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Who watches the watchers?

Posted By Craige McMillan On 11/19/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

While those on the House Judiciary Committee debate whether the rule of law is worth preserving in America, a look at the techniques employed by the president’s defenders is revealing.

Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), in defending the democratically-elected regime of Adolph Hitler — a government responsible for the extermination of some six million Jews and many Christians who opposed the F[cedilla]hrer — extracted his cardinal rules for successful propaganda from Mein Kampf, written by Hitler (1889-1945?) during the time he was imprisoned at Landsberg fortress:

Goebbels defending F[cedilla]hrer’Spokesmen’ defending PresidentAvoid abstract ideas and appeal instead to the emotions”Most people feel …” ”The president knows how painful this is for …”Constant repetition of just a few ideas, using stereotyped phrases and avoiding objectivity”It’s the economy, stupid!” ”It’s about sex!” ”Doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment”Put forth only one side of the argument”Perjury in civil court doesn’t matter”Constantly criticize enemies of the state”Republican proposals are too extreme” ”Republicans have moved too far from the center …” ”Republican views don’t represent the mainstream …” ”Right-wing extremists, hate-talk radio”Identify one special enemy for special vilificationSpecial Prosecutor Kenneth StarrSource:Propaganda and Persuasion, by Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, 1986, Sage Publications, London.

Propaganda is, as Goebbels wrote, again extracting from Mein Kampf:

    “a carefully built up erection of statements, which whether true or false can be made to undermine quite rigidly held ideas and to construct new ones that will take their place. It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. What after all are a square and a circle? They are mere words and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas in disguise.” [Thompson, O. 1977, Mass Persuasion in History: Edinburgh: Paul Harris.]

Or as Propaganda and Persuasion puts it:

    “A key to Hitler’s thinking was that he saw the masses as “malleable, corrupt and corruptible,” and open to emotional appeals; but especially he realized that propaganda could become much more effective if it was stiffened with a large dose of intimidation and terror.”

In describing Adolph Hitler’s rise to power, the Columbia-Viking Desk Encyclopedia explains:

    “Secretly backed by a few great industrialists (who hoped to use him as a tool for their own ends), he [Hitler] controlled a powerful press and a private militia … in 1934, 88% of the voters favored the union of the presidency and the chancellorship in the person of the F[cedilla]hrer … the ruin and misery that Hitler’s folly and cruelty brought upon the world and his own people is beyond computation.” [1953, Columbia University Press.]

The purpose of propaganda is to victimize. It is a lie designed to advance an agenda. That agenda is to place certain people who espouse politically-popular ideology above the inconvenience of the law. By so doing, the president’s defenders remove from the rest of us the protection of the law. At that moment, we stand naked and vulnerable to the mercy of people who have none.

The Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate are perilously close to ushering in a brave new age. But the world has been here once before. The cries of six million Jews, made less than human before their bodies fueled the fires of Buchenwald, Dachau, and Belsen, urge another course upon our leaders. “Never again!” is perhaps not so long ago as many of us supposed. As citizens, we need only to open our eyes to the horrors that exploded within Germany during 1933-1945 to see the consequences of our impending action. We dare not imagine that destroying the rule of law in America will have consequences any less grave. Heil to the chief.


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