Introduction: ‘Totalitarianism’, Propaganda, War and the Third Reich

  • Aristotle A. Kallis


What exactly is propaganda? Nowadays, the word is usually associated with deception, lies and manipulation. And yet, propaganda did not always have such a clearly negative meaning. In the first decades of the twentieth century, it was deployed generically to indicate a systematic process of information management geared to promoting a particular goal and to guaranteeing a popular response as desired by the propagandist. As such, propaganda remains a sub-genus of mass communication and persuasion, developed in the context of modernity to deal with two parallel developments: on the one hand, the increasing expansion and sophistication of the ‘public sphere’ with its ever-growing thirst for information and opinion-forming; on the other hand, the exponential proliferation of available information, making it very difficult for the individual to identify, absorb and analyse the material. As one of the leading theorists of propaganda and communication, Jacques Ellul, noted,

[i]t is the emergence of mass media which makes possible the use of propaganda techniques on a societal scale. The orchestration of press, radio and television to create a continuous, lasting and total environment renders the influence of propaganda virtually unnoticed precisely because it creates a constant environment. Mass media provides the essential link between the individual and the demands of the technological society.1


Public Sphere Radio Broadcast Vague Objective Societal Integration Negative Integration 
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© Aristotle A. Kallis 2005

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