Found yesterday in the comments section of the Wall Street Journal:
“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” – Joseph Goebbels
Goebbels, of course, was a genius. An evil genius, but a genius nonetheless. Here are some more of his observations. When you read them, you’ll see why I consider them so apropos these days:
“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”
And of course there’s the quote more universally known:
“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. ”
In addition to these statements about the craft and use of propaganda, which was Goebbels’ field of special expertise, he had this to say about Nazi Germany. It shows remarkable and chilling prescience:
“If the day should ever come when we must go, if some day we are compelled to leave the scene of history, we will slam the door so hard that the universe will shake and mankind will stand back in stupefaction.”
Long-time readers may remember that many years ago I wrote a 2-part series of posts about Goebbels’ wife Magda (here and here). As part of my research, I read a biography of Magda that also had quite a bit to say about her husband. Here’s an excerpt describing Goebbels and his motivation. If you don’t know much about the man, it may surprise you, because it’s somewhat counter-intuitive:
As far as one could tell, Goebbels had no beliefs at all. People still living [the book was written in 1980], who were part of his immediate circle or his household, agree absolutely about this. To him all human existence was nothing but chaos. He considered himself one of the very few intellects capable of surveying it and mastering it.
In the post, I added:
In fact, it may be that Goebbels didn’t even particularly hate Jews, at least no more than he hated the entire human race. His interest was in power, self-promotion, and persuasion, and he was a rare genius at all three, willing to do literally anything to further those causes. A short and unattractive man with a crippled leg, he—like Hitler—was a mesmerizing speaker.
Unlike most of the other Nazi leaders, Goebbels was a highly educated man with a doctorate in philosophy and literature—and in those days, a doctorate from a German university was nothing to sneeze. He almost certainly was a sociopath, however. Virtually any photo of the man conveys an ice-cold visage that emanates almost pure evil.
And evil—well, I’ll repeat a section of a post of mine on that subject:
But one of the most fundamental errors people make when judging evil is to think we understand it, when we don’t. The fact that Hitler [or Goebbels, for that matter] was most definitely a human being leads us to think that if we knew enough facts about him, we could explain the etiology of his evil…
The other fundamental error people make when judging evil is thinking it is less evil than it actually is, and more amenable to persuasion, argument, or kindness. Because those who do evil are human, we think they are subject to the same fears and doubts, loves and anxieties, concerns and scruples, as the rest of us. Perhaps when they were children they were, although in the cases of sociopaths and psychopaths the notion is that they were born lacking something we tend to call a conscience. At any rate, by the time we know about them, something quite unusual seems to be going on in their psyches.
I think of the example of Stalin who said, on hearing that his son had tried to commit suicide but had only managed to shoot himself in the stomach and live, “He can’t even shoot straight.”
People such as Stalin or Hitler or Ahmadinejad or Saddam Hussein are about power. That is the coin of their realm, and power is their mother tongue, even though they can learn to speak secondary languages in order to give the appearance of reasonableness. Do not forget that it is a facade, and do not believe that you know them.