Tag Archive: Joseph Goebbels


Has it come to this?

Is it November, yet?colbertswastika

If the polls are to be believed:

The majority of Americans don’t like Hillary.

And they really detest The Donald.

Yes, it’s the worst choice in the history of the republic.

That’s a strong summation, but does anyone doubt this statement is true?

Almost DailyBrett has publicly implored for a third-choice, for a third-way.

Your author voted for John Kasich in the primary, and was thinking about writing in his name in the fall.

Now, I am not so sure.

In June, Stephen Colbert of CBS tried to be funny by drawing a swastika on a chalk board to describe Donald Trump’s political philosophy in the aftermath of terrorism against an Orlando LGBT nightclub.

And Kasich resorted to an Internet ad last November essentially making a similar comparison. How’s that for “positive” campaigning?

John, you were smart to stay away from the convention (see Ted Cruz reaction), but his ad was beneath you … way beneath you. kasichtrump

If you are going to compare America to Nazi Germany at least understand a little history first.

This Is Not a Casual Subject

Evoking memories of Hitler, the Nazis, the Gestapo, the Concentration Camps and the Holocaust for pure political purposes is the public relations equivalent of handling dynamite in a dark room.

First, this practice is insensitive to the very few remaining souls, who survived this horrific period of time (1933-1945) and their families.

Second, politics have always been as Mary Matalin described a “contact sport,” but once you bring up Hitler where do you go from there?

Third, these sorry comparisons are made without total comprehension of the eras, politics and government between the two nations.

Germany following World War I was a defeated nation under the auspices of the Versailles Treaty. The resulting Weimar Republic was weak with a myriad of political parties.

Inflation rates were out of control including a hotel room for 400,000 DM, dinner for 1.8 million DM and a half-liter of milk, 250,000 DM … and then came the Depression.

Hitler seized upon this widespread misery to gain power, never winning the majority of the popular vote. Upon becoming the leader, his party suspended (and burned) the parliamentary Reichstag and passed enabling laws making Hitler the supreme dictator of a police state on steroids. The German media was totally controlled by Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine. It was a well-documented nightmare from there.nazirally

In comparison, America is an exemplary nation and an enduring democracy that has stood the test of time for 240 years and counting. We won both World Wars; Germany lost two of them. We defeated Communism and helped bring down the Berlin Wall. We are the only nation to put a man on the moon.

We have a strong, if not polarized government, with two powerful political parties. We have a system of checks and balances that modulates the activities of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. We have a free, independent akin to herding cats media, representing virtually every point of view.

Inflation has not been an issue since the mid-1980s. In fact, it is running at approximately 1 percent this year potentially tipping into deflation territory. The unemployment rate stands at 4.9 percent with 287,000 jobs created in June, albeit many of these positions are part-time without benefits.

Seemingly, terrorism and police shootings du jour  give one the sense of a dark new normal. To describe Donald Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night as dystopian is accurate. Having said that, trying to compare Trump with Der Führer strikes this humble writer as extremely careless and irresponsible.

There are oodles of reasons to oppose Trump, but the ugliest of name calling and association reduces the reputation and brand of the one making this vile comparison. Stephen Colbert doesn’t care, but John Kasich should care.

Our system of government celebrates its division, but not gridlock. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews wrote a great tome entitled “Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked. Ronald Reagan and the Republicans ran the executive branch. Tip O’Neill was the speaker of the house and the Democrats controlled Congress.TipGipper

Even though they saw the world very differently, these two Irish-ancestry pols respected and liked each other including frequent 6 pm adult-beverage sessions. When Reagan was shot in 1981, it was Democrat Tip O’Neill who prayed at the bedside of the Republican president.

Last week was the GOP convention in Cleveland and the rhetoric at times was white hot. This coming week is the Democrats turn in Philadelphia and the rhetorical cannons are aimed and ready to return fire.

After the last gavel comes down, one would hope we could chill for the remainder of the summer, realizing the ultimate testing ground will be the presidential debates beginning on September 26 at Hofstra University. Almost DailyBrett would gladly pay a pretty penny to sit in the first row for the ultimate political theatre: Hillary vs. The Donald.

It’s incredibly sad the world’s worst-ever human being, Hitler, is being invoked in July. One can only imagine what will follow in August … September … October … November and beyond.

Can we go any lower in terms of political invective?

It may not be Morning in America any longer, but it is not midnight either.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/did-a-perfect-storm-lead-to-the-gathering-storm/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/11/24/the-ad-in-which-john-kasichs-campaign-seems-to-compare-donald-trump-to-hitler/

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/15/entertainment/stephen-colbert-donald-trump-swastika-nazi/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/15/stephen-colberts-brutal-takedown-of-donald-trumps-orlando-response-includes-a-swastika/

http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/in-search-of-a-third-option/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/back-to-the-1980s/

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There in the floodlit night, jammed together like sardines, in one massive formation, the little men of Germany, who have made Nazism possible, achieved the highest state of being the Germanic man knows: the shedding of their individual souls and minds – with the personal responsibilities and doubts and problems – until under the mystic lights and at the sound of the magic words of the Austrian they were merged completely in the German herd,” William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years

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 “The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial has been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

It was a disheveled Landsberg Prison inmate who wrote these prophetic words about mass movements egged on by provocative speech and transmitted over recently built networks by newly developed mass-media technology.

Soon he would emerge from his jail cell to take full advantage of a perfect storm of never-before-assembled circumstances to unleash upon the world a gathering storm of fury with profound implications for society then and now.

To many the Perfect Storm is a novel and a movie about the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail from Gloucester, Massachusetts, lost at sea during severe conditions while longline fishing for swordfish 575 miles out in the Atlantic.[1]

In this case, the “Perfect Storm” can be seen as a unique confluence of political, economic, philosophical and technological events that produced the backdrop that led to the Gathering Storm of 1930s Nazi Germany. This essay evades discussions about the impacts of the Industrial Revolution, the Rise of Bismarck, the Bolshevik Revolution, Germany’s loss in World War I, the hatred of the Versailles Treaty, the fragility of the Weimar Republic, the Great Depression and the many other macro political and economic events that contributed to or constituted the discontinuous model of history of 20th Century Germany.

The key point for this survey is that all of these historical epochs, coupled with startling new advancements in mass culture technologies and networks, culminated in a unique climate that was fully exploited by Hitler and his disciples, in particular Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945).[2]

Political pros, including the late presidential campaign strategist Lee Atwater (1951-1991), have preached the virtues of “message, candidate, campaign” in this particular order to captivate the masses or an electorate in a democratic setting. In the case of totalitarian Nazi Germany’s use of mass culture for political purposes it must be asked: What were the origins of the message? (There is obviously no need to inquire about who was the “candidate.”) And how was the campaign conducted with frightening results?

This discussion assumes the reader’s more-than-adequate knowledge of the macro political/economic influences that contributed to die Weltanchauung of Nazi Germany. This focus instead touches upon Germany’s philosophical underpinnings that contributed to the message. There is also the need to adequately, but not exhaustively, weigh the impact (at the time) of new mass media technology — most notably radio, cinema, recorded sound and telephony – all of which made their collective power known for the first time in the 1930s/1940s. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill used these tools to inspire. Hitler had other designs for these new breakthroughs in mass media.

FDRmedia

It is no mistake that the majority of these advancements occurred in the mid-to-late 19th Century, basically coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1837; Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone in 1875; Thomas Edison, the phonograph in 1877; Louis Lumiere, the motion picture camera in 1895 and Guglielmo Marconi, the radio also in 1895.

As important as these inventions were, there still needed to be time for related communications networks to be built and expanded to the masses on a global scale. The true, cumulative impact of Bell’s telephone, Marconi’s radio, Lumiere’s cinema camera were not truly felt until the early decades of the 20th Century or about the time that Hitler and his Brownshirts were agitating and fighting in the streets of München and eventually spreading their sinister Nazi web over Germany.

Borrowing from Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s (1911-1980) “The Medium is the Message,” University of California Professor of Sociology Manuel Castells Olivan[3] coined his own version of this concept, “The Network is the Message.” Castells’ contention (even though he was writing about the Internet) is that the network is more important than the message, and without the former the latter is essentially of no consequence. (“If a tree falls in a forest…).

Goebbels would have gladly not argued; simply combining the two – message and network – to completely hold sway over the thinking of the German public.

Most of all, it was how the National Socialists took full advantage of these developments to wage a mass-culture campaign never before seen in the modern world that revolutionized the use of propaganda. It was no mistake that one of the first actions undertaken by the Nazis upon assuming power in 1933 was to secure immediate control of the means to influence and subjugate the masses.

Goebbels and his ministry took supreme control of what French philosopher Louis Althusser (1918-1990) labeled as the Ideological State Apparatuses or ISAs. In his Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses essay, Althusser included religion, education, family, legal, political, trade-unions as ISAs. For this discussion, we are focusing on two of Althusser’s ISAs: Communications (e.g. press, radio…) and cultural (e.g. literature, the arts, sports etc.).

Althusser distinguished ISAs from what he called “Repressive State Apparatus” (e.g. government, administration, the army, the police, the courts, the prisons), which he said “functions by violence.” He said that ISAs “must not be confused with Repressive State Apparatus.” With all due respect to Althusser, the Nazis skillfully used both the tools of repression (e.g., violence) and the new means of ideological persuasion, particularly the spoken word, to physically and mentally dominate the German public and eventually the majority of the populations that they subsequently conquered and enslaved.

“It is interesting that the only developed ‘mass’ use of radio was in Nazi Germany, where under Goebbels’ orders the Party organized compulsory listening groups and the receivers were in the streets,” Welsh academic Raymond Williams (1921-1988)[4] wrote in Technology and Cultural Form. “There has been some imitation of this by similar regimes, and Goebbels was deeply interested in television for the same kind of use.”

“…As the years went by, Dr. Goebbels proved himself right, in that the radio became by far the regime’s most effective means of propaganda, doing more than any other single instrument of communication to shape the German people to Hitler’s ends,” wrote William L. Shirer (1904-1993), in his Pulitzer Prize winning The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich. He was the Universal News Service and CBS correspondent out of Berlin, who obviously understood the power of radio.

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German-Jewish, philosopher-sociologists Theodor Adorno (1903-1969)[5] and Max Horkheimer (1895-1973), both of the “Frankfurt School,” were compelled to take flight from Germany when Hitler and Nazis claimed power and with it, put in motion what would become the Holocaust. The two exiles introduced the notion of The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. They correctly concluded that the Hitler/Goebbels propaganda machine seized control of this “industry” to make the regime sound more reasonable than it was in reality.

“Society is full of desperate people and therefore prey to rackets,” they wrote. “… The attitude of the individual to the racket, business, profession or party, before or after admission, the Führer’s gesticulations before the masses, or the suitor’s before his sweetheart, assume specifically masochistic traits.” They added that life in the late capitalist era is a constant initiation rite in which everyone must show identification with the power that is “belaboring him (or her?).”

And what were the messages emanating from Hitler’s version of the Culture Industry that constituted required listening im Vaterland?

Several philosophers and prominent German thinkers in the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century contributed to the notion of a strong nation state, the rise of militarism and the glory of modern-day warfare…all of which were wholeheartedly embraced by Hitler and his followers.

German historian Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911)[6] provided a glimpse into this way of thinking in his Formation of the Historical World essay. “The goals of war permeated all parts of (early German) life. They asserted themselves in the relationship of the family to the military order…The military ethos also produced the system of devoted followers that was so important for military and political development.”

Dilthey said that we must add the “individuality of national spirit” to this commentary. “The life-value of the individual person is shifted to his martial qualities.” And what is the highest value and enjoyment of existence? “This characteristic, which finds its highest expression in the joy of battle, influenced the entire development of our political institutions and our spiritual life.”

Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1837)[7] is most commonly known for his dialectrics, which inspired Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and the founding of Communism. In the case of the Nazis, who violently opposed Marxism, they preferred to gain strength from Hegel’s celebration of the supreme power of the state. The state, he wrote in his Philosophy of History, “has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the state…for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges.” And what about the individual’s pursuit of happiness? To Hegel this notion needs to be subordinated, if not outright crushed.

“World history is not an empire of happiness,” Hegel wrote. “The periods of happiness are the empty pages of history because they are periods of agreement, without conflict.” Taking it a step further, Hegel said that war makes for “the ethical health of peoples corrupted by a long peace, as the blowing of the wind preserves the sea from the foulness which could be the result of a prolonged calm.”

Dueling Hegel when it comes to the glorification of the state was nationalist political historian Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-1896)[8], who bluntly stated to the individual: “It does not matter what you think, so long as you obey.”

He said that martial glory is the basis of all political virtues, rivaling the “masterpieces of our poets and thinkers.”

“The concept of the state implies the concept of war, for the essence of the State is power,” von Treitschke wrote. “That war should ever be banished from the world is a hope not only absurd, but profoundly immoral.”

Books paying homage to authoritarian disciplines, the magnificence of the state, the subordination of the individual and the glory of martial conflict were not the only ones sitting on the night stands of the Fascists (literally Mussolini’s bedside) during the first-half of the 20th Century. Reportedly, Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”[9] drew heavily on the propaganda techniques of French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon’s (1841-1931) [10] The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.

“The great events of history have been brought about by obscure believers, who have had little beyond their faith in the favor,” LeBon wrote in 1895. “It is not be the aid of the learned or of philosophers, and still less of skeptics, that have been built up the great religions which have swayed the world, or the vast empires which have spread from one hemisphere to the other.” LeBon was obviously referring to St. Paul, Christopher Columbus and others (Hitler no doubt would have liked to mentally associate himself with this elite company).

LeBon said that the leaders of crowds wield a very despotic authority, and whether they are intelligent or narrow-minded is of no real importance because the world belongs to these popular leaders. They persist by demonstrating a force of will that LeBon said was both immensely rare and powerful, “nothing resists it; neither nature, gods, nor man.”

LeBon refers to the tactics of another European conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte, who said that there is “only one figure in rhetoric of serious importance, namely repetition.”

“The opinions and beliefs of crowds are specially propagated by contagion, but never by reasoning,” wrote LeBon. “The conceptions at present rife among working classes have been acquired at the public-house as the result of affirmation, repetition and contagion.” Wonder if there were any public houses in 1930s-era Germany?

Shirer saw as much each day and night in 1934 as thirty thousand jammed into Nürnberg’s Luitpold Hall, packed the city’s narrow streets or participated in a mass rally of a half million strong at the Zeppelin Meadow.

nazirally

“You have to go through one of these to understand Hitler’s hold on the people, to feel the dynamism in the movement he’s unleashed and the sheer, disciplined strength the Germans possess,” Shirer wrote in his Berlin Diary.[11] “And now – as Hitler told the correspondents yesterday – the half-million men and women who’ve been here during the week will go back to their towns and villages and preach the new faith with new fanaticism.”

In his Revolt of the Masses, Spanish liberal philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955)[12] prescribes how skillful propagandists (he was absolutely no fan of Fascism) exploit the masses going about their daily business. He said the majority of men have no opinions of their own, so these have to come from external forces, “like lubricants into machinery.”

“Hence it is necessary that some mind or other should hold and exercise authority, so that people without opinions – the majority – can start having opinions,” he wrote. “For without these, the common life of humanity would be chaos, a historic void, lacking in any organic structure. Consequently without a spiritual power, without someone to command, (author’s emphasis) and in proportion as this is lacking, chaos reigns over mankind.”

LeBon takes up this mantle to introduce the notion that prestige is an essential ingredient in order to influence the crowds and control the masses. “The great leaders of crowds, such as Buddha, Jesus, Mahomet, Joan of Art and Napoleon, have possessed this form of prestige to a high degree…The special characteristic of prestige is to prevent us seeing things as they are and to entirely paralyze our judgment. Crowds always, and individuals as a rule, stand in need of ready-made opinions on all subjects. The popularity of these opinions is independent of the measure of truth and error they contain, and is solely regulated by their prestige.”

Shirer saw first-hand how Hitler’s oratorical skills held his German audiences spellbound. Der Führer developed a special rapport with the crowds that “it did not matter so much what he said but how he said it…I would pause in my own mind to exclaim: ‘What utter rubbish! What brazen lies!’ Then I would look around at the audience. His German listeners were lapping up every word as the utter truth.”

“No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda,” Shirer wrote. And if someone dared to doubt the message of Goebbels’ propaganda machine?  “…One was met with such a state of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one has blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless is was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.”

Ortega y Gasset grouped Syndicalism and Fascism together is his 1932 book (one year before the ascension of Hitler) and said that Europeans are inflicted with a strangeness” for “elements of novelty.”

“Under the species of Fascism there appears for the first time in Europe a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions,” he wrote. “This is the new thing: the right not to reasonable, the ‘reason of unreason.’”

The reason for this exercise is not to merely recount how the Perfect Storm of history, macro-economic factors, technology and sinister intent led to the most efficient propaganda machine the world had ever seen. Many before have written extensively about what Winston Churchill called The Gathering Storm.[13] This voice will not be added to that chorus.

Instead, present-day society and future generations must be mindful of this history and then ask whether a similar repository of elements and events could ever again form the nucleus of a propaganda machine that has even scarier implications for civilization in this era of terrorism and nuclear proliferation?

Shirer and other observers before, during and after what the German’s refer to as the NS-Zeit have questioned how a nation that produced “some of the most elevated minds and spirits of the Western World” (e.g., Kant, Humboldt, Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Beethoven…) could fall completely under the sway of an Austrian corporal.

We have already answered the question of whether this kind of repressive control of the vehicles and networks of mass culture coupled with the spread of incessant propaganda can occur in the 21st Century. One only needs to look north of the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula for the answer. But in all due respect, did the rural and backward hermit kingdom of what now constitutes North Korea ever produce the thinkers and the civilization even remotely equivalent to the major countries (e.g., Germany) of the industrialized world?

Theoretically anything is possible, but Goebbels would have quickly confronted what the People’s Republic of China is combating today: the global impact of a vast network of PCs and servers, guided by ever more powerful microprocessors, governed by clever software operating systems and tied together with a worldwide web of cyberspace.

Wonder what would be the popular reaction to vivid Google Earth satellite photos of Auschwitz downloaded onto millions of computers, replayed repeatedly on YouTube, written into encyclopedic script on Wikipedia.org and served as the subject of blogs, Tweets, LinkedIn and Facebook entries?  How would Hitler, Goering, Himmler, Goebbels et al. explain satellite transmissions of concentration camps or mobilized infantry/armor/Luftwaffe in the face of a digitally informed global population?

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The greatest threat to modern-era propaganda makers, even though he certainly did not know this in 1965, was most likely Gordon Moore.[14] One of the three founders of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) postulated that year that the number of transistors on a given piece of silicon real estate doubles every 18 months.

“Moore’s Law” has not only been 100 percent accurate since its inception, it may even be judged to be conservative. The net result is an explosion of mass communication access devices (e.g., PCs, tablets, digital readers, cell phones) that are smaller, faster, better and consume less power.

In his Parisian lecture this past September, New York University Journalism Professor Jay Rosen[15] wrote about the disintegration of the atomized “mass” audience. He asked what if society turned away from the television tube en masse, similar to crazed television newsman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network.

“Immediately people who happened to be watching would alert their followers on Twitter,” Rosen wrote in his The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation. “Someone would post a clip the same day on YouTube. The social networks would light up before the incident was over. Bloggers would be commenting on it well before professional critics had their chance. The media world today is a shifted space. People are connected horizontally to one another as effectively as they are connected up to Big Media; and they have the powers of production in their hands.”

Bottom-line conscious global businesses are moving away from top-down control where everything is designed, manufactured and sold under one roof and instead concentrating on their bread-and-butter raison d’etre and outsourcing the rest. Rosen said a similar worldwide shift from vertical-to-horizontal is occurring in how the public receives news and information (North Korea and few others are exceptions).

There still are some very famous media brand names, but the number of “journalists” harnessing digital ones-and-zeroes to self-publish is growing with every passing day. The vehicles of choice are not just wireline or wireless networked servers and PCs, but a growing variety of mobile communications devices.

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The most populous nation on the planet, authoritarian China is struggling against the massive weight of sheer math and the tyranny of numbers: 1.5 billion people, millions of mobile devices, millions of PCs, millions of television sets, thousands of servers, thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable and a vast worldwide web to tie them all together. No one should underestimate the lengths the regime will go to protect its hegemony (e.g., Tiananmen Square in 1989), but nonetheless Moore’s Law continues unabated.

Does anyone want to take a wager that Moore’s Law will outlast the Communist Party of China (CPC) or other despots who try to use mass media to wage a stifling propaganda campaign with chilling impacts for not only the subjugated but for their neighbors as well?

Even though there are no guarantees in life, it can be argued that rapid advancements in innovation and humanity’s insatiable demand for the marketplace of ideas will severely curtail, if not put an end, to systemic, one-sided propaganda efforts such as the one unleashed and waged by Goebbels. The impact of today’s information technology (and the killer apps still to come) will digitally expose the lies and deception behind Goebbels-like modern day messages. It was another form of technology, the cyanide capsule, that put an end to Goebbels’ life in a deep bunker underneath a bombed out city, not far from the remains of what was once his grandiose Propaganda Ministry.

Soon thereafter his loud speakers finally went silent.

  1. [1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perfect_Storm
  1. [2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Castells

[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Williams

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_W._Adorno

[6] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dilthey/

[7] http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/hegel.html

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_von_Treitschke

[9] http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Le_Bon

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_L._Shirer

[12] http://www.historyguide.org/europe/gasset.html

[13] http://www.rosettabooks.com/title.php?id=82

[14] http://www.intel.com/technology/mooreslaw/

[15] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Rosen

 

“Now if this (Ketchum, Inc. client Vladimir Putin allegedly protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine) sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s. All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.” – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

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“Hitler makes cameo appearances all the time within American political narratives about emerging international crises. He’s an easy and recognizable shorthand that signals danger.” – Former State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley.

During the past few days, the Washington Post, CNBC and others have questioned Ketchum Public Relations representing Russia, even though the country invaded a strategic portion (e.g., Crimea) of its neighbor, Ukraine. Ketchum states its only advancing Russia’s economic development and investment goals, not foreign policy. However, a New York Times op-ed, authored by Putin and placed by Ketchum, criticized the foreign policy of the United States in the context of Syria.

When is it time for an international public relations agency to jettison a client, even one paying $55 million so far, based upon questionable at best behavior? Or does the legal tender reign supreme? Would Ketchum theoretically accept any client, telling its “economic development and investment” story, regardless of the circumstances? Does Corporate Social Responsibility apply to agencies as well? What if an international client with a difficult story to tell came to Ketchum or any other international agency…let’s say back in 1938.

Ketchum, a division of Omnicom Group Inc., would turn down the business. Right?

The scene is a large meeting room in Germany’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. The time is September, 1938.

Propaganda Minster Joseph Goebbels: “Herzlichen Willkommen zu dem Vaterland und das dritte Reich, Herr Ketchum.“

Ketchum EVP: “We are delighted to have been selected from several firms competing for your RFP (Request for Proposal) to help tell Germany’s story and to facilitate understanding of what your Führer is trying to accomplish in Central Europe.”

Goebbels: “The pleasure is ours. We are particularly pleased to meet with Ketchum Public Relations. Apparently, you have a solid track record of representing nations that don’t have…how should I say it…the easiest public story to tell.”

Ketchum EVP: “It’s nice to be recognized for our track record. We are particularly good at competing in the arena of public opinion and national brand management for countries that want to insure their rightful interests are respected and understood.”

Goebbels: “As you know, earlier this year we peacefully completed an Anschluss bringing together German-speaking Austria together with das Reich. We believe this connection was only fair and just.”

Ketchum EVP: “And now, if I understand you correctly, Germany wants to do the same for the ethnic Germans that were artificially separated from the Vaterland by the Versailles Treaty and the establishment of thrown-together states, such as Czechoslovakia.”

sudetenland

Goebbels: “That is exactly why you are being paid so handsomely, say $1.6 million in U.S. currency every six months, to tell the Führer’s great story. He is fully aware of our meeting today, and is pleased you are joining our team.”

Ketchum EVP: “Let me get this right. Your Führer will soon be meeting with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to discuss the Sudetenland question. How can we help? We have offices in Berlin, Munich, Prague and London. We are prepared to assist both here in Germany and elsewhere.”

Goebbels: “Don’t worry about Germany. My ministry has Alles in Ordnung when it comes to spreading our message within Germany. We could use some help in New York and London, However, you may have a conflict with our account and your Prague office.”

Ketchum EVP: “Let me reiterate that we really want your business. We have already taken the steps to register our business relationship with Germany with the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. We have a track record of placing an op-ed for the oligarch of Russia with the New York Times. We could do the same for your Führer, advancing him as a Thought Leader when it comes to hegemony in Europe.”

Goebbels: “Sehr gut, but what about the upcoming summit in Munich between der Führer and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain? We really need help with Fleet Street in the City of London.”

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Ketchum EVP: “We have already taken the liberty to brand the Munich conference as “Peace for Our Time.” Our goal is to ensure that the appeasing and pleasing “Peace for Our Time” is on the lips of informed publics, particularly in London, New York and Washington. Those are our prime audiences.”

Goebbels: “And what about your Czech office in bothersome, Prague”?

Ketchum EVP: “Kein Problem Herr Minister. We will set up the Mother of All Chinese Walls. Our Prague office will not interfere with your plans for German media and our assistance in the U.K. and the USA. I trust that everything will go along swimmingly.”

Goebbels: “We will have indeed have ‘Peace for Our Time.’ Ha…”

Ketchum EVP: “We are happy to represent you in selling your assistance to the Sudetenland ethnic minorities to skeptical publics. Is there anything else we can do”?

Goebbels: “There is this matter of the Polish Corridor…Maybe we should discuss a retainer relationship.”

Ketchum EVP: “We really love retainers…”

http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/03/06/ukraine-crisis-ketchum-idINL1N0M22BB20140306

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101465564

http://www.presstelegram.com/general-news/20140304/hillary-clinton-compares-vladimir-putins-actions-in-ukraine-to-adolf-hitlers-in-nazi-germany

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/hillary-clintons-putin-hitler-comments-draw-rebukes-as-she-wades-into-ukraine-conflict/2014/03/05/31a748d8-a486-11e3-84d4-e59b1709222c_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/03/07/who-would-lobby-for-russia-these-people/?wpisrc=nl_pmpol

http://www.odwyerpr.com/story/public/2034/2014-03-10/ketchums-dilemma-represent-or-not-represent-russia.html

http://www.ketchum.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_Public_Enlightenment_and_Propaganda

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_Agreement

“A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased.” – Nazi Governor of Poland Hans Frank at the Nürnberg Trails.

“It is for the rising German generation … unanimously announcing their desire: not for a German Europe, but for a European Germany.” – Author, Novelist Thomas Mann

There really isn’t any specific German word or words for public relations.

The closest appears to be Öffentlichkeitsarbeit or literally public sphere work.

Nonetheless there has been an Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder in Germany in less than 70 years since the end of World War II and the discovery of the massive savagery of the Holocaust.

How can a country that was literally wiped flat and left with an indelible stain on its brand and reputation ever become the “Most Popular County in the World” in much less than a century, if one believes the chaps at the BBC?

merkel

According to a random quantitative survey of 26,000 respondents in 25 countries conducted for the BBC, Germany finished first with a 59 percent approval rating vs. 15 percent, who disapprove. It should be noted that respondents were precluded from voting for their own country, so this result is truly a result of how Germany is seen around the world.

What this means is that during the course of nearly seven decades of surrender, occupation, division, rebuilding, reunification and now as the unofficial leader and banker of the European Union, Germany is not only seen as a normal country…a timid one at that…but a nation to be admired.

Two factors immediately come to mind: The healing power of time and how most people view success (der Erfolg).

This post is not my first foray into the question of the enhancement of the German brand (see my earlier Feminizing the Fatherland), but it does trigger a discussion about how one of the most despised nations in the history of the planet can now be the most admired.

As I pondered providing an answer to this question, I walked into the reported largest book store in the world, Powell’s Books, which takes up an entire block in the Northwest quadrant of Portland, Oregon.

Predictably, I found the majority of the hundreds of titles about Germany focused on the NS Zeit or the Nazi times with vivid descriptions of Hitler’s terror, the war and the ovens and gas chambers of the Holocaust.

As a result, there are literally hundreds of movies and television shows (e.g., Schindler’s List, Defiance, Hogan’s Heroes) that make the Germans out to be monsters or klutzy. Recent ads for Beck’s Beer in the United States portray the anal side of the Germans, suggesting that the Teutonic types take their humor, recreation and romance very seriously.

Public relations essentially evolved as an outgrowth of the industrial revolution in America, and it was used to protect the strong business positions of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and other industrialists at the time.

Conversely, one should never confuse Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels with the practice of public relations. Goebbels’ mission was to control all media and thus dominate thought within Germany and conquered nations, not to project a positive image of Nazi Germany to the world.

After the war ended and the horrors of the Final Solution became apparent, Germany still needed to be rebuilt and with it the image of a democratic state strategically aligned to the West in the center of Europe.

What were some of the factors that led from the rubble to the most popular nation on Earth? Here are some factors for discussion and further research:

brandenburggate

● The Marshall Plan, $13 billion reconstruction of Europe program, spearheaded by Secretary of State George Marshall. The program accelerated the comeback of the European continent, and set the groundwork for Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder or Economic Miracle.

● Speaking of miraculous events, there was also the 1954 “Miracle of Bern” when upstart West Germany won its first World Cup. West Germany won again in 1974 with “Kaiser Franz” Beckenbauer as captain, and yet again as a reunified country in 1990 with Beckenbauer serving as coach. German sports stars, including Beckenbauer, Oliver Bierhof, Lothar Matthias, Jürgen Klinsmann, Miroslav Klöse, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Katarina Witt, have all contributed to softening the nation’s image and projecting a people focused on success.

● Even though Bayer was owned by IG Farben, which made the poisonous Zyklon B used at Auschwitz and other Nazi camps, the company is best known for inventing aspirin. German engineering is legendary and its products and companies are legion including: Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW), Daimler Benz, Porsche, Vokwagen, BASF, Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Systemen, Anwendugen und Programmen (SAP), Becks, Spaten, Aldi (owner of Trader Joe’s) and many others.

● The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall (ein Stück der Mauer ist an meinen Tisch), the subsequent collapse of East Germany and the reunification of the country, focused the world’s attention once again…but from a positive standpoint…on das Land in der Mitte.

●The formation of the European Union and the resulting currency reform (Is the Euro the Deutsche Mark in drag?) placed Germany as the EU’s largest and wealthiest nation in a leadership position, even though the Germans eschew the word, Führer.

Early leadership by Germany in environmental protection as evidenced by the apparent strength of die Grünen or Green Party, the planned shutdown of the nation’s nuclear reactors and the 80 percent energy consumption from renewables target.

● The open admission of German responsibility for not only World War II, but the systematic liquidation of approximately 6 million Jews and others that were deemed to be undesirable (Untermenschen) by the Nazis. Besides official memorials, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Stolpersteinen (bronze stepping stones) that commemorate those who lived in particular German towns, who were then kidnapped and murdered.

● A five-year old held captive in one of the Concentration Camps on liberation day in 1945 would be 73 today. The World War II generation is inevitably dying out. And with their passing goes direct memory of the horrors of Nazi Germany. Time is on the side of the new democratic Germany.

● Chancellor Angela Merkel is ironically the female head of state of the Fatherland. Even though her politics are similar to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Merkel is seen as pragmatic and willing to compromise…traits not associated with Britain’s “Iron Lady.” This week, The Economist suggested that Merkel’s Germany is a “reluctant hegemon,” more than happy to be an economic, export-oriented power, but preferring to take a Switzerland mode when it comes to global leadership.

● This week, Barack Obama will be the fourth sitting American president (his second trip there) to speak in Berlin. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this Wall” speeches are seared into our collective memories. Germany’s capitol is a symbol of the universal quest for freedom.

germanflag

Even though there are some that dredge up the past, including placing Hitler mustaches and Nazi armbands on caricatures of Merkel, Germany is increasingly seen as doing something right. Labor and management work together. Wages are competitive. The nation’s unemployment rate is low. The country is a legendary manufacturer and exporter.

And now Germany is the most popular nation in the world…at least according to one very prominent poll. Who could ever believe this result, even for a nanosecond, more than two generations ago? It’s time to delve into what appears to be a public relations miracle.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22624104

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21974496

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100761312

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mann

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21578448-what-germanys-football-victory-says-about-its-role-europe-tor-tor-tor

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/feminizing-the-fatherland/

http://www.powells.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schindler%27s_List

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Vanderbilt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayer

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