“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come home in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a communist dictatorship….
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
—Hermann Goering, as told to Gustav Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials.
Ladies and gentlemen, before you proceed, read the above quote. Then, read it again, and ponder upon it.
There is much human insight in that statement, and a perverse wisdom and shrewdness in it.
Our natural reaction would be to curse Goering, and call him something like a Nazi pig. But, hold on, I say. Hold your horses. Hira Singh, my old friend, would ask you to pause, consider and ponder.
Propaganda is nothing new. It is just that, with the advent of media – traditional and social – the messages have become more intrusive, if you may.
As the world has become a busier place, we find ourselves stretched for time. Gone are the quills and ink with which we would write. Gone are the long letters, in elegant hand.
This has been replaced by byte sized communication, and we often do not have the time to pause and think. We react emotionally.
Back home, in India, Prime Minister Modi said, “Good Days are coming…” We voted him to power. We were in a mad rush to get anyone but the Congress.
Indira Gandhi, in the seventies, spoke about “Roti, Kapda air Makaan” – “Food, Clothing and Shelter”. Yet, almost half a century on, we have possibly the highest rate of malnutrition and homelessness in the world.
We worry about cow slaughter, and not about the humans who would die of starvation.
In the US, George Bush sent American troops to Iraq, and Obama spoke about “Change we can trust”.
We need an enemy, it seems, to distract us. We need Pakistan, as they need us, so that the leaders can divert attention to the well being of people.
The same, it seems, applies to Putin.
We are on the road, worrying about the traffic, and the piled up WhatsApp messages. Do we have the time to think?
Leaders need propaganda – whether they are corporate leaders, or political leaders.
Let me go back to school. I was in St Joseph’s College in Nainital, and we were nicknamed ‘Sem’, because our school was a seminary in the 1880’s
Our rival school was, is, Sherwood.
We would have inter-school matches at the Flats. The “Flats”, by the way, have been ruined by tourists and converted into a giant parking lot.
Anyway, we would have the school boys practising the “Go Man Go… SJC” chant right up to the match, so that the footer team could be cheered on. It was wild, and it was fun.
Replace the cheering crowds at a school match, or a Manchester United match, and put them into corporate situation, or when they cheer Trump or Modi or Putin or anyone else.
Goering was not that far off, I think.
What say ye, Hira Singh, my friend?