Last night I went to the public library and discovered that there is not one, not one, book on propaganda in the entire county. There is not even a category on propaganda in the system! I couldn’t believe it, and so I asked a research librarian who confirmed this for me. She told me that the library was becoming what she termed a “popular library.” Talk about dumbing down the general population! My alternatives are to sort through books about giving speeches and making sales or go through the inter-library loan system and hope that somewhere I can find the books I would like to read!
Online I have found some articles on propaganda. Most of the authors are liberals or libertarians. They are fine as far as they go in listing and defining propaganda techniques, but when they start giving illustrations, then their own biases creep in and become evident.
In 1937 the Institute for Propaganda Analysis was established “to educate the American public about the nature of propaganda and how to recognize propaganda techniques….[It] identified “the seven most common “tricks of the trade” used by successful propagandists.” Growing up during the Cold War I learned those seven techniques in my high school civics class. The extent to which the American people today are swayed by their emotions to believe lies and to make irrational choices that are detrimental to their own well-being reveals the demise of critical thinking and understanding of propaganda.
If you’ve spent any time commenting on conservative and center right political websites, you’ve probably noticed that a corollary of Godwin’s Law was once used frequently—whoever first mentioned the Nazis or Hitler automatically lost the debate—because it was seen as emotional hyperbole resorted to when there was no longer any knowledge or reason to undergird an argument. Over the last year I’ve noticed that that accusation is made less and less due to the recognition of growing attitudes and beliefs increasingly reminiscent of the thinking of that era. I mention this because if you think the above poster is an outmoded or exaggerated example of propaganda or that we are not susceptible to the same, compare it with the fact that approximately 90% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted). We are vulnerable to the manipulation of propaganda, and it is ironic that so many seem to have forgotten lessons eighty years ago in the 1930’s about its means and ends.
Propaganda uses communication designed to short-circuit our faith, morality, and reason in its assault on our senses and emotions in order to shape our thoughts and perceptions of reality to the devised end of its creators. I’m building a list of resources titled, Propaganda & Reason, to build up the bulwark of our critical thinking and understanding. I’ll be posting on other topics this week, but after Thanksgiving I plan to write more on those tricks of the propaganda trade.
1938 Nazi Euthanasia Propaganda Poster English translation:
this is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime
Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too
Read ‘[A] New People’
The monthly magazines of the Office for Race Politics of the NSDAP