In 1944, the U.S. Army funded a series of American Historical Association pamphlets titled "What Is Propaganda?" The series came with helpful subtitles such as "Defining Propaganda," "Democratic vs. Enemy Propaganda," and "News and Propaganda," which is particularly at issue today. Unlike Fox News and the right's sundry cyberprint publications, good reporting, explained the pamphlet's author, "knows that the critical reader — one decently supplied with facts and having some knowledge of propaganda methods and purposes — can do his own job of separating the wheat from the straw."
The "News and Propaganda" primer — itself a propagandistic weapon of the war effort on behalf of sublime American values — underscored less the reporter's obligation than that of the judgment-tasked reader's: "[Circumspection] is the citizen’s responsibility and his privilege in a democratic society." Therein lies a judicious distinction: In a free, thriving democracy the privilege of independent thought is bestowed on the news consumer; his or her civic responsibility is to exercise it. Any top-down imposition of thought, which implies a bottom-up acceptance of others' thought, is unAmerican.
Which brings us to another of the wartime pamphlets ("What Are the Tools of Propaganda?") and, especially, its breezy observation that "The near-deification of Hitler by the Nazis and the technique of mass hypnotism of the Germans are things that we, as a democratic people, find it very difficult to understand." Puzzles the author:
"To us it is incredible that a fanatical, intense, uneducated Munich agitator, unschooled in economics and politics, should be exalted by mass appeals and terroristic tactics into an all-powerful and 'infallible' leader … who exacts unquestioned obedience from his people….
"Why did large sections of the German public come to accept this legend of the Munich agitator? One historian thinks that it was because millions of Germans were yearning for 'an end of all thought, will, or action on their own part' … [and so all] they had to do was to give [Hitler] 'implicit faith and blind subordination.'"
Whatever our difficulty in understanding the near-deification of a hideous mortal and the mass hypnosis of a people, it remains incredible that an intense, uneducated Manhattan agitator, unschooled in economics and politics, should be exalted by mass appeals and awarded unquestioned obedience from his people. Incredible indeed, although his people's compensation most assuredly lies in their now-satisfied yearning for an end of all thought and will.
It is into the vile mortal's hands that They the Hypnotized People have transferred all their hates, prejudices, disaffections and run-of-the-mill psychoses. He's as boorishly bughouse as they are, and in that sense, he deserves their respect; likewise they're as ignorant as he is, so in the same sense, they honor his anti-intellectualism.
The upside to all this is that in 17 days, we can tell them both to go straight to hell.