Nazi Germany Redeux? In Nazi Germany The Government Was The Media

By Dan Schmitt | January 28, 2017 | “Propaganda could make believers out of doubters. Propaganda, only propaganda is necessary.   ...

By Dan Schmitt | January 28, 2017 |

“Propaganda could make believers out of doubters. Propaganda, only propaganda is necessary.  
There is no end of stupid people.”
Adolph Hitler

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister

Within a year of Hitler and his Nazi Party assuming power in Germany, control of all forms of communication (newspapers, magazines, public meetings, movies and radio) occurred.  The Nazi Party, under the direction of Hitler and his Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, determined what information Germans were exposed to, and most of that information involved obfuscation of the truth and outright lies.  Misinformation permeated all aspects of communication in Germany including information about the crowd sizes of Hitler rallies. 

Hitler considered himself a demigod, and there are many things demigods fear.  At the top of the list is when the masses start seeing them as just another ordinary leader. Hence, the common practice of convincing the public that crowd sizes are “huge” at rallies and other public ceremonies.  Goebbels was very adept at putting out that misinformation.      

Last Saturday was President Trump’s first full day in office, and I thought about the Hitler quote as I listened to our new president give a speech to CIA agents, a speech in which he insisted that a million to a million and a half people attended his inauguration.  You might be wondering “what the hell Trump was doing talking about his inauguration crowd size at the CIA.”  Well, that’s what narcissistic demigods do!

Later in the day, I thought about the Goebbels quote as I watched the new White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, give his 5-minute diatribe to the press corps.  During those few minutes, Spicer excoriated the press for putting out inaccurate statistics about the number of people who had attended the inauguration.  According to Spicer, “Trump’s swearing-in-ceremony had the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”  And this morning, I thought about both quotes as I listened to Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior aide, on This Week with George Stephanopoulus back up Spicer’s lies when she argued that Spicer had not lied but had presented “alternative facts” about the size of the inauguration crowd.

The German people of the 1930s had no access to alternate information that countered the Nazi lies.  There were no cell phone cameras, no TV cameras, no helicopter photos, no satellite imagery.  Today, of course, it is different.  We live in a technological age that provides us with all that and more.  The National Park Service does not put out estimates of crowd sizes for presidential inaugurations, but visual photographs comparing President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration attendance (estimated at 1.8 million people) with President Trump’s showed Friday’s Inauguration was far smaller.  These photos were refuted by Spicer and Conway.  I guess they think all 300 million plus Americans are blind!  During the election season, Trump was prone to spewing misinformation and lies.  Now as president, he has his propaganda people in place, and that will make it more difficult for Americans to distinguish fact from fiction.  

In Nazi Germany the government was the media.  Fortunately, that is not the case in the United States given our First Amendment.  Consequently, the Trump propaganda team is hell-bent on discrediting the media any way it can.  Americans should get ready for a continued barrage of misinformation and lies.    Black will be turned into white.  Up will become down.  Left will be right.  That is, of course, unless our media has the skill, the intestinal fortitude and the perseverance to take a stance against the Trump Administration’s propaganda.  The media must engage in its own barrage of truth and balanced perspectives.  Even that won’t be enough if the American people buy into the Trump Administration’s lies.  Our 230-year-old democracy rests upon our desire to care about the truth.

PS:  To get a clearer picture of what the future might look like if we fail to value truth, I suggest we all reread George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”       


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