What America Learned from the Germans — 1/2

Mind_Bending2

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

Coming.

The Godzilla Flag Is Loosed on the U.S.A.–1/2

Godzilla1

Uncle Sam Wants You

A flag is just a rag but throughout history flags have been used to encourage and justify mankind’s most heinous crimes. And in the U.S.A nothing has changed in this respect. Whenever an American government—of any stripe—wants to recruit cannon fodder for any of their foreign adventures the first thing they haul out is the flag, “Old Glory.” Time after time young Americans respond in true Pavlovian style. And it’s not just any old bone they’re drooling after. It’s a death lottery.

What possible explanation can there be for young people to put so little value on their very lives? The answer is simpler than you might think. Just as collies are bred for herding sheep, Americans are bred to go to war. But why? That’s not too complicated, either. Because if the United States runs out of soldiers their policy of permanent war falls apart. And they can’t have that. Without war what’s left of the American economy—technology and arms sales—falters, along with the myth of American invincibility and their militarists’ dream of “full spectrum dominance.” They’re almost there. They have already conquered Grenada and Panama, though they found some unexpected resistance in Irak and Afghanistan. Now all they have left to dominate are North Korea and Iran. Oh, I almost forgot. There’s Russia and China, too.

Inside the Godzilla Contraption

Underlying all this bellicose folderol is a drive train of tricks and lies that I shall refer to here as “Nationalism/Patriotism,” codename “Godzilla.” In theory those two concepts are closely related but different. But in current American practice, as patriotism is invariably linked to militarism, heroism, conquest and glory, nationalism and patriotism are Siamese twins, linked at the hip. In order for the Godzilla contraption to work young Americans have to be brought up in an immersion tank of perfectly-coordinated mechanisms all pulling together. All are designed to make these young people believe that they are, in some magical way, exceptional, uniquely different, actually superior to people of other societies around the world. This is pure poppycock, of course, but it’s common currency to them and most Americans believe it implicitly or explicitly. Concomitant with this exceptionalism is the tendency to underestimate their enemies, a tradition that dates back to General George Armstrong Custer.

George Orwell’s Observations from 70 Years Ago

I ran across some notes on nationalism written by Orwell in 1945 and found some of them eerily applicable to our own times. He starts with a definition:

“By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”

More Vintage Wisdom from Orwell

“Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

The Author of Animal Farm and 1984 Goes On:

“Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakably certain of being in the right. As nearly as possible no nationalist ever thinks, talks or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit. It is difficult if not impossible for any nationalist to conceal his allegiance.”

This observation seems to me particularly apt considering the outrages being perpetrated on the world today by American militarism:

“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

“Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder to discover what is actually happening. “Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.”

Orwell’s prescience is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is how little this state of affairs has changed over the past seven decades.

How Do They Build Their Godzillas?

Let’s look at the factors involved in converting an innocent child into a full-fledged American Nationalist/Patriot. First (and I say “first”because it hits most American children in the first grade) is the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. I was one of those little shavers in 1949 and I clearly recall standing up beside my desk, putting my hand over my heart and reciting a magical incantation. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands…” I had no idea what these words were about but I knew they were magic because you had to stand up and put your hand over your heart to invoke it.

Go to Part 2

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

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

The Myth of “Permanent War” Pervades American Democratization Efforts

.I Think I Can Explain Why

Can anybody remember a time when the United States was not at war, in some form or another, somewhere, with someone? I can’t, and I’m 74 years old. They seem to be in a permanent state of military conflict. Is this eternal war due to mistakes, coincidences or deliberate policy decisions? I’ll opt for the latter. It’s unlikely for any person or country to be so wrong so consecutively over more than three quarters of a century. The trend looks even worse if it’s the same “mistake” over and over again. As for coincidences, the statistical unlikelihood of these events occurring coincidentally is utterly off the graph. There aren’t enough nines to express it.

So, we’re left with policy. Where can such a demented policy come from and how does it come about? I think I can explain it. Essentially it’s due to a misunderstanding regarding “democracy.”  The Americans’ think it can be promulgated by the sword and harbor a missionary zeal for spreading it around the world and into outer space. Curiously this missionary fervor grows in geometric proportions when the Americans are dealing with countries that are strategically located (eg. Vietnam) or rich in natural resources (eg. Iraq and Venezuela) or both (eg. Iran). It’s the 21st century equivalent of “civilizing and christianizing our little brown brothers.” Continue reading “The Myth of “Permanent War” Pervades American Democratization Efforts”