Lessons from History that America’s Cult Leaders Have Learned Well: “Demagogues, the Big Lie and Adolf Hitler’s Principles of Propaganda”

Gary G. Kohls, MD

Before I start writing my weekly column for the Duluth Reader (submissions deadline is Tuesday), I usually tune into the 9 am Monday edition of DemocracyNow! (KUMD 103.3 FM) with Amy Goodman. Then at 10 am, I switch the dial and listen to On Point Radio (KUWS 91.3 FM) with Tom Ashbrook.

Those two wonderful public radio programs always seem to host courageous non-mainstream authors, progressive thinkers, real investigative journalists and assorted whistleblowers that are able to articulate ideas that address taboos subjects that are rarely dealt with on the corporate-controlled print, radio and television media.

Almost invariably, one of those two programs helps me come up with some ideas that would be worthy of a column. But expanding an inspiring idea or two into one good readable 1600 word essay isn’t necessarily a simple thing to do. And sometimes, like this Monday morning, both programs left me empty of ideas to steal, so I started from scratch. And that is where my books, my internet sources and my computer files come in.

It seems to be to be important to frequently address some of the scandals concerning our bloated Pentagon and the dark underbelly of the US military so I did some internet research on the sobering epidemic of veteran suicides (now at 22 completed suicides per day), but I decided to hold off on that theme until another time. So I clicked onto my old computer files and came across some notes that I had taken years back from some earlier readings I had done that were titled “Demagogues, the Big Lie and Adolf Hitler’s Principles of Propaganda”.

A quick read of the information proved the applicability to today’s far right-wing political, religious and media attempts to usurp American democracy, so I copied those pages to a fresh sheet and started editing. And below is the finished, albeit somewhat disjointed product that should help concerned readers de-mystify the chaos America has been experiencing, especially since one of the biggest Big Lies, the infamous false flag op on 9/11/01 that, via pre-planted explosive charges, brought down, at free-fall speed, the three World Trade Center buildings 1, 2 and 7. Towers 1 and 2 suddenly exploded and pulverized into fine dust with their neatly sectioned steel beams falling into the tower’s footprints – certain signs of controlled demolition. (See www.ae911truth.org for video-confirmation of that statement plus a series of essays by psychologist Frances T. Shure that deals with some of the psychological, political and economic reasons that cause usually clear-headed progressive folks to refuse to look at the huge volume of evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that 9/11 was an inside job.)

J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph Goebbels Were Birds of a Feather

The late, lamented FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, revealed one of their many fascist similarities when they said:

"The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists."-- J. Edgar Hoover

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”-- Joseph Goebbels

So below are some of facts about demagoguery that show up all over the propagandistic worlds of televangelism, commerce, advertising, politics and media:

1) Demagogue means “leader of a mob”

2) A demagogue is a leader who attempts to gain a following by appealing to the emotions, passions and prejudices of people in order to enrich him or herself financially or advance his or her political agenda

3) Political demagogues seek power, to win votes and hold office by appeals to mass prejudice or fear

4) Demagogues often use lies and distortions to further their ambitions, their personal wealth and/or the business or religious interests of the super-wealthy, unelected plutocrats that fund them and that control the media that gives them the platform to spout the approved propaganda
5) 20th-century American social critic and humorist H. L. Mencken, defined a religious demagogue as "one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."
During World War II, the U. S. Office of Strategic Services analyzed Hitler’s propaganda techniques and summarized it thusly (One wonders if these principles have been adopted by the infamous Republican obstructionists in the US Congress, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News, the far-right-wing think tanks, or some of the other One Percenter groups as well.)

1) never allow the public to cool off;
2) never admit a fault or wrong;
3) never concede that there may be some good in your enemy;
4) never leave room for alternatives;
5) never accept blame;
6) concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong;
7) people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and
8) if you repeat a big lie frequently enough people will sooner or later come to believe it.

Adolf Hitler on the Big Lie (from Mein Kampf, chapter 10)

“…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. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

Hitler’s Principles of Propaganda

Excerpts from Seig Heil: The Story of Adolf Hitler, by Morris D. Waldman

p. 43-45: “The first and most important principle was to appeal to the mind. The masses have no mind. They cannot conceive abstract ideas. They can only feel, not think. Instill them with faith, not with knowledge. Faith moves mountains. The driving force behind revolutions has never been a body of scientific teaching but a devotion which has inspired masses of people and an hysteria which has catapulted them into action. To win the masses one must have the key to their emotions; and where gentle persuasion will not turn the key one must exert one’s will, and, if need be, support it by force. The lock and key are not a complicated mechanism--just a few stereotyped formulas, brief and to the point, for the crowd can absorb only small doses. These slogans must, however, be constantly repeated so that they will be indelibly impressed upon the mind, because the memory of the crowd is short.

“The slogans should never be changed even if new circumstances may outdate them here and there. They must always be expressed with dogmatic certainty, never with objectivity, for impartiality raises doubts as to the speaker’s own belief in the truth and accuracy of what he utters.

“Every utterance, moreover, must be made with passion and fanaticism that reflect an unyielding, absolute faith in the ideas expressed and the importance of those ideas because the passion of the speaker infects the hearers with passion.

“The tongue is mightier than the pen. It is the magic of the spoken word--even if only in a whisper vehemently breathed--that has proven throughout history to be the strongest force to move men.

“Always flatter the ego of your hearers, emphasize their virtues--their integrity, their intelligence, their courage and above all, their patriotism. On the other hand, stress the vices of the enemy--their greed, their dishonesty, their cowardice and above all their treachery.

“Evoke hatred from the hearts of your listeners and focus their hatred on those whom you wish to destroy.

“Instill fear into your audience, the fear of being destroyed by the ruthless foes who are responsible for their misfortunes but warn them that only by uniting courageously with you in your movement will the enemies be confounded and annihilated, that only by hanging onto your coattails will they find security. Fear is the most potent of all the driving forces. Moved by terror decent men will commit any and every crime, including murder.

“Don’t hesitate to lie; for the end justifies the means. But when you lie make it a big lie, so big that its very bigness makes it credible for, were what you say not true, the crowd would not conceive that you would dare to utter it.

“Should you be the accused don’t answer the charge, don’t defend yourself against the accusation but turn about and disparage the accuser; paint him as a wicked, malicious liar who is trying to throw dust into the eyes of the good people to further his own diabolical interests.

“And do this either at the top of your voice or in a deep gutteral. And hurl imprecations, because the louder you shriek or the deeper you grunt, the more passionate your seemingly righteous outbursts are, the more bitter your resentment, the more readily will you convince the crowd of your sincerity and the more easily will you be able to convert them into sympathy with you.

“And when you are attacked from the floor, follow the technique of divide et impera (“divide and conquer”, which works so well against scattered, liberal do-gooder groups that tend to mainly focus on single issues rather than the big picture and are thus easily dominated – Ed note).

“Find and point out contradictions between the utterances of your opponents and thus place them in the ridiculous position of fighting each other and so confound them with their own confusion.

“Surrounding this technique of propaganda was the use of violence, armed guards--not merely to protect the speakers and to intimidate and break up meetings of opposing parties but to impress the audience. Not only acts of violence but the very aura of violence because the mere appearance of violence reflects strength and power and ultimate success.

“Terrorism, said Adolf, is absolutely indispensable in every case of the founding of a new Power’ It is violence, not political convictions, that attracts the rowdy elements of whom there are many among the jobless demobilized front fighters of the war, the discontented, the displaced and unplaced ‘heroes who were betrayed by the politicians.’

“Adolf knew their malaise--hunger, insecurity and humiliation. He would prescribe for their wretchedness--lush promises of economic abundance and security, political freedom and national consolidation which they had never really enjoyed but for which they had yearned and, now and then feebly but unsuccessfully tried to obtain; all of which, he screamed, had been denied them not through their own fault but by the machinations of international Jewry (or Hitler could have added, ‘socialists, communists, labor unions, progressives’ – Ed note) whose stupid puppets occupy the seat of government in Berlin.

“Because the German masses suffered torments of hunger and humiliation Adolf’s oratory would find a ready response. Unerringly dexterous in probing deep to their morbidly sensitive nerves he would solve their wounded pride and give them hope of a better life.”

 p. 313: “(Hitler’s) world view…was a rigid, uncompromising conviction that only brutal force and cunning could lead to domination and that the torture and annihilation of obstructive and antagonistic peoples—or their enslavement—were the proper means toward attaining such domination.”