German Nazi Party member Joseph Goebbels became Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister in 1933, which gave him power over all German radio, press, cinema, and theater.
In 1925 Goebbels met the party leader Adolf Hitler. In 1926 he was made Gauleiter, or party leader, for the region of Berlin, and in 1927 he founded and became editor of the official National Socialist periodical Der Angriff (The Attack). He was elected to the Reichstag, the German parliament, in 1928. By exploiting mob emotions and by employing all modern methods of propaganda Goebbels helped Hitler into power. His work as a propagandist materially aided Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. When Hitler seized power in 1933, Goebbels was appointed Reichsminister for propaganda and national enlightenment. From then until his death, Goebbels used all media of education and communications to further Nazi propagandistic aims, instilling in the Germans the concept of their leader as a veritable god and of their destiny as the rulers of the world. In 1938 he became a member of the Hitler cabinet council. Late in World War II, in 1944, Hitler placed him in charge of total mobilization. As Reichsminister for Propaganda and National Enlightenment, Goebbels was given complete control over radio, press, cinema, and theater; later he also regimented all German culture. Goebbels placed his undeniable intelligence and his brilliant insight into mass psychology entirely at the service of his party. His most virulent propaganda was against the Jews. As a hypnotic orator he was second only to Hitler, and in his staging of mass meetings and parades he was unsurpassed. Utterly cynical, he seems to have believed only in the self-justification of power. He remained loyal to Hitler until the end. On May 1, 1945, as Soviet troops were storming Berlin, Goebbels committed suicide.
Listed below are the principles purported to summarize what made Goebbels tick or fail to tick. They may be thought of as his intellectual legacy. Whether the legacy has been reliably deduced is a methodological question. Whether it is valid is a psychological matter. Whether or when parts of it should be utilized in a democratic society are profound and disturbing problems of a political and ethical nature.
Based upon Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda by Leonard W. Doob, published in Public Opinion and Propaganda; A Book of Readings edited for The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
- 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.