"The people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions far less than emotion and feeling."
-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Ralph Manheim translation, p.183)
Adolf Hitler expounded upon propaganda considerably in his massive autobiographic polemic against the Jews, Bolshevism and most things civilized, Mein Kampf (My Life), first written in 1925. Actually, Hitler was the director of propaganda for the Nazi Party for a time.
In the above quotation, he is cynically observing that for mass propaganda to work on the masses, one has to throw logic out the window and hit them with images and rhetoric that provoke fear, anger, patriotism, disgust, etc., and on a more primal level, by triggering their archetypal longings through symbols like the Swastika. However, I would hesitate to say that the Nazis themselves understood all the attractions of the Swastika, especially its sexual connotations, other than on a subconscious level.
To circumvent logic for emotions was a critically important point for a movement that was itself illogical at its core. Nazi ideology depended on a mystical belief system to promote its notion of Aryan superiority, which, like eugenics in general, it could only disguise as science.
Hitler also underscored several other key propaganda tenets, such as repetitiveness and simplicity:
"But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success." (ibid, p.184)
Then there is what may be described as the Nazis' grand propaganda principle:
"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. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation."
-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (James Murphy translation, p. 134)
The world has seen how effective the above principles were in the Nazis' ultimate goal, the "victory of the idea". They succeeded not only in Nazifying Germany, but spread their toxic ideology across Europe and even overseas, America itself seeing the rise of such Fascist organizations as the American Bund Movement in the 1930s:
"Propaganda tries to force its doctrine on the whole people.....Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea, while the organization achieves victory by the persistent, organic, and militant union of those supporters who seem willing and able to carry on the fight for victory."
-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Ralph Manheim translation, p. 582)
Thus, all the above principles must be implemented by a strong propaganda apparatus, a dedicated and single minded organization that brooks no internal dissent, and ultimately no external dissent. Reality has been pigeonholed and the pigeons must not be allowed to debate the shape of their hovels.
Whether or not Karl Rove and the apparatiks in the White House have actually read Mein Kampf I do not know. Have they incorporated those same propaganda principles espoused by Hitler? The answer is a resounding YES!
Let us look at the run-up to the war in Iraq after 9/11 as a case in point, although I will not get into the raging debate as to whether 9/11 was the American Reichstag fire. However, let me ask, soon after the lightning collapse of the Towers, was a dominant idea promoted that had to be indoctrinated into the American people as widely as possible? Yes, the idea that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat who must be dealt with immediately before he could strike with "weapons of mass destruction", a good, chilling phrase meant to terrify mothers and children and alarm the men.
Was going to war justified primarily by reason or appeals to emotions? Emotions largely. Balanced, reasoned debate based on real facts was largely absent. Debate was skewed to begin with by false reports about alliances between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, non-existent chemical/biological mobile stations, "yellow cake and aluminum tubes", and so forth. I won't even dwell on the obvious fact that Saddam Hussein's military capacity was largely impotent in 2003, especially against the United States. Emotionally speaking, there were strident appeals to patriotism, always against the looming background of the vaporized Twin Towers of 9/11, not to mention the great fear, anger and disgust this evoked in the average American. The mindset became, for millions of Americans: 9/11=al Qaeda=Iraq, so protect ourselves and get revenge!
Was this mantra that Saddam's regime was an evil, al Qaeda-loving threat to international security repeated constantly? Yes is not a strong enough term. Repetition was 24/7 from multiple sources: government, radio, TV, websites, newspapers, magazines, Right-wing pulpits, and on and on.
Was the Big Lie utilized? Yes again, as already inferred above. Everything was a lie except for Hussein's track record as a tyrant, and even this was embellished. How much bigger a whopper, to mention just one, can you contrive than the B-movie scenario that Iraq planned to use unmanned drones launched from merchant ships to spray American cities with deadly chemicals. We are half-way to Orson Welles' famous 1938 radio show, War of the Worlds, which scared the Hell out of countless Americans, with concoctions like this. All told, this was a rather fantastic fairy tale, all explained away after the fact as the product of faulty intelligence. Of course, some, such as diehard Congresswoman Thelma Drake, are still striving to depict several hundred degraded, 20-year old chemical artillery shells recovered from the Iraqi desert as the missing WMDs. Good luck.
Was there a singularly focused propaganda apparatus driving the entire campaign? Only one of the most massive in history. The White House, State Department, Pentagon, co-opted portions of the CIA and NSA, all the Right-wing think tanks, all the Neocon-biased media owned by the likes of Rubert Murdoch, Sun Myung Moon and others worked relentlessly in lockstep to vilify Saddam Hussein as the great threat to America.
Where am I leading with all of this? Well, on January 23, 2007, the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), the esteemed (largely in Neocon and Right-wing circles) "think-tank" announced that it was launching a week-long TV advertising campaign aimed at "educating" the American public about the growing threat posed by a nuclear Iran. This has subsequently run on CNN, MSNBC, Headline News and the Fox News Channel in Washington DC, Maryland and northern Virginia. The campaign consists of two rather nasty 30 second TV commercials. This just happened to coincide with 1) the State of the Union address in which Bush demonized Iran; 2) the heightening build-up of American Naval forces in the Persian Gulf, a second carrier group (the Stennis) having just sailed from the West coast, 3) orders to allow American soldiers in Iraq to shoot to kill Iranian "combatants" (how they will be able to tell who these shadowy Iranians are before shooting them is not explained, or will they arrest them, interrogate them and then execute them?); and 4) the recent acrimonious arrests of Iranian diplomats in Iraq by American forces, actions that have antagonized both the Kurdish and Iraqi authorities, to only partially list all the current initiatives against Iran.
In other words, Hitler's propaganda principles have now been turned against a new victim, Iran, and incorporated into the larger, multi-faceted escalation of hostilities, with the AFPC serving as an appendage of the American government, either directly or vicariously.
This is rather unprecedented, a private think tank trumpeting and financing hysterical propaganda against a foreign nation on TV. And just who is the AFPC? To quote from their own website: "AFPC is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing information to those who make or influence the foreign policy of the United States and to assisting world leaders, particularly in the former USSR, with building democracies and market economies. AFPC is widely recognized as a source of timely, insightful analysis on issues of foreign policy, and works closely with members of Congress, the Executive Branch and the policymaking community. It is staffed by noted specialists in foreign and defense policy, and serves as a valuable resource to officials in the highest levels of government." (See: www.afpc.org/ ) Within the AFPC, a program called the IFI or Iran Freedom Initiative, apparently spearheaded by AFPC Vice President for Policy, Ilan Berman, has commissioned the advertisements.
Hmmm. Everyone toots their own horn, but AFPC is so important to leaders in Russia that when you run their name in the Russian Pravda and Itar-Tass search engines, they register zero hits, although their website, to be fair, does list some glowing comments by several members of the Russian Duma. And indeed, one gets the impression from their website of wise, tweed-suited senior professorial types pontificating expertly on crucial matters of State. But after you review the scripts of their two anti-Iranian commercials, you suddenly begin to imagine half-naked lunatics dancing around a bonfire, chanting, "Disembowel Iran, disembowel Iran, font of all evil!"
The first commercial's script conjures up Iran as a nuclear threat and accuses it of being the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, killing hundreds of Americans, nurturing 25,000 suicide-bombers against the United States and Europe, as well as developing a dangerous nuclear capability. Then, with true Orwellian panache, the ad asks the audience to "Stand up for peace. Call up the White House and tell them to enforce sanctions against Iran today." We have seen how well coercive sanctions against Iraq "stood up for peace" in that luckless country.
The first script also dutifully lists "references" for its allegations, the first dig, that "Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism" being backed up by a BBC article reporting that Condoleezza Rice has charged that Iran is the central banker for world terrorism. And that's it. NO EVIDENCE, NO EXPOSE, just her disingenuous statement! What terrific research, enough to make a 6th grader blush with embarrassment.
The next allegation is that the Iranians have supported attacks that have killed Americans, basing it on a lawsuit against Iran by American families who lost loved ones when the Marine Barracks was blown up in Lebanon in 1983 during the Lebanese civil war. Iran ignored the lawsuit, considering it specious, and U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth awarded the judgment to the plaintiffs by default, coupled with the prosecutor's investigation.
However, a case where there are no defense arguments and cross-examination alleges much but proves nothing. What AFPC is really referring to is an attack on the Marine barracks in direct retaliation for President Reagan ordering the battleship USS New Jersey, with its massive guns, to lead deadly naval sea and air bombardments of pro-Syrian Druse villages and positions on the Lebanese coast-line. Reagan, thus, was directly taking sides in the raging civil war. At that point, America ceased to be a neutral peacekeeper.
Several Shiite militias claimed responsibility for the assault, including the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, which even named the two suicide bombers. Hezbollah was not even an official organization at this point (being founded in 1985 as an amalgam of Shiite militias), yet Judge Lamberth finds in his ruling that, amazingly, YET TO BE CREATED Hezbollah carried out the bombing on orders from Iran, rather sloppy scholarship indeed. However, this is good enough for the AFPC.
I can go on and on against each of the AFPC's allegations, especially the main broadsides that 1) President Ahmadinejad of Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map and 2) that they are on the verge of developing a nuclear bomb that, to hear the Israelis shiver and prattle about it, the Iranians will apparently immediately hide in a goat cart, sneak into Tel Aviv and detonate. Ahhh yes, paranoia, it makes deranged fools of us all. Meanwhile, Israel possesses some two hundred to six hundred nuclear weapons, according to various intelligence agencies. Nothing like the teapot calling the kettle black.
Regarding the "wipe out Israel" quote, it has now been proven by, not one, but many investigators and scholars that Ahmadinejad was only quoting an old Ayatollah Khomeini prophecy in Persian to the effect that the regime occupying Jerusalem shall vanish from history, a far cry from the skewed translation, ironically by an Iranian news agency that later retracted it, that the state of Israel itself should be wiped off the map - regime collapse versus the annihilation of an entire people, quite a big difference.
As for the terrifying specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, no one (except of course the always self-serving and imaginative Israeli intelligence services and Dick Cheney's X-ray vision) can find any direct proof that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program, let alone a viable one, not the AEIA, not the CIA, not anyone halfway credible. As for the industrial nuclear program that Iran is so proud of and stubborn about, this just came out in The Observer in England this past Sunday, January 28:
"Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology. Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes.
"Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production." ( )
The article only gets more embarrassing for Iran as it continues, not to mention for the AFPC and its "timely, insightful analysis" of realities in Iran. Yes, it is tough being a propagandist in the era of the blogosphere.
However, the AFPC probably really doesn't care because it is working within the Hitlerian framework of peddling the Big Lie, and if past history be the judge, the new wave of fear propaganda, in essence recycling and retooling the same lies used against Iraq for use against Iran, will succeed in staining America with yet more innocent blood, both American and Iranian, while the Neocon ideologues and merchants of death cackle in the shadows, rejoicing in their sadistic handiwork, unless.....
Unless we turn Hitler's principles against them. For example, in opposition to the Big Lie, we should loudly trumpet the full truth about Iran, warts and all, exposing all the Neocon lies ferociously, providing trustworthy sources and promoting honest scholars, while welcoming Iranians into our hearts as well, for the Biggest Truth is, of course, that God, or the infinite creative consciousness, is in all beings (even Neocons), and that we are all, in the deepest respect, brothers and sisters. When you assume that perspective, you gradually abandon the demonization of others and begin to think in terms of real diplomacy and reconciliation.
We must also incessantly reaffirm and reinforce the truth, because it is not enough to expose a lie once and rest on our laurels, for the totalitarian hardcore out there will regroup like Hydras. And we must enlarge our platform for speaking the truth. That means we must continue to obstruct the strident and ongoing Fascistic attempts to monopolize and control all aspects of the media, to pigeonhole Americans' minds, and continue to build or restore our own venues for presenting the truth to the world.
Finally, to put the lie to Hitler's observation that the "feminine", unthinking masses are persuaded primarily by pushing emotional hot-buttons, we must extol our fellow citizens to really wake up. This will require some detoxification and consciousness raising, but it will be worth it if we can truly awaken the sleeping American giant to its higher, spiritual destiny.