Ideology | Dogma | Propaganda | 26th July 2021 | Virtual Wire
In the 4th Century B.C. Chinese military specialist Sun Tzu, in his book ‘The Art of War’, mentions that subduing the enemy without fighting is the acme of strategy and this is one of the earliest attempts to describe the goal of military propaganda.
The use of propaganda to ‘brainwash’ masses has taken a front seat in popular media since the end of the Second World War. At the heart of propaganda lies ideologies and these ideologies express moods, hopes, expectations likes and dislikes in the form of principles. These ideologies resemble religious dogma.
A part of religious theory can be scientifically proven or refuted. But there are parts of religious theories that are never to be questioned because they express the expectations, hopes and wishes of a group of people.
This unchanging part of makes religious theories a dogma. This dogma, in the form of religious, historical or political theories, serves as the Eros to propaganda, keeping it alive even after the basic structure (ideology) has collapsed. This dynamic of propaganda is very vital because it makes the propaganda more convincing.
For example, let us consider a Nazi dogma “War is the father of all things” (Ekstein, 1942). This dogma has several implications: ‘Conflict is unavoidable and war is inevitable to create a strong and great nation.
The war spirit creates noble things and pacifism is cowardice.’ The fact ‘conflict is unavoidable’ appeals to our primitive emotions and these emotions overwhelm intellectual judgement. The idea implies the hopes, wishes and means to use this to our advantage.
This further strengthens the ideology. Another example would be the idea, ‘The individual is unimportant’ which serves to support ‘the leader principle which expects absolute obedience to achieve greatness.
The chants "Wir dienen Deutschland" (we serve Germany) and "Fiihrer, befiehl; wir folgen Dir!" (Leader, obey; we follow you) express these ideas. Nazi ideology revives and uses primitive instincts and emotions.
The Nazi state of mind was infested with infantile; yet powerful emotions and these were sown using nursery psychology: Parents are all-powerful and they provide love and protection, Other children (Jews or members of out-group in general) are not the children of your parents, Father is always right and Father tells us to think of the family first, not to be selfish, and to make sacrifices.
A good child has to support his father and mother (Ekstein, 1942). By replicating this primitive and regressive thinking, it is easier to persuade people and make them work towards one goal. You might ask, ‘how did this affect the enemies?’
Dr Linebarger records, “In the time of Adolf Hitler's terrifying blitz across the low countries in France when West Europe fell and England was beaten to its knees … there were many people who thought that Adolf Hitler had devised a new kind of war… Hitler had somehow pushed forward a secret science of mass psychology and secret techniques …” (Linebarger, 1950, p.24).
This fear is exactly what this strategy aims to achieve. Instead of thinking of their next move, the Allies anticipated Hitler’s next move. This showcases the erosion of intellectual acuity of the Allies because of the united strength with which the German army fought.
It is important to note that Hitler took advantage of several sociological and economical factors to push propaganda and put strategic pressure on the Allies.
This in combination with a showcase of military power degraded the moral and intellectual judgement of the enemies to wage war. This dangerous weapon is used, even today, by extremists groups to recruit people for their cause and achieve their objectives.