The Joseph Goebbels Award for Best Propaganda

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I propose a new award: The Joseph Goebbels Award for Best Propaganda to be awarded to the journalist, editorialist, talk show host or other propagandist who has done the best job of helping the American people to persuade themselves to go along with the ruling regime. Here are my nominees, please send me yours with links where possible.

  • Charles Krauthammer for his article rationalizing torture. (The Truth About Torture in The Weekly Standard).
  • Judith Miller for her numerous New York Times articles on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

A sobering thought from Jacques Ellul about propaganda:

But in order for propaganda to be so far-ranging, it must correspond to a need. The State has that need: Propaganda is obviously a necessary instrument for the State and the authorities. But while this fact may dispel the concept of the propagandist simply as an evil-doer, it still leaves the idea of propaganda as an active power vs. passive masses. And we insist that this idea, too, must be dispelled: For propaganda to succeed, it must correspond to a need for propaganda on the individual’s part. One can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink; one cannot reach through propaganda those who do not need what it offers. The propagandee is by no means just an innocent victim. He provides the psychological action of propaganda, and not merely leads himself to it, but even derives satisfaction from it. Without this previous, implicit consent, without this need for propaganda experienced by practically every citizen of the technological age, propaganda could not spread. There is not just a wicked propagandist at work who sets up means to ensnare the innocent citizen. Rather, there is a citizen who craves propaganda from the bottom of his being and a propagandist who responds to this craving. Propagandists would not exist without potential propagandees to begin with. To understand that propaganda is not just a deliberate and more or less arbitrary creation by some people in power is therefore essential. It is a strictly sociological phenomenon, in the sense that it has its roots and reasons in the need of the group that will sustain it.

2:30 pm on December 15, 2005