[November 15, 2023] A common theme of mine is that for propaganda to succeed, it must rely on strong leadership. Predictably, propaganda is associated with war since many of a nation’s strongest leaders are in their military services. Of course, it is not limited to wartime and often makes the most insidious contributions in peace.
“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” – Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II
Winston Churchill’s central belief leading up to and during WWII was that England must do everything possible to survive. He did so because, in his thinking, England represented the flagship of free government in a universal struggle with totalitarianism. Survival of England meant that Europe would eventually throw off the yoke of Nazism and return to its peaceful self. Thus, propaganda to help rally the home front and motivate its citizens to stand united was a crucial goal. This can be seen as a positive aspect of propaganda.
On the flip side of democratic England was Nazi Germany. The Nazi government extensively used propaganda and for similar purposes. Germans were told that they were the savior of Europe and that their survival depended on defeating materialistic and hedonistic democracies and the chaos of Bolshevism. Any failure of National Socialism to achieve victory over them would mean anarchy in Europe and the destruction of the German people. For an extensive discussion on this topic, see Randall Bytwerk’s webpage (link here).
Propaganda serves to rally people behind a cause. This is what leaders do and is the epitome of a great leader, as discussed here on several occasions (see links here, here, and here). Leaders do this in war and peace, using selective stories, partial facts, chosen “experts,” and appealing to people’s fear. Several techniques are used to accomplish this goal, but centralized leadership is the key to its effectiveness.
England survived, and Nazi Germany was destroyed. While many variables led to the victory over the Axis powers during WWII, propaganda was certainly one of the more important reasons the Allies won. Next time, we’ll address propaganda use today.
Today’s world is in the middle of a struggle of ideological narratives supported by extensive propaganda efforts. Recently, we have seen an explosion of propaganda supporting “the Palestinian cause.” But will they succeed in convincing the West that Palestine deserves saving? That is an unanswered question that every national leader is watching closely. Let’s all hope that they fail, or like in Europe of the 1930s, we will see the spread of hate and evil that is not easily put back in its place.
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