Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Power of Nazi Propaganda

An online exhibition: Propaganda by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. explores the Nazis' sophisticated propaganda campaigns and their legacy. Visit the museum's special exhibition, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. Both demonstrate how the Nazis used advertising, carefully crafted messages, design, radio, TV and film to sway millions with their vision of a new Germany. 

A heavily illustrated large format book on the history of Nazi propaganda is for sale online: State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. It features never-before-published posters, rare photographs, and historical artifacts from the Museum's exhibition. 

What is propaganda? "Propaganda, simply put, is the manipulation of public opinion. It is generally carried out through media that is capable of reaching a large amount of people and effectively persuading them for or against a cause. The exact meaning of propaganda is constantly debated, however, and no specific definition is completely true."

The millions of us on the internet or watching television are constantly bombarded by propaganda. Buy this car, go on this vacation, vote for this candidate. Its coming at us constantly. The purpose, obviously, is to influence our decisions in the direction chosen by the propagandists. That's why it is so important to see behind the message to understand what is really going on.

A You Tube podcast, What is Propaganda, takes a look at three of the most common techniques used by advertising in the media. It offers examples from popular culture to help explain the tactics.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum shares the following view of Nazi propaganda:
After World War I, propaganda became a subject of considerable debate and study throughout the western world, but particularly in the United States and Germany. The term came to be perceived in a negative light and identified in many circles with lies, manipu-lation, and falsehood. Some American opinion leaders feared that unregulated propaganda would destroy the foundations of democracy by creating a nation of obedient slaves marching in lockstep to the government’s orders. Others believed that the democratic marketplace of ideas would counter any potential threats from propaganda. Still others believed that propaganda, when employed for the public good, could create a more educated, healthier, and progressive citizenry. 
In Germany, like the United States, propaganda became the subject of serious discussion and intellectual study. It was commonly held that Germany had lost World War I, not on the battlefield, but because Allied propaganda had sapped the fighting spirit of German troops and weakened morale at home by encouraging demands for peace. In contrast, Imperial Germany’s propaganda efforts were widely criticized for failing to explain why the nation needed to continue to wage war and painted non-threatening images of the enemy. Some politicians and scholars of propaganda urged Germans to learn from the victors. Among these was Adolf Hitler, a former German soldier and leader of an obscure right-wing extremist party in Bavaria. "Propaganda," he wrote five years after the war, "is a truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert." 
Nazi propagandists drew upon the successful techniques and strategies used by the Allies, Socialists, Communists, and Italian Fascists to advance their political campaigns, win public support, and to wage war. Once in power, the Nazis eliminated the "marketplace of ideas" through terror and media manipulation and mobilized propaganda as a weapon to unite the German people around a "leader" and to facilitate aggression, mass murder, and genocide.
It is critical that we learn these lessons today when similar techniques continue to be used. We dare not allow propaganda messages to turn us into thoughtless cyborgs. 

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