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06 June 2011

Hitler Redux: common enemies, patsies, Israel, and Palestine

Have you noticed how the Arab Spring includes angry mobs screaming for violence and death to Jews?  Have you noticed that Palestine keeps popping up, too?  See, they're not screaming out against the Jews, they're not fighting against the Jews.  They're fighting for Palestine.  And if thousands or millions of Jews are killed in the process, well, that's what they really wanted an unfortunate consequence of fighting the good fight.

I've gotten ahead of myself, so let's back up and start with the master propagandist himself.

Hitler was a master at using communication to unite a people.  Propaganda?  Yes.  Uniting a people for a larger, nefarious goal?  Of course.  But nonetheless, he masterfully communicated to (with) the Germans and united them.  His root message: blaming everything on an Other.  I'm talking about the Jews, of course.

The "common enemy" message is among the strongest unifying messages.  Just consider the way sports fans unite.  It's not that the Bears are the best team in the history of the world.  It's not even that the Bears are better than all of those other teams... It's that the Bears are better than the Packers, the Vikings, etc.  And the Bears fans are never more united than when they play those damn cheeseheads.  (Hell, during the last big Bears/Packers game, the governors of each state had a highly publicized bet.)

Implied within the common enemy argument is that the opponent is "evil".  [A note about the term evil.  I use the term as an atheist, and I view evil in an amoral manner.  Personally, I have a difficult time with people who discuss good and evil in black and white terms; I find that usually dilutes the intellectual base of their message. The term good has equally difficult problems.  But I think we can all agree on some things being more/less preferable, more/less positive/negative.  On that style of spectrum, imagine it running from black through gray to white.  One end is Good.  The other is Evil.  'Nough said?]

Also implied within the common enemy argument is that, as opposed to the enemy, the in-group is "good".  Fighting against the enemy promotes the well-being of the better group, but the act of fighting is, on its own, not only promoting good, but good all on its own.

That was then.  That was a time when Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925 and made it available all over the world.  By 1938, it had been published multiple times in multiple translations in America.  But the media was different then.  People didin't listen to news while they drove to work.  People didn't have news available 24/7.  There was no social media.  Now people are much more careful with their words.

Now, people have to consider not only how to influence their target audience, but they must consider how their message will be perceived by the rest of the world.  The message must be interwoven.  Outright demonization is dangerous, because others could denounce your message and influence your audience.

I've often thought about how a modern day Hitler would have to function.  I contend that the common enemy tactic is still very strong, but a new component must be added for full efficacy in the modern technoworld.  It's not enough to have "the good" = you, your fight, the action of fighting.  You must also have a "good cause" for which you fight: a cause that is separate from your own goals and ideology.

Looking at the Tea Party, as an example, let's be honest.  This group came about as a reaction to/against Obama and the Democrat party.  It wasn't enough to just find a common enemy and unite under anti-Obama/pro-conservative fiscal values.  They also have a "good cause": liberty.  They fight their fight not just for their own betterment, not just for lower taxes and smaller government, but to promote founding American principles like liberty.

I'm not a Tea Party hater, and I do not mean to imply that some nefarious group within the Tea Party plotted out these actions.  Hitler, too, did not take Burke's thoughts about the common enemy and plot out a power grab based on Burkean ideology.  (He couldn't have; Burke noted the effects of the common enemy usage after reading Mein Kampf.)  What I am saying: using these techniques are powerful and effective.

On a world scale and with Hitler on the brain, I've often wondered what a modern Hitler would look like.  What rhetorical techniques would be used?  How would he accomplish his goals while the whole world watches?  How does one unite a people against a common enemy and dodge worldwide spanking for demonizing a people?

Bin Laden tried to rally a people ala Hitler, but his approach only went so far.  The foundation was faulty.  What could he have done differently?  What were his mistakes?  What did others learn to do and not do?

Here's what I think.

The common enemy method employs a scapegoat.  The modern day Hitler needs to pair the scapegoat with a patsy: a people or cause, other than the main group, who is "good".  Fighting for them is good.  It's fighting the good fight.

Thus, I present to you, Israel and Palestine.  You have extremist Muslims with the common enemy of Israel ("Little Satan") and America ("Great Satan").  Bin Laden showed how difficult it is to take down America, so it would make sense to first focus attention on Israel.  Wouldn't ya know it, there also happens to be far too many people who hate the Jews.  There ya go, a scapegoat.  A common enemy.  But the world won't sit back and allow another holocaust to happen.  (Or so you would think.)  How to use the scapegoat while hiding your motives?  Find a patsy.  The enemy of the enemy is my friend.  Hello, Palestine.

The "New Hitler" may indeed be using old school communication (propaganda) tactics while adding a new twist: the patsy, Palestine.

They're not fighting against the Jews.  They're fighting for Palestine.  And if thousands or millions of Jews are killed in the process, well, that's what they really wanted an unfortunate consequence of fighting the good fight.

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