"Those who control language, control the perception of reality."
Hitler, who was half-genius, half-insane, did understand propaganda. He said the masses were "feminine," ruled by their feelings, never thought and were never rational (incidentally, Hitler was democratically - and democracy is feminine - voted into office by women - the vast majority of men voted against him, while the vast majority of women did).
However, the originator of modern organized propaganda techniques in the United States was Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays described three main characteristics of successful propaganda, ones that everyone should know so they can become immune to it.
The main reason people should be aware of how propaganda works because it can used to start completely unnecessary wars.
The first thing successful propaganda does is appeal to people’s emotions while deluding them it appeals is to their reason.
The second thing is to demonize or dehumanize the “enemy.”
The third thing is to claim after the enemy is defeated it will be a better, safer world.
All three of these characteristics of propaganda do not stand alone; all of them are so interrelated that one cannot exist without the others.
The emotions that propaganda appeals to are not our adult emotions. They’re not even childish emotions. They’re the infantile ones.
The infantile emotions that propaganda appeals to is our narcissistic tendency to split things into all-good or all-bad, either good or evil with no shades of grey. I think it’s the basis of our self-righteousness, which is one of those emotions that I don’t see as having much good to it.
This splitting into good or evil is how we can demonize or dehumanize whoever has been defined as the enemy. This splitting is a well-known logical fallacy – and the easiest way to recognize it as propaganda is by the insistence of the propagandist that you are under attack by insane evil monsters who want nothing more than to destroy you. And once the monsters are destroyed, only the good is left.
As George Orwell put it, “Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”
In war, both combatants define themselves as good and their “enemies” as evil. George Bush was using propaganda when he said “the evil ones” attacked us “for our goodness” – simple-minded foolishness that many a 12-year-old could see though. And of course once the “evil ones” were eradicated it’d be a better, safer world, especially for the “homeland.”
Bush’s comments were the purest, simplest and most infantile form of propaganda.
This splitting into all-good and all-bad is very primitive, and researchers believe it goes back to when we are infants. In other words, demonizing or dehumanizing the enemy is infantile and not adult.
This brings us to Bernay’s third characteristic of propaganda: if the enemy is exterminated, it will be a better, safer world.
To exterminate enemies you have to, again, demonize or dehumanize them and make them into evil monsters, who, being evil monsters, want only to destroy. In other words, with enough violence, killing and destruction, there will be harmony and peace (there is an old saying: “The butcher is held in high esteem in Harmony”).
Unfortunately, it is far too easy to get the mass of men to march off to war. As Hermann Goering said,
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, 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 greater danger."
Obviously, it is vitally important for people to know how propaganda works. If they don’t they can be manipulated into killing and dying for the most meaningless of reasons.
The way propaganda works on the masses is almost magic.