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Monday, August 01, 2011

Goebbels 

I'm half-way through reading diary fragments of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for the Nazi regime.  These were originally published in 1959.  Goebbels was a good, perhaps brilliant, communicator who had nearly total control over the media in Germany.  His belief in the Fuhrer was total.  His communications on behalf of Hitler and National Socialism were passionate to the end when he and his wife poisoned their children and committed suicide because they did not want to live without Hitler.  


Why read the words of such an ugly human?  Because Goebbels was a master of rhetorical technique.  He knew what worked to convince the German people that National Socialism was in their best interests even during wartime and famine. His diaries are a reminder that evil people know how to argue well.  Goebbels knew how to stay on message. Throughout the diaries, there are long stretches in which Goebbels seems like a normal human managing the issues of a home country at war.  Then, just as suddenly, there are frightening passages about liquidation of Jews, shooting of partisans in revenge for guerrilla warfare and gutting of justice in service of the state.   All this seemed rational from the perspective of one building a totalitarian society composed of a Nordic race.  It is chilling reading and probably should be obligatory for anyone entering communications. The diaries are a justification for the First Amendment and an example of what happens when free expression is taken away.

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