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Outside of Germany during World War II, people around the globe were aghast at the profound deceitfulness of Nazi Party propaganda, the ridiculous exaggerations, the outright falsehoods, the astonishing acceptance of the German people. How on earth could intelligent, rational people have been convinced by all that rubbish?
The deportation and slaughter of European Jews in the Holocaust did not begin with actions, it began many years earlier with Words. Words that slowly and insidiously convinced an entire nation. So let’s run through 10 of the most devious and effective Fascist Propaganda tricks that Adolf Hitler, and his shrewd Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, employed in Germany the decade before World War II even began, each one increasing in its level of evil.
1. FEAR & HATRED – Appeal to the fears and hatreds of a constituency that feels they are being wronged or marginalized by the governmental powers that be. In Hitler’s case, he played upon the average Germans’ fear they were being ignored by their own failing government and the wealthy. Remember, Germany was also in its own Great Depression following WWI. The people were impoverished, so Hitler fueled a hatred for the wealthy Jews.
2. NATIONAL PRIDE – Harken back to the great days of historical pride. In his speeches, Hitler shouted that Germany was once a great and powerful nation. And was in fact winning World War I, until weak politicians and cowardly generals gave up and surrendered their country to the Allies of Britain, France and Russia. Only Hitler and the Nazis could erase that failure and make Germany a great and powerful nation once again.
3. OUTSIDER STATUS -Portray yourself as an Outsider, as the only one who can unite the troubled nation and fix the country’s many problems. Play upon the divided parties of government, with their bipartisanship and stagnation, leaving the door open for a tyrant like Hitler to sieze control. He stepped into the leadership vacuum with the radical Nationalist message of the Nazis, one that the people feverishly embraced.
4. ADVERTISING – Use contemporary advertising techniques to convey your messages over and over again to the public. Hitler and Goebbels expertly used radio, movies, posters and pamphlets to flood Germany with their Fascist message. Repetitive propaganda delivers a kind of feedback loop, each cycle reinforcing the one before. It tapped into the deep-seeded bigotry of the populace against the Jews. (Just imagine what they could have done today with social media!).
5. REPEAT LIES – Repeat lies often enough and the people will believe they are true. Lie about certain people, parties, races, even religions. Facts that do not support your narrative are deemed ‘Fake’ and even unpatriotic or subversive. Your opponents opposition shows they are persecuting you and must hate their own country. The Nazis used book burnings with great success to demonize any ideas counter to that of the Third Reich.
6. SOCIALISM – Intellectuals and journalists were suspected of being Socialists or even worse, Communists! So discredit them as the highly-educated “elites.” Plant distrust with the populace in their own public universities, the Press, even the Judiciary. That is, until such time that you replaced them all and control it behind the scenes, from within. Then they become your propaganda mouthpiece doing you bidding.
7. NATIONALISM – Extreme Nationalism resonates with those who see themselves as disenfranchised, even if they technically are the middle-class majority. We are patriots and someone else is to blame. So the demagoguery and totalitarianism of Hitler was ultimately seen as acceptable. The goal is not to gain 100% of minds, but 100% of Emotions – so convince their beating hearts of your twisted vision, and the mind surrenders its logic.
8. SIN IS ACCEPTABLE – Ethics, legitimacy and even religious decency can be ‘back-burnered’ for the greater cause, sometimes for a generation. So bigotry, racism, xenophobia and sexism were simply ‘an ends to a means’ for the Nazis. Put your Christian values aside for now. We all think bad thoughts in private, so why not shout them out loud? Or better yet, take to the streets and act upon them!
9. SCAPEGOATS – You need a Scapegoat to rally against. People who don’t look, think, or pray like us. A particular race, religion, or faction who are the root cause of ALL the problems facing hard-working citizens. In Hitler’s case, this was the Jews and immigrants. Portray them as dangerous, criminal, and even sub-human. After all, who could trust such people? Why risk it? They are taking our wealth. Better to round them all up and deport them, or worse!
10. PATRIOTISM – Exploitation of Patriotism was the ultimate ‘ace up the sleeve.’ Hitler spoke with zealous pride in front of rows of Nazi flags and fanatical cheering crowds. He demanded deference to HIS leadership alone. Paint the opposition an unpatriotic or better yet, Traitors! When blind Nationalism rules, it’s then acceptable to employ the last and final step of their plan – Violence towards the scapegoats and any opponents.
So what lessons can we, as human beings, learn from this real-life example? What does such a despicable time in our planet’s history teach us almost a century later? It took a long, five year Second World War to rid the earth of Nazi evil. Hitler was not the first, nor will he be the last despot this Earth will ever see rise to power.
Perhaps that we should not try to explain away Fascism, as an acceptable fringe movement, when it begins to gain traction. We need to accept the fact that seemingly good, rational and even highly religious people will sometimes blindly support a dark cause, with a near cult-like belief that it is righteous. There is no need to call them names, for they have already labeled themselves with their words and actions. It is far more important to see this for what it is. Call it out. Help stop it in its tracks, lest we let history repeat itself … Yet Again.