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The Discourses of NS Propaganda: Long-Term Emplotment and Short-Term Justification

  • Aristotle A. Kallis

Abstract

An assessment of NS propaganda in terms of effectiveness depends on a complex process of defining benchmarks — many of which remain essentially relative and perhaps arbitrary. If propaganda assumes a wholly negative connotation (a rather common connotation in the post-1945 period that was not as pronounced during interwar times), indicating a conscious and systematic distortion of truth for reasons of political expediency, then its effectiveness can only be gauged in relation to its ability to convince its target audience that the factual gap between truth and ‘ersatz’ reality does not exist. If, however, propaganda is understood in a more morally and historically neutral context — as a universal factor in political legitimation regardless of regime features — then its primary function is that of a filter, intending to sift through factual information and then construct a message based on that manipulated reality that is either more agreeable to its audience or aims to covert it to the regime’s rationale (and once again a combination of the two processes is common). The distinction appears subtle but not less significant for that matter. Whilst in the former definition propaganda is believed to fabricate reality as a means of safeguarding and strengthening political control, in the latter case consensus and indoctrination, short-term ‘truth’ and long-term (wishful) thinking coalesce in order to produce a discourse that is both formative and informative. Thus, the customary identification of propaganda with falsification is misleading and restrictive as a matrix for the understanding of its historical function. No propaganda machinery produces ‘truth’ or ‘lies’; this is a secondary result of the process of filtering the factual raw material, making choices about the content and form of its message, the timing and frequency of its output, the devices and targets of its product. Propaganda is ‘truth’; perhaps not ‘the whole truth’, in most cases not even ‘nothing but the truth’, but a truth, reshaped through the lens of regime intentions and long-term aspirations.1

Keywords

Negative Theme Grand Narrative Western Power German Medium British Prime Minister 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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© Aristotle A. Kallis 2005

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