In a debate on Facebook, I noticed some typical fascist communication practices:
“Othering” – turning another person or group into an “other” – not the same/different. This allows that person or group to do whatever they want to those “others.” They are no longer human or deserving of the treatment they themselves would want. (My friend Scott Phillips recently wrote a great post about this process).
Avoiding discussion/debate in favor of rhetoric, name-calling, etc. – This is also avoiding discussion of values. If the moderate person in the argument had asked whether or not the conservative valued freedom, he would probably say “yes.” If asked whether he valued the right to life, he would probably say “yes.” If you asked why then it is okay for a person to ask another to suck on their machine gun…what would the conservative say? The avoidance of discussion/debate allows people to get away with believing whatever they want, with no repercussions (at least, to their mind).
Selective discussion/presentation – These types also are very careful about selecting what information to discuss or reveal. Hence, Nazi book-burning practices, etc.
Preying on “weakness” (usually to mask feelings of failure or weakness) – this is also “name-calling.” Most of the Nazi “elite” were failures in something prior to the rise of the Nazi regime, and carried a lot of shame regarding those failures.
No personal accountability – reference is made to ideals like “freedom” or “rights” or other things, but when the rubber meets the road, the individuals often shirk personal responsibility or accountability, either by pointing fingers, or by the other techniques above. Some “rules” for this type of communication have been laid out.
1. Propagandist must have access to intelligence concerning events and public opinion.
2. Propaganda must be planned and executed by only one authority.
a. It must issue all the propaganda directives.
b. It must explain propaganda directives to important officials and maintain their morale.
c. It must oversee other agencies’ activities which have propaganda consequences
3. The propaganda consequences of an action must be considered in planning that action.
4. Propaganda must affect the enemy’s policy and action.
a. By suppressing propagandistically desirable material which can provide the enemy with useful intelligence
b. By openly disseminating propaganda whose content or tone causes the enemy to draw the desired conclusions
c. By goading the enemy into revealing vital information about himself
d. By making no reference to a desired enemy activity when any reference would discredit that activity
5. Declassified, operational information must be available to implement a propaganda campaign
6. To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.
7. Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false.
8. The purpose, content and effectiveness of enemy propaganda; the strength and effects of an expose; and the nature of current propaganda campaigns determine whether enemy propaganda should be ignored or refuted.
9. Credibility, intelligence, and the possible effects of communicating determine whether propaganda materials should be censored.
10. Material from enemy propaganda may be utilized in operations when it helps diminish that enemy’s prestige or lends support to the propagandist’s own objective.
11. Black rather than white propaganda may be employed when the latter is less credible or produces undesirable effects.
12. Propaganda may be facilitated by leaders with prestige.
13. Propaganda must be carefully timed.
a. The communication must reach the audience ahead of competing propaganda.
b. A propaganda campaign must begin at the optimum moment
c. A propaganda theme must be repeated, but not beyond some point of diminishing effectiveness
14. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
a. They must evoke desired responses which the audience previously possesses
b. They must be capable of being easily learned
c. They must be utilized again and again, but only in appropriate situations
d. They must be boomerang-proof
15. Propaganda to the home front must prevent the raising of false hopes which can be blasted by future events.
16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.
a. Propaganda must reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat
b. Propaganda must diminish anxiety (other than concerning the consequences of defeat) which is too high and which cannot be reduced by people themselves
17. Propaganda to the home front must diminish the impact of frustration.
a. Inevitable frustrations must be anticipated
b. Inevitable frustrations must be placed in perspective
18. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.
19. Propaganda cannot immediately affect strong counter-tendencies; instead it must offer some form of action or diversion, or both.
…more on Goebbels, a simpler list, that might be called:
Name Calling – making judgement without evidence…playing on hate/fear.
Glittering Generalities – appeal to “virtue words” and ideal states – playing on love/generosity/social-instincts
Transfer – carrying over of respect/reverence for one thing (e.g. God), to the propagandist’s mission.
Testimonial – “social proof”
Plain Folks – a tool made to appeal to everyone by claiming to be/value “plain folks.”
Card Stacking – use of all tools to win favor – use of “under-emphasis and over-emphasis to dodge issues and evade facts.”
Band Wagon – another form of social proof
and, one not on the list:
Force – As Rory Miller says – “Force is a form of communication. It is the most emphatic possible way of saying “no”. For years my job was to say no, sometimes very emphatically, to violent people.”
Also see the book “The Family”
Of course, many of Goebbels’ techniques were taken from then-known marketing methods.
Modern marketing uses the same rules, though to slightly less devious ends (sometimes).
What all of these are exploiting is the “social instinct” in human animals. This instinct is literally hard-wired into us, in the form of mirror-neurons. When we see another person, a set of pre-frontal-cortex (i.e., pre-conscious) neurons fire that basically mimic that person’s mien in our own bodies (there’s some evidence that this holds true when we see dogs, with whom we have a very long evolutionary history). A mechanism in our bodies mimics what they’re experiencing (that we can notice). This is how you can “get a feeling” about how (or what) someone is doing before you’ve verbally communicated with them.
So the rules are very basic, very fundamental. There are rules, too, to what happens in conflict situations, that are similarly based on physiological response patterns ingrained in our bodily beings.
I’ve written before asking why people agree to submit to things that aren’t in their best interests. This, I think, is largely the reason. People within societies want to conform. In fact, for a society to exist, conformity (at least on some level) must occur – it is not an option. In that case, not conforming is seen as a crime against society. So, there is “freedom” as long as it is freedom within the bounds of your society (whatever that may be).
We humans also participate in at least three societies or cultures, if not more, at any given time. We are in the society of ourselves – our individuality, our inner thoughts and feelings. We are in the society of our families and/or peers (these may be radically different, or one may not be present at all), which will be different from our “self society.” And we are in a larger society, our culture on a grand scale (for me, the “United States”), which, again, will lie on some continuum of alignment with my inner society, as well as with my family/peer society.
This is the conundrum many people scratch their heads about with regards to conformity, and non-conformist groups or practices. As Joseph Heath pointed out in his book, even non-conformists are still within their larger (national) culture. And in that sense, they are still conformists on some level. A neo-Nazi who relies on the First Amendment right to free speech is such a one. Not conforming to American values (or the values of the Constitution) – freedom, equality, happiness – on one hand, while absolutely requiring those values in order to be able not to conform!
The main ingredient in using the tools of persuasion to get people to do things they would otherwise believe as being wrong (even before force) would be – othering.
Othering – The Process of Civilization
As I’ve outlined before, civilization is largely a process of “othering.” It is the process of creating cities. To create a city, one must convince they’re tribespeople that it is worthwhile to abandon hunter-gatherer or nomadic living (or even simple agrarian society).
As soon as one goes about creating a city, certain things must happen. The division of labor is one. A judicial system, and enforcement system, is another. Creating “city walls” is another.
Civilization has so far been the process of separating the self from self, other, and nature. Without those divisions, a city cannot exist. As those divisions continue, they become more and more “real” (that is, till the civilization collapses, then they don’t seem so real anymore). They also tend to multiply (re: bureaucracy). As they multiply, members seeking power and ease, versus constant labor and hardship (a natural urge, I think) find ways to gather that power in greater amounts. They cooperate with others like them (peer group), and laugh at the “lower” classes (without whom they wouldn’t be able to laugh…?) who continue to struggle and ask why everyone isn’t equal.
I’ve outlined this as a civilizational process, which I think it is.
But like anything, it is only (can only be) an amplification of existing natural tendencies. That is, all animal societies have leaders and followers on some level. All have aggressive types and passive types. This is ubiquitous.
Just as the marketers (or fascist propagandists) are exploiting natural tendencies within the animal to convince the animal to do something, the process of civilization exploits tendencies for individuals to group into like-minded peer groups.
Mothering – The Art of Humanity
That’s why it’s important to understand what values are. Values are not natural laws. Many times, values are things we do that directly contradict or at least partially circumvent natural laws.
Equality is not a natural law. Neither is “survival of the fittest.” Both happen, at different times, in nature.
The point of being human is that we can choose
which of these we value, and work together to make it so. Or not.