Hitler And Propaganda Essay, Research Paper
Propaganda is defined by Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary as “any ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.” Throughout history, politicians and military leaders have utilized this questionable tactic to convey their messages, to introduce their opinions, and to sway the public towards acceptance of their beliefs and values. Usually, the word ‘propaganda’ has had negative connotations and it has traditionally been associated with tools of disrectful and immoral leaders such as Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately, propaganda has proven itself to be a powerful tool; capable of destroying the families, dreams, and nations. And as history demonstrates, the more advanced our communications and lifestyle becomes, the more vulnerable we are to propaganda.
Propaganda’s effect on people is often devestating. The intent is to influence feelings and opinions. Consequently, propaganda that does not successfully do this is ineffective and useless. Much like contemporary advertisers and marketers, people who use Propaganda usually find strength in their ability to manipulate the public by appealing to the interests and needs of a certain type, or group of people. Just like large company’s invest in advertising which is meant towards influencing public belief and opinion about a product, strong, rich politicians and government agencices hire propagandists to design public propaganda campaigns aimed at making people believe in their cause.
It is interesting to study the reasons that propaganda impacts people so greatly . Regarding Nazi, Germany, for example, many historians have said that Hitler’s propaganda was so effective because it was designed to offer hope to an economically depressed people (Bankier 11-12) and because the Germans, who were very patriotic, were used to believing in their government (Grenier 49). This means Hitler was able to utilize the fact that his subjects had full confidence in their government to make his own propaganda and speeches seem more believable. He was, after all, a legitimate German leader, and therefore it was natural for him to assume that once in power, the German people would believe in him completely. Because of this , Hitler’s propaganda proved itself so effective that it would both alter and greatly exaggerate the way that people felt towards an entire religion of people.
The methods of propagandists like Hitler have been sometimes very simple and often synonymous with those of advertisers. Just as marketers convey their messages through popular communication media like television and radio, people who use propaganda do so too.This is the same way that some recent advertisers have featured their products extensively in movies, Hitler has been known to voice their themes in the films of their own eras (Grenier 48-57). People have a strong tendency to believe idea presented in film (Grenier 48), and because of that the media can act as an effective way getting a message across.
Specifically, three methods were used by the German leader in an effort to persuade the Germans even more than they already were.
1- Time of Day
The time of day was the most effective persuasion tactic used
by Hitler. Most speeches and rallies were held at 8:00pm or sometime in the early to mid evening. The reason for this was most people had along day or work, and they had just finished their dinner and we re ready to relax. Therefore, this was the point in the day where their resistance was the lowest. Hitler know that people would already instinctively believe everything that he was saying, but having a speech or rally when the resistance of the audience is the lowest was assure that whatever was being said would stay in the minds of the audience. (Class Notes 3/28/01)
Hitler also used his voice in a manner that was very
convincing. He used an authoritative, leadership tone to his voice when he was speaking to an audience. It automatically forced people to listen and to hang on to every word he was saying. This also ensured whatever was being said would be etched in the minds of the audience. (class notes 3/28/01)
A final technique Hitler used was the concept of repetition. It
was not uncommon for Hitler to say things three times in a row or more sometimes even with no other words in between. This repition tactic assured that the message would be made very clear with no confusion. (class notes 3/28/01)
With the use of these three tactics, it was virtually guaranteed
that Hitler s message would come across to all of the audience during his speeches. Not only was message delivery assured, it also guaranteed that the message would remain in the minds of the audience. Also, if Hitler called for action, then the action Hitler asked for would be done without fail.
Much like Hitler did half-a-century before, people who use propaganda accomplish things by exploiting the waves of group s fact that they are not happy, or comfortable with things that may occur when a country or organization is unstable. (Henderson 49) As was the case with Hitler, their promises of political reform are made to seem more genuine through the use of incessant propaganda tactics. This effects people in that there exists a non-stop flow of feelings from the propagandist individual to the group and back the other way. Later, the group projections may be so strong as to force people to feel what they do not feel. Or, in the case of men and women accepted as ‘leaders’, the return flow intensifies hostilities and which they had put into the organization in the first place through propaganda (Bankier 17).
German sociologist, Helmut Schoeck, has pointed out that Freud’s theories of the ‘herd instinct’ and the ‘leadership principle’ provide a very accurate picture of such group dynamics (in Bordyugov 28). This is particularly true when regimes are under the sway of autocratic types of societies such as Germany under Adolf Hitler or Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini or North Korea under Kim II Sung. The institutional infrastructure may do all the bad work, but behind the people of the country or organization, the specific actions of strong willed personalities.
It was because of this that, during the Spring of 1938, the German army occupied Austria without a shot being fired. The Chief of the General Staff of the Austrian armed forces, Field Marshall Alfred Jansa, who had drawn up contingency plans to defend Austria against Germany, had been dismissed by Schuschnigg only a few weeks previously.
Hundreds of thousands of Austrians, overcome by false hopes offered via German propaganda, were very happy and welcomes the takeover. The reasons for this euphoria were evident: the accomplishment of a dream of finally having a national identity which would lead to the hope of employment and a better economic future; and for many the end of a government for which they had felt no sympathy or concern for anyone. The media focused on the cheering crowds and the military parades and used catch-phrases as “the dawn of a new age”. They did not show the fate of those who were arrested, who were driven to suicide, or who stayed at home appalled and disgusted by the turn of events.
On the day after the takeover, March 13, the Constitutional Law on the Reunification of Austria with the German ‘Reich’ was proclaimed. The announcement of a plebiscite scheduled for April 10 of the same year was followed by a propaganda campaign never seen or thought of before. As usual with polls conducted in a totalitarian type of government , the plebiscite result was given as 99 percent; demonstrating the overwhelmingly convincing effect of Hitler’s propaganda on the Austrian people. (Bankier 53-55).
This was taken as a sign for legitimizing the armed forees of Austria, an act which violated both constitutional and international law. The example of three rural communities in Lower Austria demonstrates the deceit of the allegedly democratic voting procedures in which the ballot was in many cases far from secret and the vote count was rigged. In the three Lower Austrian communities Schuschnigg’s plebiscite had actually been carried out on March 13, 1938 because the German instructions canceling it had not come through in time. Although the voters were aware that German troops had occupied the country, not one voted against Schuschnigg. By contrast, four weeks later the result published in these same constituencies for the German plebiscite showed 100 percent support for Hitler. (Bankier 53-59; 63).
In the weeks after the takeover, propaganda slogans like “One People, One ‘Reich’, One ‘Fuhrer’” served to disguise the fact that Germany had been pursuing its own economic and long-term political interests in occupying Austria. The country was valuable as a source of not tiny gold and currency reserves, of mineral and raw materials resources, of manpower resources and of “cannon fodder” (Bankier 68). Even Austria’s art treasures were wanted. Things like the imperial crown jewels in the Treasure Rooms of the Imperial Palace in Vienna were removed to Nuremberg. This was the place of the National Socialist party conventions under Hitler.
The published results of the German plebiscite and the initial enthusiasm of the Austrian people apparently confirmed the view held all over that the Austrian question was, as it were, a “family affair” and that intervention would be inappropriate. This may account for the obvious absence of international protests demonstrations because of the takeover.
At a rally of the “Vaterlandische Front” at Vienna Racecourse on September 11, 1933 Chancellor Dollfuss announced the introduction of the authoritarian Corporative State: “The days of the capitalist system, the age of the capitalist-liberal economic order is over, the age of Marxist, materialist seducements is a thing of the past! The age of party domination has ended! We will not countenance enforced conformity or terror, we want to see a social, Christian, German state of Austria built on a corporative foundation, under a strong authoritarian leadership. Authority is not synonymous with despotism, authority means the orderly exercise of power, leadership by responsible and unselfish men who are prepared to sacrifice their own interests” (in Bankier 68).
The events which occured in pre-World War II Austria are not typical of the genre of. The fact that Adolf Hitler was able to use propaganda for so long and so effectively as part of an ultimate plot to ‘rule the world’ suggests many things about the changing state of our world during the 20th century. It is obvious that as communications grow and the planet grows conceptually “smaller,” propagandists have more ways to promote their messages. Because of this, situations exist making things very dangerous. It is hard for us to know when we are being told the truth and when we are not. In advertising, this problem is handled to some limited extent by companies de-marketing other companies. It makes sense to hope that through our increased use of communication media, we will also be able to see the truth of propaganda and protect the public from exposure to such tactics like Hitler s. But in attempting to institute such an alleged “cure-all,” there is a recurrent problem. We would never know if counter-propaganda technique were actually just propaganda themselves.
Bankier, David. The Germans and the Final Solution: Public Opinion under Nazism. (Cambridge, Mass : Blackwell, 1992).
Bordyugov, Gennady. “War and peace: Stalin’s regime and Russian nationalism.”
Vol. 45, History Today, 1 May 1995, pp. 27.
Class Notes, 3/28/2001
Grenier, Richard. “The fuehrer’s filmmaker.” Vol. 98, Commentary, 1 Aug 1994, pp. 48.
Henderson, Carol. “The psychology of the new media.” Vol. 30, Educom Review, 1 Jan 1995, pp. 48.