Principles of Propaganda

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There may be honor among thieves but there’s none in politicians

Lawrence of Arabia

If you wanna instill some integrity into your kids — not cheering “4 More Years!” for pathological liars is a pretty good place to start

Baby you come knockin’ on my front door
Same old line you used to use before
I said, “Yeah, well what am I supposed to do?”
I didn’t know what I was getting into

You know why most people don’t care for history? It’s because people like Dan Carlin weren’t teaching it. His Hardcore History: Blueprint for Armageddon podcasts are riveting — explaining World War I in ways I had never even imagined. The vividness of the imagery he paints — and how he brings historical figures to life while connecting the past to the present — is nothing short of spectacular.

Whoever wrote his bio knocked it out of the park:

He’s been called a lot of things, but no one says that Dan Carlin is boring. His two long-running podcasts are among the most popular in the world. Part storyteller, part analyst, Carlin has mastered the art of looking at subjects from multiple angles and dissecting and thinking about them in original ways.

He isn’t afraid to go deep or to inject historical context into modern debates. Whether it’s history or current events he’s discussing, his passion is contagious, his approach refreshing and his ideas tickle your brain in all the right places. He’ll make you mad too. You’ll like it.

We look at everything in-the-moment with so little understanding of how our history brought us to where we are. That college history book I show in the sidebar is where I found Falling Man that fateful day. But far more important was finding a fascination with history (and whad’ya know, it was due to a fantastic teacher).

In the first podcast, I remember thinking how cool it was that I knew a bit about Archduke Franz Ferdinand — and how his assassin Gavrilo Princip lit the fuse that inflamed so much of the 20th century and beyond.

Carlin quickly made me realize how little I knew (just on that alone — never mind the 23-hours that followed).

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Long before Carlin came the late, great Professor Gordon Mork. At Purdue I took a dual-level course on Hitler and 20th Century Germany — just because I got so fascinated with history and political science the previous year (and I had an interest in World War II anyway). I was the only undergrad in the class, which was a bit daunting, because my classmates blew me out of the water with their knowledge.

But at the same time, that’s what was so great about it

I was there to soak up as much as I possibly could, and what better way than to be around people who immerse themselves in that level of study. It was in the building below that this life-altering experience took place.

Actually, it was in both — as the Recitation Building next door is where the World History room was that inspired it all.

You think taking that class, one on Hitler & 20th Century Germany, a book report on Kaiser Wilhelm II, and watching Mel Gibson’s Gallipoli — qualifies me to get in the ring and debate the War to End All Wars with someone of Carlin’s caliber?

Would I be justified in “agreeing to disagree” about the impact of the Treaty of Versailles — simply because I read Mein Kampf and wrote a couple of papers on Hitler? Or how about hanging my hat on another old faithful in the arsenal of silly sayings: “You can’t believe everything you read!”

Who cares if his reading list dwarfs mine, that he’s done countless hours of research and preparation, and that my limited knowledge is hardly fresh after almost 30 years?

After all, it’s my opinion — and I’m entitled!

Believe it or not, the way he’s dressed had a huge impact on the way World War I was fought — as the mentality of these guys was way behind the times.

That war set the stage for the next one, and Hitler capitalized on it in full. Reading Mein Kampf gives you some insight into diabolical evil — which is why I find it absurd when politicians of any party are casually compared to Hitler. But slinging childish ignorance for political gain is not even in the same galaxy of insightful analysis that involves drawing historical parallels.

The Iraq War was manufactured on the principles below — just as all the other bullshit is bought and sold in politics. That the Bush Administration and a complicit Congress were nowhere near the evil of Nazi Germany is immaterial to the principles that drive self-delusion. As Hermann Goering put it: “It works the same way in any country.”

Propaganda . . . must always be essentially simple and repetitious. In the long run, only he will achieve basic results in influencing public opinion who is able to reduce problems to the simplest terms and who has the courage to keep forever repeating them in this simplified form despite the objections of the intellectuals. If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

— Joseph Goebbels’ diary, 1/29/42 (Third Reich Minister of Propaganda)

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

— Hermann Goering. (Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia and, as Hitler’s designated successor, the second man in the Third Reich)

All this was inspired by the principle — which is quite true in itself — that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.

— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (James Murphy translation, page 134)

I don’t know what the hell happened to America, but I will not believe anything that is false for gain of any kind. I will not defend wrong to serve what I believe to be right. And no matter what you’re selling, you can’t buy me. My attitude toward politics is perfectly captured in Twister Sister’s:

“If that’s your best, your best won’t do”

He’d say you’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

Now we might have been better off or owned a bigger house
If Daddy had done more givin’ in or a little more backing down
But we always had plenty just living his advice
Whatever you do today you’ll have to sleep with tonight