Propaganda and mind control then and now

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Featured image: OUTDOOR DISPLAY OF THE ANTISEMITIC NEWSPAPER DER STÜRMER. Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie.

Shortly after Hitler’s appointment as imperial chancellor on January 30, 1933, the Nazis started implementing a process, which they called “Gleichschaltung”. The term is perhaps best translated with ‘synchronization’ or ‘alignment’. ‘Gleichschaltung’ comes from the German words ‘gleich’ (same) and ‘Schaltung’ (circuit) and was originally an electrical engineering term meaning that all switches are put on the same circuit so that all can be activated by throwing a single master switch. It was a Nazification process by which Adolf Hitler and the Nazi propaganda ministry, led by Joseph Goebbels, established a system of totalitarian control and coordination over the German society. The process included all aspects of life: the economy, trade associations, the media, culture, and education.

The Nazis controlled all print media, including book publishers. They also controlled the movie and entertainment industries, theaters, and opera houses. The Reich Chamber of Culture, established in 1933 was responsible for controlling all aspects of cultural life in Germany. Theater and opera house directors had to submit their programs for review and approval by the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which was headed by Goebbels. His ministry also decided what works of art could be produced to entertain the masses. And Goebbels’ control extended into minor details. Here is an example:

Friedrich Schiller, a famous classic German playwright wrote a drama called the “The Robbers” (Die Räuber). It is the story of two brothers, Karl and Franz Moor, who end up as political enemies. Karl is the leader of a gang of Bohemian robbers. Franz is an envious, jealous, and evil person, who plots against his brother and his father. My father, who was an actor, was to play the part of the evil brother Franz. On the opening night he was informed that Goebbels himself would attend. When the curtain fell, somebody gave him the message that Goebbels had requested to meet with him in the cafeteria. My father hurried to the cafeteria, where Goebbels was already waiting for him. He was very polite and expressed his overall approval of my father’s performance. “But” he said with a malicious smile, “I have one serious concern.” My father began to shake in his pants. “What is your concern, Herr Reichsminister?” –“Well,” said Goebbels, “your rendition of Franz Moor was too sympathetic. You played him too likable. He appeared almost like a good guy. Bad guys must be clearly recognizable as bad guys.” My father imprudently objected. “But Mr. Goebbels” he said, “In real life the real bad guys do not always come across as evil. They often look like good guys.” – “That may be so in real life,” Goebbels responded with his right index finger in the air, “but theater is not real life and what you are producing on stage is not just art. It is artful propaganda. Propaganda does not need to be true, intelligent, or factual. It only needs to be easy to understand and to accomplish its purpose. The average German needs to be able to easily and clearly understand that Franz Moor is a bad guy. I suggest you give this some thought for the coming performances.” Goebbels quickly left and my father knew what he had to do, if he wanted to stay out of the Concentration Camp.

During the Nazi rule in Germany, the press was not free. The Nazi regime enforced strict censorship on all forms of mass communication, including newspapers, music, literature, radio, and film. The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda controlled all information available to the citizens. Only media that conveyed pro-Nazi ideas were allowed. All other media were censored or eliminated. Books that did not agree with the Nazi point of view were banned and often destroyed in public book burnings.

The Nazis also produced and disseminated their own literature, which was solely devoted to furthering Nazi ideas and myths. Antisemitism lay at the core of their works.

Universities, theaters, museums, and the entire “deep state”, as we would say today, were purged to eliminate all Jews. One of our neighbors in Berlin was the actor Joachim Gottschalk. His wife Meta was an actress and she was Jewish. Inspite of her conversion to Protestantism, Gottschalk was notified by the Goebbels Ministry that if he wanted to continue to work as an actor, he would have to divorce his Jewish wife, who would be sent to a Concentration Camp. On November 6, 1941, he, his wife, and their nine-year old son committed suicide. When he had not seen or heard from his colleague in nearly a week, my father walked to their house where he smelled gas. He climbed up the rain pipe and broke into their kitchen, where he found them all dead on the floor. They had gassed themselves using the kitchen gas stove. Many others suffered a similar fate or ended in concentration camps.

Joseph Goebbels was a master propagandist. He believed that propaganda was a tool to control the masses and to acquaint them with certain ideas in such a way that they would yield voluntarily. He developed lines of propaganda that projected the positive characteristics of the “National Community” (Volksgemeinschaft) and the Führer cult. The Führer cult was the glorification of Hitler as Germany’s war leader and savior. In all, Goebbels’ propaganda aimed at creating a favorable image of the Nazi regime for the German people.

The Nazis used radio as a powerful propaganda tool to spread their ideology and control the German population. All radio stations were “gleichgeschaltet” and their broadcasting plans and programs had to be submitted to and approved by Goebbels’ propaganda ministry. To make sure that as many Germans as possible could hear the Nazi approved radio programs and Hitler’s speeches and nothing else the Nazis invented the so-called “Volksempfänger” (people’s receiver), a small and inexpensive but stylish and very capable radio receiver that could only receive the frequencies used and/or permitted by Nazi broadcasting stations.

Nazi People’s receiver VE301

The Volksempfänger was first introduced in 1933. It was an extremely popular radio that everyone could afford. Initially, the Volksempfänger was capable of also receiving foreign programs, but with the start of WWII listening to foreign programs became punishable with imprisonment and even with death. When German tinkerers constructed their own radios that were capable of receiving the BBC, Goebbels Propaganda Ministry produced fake BBC programs in English to disinform and mislead the “Schwarzhörer” (illegal listeners).

Joseph Goebbels understood the art of persuasion. He sought to exploit the tremendous potential of the radio to broadcast Hitler’s messages. Radio helped bring the Nazis to power and keep them there. On 18 August 1933, Goebbels opened the 10th International Radio Show, in Berlin, with a speech declaring “Radio as the Eighth Great Power” (Napoleon had once said that the press was the seventh great power). Goebbels argued that “the radio will be for the twentieth century what the press was for the nineteenth century.”

Low cost was not the only reason for the Volksempfänger’s popularity. The original VE301 had an attractive art deco-inspired design. Industrial designer Walter Maria Kersting fabricated the cabinet out of Bakelite, a plastic that could be easily molded. Bakelite also had insulating properties that made it ideal for the electronics industry.

Goebbels knew better than to simply broadcast the Third Reich’s agenda nonstop. People welcomed the inexpensive receivers into their homes precisely because they also provided entertainment and distraction. Regular programming included operas, classical concerts, light dance music, games, jokes, and popular arts.

However, programming was highly censored. Forbidden content included “corrupted music,” such as American jazz, pop, and swing. The censorship did not seem to bother listeners. In her 2019 book “News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900–1945” (Harvard University Press), historian Heidi Tworek notes that “the Nazis used entertainment programs to lure more people into listening to Hitler’s speeches.” My father used to say: “In order to influence people you need their attention. In order to get their attention, you need to entertain them.” Goebbels certainly knew that.

The Nazis also used huge loudspeakers in public places such as cafés, town squares, and workplaces to blare out Nazi propaganda and Hitler speeches. This was done to ensure that even those people who did not have a radio could hear the Nazi messages. These loudspeakers, which were designed and produced by the German electric company “Telefunken”, were part of the Nazi regime’s efforts to control the availability and flow of information, respectively, of disinformation.

Telefunken Pilzlautsprecher (mushroom speaker) on the Wilhelmsplatz in Berlin 1936

The Nazis also used the “Litfass-Säule” as a propaganda tool. This column-shaped device was invented by the German Ernst Litfass in Berlin in 1854. Initially mainly used for advertisement and public announcements, it became not only a hallmark for Berlin and other larger German cities but also a major propaganda tool for the Nazis.

A Nazi propaganda column (Litfass-Säule) in Berlin in November of 1930. The text on the column reads: “Will heads roll?”

Many famous artists and designers created posters for the Litfass-Säule, such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Ludwig Hohlwein, Lucian Bernhard, and John Heartfield.

The Reich Chamber of Culture was responsible for ensuring that all cultural activities were in line with Nazi ideology. That included the education system. The Nazis used the school system as a powerful propaganda tool to spread their ideology to the young people and to root out any dissent. They also infused Nazi beliefs into the school curricula because they believed that the youth of Germany should be totally indoctrinated so that the Nazi system would never face any internal challenge.

The Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture took over from the Reich Interior Ministry the supervision of colleges and universities in Germany, as well as of research institutions such as the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (Imperial Institution for Physics and Technology). Scholars who were Jewish or supported left-leaning parties were unable to find research or teaching positions in public, government-funded German universities, or research institutions.

After World War II, scholars of mass communication began to study propaganda uses of radio and other technologies, looking into the connections between politics, media, culture, and authoritarianism.

If radio was in fact the eighth great power of the 20th century, then social media may well be the ninth great power of the 21st century. In recent years, many people have compared the Nazis’ manipulation of radio to mobilize hate with the use of the Internet and social media not only to radicalize fringe groups, disseminate incorrect information, and launch disinformation but also suppress the free flow of information and exchange of opinions.

Since 2008, social media expert Andre Oboler has been documenting and analyzing online hate and advising groups on how to combat it. Oboler argues against cyber-racism, violent extremism, misogyny, anti-Judaism, trolling, and griefing (sabotage within online games and other virtual platforms). In a November 2020 address to the United Nations’ Forum on Minority Issues, he noted that hate is often based on ignorance, fed by fake news, misinformation, and disinformation —tactics straight out of Goebbels’s playbook.

The Volksempfänger gave ordinary Germans access to entertainment and culture, but it also became an instrument of government control and manipulation and of the propagation of hate. The same can be said of social media today. Through censorship in cahoots with the deep state, collectivist organizations, and giant tech companies, they control, censor, and impede the free exchange of ideas, information, and opinions in a concerted attempt to silence conservative, constitutionalist, individualist, and nationalist voices and in flagrant violation of our First Amendment rights. The Covid 19 “pandemic” has demonstrated for all to see, how big tech, big pharma, and the socialist deep state collaborated in gaslighting millions of Americans by misinforming them about the origin and dangers of the virus and about the risks of the medical countermeasures they forced upon us all pushing thousands into poverty, psychosis, and suicide. Our education system has been perverted into an expensive brain-washing institution that produces increasingly mentally disturbed ignoramuses. Our science has been transmogrified from a truth by experiment and observation system into a “truth by vote and bullying” system. If you for example oppose the state sponsored man-made-climate-change narrative, you lose your research funding, your articles will not be published, and you may get cancelled or even lose your job. Digital “Gleichschaltung” through social media?

Joseph Goebbels would be proud of America.

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