PROBLEM THREE: TO MOBILIZE BY PROPAGANDA THE FORCES OF HATRED
"We must hate," said Lenin. "Hatred is the basis of Communism." It is no doubt the basis of all mass excitement. But Lenin was not himself the master propagandist. How shall the forces of hatred be mobilized? What are the first principles? These are questions that now belong to a department of political science.
The first principle of all is to fix the gaze of hatred upon one object and to make all other objects seem but attributes of that one, for otherwise the force to be mobilized will dissipate itself in many directions.
This was expounded by Hitler in Mein Karnpf, where he said: "It is part of the genius of a great leader to make adversaries of different fields appear as always belonging to one category. As soon as the wavering masses find themselves confronting too many enemies objectivity at once steps in and the question is raised whether actually all the others are wrong and their own cause or their own movement right. . . . Therefore a number of different internal enemies must always be regarded as one in such a way that in the opinion of the mass of one's own adherents the war is being waged against one enemy alone. This strengthens the belief in one's own cause and increases one's bitterness against the attackers."
How in a given situation to act upon this first principle of strategy is a matter to be very carefully explored. You come then to method and tactics, studies of the mass mind, analysis of symbols and slogans, and above all, skill of manipulation.
Lasswell and Blumenstock, in World Revolutionary Propaganda, define propaganda as "the manipulation of symbols to control controversial attitudes." Symbols they define as "words and word substitutes like pictures and gestures." And the purpose of revolutionary propaganda "is to arouse hostile attitudes toward the symbols and practices of the established order."
It may be however that people are so deeply attached by habit and conscience to the symbols of the established order that to attack them directly would produce a bad reaction. In that case the revolutionary propagandist must be subtle. He must know how to create in the mass mind what the scientific propagandist calls a "crisis of conscience." Instead of attacking directly those symbols of the old order to which the people are attached he will undermine and erode them by other symbols and slogans, and these others must be such as either to take the people off guard, or, as Lasswell and Blumenstock say, they must be "symbols which appeal to the conscience on behalf of symbols which violate the conscience."
This is an analytic statement and makes it sound extremely complex. Really it is quite simple. For example, if the propagandist said, "Down with the Constitution!"—bluntly like that—he would be defeated because of the way the Constitution is enshrined in the American conscience. But he can ask: "Whose Constitution?" That question may become a slogan. He can ask: "Shall the Constitution be construed to hold say it is." And that creates an image, which is a symbol. He can ask: "shall the Constitution be construed to hold property rights above human rights?" Or, as the President did, he may regretfully associate the Constitution with "horse-and-buggy days."
The New Deal's enmity for that system of free and competitive private enterprise which we call capitalism was fundamental. And this was so for two reasons, namely: first, that its philosophy and that of capitalism were irreconcilable, and secondly, that private capitalism by its very nature limits government.
In Russia capitalism, such as it was there, could be attacked directly. The people were not attached to it in any way. In this country it was very different. Americans did not hate capitalism. They might criticize it harshly for its sins, most of which were sins of self-betrayal, but its true symbols nevertheless were deeply imbedded in the American tradition; and, moreover, a great majority of the people were in one way or another little capitalists. To have said, "Down with capitalism!" or, "Down with free private enterprise!" would have been like saying, "Down with the Constitution!" The attack, therefore, had to be oblique.
In his first inaugural address, March 4, 1933, the President said: "Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has follen;... the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no market for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.... Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. . . . Nature still offers her bounty. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, . . . have admitted their failure and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money-changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. . . . They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.... Yes, the money-changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization.
We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."
There was the pattern and it never changed. The one enemy, blameable for all human distress, for unemployment, for low wages, for the depression of agriculture, for want in the midst of potential plenty—who was he? The money-changer in the temple. This was a Biblical symbol and one of the most hateful. With what modern symbol did this old and hateful one associate? With the Wall Street banker, of course; and the Wall Street banker was the most familiar and the least attractive symbol of capitalism.
Therefore, capitalism, obliquely symbolized by the money-changer scourged out of the temple, was entirely to blame; capitalism was the one enemy, the one object to be hated. But never was it directly attacked or named; always it was the old order that was attacked. The old order became a symbol of all human distress. "We cannot go back to the old order," said the President.
And this was a very hateful counter symbol, because the old order, never really defined, did in fact associate in the popular mind with the worst debacle in the history of capitalism.
It was never the capitalist that was directly attacked. Always it was the economic royalist, the brigand of the skyscrapers, the modern tory—all three hateful counter symbols. The true symbols of the three competitive systems in which people believed were severely let alone. The technique in every case was to raise against them counter symbols. Thus, against the inviolability of private property was raised the symbol of those who would put property rights above human rights; and against all the old symbols of individualism and self-reliance was raised the attractive counter symbol of security.
To bring hatred to bear upon the profit motive there were two techniques. One was to say, as the President said in his first inaugural, that social values were more noble than mere monetary profit, as if in any free scheme you could have social gains without plenty of mere monetary profit; the other was to speak only of great profits, as if in a free profit and loss system you could have little profits and little losses without big profits and big losses.
It is not unnatural for people to think envious thoughts about large profits, and envious thoughts are very easy to exploit, as every demagogue knows. But no government before the New Deal had ever deliberately done it. In a home-coming speech to his Dutchess County neighbors, in August, 1933, the President explained why it had seemed necessary for the New Deal to limit personal liberty in certain ways. It was to make all men better neighbors in spite of themselves; and as if this were no new thing he said: "Many years ago we went even further in saying that the government would place increasing taxes on increasing profits because very large profits were, of course, made at the expense of the neighbors and should, to some extent at least, be used for the benefit of the neighbors."
Large profit as such becomes therefore a symbol of social injury, merely because it is large; moreover, it is asserted that large profit had long been so regarded by the government and penalized for that reason. Of all the counter symbols this was the one most damaging to the capitalistic system. Indeed, if it were accepted, it would be fatal, because capitalism is a profit and loss system and if profits, even very large profits, are socially wrong, there is nothing more to be said for it. But it was a false symbol, and false for these three reasons, namely: first, there is no measure of large profit; second, large profits are of many kinds and to say simply that large profits are "of course made at the expense of the neighbors" is either nonsense or propaganda, as you like; and, in the third place, the history is wrong.
When the Federal government many years ago imposed a graduated income tax—that is, taxing the rich at a higher rate than the well-to-do and taxing the poor not at all, the idea was not that large profits or large incomes were gained at the expense of one's neighbors, not that the rich were guilty because they were rich. The idea was to impose taxes according to the ability to pay. The well-to-do could afford to pay more than the poor and the rich could afford to pay more than the well-to-do, and that was all.
What made it all so effective was that this was the American people's first experience with organized government propaganda designed "to arouse hostile attitudes toward the symbols and practices of the established order"—and that, if you will remember, was the most precise definition of revolutionary propaganda that Lasswell and Blumenstock could think of in their scientific study of World Revolutionary Propaganda.