By Richard E. Noble
Chapter six of Mein Kampf is entitled, War Propaganda. This is classic Adolf .This chapter is only ten to fifteen pages. This is a chapter that is very interesting.
I think, like everything else in this book, some of what Adolf says is true, some of it can not be substantiated.
Adolf became successful at his chosen career partially because of his intelligence and cleverness, and like every other successful person, mostly because of the circumstances existing about him. But as with many successful people, they rarely give credit to the circumstances about them and almost without question write a book about how their attitudes, outlook and insights had made them what they are today. Adolf is certainly no different in this regard. In this chapter he gives us his insights into advertising, and the marketing of an idea.
“… At the time of my attentive following of all political events, the activities of propaganda had always been of extremely great interest to me. In it I saw an instrument which just the Socialist-Marxist organizations mastered and knew how to apply with expert skill. I learned very soon that the right use of propaganda represents an art which was and remained almost entirely unknown to the bourgeois parties. Only the Christian Socialist movement, especially during Lueger’s time, acquired a certain virtuosity with this instrument and it owed much of its success to it ... Unfortunately everything has to be studied on the other side; for the activity on our side was more than modest in this respect...”
The first thing that strikes me here, is that Adolf considers ‘propaganda’ an art form. I think that the artistically inclined look at almost everything in life as an art form, or at least containing art overtones. I consider myself as artistically inclined, or one who at least appreciates the form, movement and rhythm of things. I have always seen art in just about everything. I remember working as a butcher and making the observation that there were those of my co-workers who exhibited such a smooth flow and rhythm to their movements that it seemed to me like poetry. People who aren’t artistically inclined, I imagine would think this ludicrous, but yet those that have the art spirit would probably know exactly what I mean.
I can still see some of the butchers and the way that they moved their bodies about the piece of meat; the way that they held their knives, and moved them in an action of rhythm and style. It almost looked like a dance that was being performed by an artist! A cruel brutal dance, maybe to some, a dance of hatred and war, but nevertheless a folk type dance - the more skillful the butcher the greater his style. The more flow to his movements.
The left handed butchers painted a completely different picture.They all presented a blurred picture of athletic motion and style. I looked at this quality as the artist’s ability to extract ‘beauty’ from even the ugly and cruel. Beauty has no political perspective. It exists everywhere; in a flame, in the ripping and tearing of a butchers knife, in soldiers falling to the fire of a machine gun on a battlefield, in clouds floating across the sky. Beauty has no morality. It is just there. You see it or you don’t.
Myself, as a percussionist, and observing other drummers play the instrument, I am not as fascinated by the ‘licks’ or number of hits they make at the surface of the drums as I am by the rhythm and smooth flow of their drumming style. The way they move. Many drummers have a great technique, but the great ones that I have observed have an art about them. They flow and move in a consistent predictable motion. The movement of their bodies flows with the rhythm of the song that they are playing. It is clear that they have a feel for the music.
It is also clear that Adolf had a feel for the movement of the bodies about him. He was a painter at heart. He saw the beauty of things. He eventually saw beauty in the ugly, and the cruel, and even the horrid - an artistically inclined individual feeling and clawing his way through the dark sides of life.
I don’t know who this Lueger is. My guess is that he is a pre-war anti-Jew propagandist, or something of that like.
Adolf obviously felt that the enemy had a better grasp on this medium of ‘propaganda’ than his side in the dispute. But this seems to be typical of Adolf. He is obviously more of a counter puncher. As they say today, he is a ‘spin’ master. He learns from his enemies and turns their own arguments against them.
He took the Marxist argument against the rich industrialists, and turned it against the Jews. He took the evolutionary notion of democracy, and countered it with the natural evolution of the historically great leader. He took the Christian appeal of ‘love thy neighbor’ and countered it with God’s brutal but practical process of natural selection. God eventually kills everyone and every living thing therefore killing is a positive emulation of the Divine.
Adolf was obviously a good debater. He could take his opponents very words and turn them against them. He took every contemporary argument and turned it upside down, or, as they say today, put his own ‘spin’ on it. But, this is nothing new. Politicians re-write history on a daily basis. But don’t we all? Aren’t I making just such an attempt right now? Am I seeking the truth, or ‘spinning’ the writings of Adolf to my liking or dislike? I feel that I am being honest and objective, but how much of my honesty is being driven from my personal prejudices, lack of information, and personal disposition? I do my best, but in the final analysis you will have to be the judge.
Part of this skill in writing that I have been pursuing for most of my life is truly the art of propaganda. A writer writes to influence the reader, to sway his opinions, to move him emotionally. Any writer who does not have this ability, won’t be read - at least not widely read.
“... I learned infinitely more from the enemy’s war propaganda ... Was there any propaganda at all on our side? To my regret, I can only answer no...”
I constantly hear people say, or credit Adolf with the statement that if you take a lie repeat it often enough and loud enough it will be believed. I haven’t found this statement yet in this book, but I am sure that if he did say it, he stated it in reference to Marxism and not as a technique of his own philosophy. I have no doubt that Adolf was an honest sincere individual. I think that he believed every word that he spoke. If he lied knowingly, I am sure that he would defend any lie by stating that the end justifies the means. He believed that his end was to make his nation and his race rule the world, and any method was justified in achieving this end.
They also accuse Adolf of being a manipulator, and of course he was, but certainly no more than Winston Churchill or Franklin Deleno Roosevelt or Joseph Stalin.
Adolf was successful because he preached a doctrine that appealed to many in his world of that day, and many of the richest and most powerful in that world. His doctrine was that of the successful, of the powerful, of the egotist, of the individual, of the capitalist. This is still the prevailing philosophy in America today. It is taught in colleges and universities through the writings of Ayn Rand, and Brandon, and others. It prevails as the primary notion and platform of our current day Republican philosophy.
He was the antithesis of the Marxist doctrine that preached the eventual overthrow of the individual by the masses, or the proletariat. Marx followed the historical rise of the slave, through the feudal serf to the ranks of the ‘wage slave’, and present salaried employee. He preached and defended his notions with what appeared to him as the inevitable trend of human history. Rule of the masses, by the masses, and for the masses ... the natural evolution of a humanitarian democratic socialist state - Socialist being interpreted as a government that acted democratically on behalf of the majority, and not in the favor of the individual or a minority of rich and powerful.
Marx’s writings had set the world on fire. I don’t know Karl Marx very well, and I have only perused his writings, but his idea precipitated a violent uproar among the poor and hard working throughout the world. Adolf mentions sixty years of fighting and debate prior to World War One in his own country. Marxist communism is without any doubt in my mind the ‘story’ of the last hundred years. To my way of thinking as Marxism is the key to the last hundred years, so is ‘the Jew’ the story of the history of the western world.
William Manchester makes a point of the post World War One pacifist, and the philosophy of the pacifist as giving rise to Adolf’s power. I don’t know if I can buy this point of view. I have also read that John F. Kennedy made some sort of a similar claim in his college thesis on the subject entitled “While Briton Slept” or something of the like. It might better have been entitled “While the World Slept” but that aside, I have my doubts that anyone was sleeping. I am more inclined to believe that the world was far from sleeping. All the knowledgeable and powerful were actively participating. I feel that though there certainly may well have been a sincere pacifist movement, as there always is and hopefully always will be there was much, much more of a pro-Nazi movement.
I will guess and intend to investigate the notion that of those who claimed to be pacifists, the powerful majority were much more pro-Adolf and his philosophy, than they were terribly distraught over the perils of war.
Why would anyone in their right mind be pro-Nazi? Because, to be pro-Nazi was to be anti-Marxist. You must remember Marx’s philosophy made the rich and powerful, the conspiring enemy of the people. It was the Rich and Powerful that promoted war. They did this for profit. It was the Rich and Powerful (the Capitalist), who enslaved the poor and hard working. It was the Rich and Powerful who indulged their own, and let the less substantial linger and die in their slave pits that they called factories.
Marx had promulgated ‘the Conspiracy of the Capitalist’ - an international group who had no national character and ruled the world by their cooperative cunning and like-mindedness. Adolf took Marx’s theory almost word for word and turned it back onto them. He simply replaced the internationally minded exploiting ‘Capitalist’, or rich industrialist and turned him into the no-country, parasitic, international, bank controlling, stock market manipulating, immoral interest bearing JEW!
Where did he get this idea? He didn’t think it up, it was already centuries old. The Jew had had this reputation long before Adolf came along.
Again, we know Henry Ford was very active in this area. But it seems that this notion was being written about all over the Western world. Adolf had been getting this information in the streets as a homeless teenager. Again we are brought back not to Adolf but to the history and legacy of the ‘International Jewish Conspiracy’. I think, by the way, that this is the title of Henry Ford’s book. A book that he self-published and disseminated about the world.
So here we have Adolf once again simply tapping into a prevailing philosophy and ‘spinning’ it to his own advantage. He was, as they say, a natural politician.
For my personal reading, I want to know more about this international Jewish conspiracy idea, about Henry Ford, about the Jew in general, about the Nazi movement and its popularity throughout the twenties and thirties worldwide, about Karl Marx and his influences, along with the causes and influences of the outbreak of World War One.
As for the part of his country in World War One, Adolf is clear.
“…The aim for which the war was fought was the most sublime and the most overpowering which man is able to imagine: it was the freedom and independence of our nation, the assurance of subsistence for the future, and - the honor of the nation ... It was for the struggle of its human existence that the German people fought...”
Adolf is convinced in his country’s righteousness in World War One. So, from the point of view of any soldier who is convinced that his cause is or was righteous, all reports negative to his point of view are not ‘truth’ but clever manipulations of a conniving enemy. And for Adolf the ‘enemy’ was not only the Allies, but the internal traitors, Marxist and others, who agreed with the Allies, and thus undermined Germany’s war efforts, even if this group were his own countrymen.
For my personal reading and research, I must find out more about the causes of World War One, and if anyone in particular was to blame. I know that Winston Churchill accuses the Germans of posturing and pushing for a fight. But by the same token Winston obviously doesn’t see his nation’s dominance of the seas, it colonization of less powerful nations, and its fear of any threat to its economic and military supremacy in European affairs, as a sign of belligerency on the part of his nation, or any threat to the autonomy or independence of other nations. But it is clear from history that many other nations of the world considered the British a threat; China, and India to name just two.
But Adolf’s conclusion is that news or ‘propaganda’ is a tool and its main concern is not with truth or righteousness but its ability to sway the masses to a point of view. I think, and it appears to be true, that every soldier who has ever, for whatever reasons, committed himself to a fight feels this exact same way. The press is not reporting but propagandizing, and all those who disagree with his fight are cowards and traitors, and it matters little to them that these opponents are also willing to die for their point of view.
“…To whom has propaganda to appeal? It has to appeal forever and for only to the masses! Propaganda is not for the intelligentsia...”
It is interesting, Adolf obviously does not consider himself one of the ‘masses’, and clearly not of the ‘intelligentsia’, but whatever he is, he exists apart and above both of these groups.
“…But propaganda is in its contents as far from being science as perhaps a poster is art in its presentation as such. A poster’s art lies in its designer’s ability to catch the masses’ attention by outline and color. The poster for an art exhibition has to point only to the art of the exhibition; the more it succeeds in this, the greater therefore is the art of the poster itself ... He who wants to occupy himself with art itself has really to study more than the poster ... The task of propaganda lies not in a scientific training of the individual, but rather in directing the masses towards certain facts, events, necessities, etc., the purpose being to move their importance into the masses’ field of vision. But as it is not and can not be science in itself, as its task consists of catching the Masses’ attention, just like that of the poster, and not in teaching one who is already scientifically experienced or is striving towards education and knowledge, its effect has always to be directed more and more towards the feeling, and only to a certain extent to the so called reason ... All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself. Therefore its spiritual level has to be screwed the lower, the greater the mass of people which one wants to attract...”
Well, we have no doubt that this philosophy worked for Adolf, but, of course, it is a statement of an elitist, and not that of a populist. It is the philosophy of one who intends to manipulate people, or try to manipulate people. The idea of appealing to the lowest level of intelligence we still hear today with regards to advertising, TV, movies etc. This philosophy has never appealed to me. I consider myself to be one of the ‘masses’, and I resent being tricked, duped, and manipulated. I believe that the ‘masses’ are also made up of individuals, some more intelligent than others, but all intelligent in their own way. I realize that the masses can be duped, tricked and manipulated by lies and misrepresentation, but I also believe that if given all of the facts, and both points of view on a subject, equally defended with intelligence and reason, the masses will invariably pick the right alternative. The problem is that the masses do not get the whole story, or that the truth of the matter, or the opposing point of view is not simply denied but suppressed. Again, we never want to suppress or deny the free exchange of ideas in an open society. This is always one of the first steps to the loss of liberty. But, it is certainly clear that political parties today emphasize Adolf’s propaganda principles: appeal to the lowest intellectual level; make it simple, stupid; repeat it loud and often.
As far as Adolf’s technique for manipulating the masses, I really do not think that there is any conspiracy, or mystery here. Even in our simplest of human relationships we all use these techniques.
If we want to attract someone to us, the first thing that we do is to present ourselves in a noticeable way. We fix ourselves up to look pretty or handsome ... attractive, and then we try to get noticed. This is an attempt to appeal to our subject emotionally. We may continue to make further emotional appeal by fluttering our eyelashes, or flexing our muscles, or something of this nature. Once we have established contact in this manner, we proceed to establish a more lasting bond. We speak, and try to convince the interested party that we are not only ‘attractive’ but stimulating and engaging in other ways. After we have been successful in this, we go on in an attempt to intensify this relationship, and further convince the individual to whom we are attracted that we are not only interesting and attractive, but worthy of being loved by he or she.
This is not a dirty, underhanded conspiracy. These things only become dirty and underhanded if they are being mimicked for purposes other than to win the other person’s love and affection - sincerely.
As a writer I think I try to use all of these techniques. I write poetry. For the most part the poems are short and to the point, and appeal directly to the emotions. I hope that the simple, understandable notion in the poem attracts you to more of my writing, possibly my short stories and humor or satire, or essays. These I hope will then lure you into my more serious writing. Eventually I am attempting to build a bond. A bond that will attract you to all that I have to say, and will give you the confidence that I am a sincere individual deserving of your support and affection.
This is not a trick. This is an understanding of basic human nature. But to Adolf everything and everyone is involved in a conspiracy. They are not people who are in honest opposition to what he believes. They are a group involved in a deceptive conspiracy. I think that this feeling is also common to the human experience. I have a very strong inclination to lump people into conspiracies myself. I try to guard against this, but I constantly fall into this trap of thinking, and especially when I am angry. I have to keep reminding myself that people can have a point of view contrary to mine and not be totally insane, stupid, and involved in a conspiracy to take over the world. It is obvious from the fact of war that people are capable of holding confirmed but yet contrary beliefs.
“…The great masses’ receptive ability is only very limited, their understanding is small, but their forgetfulness is great...”
This is certainly another common fact of life, and if it weren’t so, I doubt that many of us would be able to bear life at all. We have to be able not only to forget, but to forgive or none of our relationships will survive.
“. ..As a consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda has to limit itself only to a very few points and to use them like slogans until even the very last man is able to imagine what is intended by such a word. As soon as one sacrifices this basic principle and tries to become versatile, the effect will fritter away, as the masses are neither able to digest the material offered nor to retain it. Thus the result is weakened and finally eliminated...”
This is more elitism. I believe in making your point, and repeating your point, but his constant referrals to the masses as stupid, and incapable seems rather overbearing to me. I am amazed that this man could be so insulting to the masses and still maintain such a strong public support. Obviously, everybody didn’t read this book. But his simple slogans certainly mimic our present day one minute sound bites.
But is any of this new political thinking? Maybe it was to Adolf but certainly was not to the political world of the American, or the British. These are common techniques of persuasion necessary in any democratic society. New deceptive ground in a Totalitarian German world? I think not.
“… It was completely wrong to ridicule the adversary as was done in Austrian and German propaganda in comic papers. It was basically wrong for the reason that when a man met the adversary in reality he was bound to receive an entirely different impression
the German soldier ... felt himself deceived by those who so far were responsible for his enlightenment, and instead of strengthening his fighting spirit or even his firmness, quite the contrary occurred. The man despaired.
Compared with this the war propaganda of the British and the Americans was psychologically right. By introducing the German as a barbarian and a Hun to his own people, it thus prepared the individual soldier for the terrors of war and helped guard him against disappointment ... Thus the English soldier could not even for a moment have the impression that his country had taught him the wrong facts, something which was unfortunately the case to such an extent with the German soldier that he finally rejected everything that came from his side as ‘swindle and ‘bunk’ …”
This seems to be a good point, and this tale always seems to appeal to defeated soldiers of any modern war, but the facts from what I can see and have read are to the contrary.
In 1917 the Russian Czarist propaganda had failed totally. So much so that the entire army dropped their guns at the front and returned home to start a revolution against their own government. The French were almost in the same condition. There was desertion and severe rebellion in the rank and file. The British were having riots in the streets. The war had lingered on and was more brutal and devastating than any of the nations involved had ever thought that it could be. Every type of horrible weapon had been used. Stupid and adamant Generals on all sides had sent their soldiers to their deaths in wave after wave of senseless confrontation. The people at home in all of the nations were fed up with the whole ordeal.
Finally Wilson came to the rescue, but not without riots and severe resistance on his home front. As far as I know more Americans refused to go to World War One than any other war in American history. Our prisons were filled with war resisters of one type or another. Thousands more opted for alternative service, but refused direct combat. Adolf is looking here for an excuse for his people. He was a fighting soldier - fighting on the front for his life. It was difficult for him to believe that his countrymen back home were giving up on him. But the fact of the matter seems to be that all of the countries back home were giving up on the senseless slaughter of the war.
America came in, and turned the tide of war in the favor of the British and the French, but again I have to ask myself what stirred Wilson to action? The real battle on every home front and the philosophical battle that had been raging for years in all of the countries of Europe and in the United States was the battle between labor and the rich industrialists.
In the United States federal troops were being used and had been used on several occasions to put down union movements and rioters in the mines in the west, and in the factories both north and south. The battle of the workingman was underway all over the world. When the Russians turned and actually walked off the battlefields, and capitulated with the Germans to end their part in the war, you can bet that Wilson and all of the rich and wealthy in the world shivered in their boots.
Rich Russians were undoubtedly being slaughtered, their homes ransacked, and their possessions pilfered by the poor and disorderly; by the peasants; by the proletariat. The class war had overpowered the cash war, and things were looking bad for the prosperous and better off. If Wilson hadn’t entered the war at that point, all of Europe might have fallen to the followers of the workingman’s rebellion ... the Marxist.
Wilson came to the aide of the rich and famous and saved Europe from the largest peasant’s revolt in history.
But as far as I can see propaganda was coming out strong on every side. Truthfully, I think that the strongest advantage of the ‘established’ in this World War struggle was the basic instinct towards loyalty.
Once war is declared in any nation, the truth is stifled, the debate grows dim, and anyone who criticizes the present government becomes an instant traitor, and no one protests this treatment, especially if they have a son at the front, or one who has just received his draft notice. Wilson entered the war, imprisoned the ‘conspirator’ at home and saved his class from a purge that, if we can use Russia as a guide, would have become very, very bitter, and most likely would have toppled the Union, or the established government of the United States.
As for the notion that the Western propaganda made the German’s into barbarians and the German propaganda made the Tommies into harmless clowns and cowards, I think that is another of Adolf s imaginings. The Germans as barbaric and warlike WAS the German image to the world around them. No one had to make up the notion of a German Barbarian. The British being prone to absurdity and elitist verbosity, and more talk than action WAS the image of the British. The ‘Propaganda’ wasn’t a trick on either side. It was stereotypical but not necessarily deceptive. And probably the only one misled by it was Adolf himself - he being, most likely, brash and over confident. But all of Europe’s young World War One warriors all seemed to be of the same brash, over confident nature and opinion. The war was going to end in weeks they all thought, and each side thought that it would be victorious.
“...It was fundamentally wrong to discuss the war guilt from the point of view that not Germany alone could be made responsible for the outbreak of this catastrophe, but it would have been far better to burden the enemy entirely with this guilt, even if
this had not been in accordance with the real facts, as was indeed the case ... As soon as by one’s own propaganda even a glimpse of right on the other side is admitted, the cause for doubting one’s own right is laid ... the mania of objectivity ... for now they will take pains not to do an injustice to the enemy, even at the risk of the severest strain on, or destruction of, his own nation and state...”
Adolf again shows that he is a loyalist, and a true believer in the philosophy - my country right or wrong. - Adolf is never concerned about the truth of any situation. The truth or righteousness of his cause is never the issue. Being on the side of one’s country or ‘State’ is always righteous. Once in battle truth is not to be considered. Truth is the first victim in any conflict. His is straight military thinking. But in the long run, or even the short run, I think that History has proved Adolf’s theory wrong. The truth and the opposition to whatever cause, will not be stifled. Stopping its publication will only force it underground, or to be spread by word of mouth, or revolution. Arguments and philosophic theories can only be countered by more substantial theories or their disproof by rational and reasonable means. Violence leads to more violence but invariably leaves the roots of the violence untouched. Adolf did say earlier that an idea could only be stopped by a better idea, but again, he is never concerned by the ‘truth’ of any idea. Of course, he said that not only a better idea would be necessary but it must also be promoted with the sword and indisputable conquering. Again, I think History has proved this theory wrong.
“…persistency, as in so many other things in this world, is the first and the most important condition for success...”
Well, I don’t think that anyone can fault that statement.
“…The purpose of propaganda is not continually to produce interesting changes for a few blasé’ little masters, but to convince, that means to convince the masses. The masses however, with their inertia, always need a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and they will lend their memories only to the thousand-fold repetition of the most simple ideas...”
Repetition is a principle of learning. This notion is nothing new. Slogans are nothing new, and certainly weren’t thought up by Adolf. Drawing attention to your cause, product, or self, are well known techniques in establishing and idea or cause, and even personal success. All of this is like saying what makes a great painting is color, style and flare. Adolf isn’t telling us here anything that everybody doesn’t already know. And I don’t think that anything that he has said so far would give a guide to anyone else’s success. These are all fundamental notions.
Adolf was somehow able to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor that had been exaggerated by the Marxists. I can see how what he has said so far brought the rich and powerful to his side, but I am yet to understand his hold on the poor. His words and philosophy were certainly directed to gain the support of the moneyed classes. Maybe his signs, posters and spoken words were more for the common man. I have never heard or read any of his speeches to the public, nor have I seen any of his posters. Maybe this should be next on my list of investigations. Even though Mein Kampf sold in Germany by the millions, maybe its message only reached the better off. He then was able to garner the support of the better off, possibly, by showing his ability to manipulate the masses of unread and uninformed. I really cannot understand constant reference to the basically ‘stupid’ masses as being of any appeal to the ‘stupid’ masses in general. Unless, of course, there was no one in Germany at the time who considered himself or herself to be a member of the stupid masses.
In America today, if you talk about the ‘lower class’, I wonder how many will admit to being a part of that class? Unless it is defined for them by income, my guess is that we have no lower class in America. Or at least no one who will admit to being a member of it. Everyone in America, no matter what degree their poverty, are, I would suspect, middle class at worst. Maybe this was Adolf’ s appeal to the poor huddled masses. He talked to them all as if they were simple unemployed ‘elitist’, and then united them against the poor, stupid, and uniformed ... whoever they were. My guess is that only the German intelligentsia read his book, and the common people were lured by other means - possibly his speeches, and street tactics - means that will probably have to be discovered elsewhere.
[This is a part of a continuing series appearing on this blog. This is my 10th entry. Click on Search This Blog to find other entries on the same subject - Mein Kampf.]