was sufficiently appealing. With the financial support of certain individuals and the intrigues and incompetencies of men like von Papen and Hindenburg, fascism becomes a reality.

“The Germans, traditionally nationalistic and arrogantly proud, were defeated, humiliated, crippled, and degraded by World War I. Nazi ideology first made them racially superior, the Nazi politics and force proved their right as a world power and revealed again their interrupted “destiny.” It was a combination of economic breakdown, governmental weakness, frustrated morale, and propaganda which made pre-Nazi Germany ready for fascism. A similar combination could bring fascism elsewhere. Propaganda has no meaning and hence no effectiveness except in terms of life conditions of people-their needs, fears, hatreds, loves, aspirations, prejudices, and traditions. These affect propaganda as much as propaganda affects people.”

How is your country doing lately for incompetent leaders and for attending the “needs, fears, hatreds, loves, aspirations, prejudices, and traditions of its citizens?”  Be prepared.

Go to: What America Learned from the Germans, Part 1

P.S. I just ran across this article in The Atlantic last night. I want to put a link to it here, as it’s germain to our ongoing discussion of American values. I always thought that white supremacy was an aberrance that was rejected by all mentally healthy Americans. The truth is quite different. It turns out that the Germans also learned something from the Americans.

Back to Part 1/2

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

What America Learned from the Germans — 1/2


Mind Bending in the U.S.A

Do you find yourself asking lately, “What’s happened to America?” How did their society get from there to here without anybody shouting out, “Whoa, what’s going on here?!” What happened to neighborliness, to altruism and humanism? Where’s the kind of activism that brought an end to the Vietnam War? What happened to academic freedom, free of classrooms monitored by right-wing informers? It’s as if a toxic fog of egoism, cynicism and arrogant ignorance had descended on the country.

People’s minds have been changed radically on most important issues and that mind changing has led to a long series of regrettable reverses in American government policy at home and abroad. Lets boil these changes down for the sake of brevity: 1/ Egregious inequality and racism at home and 2/ Colonial wars overseas.

I think we can agree on what has happened. Great swaths of the American people have changed their minds regarding the kind of world they want to live in. And their choices are largely driven by greed, white supremacy and mindless nationalism, not generosity and concern for the common good. The mystery is: How and why did these changes come about?

Massive shifts in values, lifestyles and aspirations don’t just happen by spontaneous combustion. Those changes were somehow provoked. Powerful (i.e. rich) people, or groups of powerful people, took it upon themselves to change American society’s values and modes of living. They ditched Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “soft-hearted and soft-headed” New Deal model of society and supplanted it with something more “businesslike,” something less expensive and more profitable. More profitable for whom? Guess.

How to Turn a Great Country from Idealism to Bare-Fisted Profit

However powerful they may be, the rich in the United States are a minority. They have little possibility of changing the direction of the country with their own votes. To change the mindset of an advanced country of a few hundred million fairly-well-educated people is a large order. How did they go about it? They used a two-pronged approach: 1/ Buy influence at the top, in the Congress, and 2/ Influence the voting choices of ingenuous voters. To achieve the latter they had to first make the voters more ingenuous. This is usually referred to as “dumbing down,” and through retrograde educational policies and the use of the mainstream media, which they own, the affluent minority did a magnificent job.

In fact, they didn’t have to do too much inventing. All they had to do was find a model that had already proven effective and adapt it to their own needs. That model was the highly-successful, full-court-press propaganda campaign used by the German Nazis to turn their country around in the 1930’s. It was frighteningly effective, and we’re lucky enough to have a detailed description of it from which we might learn something, if it’s not too late.

Our Legacy from a Young American Sociologist

In 1939 Julius Yourman, a 34-year-old sociologist at N.Y.U., wrote an article entitled “Propaganda Techniques within Nazi Germany” for the Journal of Educational Sociology. He begins his article with this premise:

The extent to which the propaganda machinery of a country has been brought under the control of one organization or of a group of related organizations is a useful measure of the degree to which absolutism dominates it, and of the extent to which democracy has been eliminated.

Yourman continues (and please remember that this was written in early 1939, six years after the Nazis took power in Germany and almost three years before the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, the day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor):

Since the advent of the National Socialists the power of the agencies of propaganda has been intensified and coordinated so that all avenues of communication-press, school, radio, motion picture, and even the church-must carry but one propaganda to the public mind, must express one will, one voice, one opinion. Hence the Hitler regime has, in common with other fascist countries, established a system wherein authority flows from the top down; and from the people comes blind, instant, unquestioning obedience.

Yourman divides the National Socialist propaganda effort into “seven common propaganda devices,” and analyzes each one.  Note the word “common.” The Nazis didn’t have to invent much, either, rather just trace a plan using time-tested publicity techniques and implement them systematically and implacably.

I confess that, as I read Yourman’s comments on the measures the Nazis took to twist their country’s values so grotesquely, I started seeing parallels with our own times, perhaps not so extreme yet, but definitely along the same lines. See if you don’t agree.

It’s as Easy as Selling Coca Cola, Using the Same Techniques

Let’s take them from the top:

  • Name Calling. Yourman deems this “a device to make us form a judgment without examining the evidence on which it should be based.” After a few years of relentless bombarding their countrymen with anti-trade-union, anti-bolshevik, anti-Jewish and anti-democratic name calling, the Nazis had convinced them that “these devilish inventions were cleverly designed by malicious persons to ruin the German people.”Once German citizens were convinced that communism was being foisted on them by a vicious and degenerate cabal of alien enemies, then the Nazis could rally all good Germans around the Fuehrer, who promised to protect his people by waging endless war on these “enemies of the state.”  Where did they find most of these subversives, victims of their endless war? In Checoslovakia and Poland at first, then ultimately in most of the countries of Europe. The didn’t make it to Iraq and Afghanistan because the Allies (principally  UK, the Soviet Union, the US and France)  didn’t give them enough time.

    The German liberals were also lumped in with the enemies of the state. To be a “liberal” or to believe in the “stupid doctrine of equality” was to be a lilly-livered “red.” (Sound familiar?) The same talent the Nazis had for invective they had for praising the German people’s homespun virtues of “honesty, decency, workmanship, good will and rich emotionalism,” most of which would go out the window by the end of the war.

    Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

    Thanks for commenting and sharing.

    Go to Part 2