In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler writes at length on the subject of propaganda. Propaganda today is more sophisticated, more scientific, and more powerful than at any other time in history. It’s a weapon of mind control, invisible to those whose hearts and minds it seizes. The principles haven’t changed. Understanding how masters of propaganda, like Hitler, think on the subject is a must for anyone who values their personal freedom. Below are some excerpts from Mein Kampf worth considering.
On the Effectiveness of Allied Propaganda & Ineffectiveness of German Propaganda During WWI
“The war propaganda of the English and Americans was psychologically sound.”
“There was no end to what could be learned from the enemy by a man who kept his eyes open, refused to let his perception be ossified, and for four and a half years privately turned the storm-flood of enemy propaganda over in his brain.”
“The total miscarriage of the German ‘enlightenment’ service stared every soldier in the face, and this spurred me to take up the question of propaganda even more deeply than before. There was more than enough time for thinking, and the enemy offered practical instruction which, to our sorrow, was only too good.”
“For what we failed to do, the enemy did, with amazing skill and really brilliant calculation. I, myself, learned enormously from this enemy war propaganda.”
“Everything that actually was done (by the Germans) in this field was so inadequate and wrong from the very start that it certainly did no good and sometimes did actual harm…The form was inadequate, the substance was psychologically wrong: a careful examination of German war propaganda can lead to no other diagnosis.”
“German war propaganda offered an unparalleled example of an ‘enlightenment’ service (propaganda service) working in reverse, since any correct psychology was totally lacking.”
Three World War I facts they don’t teach us in school.
- The Germans were terrible propagandists. Their efforts during the first world war were totally ineffective.
- The Americans and the British were masters in the art of propaganda. Their WWI propaganda campaigns were an overwhelming success. After the war, the American public learned of the deception. In his book, Public Relations, WWI Propagandist for the U.S. Committee on Public Information, Edward Bernays, writes of the disillusioned American public that was upset about their gullibility after having learned that they were mislead.
- As a soldier, Hitler witnessed the demoralizing effect that Allied propaganda had on his fellow soldiers on the front line. It is this experience that lead him to take up a close study of American and British propaganda.
The Allied propaganda was so good that Hitler used the lessons he learned from it to form the foundation of the Nazi WWII propaganda machine, which would result in the persecution of millions. Based on these lessons, Hitler outlines his propaganda principles later in Mein Kampf. Taking it a step further, Bernays admits in his autobiography that his book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, was used as the basis for the Nazi World War II propaganda campaign. Bernays writes,
“Karl von Wiegand, foreign correspondent of the Hearst newspapers, an old hand at interpreting Europe and just returned from Germany, was telling us about Goebbels and his propaganda plans to consolidate Nazi power. Goebbels had shown Wiegand his propaganda library, the best Wiegand had ever seen. Goebbels, said Wiegand, was using my book Crystallizing Public Opinion as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked me. … Obviously the attack on the Jews of Germany was no emotional outburst of the Nazis, but a deliberate, planned campaign.”
On Propaganda As A Weapon
“For even propaganda is no more than a weapon, though a frightful one in the hands of an expert.”
“There (In England and the U.S.), propaganda was regarded as a weapon of the first order, while in our country it was the last resort of unemployed politicians and a comfortable haven for slackers. And, as was to be expected, its results all in all were zero.”
Hitler was not alone in these beliefs. WWI was propaganda’s big coming out party. Countries all over the world, recognized, and praised the success of the Allied propaganda effort. In America, Bernays and others wrote enthusiastically of the power of this new weapon, which had played such a vital role in winning the war. Today, the United States spends more than $1.5 billion annually on public relations. ‘Public Relations’ is what Bernays replaced the term ‘propaganda’ with after it developed a negative stigma during WWI. In other words, the government spends $1.5 billion per year on propaganda.
On the Function of Propaganda
“The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision. The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the processes necessary, the necessity correct.”
Effective propaganda not only avoids scrutiny, it’s invisible to those whom it victimizes. They’re unaware of the outside influence. They genuinely believe that the propagated idea arises from within themselves, and thus they will defend the idea at all costs. This often leads to people unknowingly taking action that goes against their own best interests. And like many Americans after WWI, most don’t become aware of the deception until it’s too late.
On Propaganda Technique
“All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be exerted in this direction.”
“The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses.”
“In a mass meeting of all classes, it is not that speaker who is mentally closet to the intellectuals present who speaks best, but the one who conquers the heart of the masses.”
On Simplifying & Repeating The Message
“The masses are slow-moving, and they always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.”
“The most brilliant propagandists 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 again. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”
“Effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered.”
“Resist Trump!” “Make America Great Again!” “Love Trumps Hate.” “Build The Wall!” “Yes We Can!” Politicians don’t put out ads and hold rallies so that they can dive into the complexities of policy with their supporters. They do these things so that they can embed digestible, repeatable slogans into their followers minds.
“It (propaganda) does not have multiple shadings; it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, never half this way and half that way, never partially, or that kind of thing. English propagandists understood all this most brilliantly–and acted accordingly. They made no half statements that might have given rise to doubts. Their brilliant knowledge of the primitive sentiments of the broad masses is shown by their atrocity propaganda, which was adapted to this condition. As ruthless as it was brilliant, it created the preconditions for moral steadfastness at the front, even in the face of the greatest actual defeats, and just as strikingly it pilloried the German enemy as the sole guilty party for the outbreak of the War: the rabid, impudent bias and persistence with which this lie was expressed took into account the emotional, always extreme, attitude of the great masses and for this reason was believed.”
This is a universal theme in propaganda literature. Keep the public thinking in black and white. Make them believe there are only two options, that they must choose one side or the other. And most importantly, make them believe that the other side is an evil intent on destroying all that is good in the world, thus making the choice easy.
On the Subjectivity & Objectivity of Propaganda
“What our authorities least of all understood was the very first axiom of all propagandist activity: to wit, the basically subjective and one-sided attitude it must take toward every question it deals with…The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”
“The broad mass of a nation does not consist of diplomats, or even professors of political law, or even individuals capable of forming a rational opinion; it consists of plain mortals, wavering and included to doubt and uncertainty. As soon as our own propaganda admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid. The masses are then in no position to distinguish where foreign injustice ends and our own begins.”
Hitler is highly critical of the objective nature of German propaganda during the first World War, a criticism he is not alone in giving. Harold Lasswell illustrates this ineffective WWI mindset of the Germans in his book, Propaganda Technique In World War.
On Propaganda & Organization
“The supporter is made amenable to the movement by propaganda. The member is induced by the organization to participate personally in the recruiting of new supporters, from whom in turn members can be developed.”
“Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people; the organization embraces within its scope only those who do not threaten on psychological grounds to become a brake on the further dissemination of the idea.”
“The first task of propaganda is to win people for subsequent organization; the first task of organization is to win men for the continuation of propaganda. The second task of propaganda is disruption of the existing state of affairs and the permeation of this state of affairs with the new doctrine, while the second task of organization must be the struggle for power, thus to achieve the final success of the doctrine.”
To anyone who has paid attention to Indivisible, the group behind the current ‘Resistance’ movement in America, these principles strike a familiar chord. Community organizing isn’t as innocent as it sounds.
The thought of reading a book like Mein Kampf can make people feel weird, like they shouldn’t do it, like it’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong with developing historical knowledge. If we don’t become familiar with the thinking and behavior of history’s tyrants and dictators, how are we to recognize one that’s rising to power in our own time? Modern tyrants don’t openly announce themselves as such. They’re masters in the art of deception. They know how to speak and act like the public whose hearts and minds they seek to win. They know how to mask their true intentions behind the language and appearance of democracy.