Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality: Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Image by Bernd Schwabe, via Wikimedia Commons

At least when I was in grade school, we learned the very basics of how the Third Reich came to power in the early 1930s. Paramilitary gangs terrorizing the opposition, the incompetence and opportunism of German conservatives, the Reichstag Fire. And we learned about the critical importance of propaganda, the deliberate misinforming of the public in order to sway opinions en masse and achieve popular support (or at least the appearance of it). While Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels purged Jewish and leftist artists and writers, he built a massive media infrastructure that played, writes PBS, “probably the most important role in creating an atmosphere in Germany that made it possible for the Nazis to commit terrible atrocities against Jews, homosexuals, and other minorities.”

How did the minority party of Hitler and Goebbels take over and break the will of the German people so thoroughly that they would allow and participate in mass murder? Post-war scholars of totalitarianism like Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt asked that question over and over, for several decades afterward. Their earliest studies on the subject looked at two sides of the equation. Adorno contributed to a massive volume of social psychology called The Authoritarian Personality, which studied individuals predisposed to the appeals of totalitarianism. He invented what he called the F-Scale (“F” for “fascism”), one of several measures he used to theorize the Authoritarian Personality Type.

Arendt, on the other hand, looked closely at the regimes of Hitler and Stalin and their functionaries, at the ideology of scientific racism, and at the mechanism of propaganda in fostering “a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism with which each member… is expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders.” So she wrote in her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism, going on to elaborate that this “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Why the constant, often blatant lying? For one thing, it functioned as a means of fully dominating subordinates, who would have to cast aside all their integrity to repeat outrageous falsehoods and would then be bound to the leader by shame and complicity. “The great analysts of truth and language in politics”—writes McGill University political philosophy professor Jacob T. Levy—including “George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel—can help us recognize this kind of lie for what it is…. Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”

Arendt and others recognized, writes Levy, that “being made to repeat an obvious lie makes it clear that you’re powerless.” She also recognized the function of an avalanche of lies to render a populace powerless to resist, the phenomenon we now refer to as “gaslighting”:

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.

The epistemological ground thus pulled out from under them, most would depend on whatever the leader said, no matter its relation to truth. “The essential conviction shared by all ranks,” Arendt concluded, “from fellow traveler to leader, is that politics is a game of cheating and that the ‘first commandment’ of the movement: ‘The Fuehrer is always right,’ is as necessary for the purposes of world politics, i.e., world-wide cheating, as the rules of military discipline are for the purposes of war.”

“We too,” writes Jeffrey Isaacs at The Washington Post, “live in dark times”—an allusion to another of Arendt’s sobering analyses—“even if they are different and perhaps less dark.” Arendt wrote Origins of Totalitarianism from research and observations gathered during the 1940s, a very specific historical period. Nonetheless the book, Isaacs remarks, “raises a set of fundamental questions about how tyranny can arise and the dangerous forms of inhumanity to which it can lead.” Arendt’s analysis of propaganda and the function of lies seems particularly relevant at this moment. The kinds of blatant lies she wrote of might become so commonplace as to become banal. We might begin to think they are an irrelevant sideshow. This, she suggests, would be a mistake.

via Michiko Kakutani

Related Content:

Hannah Arendt’s Original Articles on “the Banality of Evil” in the New Yorker Archive

Enter the Hannah Arendt Archives & Discover Rare Audio Lectures, Manuscripts, Marginalia, Letters, Postcards & More

Hannah Arendt Discusses Philosophy, Politics & Eichmann in Rare 1964 TV Interview

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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  • Randy says:

    “the ideology of scientific racism”

    This line caught my attention, because it reflects precisely what is going on, on university campuses today, regarding things like “toxic masculinity” and “the patriarchy”.

    It’s why it’s OK to hit men. It’s why it’s OK to cut men. It’s why it’s OK to force men into war. It’s why it’s OK to lock men up. It’s why it’s OK to ignore male suicide.

    It’s amazing that we recently had a march whose missing reflects many of the issues facing men more than anyone else today, and not a word was said about how these impact men. It was all about women, even though the group most vulnerable to these problems is not women.

    These people happily pat each other on the back for fighting for “equality”. But they only care for a single group, the group least at risk.

    That is the banality of evil.

  • Randy says:

    Typo: “missing” should be “mission”. But “missing” is as good a word for it.

  • Sandy says:

    I understand why we have people calling Trump Hitler etc.
    Just by reading these articles and accepting what they say, not because they are accurate, but because they are in the academia. It is the perfect snooty rooty cazooty snobazooty.
    This kind of philosophy, as in this article, has appeal to the scholar snobs of the world.

  • C Baker says:

    Randy, your comment isn’t even a little on topic.

  • Josh Jones says:

    Sandy, this is an educational website, so I’m curious about why you’re here if you don’t value scholarship.

  • Russell Scott Day says:

    The USA has been first in many things. The Confederate States of America was Stalinist before Stalin got around to robbing banks.

  • Rich says:

    Lab Guy, didn’t you notice that Arendt looked at Stalin and Hitler? I suppose you didn’t get that far in the article. However, your implication that Obama somehow represents a totalitarian left is laughable. If you can’t understand what you read, maybe it’s best left not to comment.

  • Snowball says:

    Sandy is part of the US version of the Red Guards of China during the Cultural Revolution. Smash the intellectuals! They self-destructed because they had nothing to lose against the 1%, the scholar class and those with access to opportunities. Thousands died, and China has spent the past century trying to recover. If you go to China, most of the art, buildings, innovative ideas come from outside of China (until recently.)

    That is where you pathetic and self-defeating anti-intellectualism gets you.

  • Max says:

    This is a great explanation for the left’s continuing attempts to lead with emotion rather than facts. And the minions that follow are quick to act on that emotion due to their susceptibility. For it is far easier to answer the call of feelings than to work at a valid argument — if there is one.

  • Johnny White says:

    Sandy, it’s never too late. Wake up. Save yourself. trump may not be Hitler, but trump is toxic. Yer doing what trump needs to do, or suffer–eek– criticism. Which is to take a criticism of his own behavior and pin it on his “enemies”. Come out like the “victim”.

  • Esem says:

    Looks to me like this “Sandy” is doing exactly what the article talked about, diminishing information. Using silly made up words to diminish the possibility further. Not sure if she believes this, or if she is acting out sarcasm with that remark.

  • E says:

    The comments section on this article is so ironic I might throw up.

  • Dave says:

    Randy is putting forth just the kind of gaslighting the article refers to. The facts defy his statements. After a winning campaign of misogyny and racism, it’s astounding how he can make the claim he makes.

  • Ed Crist says:

    Humans have a long history of forgetting most of history. Over and over totalitarianism has thrived because otherwise good people yearn for safety and comfort promised by charismatic figures. Add to that, when ‘alternative facts’ get in the way of their comfort and security, they are at least shunned and at worse the intellectual is persecuted and often times killed (reference above to China and also Cambodia and Russia) . I am not optimistic that our species will ever purge itself of the need and desire of despots. Perhaps I’m wrong.

  • Emma says:

    I think Randy/Sandy are the same person, mistaking the Internet for Reddit.

  • McGillFluffyLeaves says:

    It’s important to not overanalyze human nature – it can always be boiled down into simple universal laws.
    People move.
    They act.
    Their acts have consequences.
    When people act together, the consequences of their actions multiply exponentially.
    If you want people to act together efficiently, you find a target – in 1930s Germany, the easy one was the Jews.
    If you want people to act together justly – that is, not harming others, and having obligations aimed in that direction – you find a way to stop people from moving, and have them do some yoga. That wouldn’t last very long.
    If you want to maximize “no harm” and have a productive society, people need to be taught to look after themselves enough to not care about hurting another, and looking after themselves hooks up with increasing comfort levels if we live in a society concerned with wealth.

  • McGillandLeaves says:

    It’s important to not overthink human nature and boil it down to simple, universal laws.
    People move.
    People act.
    Their actions have consequences.
    When people act together, the consequences of their actions multiply exponentially.
    If you want people to act together most efficiently, you need to find a target, Jews being perfect in 1930s Germany.
    If you want people to live in a just society, people have to stop moving and acting, and do yoga. That wouldn’t last long.
    But if you want to maximize justice without stopping our natural desires to move and act, and while increasing comfort levels, people have to care about themselves first enough to not bother with hurting other people, and tying that to the dollar reinforces that “self love” while increasing overall comfort.

  • Evan Hadkins says:

    Great article. It gets gaslighting slightly wrong though.

  • Diane Ramsey says:

    While everyone is debating how this happened and who to blame, we’re forgetting the basics: Trump is a narcissistic sociopath; a conman, a liar, an instinctive fascist. He hasn’t read any history or scholarly articles. He’s a natural populist/fascist which his supporters mistake for being “authentic”. If they thought for even a minute about the string of lies coming out of his mouth, they wouldn’t have voted for him. But what good con men do is make you stop thinking. “They” are all liars. “Listen only to me”. “Only I can save you”. Repeat endlessly. It’s downright hypnotic! That’s what we’re dealing with. We don’t really need a debate on what the GDP is in any particular year!

  • charlotte says:

    I really appreciate this kind of re-orientation after one frightening week of the Trump presidency. My code name for him is El Feo – the ugly one – because his actual name means to one-up someone – it’s almost too ironic to be true. The male ego won – the white supremacist won – the casual fascist won. Now we have to defend factuality, and that’s psychologically difficult. It means you have to constantly go back to what you know is true and question what will become the norm. The lessons of history don’t lie, however. After 9-11 the Patriot Act allowed the constitution to be enforced arbitrarily. For over 15 years the gas lighting has been at that level, too (yes, even under Obama!) Maybe the constitution doesn’t really say there’s a separation of church and state, maybe we are not all created equal, maybe climate change is a hoax, etc. Blame it on liberals and the media. But historical evidence and artifacts don’t lie: look at how degraded and disgusting Nazi culture was. Women were given a heavy, ugly iron cross for making babies who would become cannon fodder, an insult added to their injury but which was considered an honor. Just look at the aesthetics when the lies become too much: El Feo’s ugliness projected everywhere – his version of greatness. Look at the aesthetic of the Italian movement of Fascism, replacing the beautiful art and culture with ugly monuments to militarism – monuments that they later took down and are ashamed of. Look at Germany’s ugly monuments – the death camps. Look at El Feo’s projected discomfort with himself and tactless gaudy demeanor. It’s no wonder so many US citizens have a kind of collective PTSD right now. Once coping is established, however, we’ll be back, and stronger than before.

  • Jonas Planck says:

    There’s just one small yet enormous problem with this analysis:

    The people oppressing men ARE men. Which means that in order to “free” the oppressed men, you have to oppress men in order to do it. And by an extraordinary coincidence, the very same men that you’re going to have to oppress just happen to be the ones who own all the media and use it to complain incessantly about how “oppressed” they are, which makes you the bad guy. So good luck with that, I hope you manage to successfully stop the oppression of men by oppressing men. That would be one hell of a trick if you ever menage to pull it off. But since the most likely outcome is that you’ll end up oppressing everybody else, we’ll just have to pretend that your impossible goal has already been achieved and insist that the current status quo is the best you’re ever going to do.

  • Paul Humphries says:

    @Lab Guy – why do you think Russian hacking is nonsense?

  • Mike Flores says:

    Interesting but flawed article.

    The first problem is it presumes “propaganda” means lying. Propaganda just means, persuasion. It is part of psychological warfare. The best propaganda is the truth.

    When I hear, and I hear it a lot these days, Trump is far worse than Hitler I just think “bad propaganda”. Anyone who looks up Hitler on the internet will quickly discover there is no comparison. No private paramilitary group, no forced sterilization of enemies, etc. Now if someone says, Trump is in over his head and doesn’t know what he’s doing, that too is propaganda but it is far more effective. It is very hard to argue against that. It has enough truth to make it hard to argue against.

    Why was the German military not stationed around the death camps?
    There was no propaganda that could hide what was being done.

    Word would get back to families in Germany. No propaganda could cover that up. Word did trickle back to Germans from guards, but the guards were mostly ex communists who had joined the SA and then were folded into the SS. As communists they had read Marx and Engels on the necessity of wiping out the Slavic race and to kill practicing Jews. Marx and Engels wrote this material for years, for example saying all Slavic people should be killed to make way for the German worker. They had these beliefs before they became nazis.

    German society already had laws aimed against Jews. Before Hitler went into power Jews couldn’t own guns for example.

    Propaganda did not create that. Religion did. Jews were blamed by the Catholic Church for killing a God. So this was taught people as children long before Hitler came to power. It was taught to Hitler too.

    Hitler by the way, was both Catholic and a follower of Hegel. He condemned Communists because they didn’t do what Marx wanted, he promised from day one to do it.

    My point is, Hitler’s propaganda did not create the mindset. Marx and Engels promoted the idea. The mindset was already there.

    FDR wasn’t raised in Germany was he? Yet he refused to meet with Jesse Owens, the Project M files have been revealed so we know he believed in eugenics and the inferiority of Jews. He wasn’t anywhere near nazi propaganda. Yet how does one explain his lack of interest in bombing the gas chambers at the unguarded death camps?

    So, if propaganda didn’t cause the murders, what did? How would we stop a Hitler?

    To stop Hitler you would have to assassinate Woodrow Wilson- and his wife! Let me explain. Do you know any historian who doesn’t say the Treaty of Versailles caused the economic collapse of Germany? Woodrow had strokes and was in various forms of incompetence which his wife, Edith our first female President, hid from everyone. The idea of a nation that lost paying for what all the nations spent on the war is a “momism”. You broke the window, you pay for it. Had Edith told advisers what Woodrow was going through I doubt that would have been included.

    What would have happened if we had not entered the war?

    Had Germany won World War 1, there would be an Irish Republic. No treaty so no economic collapse. No collapse no rise of the left in Germany. Franco would not have been put in place by the British. No World War 2 so no 70 million dead. If only we had lost World War 1…. an irony of history.

    Propaganda does not create history. Saying it does, is bad propaganda.

  • dentss says:

    That’s the real purpose of it all …it to distract everyone from the real crimes of the left ….

  • Thom McCann says:

    Be afraid.

    Be very much afraid.

    Dangerous precedents have been set by the likes of Roosevelt (Relocation of Japanese-Americans), Nixon (“preventative detention of protesters) with Bush, Obama (bypassing congress), Christie (Washington Bridge scandal), etc. for a future dictator to work within the laws of the U.S.

    Inadvertently President Obama may not be aware of what he did in the U.S. government with his many executive actions independent of congress.

    On February 21, 1934, German State Secretary, Werner Willikens, and Ministry of Food said, “Everyone who has the opportunity to observe it knows that the Führer can hardly dictate from above everything he intends to realize sooner or later. On the contrary, up till now everyone with a post in the new Germany has worked best when he has, so to speak, worked towards the Führer…”

    Ian Kershaw in his book “Working towards the Führer” suggests a strange kind of political structure.

    Not one in which those in power issue orders but one in which those at the lower end of the hierarchy initiate policies themselves within what they take to be the spirit of the regime and carry on implementing them until corrected.

    He famously joked in a college commencement address in 2009 at at Arizona State University that he could use the IRS to target political enemies but of course he never would.

    It appears that people at the Internal Revenue Service didn’t think he was joking. He also said that Latinos should vote and not just say (in Obama’s words), “We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”

    These “enemies” he spoke of are other American citizens.

    Jörg Muth explained in Foreign Policy Magazine: “Interestingly, the literally hundreds of American [war] observers who were regularly send to the old continent during the 19th century never noticed Auftragstaktik, a command concept in which even the most junior officers [and NCOs] were required to make far reaching decisions.”

    Not a single written document signed by Hitler has ever been found authorizing the SS murderers to wipe out Untermenschen or to killing foreign slave workers or Jews in concentration death camps or by starving them or working them to death.

    In England too, Henry II said, ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’ and the barons rushed to Canterbury to murder Thomas Becket. No direct order was given, but the courtiers sensed what would please their king.

    President Harry S Truman in 1961 said; “I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in ’47, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo.”

    To get a frightening idea of an ordinary citizen caught in the web of corrupt officials and men in the NSA watch the film (also on the web) “Enemy of The State” with Gene Hackman and Will Smith.

    The question is “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who will guard the guards?”).

  • Barbara Murphy-Bridge says:

    Interesting you assume ‘Sandy’ is female. Any particular reason ? Just curious.

  • Peielio says:

    ” but the guards were mostly ex communists who had joined the SA and then were folded into the SS.”

    You have no idea you are talking about, huh?
    Show me evidences they (“kapos”) “were mostly” comunists.
    I see what you are trying to do: spreading the meme “comunist = nazist” is an old and naïve trick. I know people like you and it will not gonna happen.
    Buy a book, kid, and try to learn something instead.

  • Rich says:

    There is nothing at all inaccurate about this article, academic or not. It’s known history.

  • Rich says:

    Now do Donald Trump.

  • Everett says:

    I bet only one side gets the irony, the correct side and the other side-triggered.

  • Jacqueline Alexander says:

    Recently I have become very interested in the civil war era. I do not see the relationship between Stalin and that portion of the United States (the confederacy),who made a bid for their freedom from the oppression of the government of the northern states and Lincoln during the late 1800’s. Whatever the motivating factors make no mistake it was a bid for southern freedom.
    The propaganda of this era slants all aspects of the reality of what the truth of the civil war. What is the true goal of all the anti southerner- pro afro/American propaganda of today? I have worked in an atmosphere, where it was explained to me that afroamericans are taught no person of white origins should get a job that a person of color can get.
    So what are the real modern day issues clouding what was the efforts of one part of America fighting for their freedom in the 1800s?
    Today The population of afro Americans is 12%. What was it in the 1800’s. What rational mind could accept that thousands of peoole were killed over one issue involving a very small portion of the population. A part of the population which in fact fought with other southerners against Abraham Lincoln and the union?

  • Dord says:

    What you described isn’t racism, and it doesn’t happen in the terms you’re describing. It’s really telling about yourself that you try to tweak reality, and disguise a minor social issue as the raise the fascism (your last line).
    Perfect example of gas-lighting, thx.

  • H8dogma says:

    It’s apparent this article has awoken many Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute trolls. The less scholarly type, acted out well by the perpetrators .

  • David Davies says:

    “…how the Third Reich came to power in the early 1930s. Paramilitary gangs terrorizing the opposition, the incompetence and opportunism of German conservatives…”

    They would be the templates for AntiFa and the ‘Never Trump’ wing of the Republican Party.

    Easy to see that it is the Left ‘Progressives’ who are the threat to individual freedom. Only those completely blinded by their indoctrination fail to see it.

    Viva Trump!

  • Peggy says:

    The quote is incorrect and meaningless – “No one has the right to obey.” A source says the name Kant is missing from the end, but I can’t vouch for that.

  • Greg says:

    Name ten lies he told…

  • Fábio de Oliveira Ribeiro says:

    This enlightened woman has a lot to tell us. Her work is becoming essential to understand what is happening in the US, Europe and Brazil. In recent years I have read and reread all #HannahArendt books.

  • Rick says:

    Wow, he conservative and Russian trolls are out in force in the comments section of this article, trying to twist even this warning to fit their narrative, or to simply obfuscate. They are doing exactly what the article discusses.

  • Gibson Fenderstrat says:

    Don’t you mean “Heil” Trump?

  • Tom says:

    “The power of the few requires the folly of many” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • Dsekou says:

    Mike Flores did with history what the article observed that totalitarian groups do rewrite it to the point past absurdity..

  • John Stewart says:

    See also Alex Comfort’s 1950 study ‘Authority and delinquency’

  • Tormod says:

    You’re not big on irony at Open Culture, hmmm!
    Only last week you posted the most ridiculous example of propaganda I have seen for many years. Allow me to remind you.
    It was a piece concerning the Russian forces raising a flag. The essence was that the picture had been staged and for propaganda purposes. No mention was made of a similar incident involving US forces. If you’re going to publish articles about propaganda, try citing yourselves as willing participants.

  • Gregory Wonderwheel says:

    To understand propaganda, I go to the master, Adolf Hitler. Hitler said he learned about propaganda from the Western business advertising techniques who were the OG masters of propaganda. In discussing the efficacy of soap ads, he says, “What, for example, would we say about a poster that was supposed to advertise a new soap and that described other soaps as ‘good’?
    We would only shake our heads.
    Exactly the same applies to political advertising.”
    Some of the tips for effective propaganda that Hitler states read like a playbook of the Republican Party, which is why their propaganda works better than the Democratic Party’s propaganda.
    Hitler’s tips for effective propaganda from Volume 1, Chapter 6 of the book Mein Kampf:
    ~ take a one-sided attitude toward every question;
    ~ don’t make half statements that might give rise to doubts;
    ~ don’t weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively emphasize the one view which you have set out to argue for;
    ~ don’t make an objective study of the truth, as it may favor the opposition by its fairness, therefore only serve your own view, always and unflinchingly;
    ~ load every bit of blame on the shoulders of the opposition, even if this does not correspond to the true facts;
    ~ repeat only the simplest ideas and repeat them thousands of times so that in the end you must always say the same thing.
    ~ an audience can only comprehend a slogan and the slogan must be presented from different angles, but the end of all remarks must always and immutably be the slogan itself.
    ~ limit your presentation to a few points, devised exclusively for the general audience and carried on with indefatigable persistence.
    ~ even the most outlandish claims will eventually be believed through the continuity and sustained uniformity of their application.

  • Gregory Wonderwheel says:

    Freedom to own other people as slaves is not simply “a bid for southern freedom.” This argument of “southern freedom” is one of the most absurd comments I have come across recently. The confederate rebellion and insurrection was justified as the Christian right to own people as slaves. Didn’t work then and doesn’t work now.

  • Gregory Wonderwheel says:

    Whilhelm Reich pointed out that totalitarianism came in many colors: Black fascism of Italy, Brown fascism of Germany, Red fascism of the USSR, and the Red, White and Blue fascism of the USA.

  • Jeff Thomas says:

    Sandy comment above is so on point to how intellectual arguments are now frowned upon in my country the UK during the brexit Referendum Michael Gove a prominent conservative minister reacted to academic reasoning against rising nationalism and the brexit vote ” dont believe experts ” so academic debate was shut down. I felt this was a good critique but Sandy’s response sounded like a trump supporter screaming fake news

  • Elizabeth says:

    Agree. But these problems you suggest are inflicted on men are done so by other men. Stop picking on women because of their struggle. Fight against the system. Fight against patriarchy. That’s where your problems lie.

  • Mike says:

    A) ‘Sandy’ is more often a woman’s name, just like ‘Babara.’

    B) The language sounded like my idea of a woman.
    “It is the perfect snooty rooty cazooty snobazooty.”

    ..and I definitely could be wrong. But, I’d bet a small sum that I’m not.

  • Mike says:

    …gaslighting, BIG time.

    Tell me, do you vote for Trump and watch a lot of Fox News?

  • Sabine says:

    You exagerate. Toxic masculinity is a reality, it does not mean all men are toxic, but patriarchy is.

  • john says:

    u are clueless and totally missed the point of the article so you are part of the problem

  • Martin Greaves says:

    Thom McCann says no documents have been discovered that were signed by Hitler to request the murder of Jews. This ignores the fundamental problem all dictators face. Their position is achieved mostly through the promotion of their absolute power utilizing the “strong man” image. In other words; I’m in charge and nothing is done without my express authorization or without recourse to the extreme ideology I formulated and represent. I am the king of all I survey, supreme ruler of all my dominions. To promote such an image where you are absolute ruler, practically a deity, you therefore have to accept responsibility for any action carried out by your minions, no excuses, you’re the guy in charge. Let’s call it “The Buck Stops Here” principle. Such as Hitler cannot proclaim themselves as the soul of the German people but then say these bad people acted of their own accord, it was nothing to do with me. Nothing gets done without your explicit say-so, buddy, you’re the big I Am around here. Besides, are you seriously suggesting the German war machine spent billions of marks and used massive military and civil resources to carry out the Final Solution and old Adolf didn’t have a clue it was happening? Pull the other one, as we say in England, it’s got bells on it.

  • Alexis says:

    you should read the entire chapter by Hannah Arendt that this article is partly based on. It’s chapter 11 in her book, Origins of Totalitarianism and speaks all about what propaganda, how it works and why it was necessary for the Nazis to use it.

  • ROBERTO says:

    Hay populismos de derecha y de izquierda. A veces viran de D a I y de I a D. en los extremos se tocan al punto de ser todos fascistas de manera muy evidente. El comunismo marxista, sangriento, obsoleto, odiado y fracasado, vira hacia los populismos. Cambia para obtener el poder con las urnas, extinguida la vía revolucionaria pero con el totalitarismo a flor de piel, implícito en su “relato”. El uso sistemático de la mentira en un sentido goebbeliano, las chicanas de trinchera, los panfletos que intentan cambiar a la historia seria y verdadera por el relato de turno, las nomenklaturas repugnantemente enriquecidas y los líderes glorificados como “portadores del pensamiento y la verdad únicos” en el tradicional culto a la personalidad. En Argentina fueron pioneros con el golpe de estado del coronel pedófilo Perón en el año 43 y que se inspiró -muy evidentemente para todo el mundo- en Mussolini, su admirado tirano, cosa que rápidamente imitó y desfalcó rápidamente al Banco Central, repleto de lingotes de oro transformando eso en dádivas, regalitos, espejitos y cuentas de colores y a la postre algunos pocos beneficios y mejoras reales para la clase obrera, aunque nunca combatió al capital y si protegió a los nazis durante y después de la gran guerra. El peronismo populista ya sea en el poder, ya sea como opositor siempre creó una grieta y determinó enemigos (y no opositores) Generó sus propios opuestos con la triple A y con los montoneros/erp que asesinaron a miles de personas con total impunidad hasta el día de hoy. Su ideología en tanto populista de nombre solo es corrupción, delincuencia y en esencia una carencia de moral, ética y valores: esa es la verdadera grieta, La realidad en su quintaesencia es que no les importa el pueblo para nada, manipulan a las masas, generan su propio rebaño y verdaderamente desprecian usan al “pueblo pobre y a los más frágiles y necesitados” a quienes dicen proteger y promover y les tiran unos planes y subsidios a los que nunca hicieron nada de nada por generaciones (salvo robar y drogarse) y ya son millones. Con el último gobierno (el actual) de C. Fernandez y su delegado en la presidencia A. Fernandez, están destruyendo a la clase media, expulsan empresas y evitan que lleguen los inversores de afuera. El totalitarismo y el fascismo subyace en todas sus acciones y discursos. El Podemos de los españoles es algo así como una copia y el norte es la narco-tiranía de Maduro en Venezuela. Todo monitoreado por Cuba y ayudado por Rusia, China e Irán. Odian al capitalismo (aunque se aprovechan de él por completo (exiliados pero no en Cuba sino en Usa o París), odian Occidente, a la clase media y a los medios periodísticos independientes y libertarios que dicen la verdad de sus deleznables acciones. Se sienten progres pero solo tienen un barniz y nuevamente usan a la “progresía”. Feministas por ideología no miran ¡hipócritas y mentirosas! lo que pasa en el mundo. Capaces sin que se les caiga la cara de vergüenza, de inaugurar con gran despliegue militante, ¡una canilla! ¡dos veces!…un hospital ¡tres veces! y aún no está en funcionamiento y ensucian edificios, calles, etc con el nombre de sus líderes asesinos , corruptos y delincuentes.

  • Keith says:

    God, I so hope this post goes through, it probably won’t, but Im’ma try anyway. If you look into the history books of last century, you find something none of y’all see, that the over whelming majority of the 250 million human beings slaughtered by their own governments were so slaughtered at the hands of intellectuals and their henchmen. Hitler, intellectual, Mao, intellectual, Marx, intellectual, Stallin, intellectual, Lenin, intellectual, the list goes on and on and on, filled with monster after monster of people that have assured the human species that they would create heaven, but then create hell. Then after creating hell, go through great lengths to convince you that you are in heaven.
    Well, it’s 22 years into this century now, and the totalitarian beast is rearing it’s ugly head again, only this time it’s not some isolated country, it’s all of western civilization. Billions of people, trying their best to make it from one day to the next without major malfunction. I’m predicting before the starvation phase begins, at least 50 million humans are going to die, setting the tone for the 21st century. And all because most of you are so enchanted by intellectual sorcery, you can’t tell the difference between wisdom and high minded rhetoric. And before you seek to protest too much, I’d like to ask you, what are your pronouns?
    I will give you this, what most of you say about Trump is pretty close to true, he is a monster. But he’s the monster trying to slay the monsters under our bed and hiding in our closet, in the light of day instead of in the dark places, where most monsters fear to tread. To think that he’s really any different then any of the monsters you love? Well, that’s just rich. In fact, if there is any differences at all, is that he’s rubber and he’s glue, every thing you say bounces of of him and sticks to you. (long pause for effect) Neener neener…
    Wake the hell up, the powers that be have us divided by creating an artificial super majority, one that once they are done subduing the true majority, they can systemically, part by part, subdue the rest of you, made evident by the relative ease in which the left ends up eating itself. Who shall be next, will it be the Gays, maybe the blacks? How about the indigenous?

  • JoeJack says:

    Before you comment on someone, you should become informed about them. Posting blather is easy, but digging for facts is not.

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