fascist_propaganda

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Theodor W. Adorno, Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda (1946), in: Soziologische Schriften I, Frankfurt/Main 1979, S. 397-407 (Suhrkamp).
An analysis about the fascist and Antisemite propaganda of West Coast agitators.
Parallelen zu heutigem Politpopulismus sind natürlich REIN ZUFÄLLIG, nicht wahr?

"The observations contained in this paper are based upon three studies made by the Research Project on Anti-Semitism (Authors: T. W. Adorno, Leo Loewenthal, Paul W. Massing) under the auspices of the Institute of Social Research at Columbia University. These studies analyze an extensive body of anti-democratic and anti-Semitic propaganda, consisting mainly of shorthand transcriptions of radio addresses by some West Coast agitators, pamphlets, and weekly publications...
To a certain extent, all these patterns can be explained rationally. Very few American agitators would dare openly to profess fascist and anti-democratic goals. In contrast to Germany, the democratic ideology in this country has evolved certain taboos, the violation of which might jeopardize people engaging in subversive activities. Thus the fascist demagogue here is much more restricted in what he can say, for reasons ob both political censorship and psychological tactics. Moreover, a certain vagueness with regard to political aims is inherent in Fascism itself. This is partly due to its intrinsically untheoretical nature, partly to the fact that its followers will be cheated in the end and that therefore the leaders must avoid any formulations to which they might have to stick later. It should also be noted that with regard to terror and repressive measures, Fascism habitually goes beyond what it has announced. Totalitarianism means knowing no limits, not allowing for any breathing spell, conquest with absolute domination, complete extermination of the chosen foe. With regard to this meaning of fascist "dynamism", any clear-cut program would function as a limitation, a kind of guarantee even to the adversary. It is essential to totalitarian rule that nothing shall be guaranteed, no limit is set to ruthless arbitrariness...
It his highly doubtful whether actual mass hypnosis takes place at all in Fascism, or whether it is not a handy metaphor that permits the observer to dispense with further analysis. Cynical soberness is probably more characteristic of the fascist mentality than psychological intoxication. Moreover, no one who has ever had an opportunity to observe fascist attitudes can overlook the fact that even those stages of collective enthusiasm to which the term "mass hypnosis" refers have an element of conscious manipulation, by the leader and even by the individual subject himself, which can hardly be regarded as a result of mere passive contagion. Speaking psychologically, the ego plays much too large a role in fascist irrationality to admit of an interpretation of the supposed ecstasy as a mere manifestation of the unconscious. There is always something self-styled, self-ordained, spurious about fascist hysteria which demands critical attention if the psychological theory about Fascism is not to yield to the irrational slogans which Fascism itself promotes...
1.) Fascist propaganda attacks bogies rather than real opponents, that is to say, it builds up an imagery of the Jew, or of the Communist, and tears it to pieces, without caring much how this imagery is related to reality.
2.) It does not employ discursive logic but in rather, particularly in oratorical exhibitions, what might be called an organized flight of ideas. The relation between premises and inferences is replaced by a linking-up of ideas resting on mere similarity, often through association which are logically quite unrelated. This method not only evades the control mechanisms of rational examination, but also makes it psychologically easier for the listener to "follow". He has no exacting thinking to do, but can give himself up passively to a stream of words in which he swims.
...Even if it is true, however, that the mentality of the fascist agitator resembles somewhat the muddle-headedness of his prospective followers, and that the leaders themselves "are hysterical or even paranoid types", they have learned, from vast experience and from the striking example of Hitler, how to utilize their own neurotic or psychotic dispositions for ends which are wholly adapted to the principle of reality... Conditions prevailing in our society tend to transform neurosis and even mild lunacy into a commodity which the afflicted can easily sell, once he has discovered that many others have an affinity for his own illness. The fascist agitator is usually a masterly salesman of his own psychological defects...
Just as the housewife, who has enjoyed the sufferings and the good deeds of her favorite heroine for a quarter of an hour over the air, feels impelled to buy the soap sold by the sponsor, so the listener to the fascist propaganda act, after getting pleasure from it, accepts the ideology represented by the speaker out of gratitude for the show. "show" is indeed the right word. The achievement of the self-styled leader is a performance reminiscent of the theatre, of sport, and of so-called religious revivals. It is characteristic of the fascist demagogues that they boast of having been athletic heroes in their youth. This is how they behave. They shout and cry, fight the Devil in pantomime, and take off their jackets when attacking "those sinister powers".
... They violate the taboos which middle-class society has put upon any expressive behaviour on the part if the normal, matter-of-fact citizen. One may say that some of the effect of fascist propaganda is achieved by this break-through. The fascist agitators are taken seriously because they risk making fools of themselves...  But it is a deceptive idea, that the so-called common people have an unfailing flair for the genuine and sincere, and disparage fake. Hitler was liked, not in spite of his cheap antics, but just because of them, because of his false tones and his clowning..."  

 

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