Edward Bernays, one of the most important developers of modern propaganda, wrote almost a hundred years ago: “The manipulation of the opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the unseen mechanisms of society form an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country.”
January 30, 1933
by Hartwig Hohnsbein
[This article posted on 2/21/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.ossietzky.net/artikel/der-30-januar-1933/.]
Already a year before that fateful day, in early 1932, an essay appeared in the magazine Evangelische Wahrheit in which the author, the general secretary of the German Christian Student Association, described “the political face of the times.” For National Socialism, a “people’s movement,” he felt the greatest respect because of its “comprehensive spirit of sacrifice,” and he prophesied: “It is to be expected with great certainty that National Socialism will participate in government in some form before the end of this year, probably already in the spring. The question whether this is desirable must be answered in the affirmative.” The author knew: National Socialism and the Protestant Church agree in their basic statements: Against democracy, against liberalism, against socialism above all, and for a strong nationalism that could finally avenge the “disgrace of Versailles” – this was proclaimed, even before 1933, by about 70 to 80 percent of the Protestant pastors. In the state church of Hanover, for example, where the Lutheran state bishop Marahrens demanded that pastors take an oath of allegiance to Hitler that contradicted their ordination vows, only 11 of the more than 1,000 pastors refused to take this oath of allegiance.
When exactly one year later this wish was fulfilled and the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, so beloved in the Protestant Church, appointed Hitler, the “most faithful son of Germany”, as Reich Chancellor, a jubilation broke out in the Protestant Church, which from then on did not become less, no matter what kind of atrocities the desired government caused. The quoted general secretary now declared: “We stand gratefully and resolutely behind Hindenburg and Hitler as the leaders of our state” (Junge Kirche 4/1933, p. 43); and, in somewhat more detail, in his writing “Christ in German Destiny”: “Our history has once again entered a glowing state, and now our hopes, desires, expectations, decisions go with the new morning, that something great and mighty may come of it, and that our people may grasp its hour of God.” What today is called “the turning of the times” was for him a “God’s hour” or also, somewhat more profane, simply “a turning point.” Thus, on January 30, 1933, the Protestant Church declared, “To this turning point in history we say a grateful Yes! God has given it to us!”
The preacher of the hour of God was able to announce many great and powerful things in the following time, which this hour of God had given to the German people, e.g. the “Hitler Youth”: “Nowhere can one see more purely, more attractively and more convincingly what it is about the new Germany. (…) Willingness and sincerity of devotion to the new political life is the sign of this young German generation” (All. Ev. luth. Kirchenzeitung, 18/1935, Sp. 1136). Devotion was demanded soon thereafter by the German war of aggression in 1939. To this end, the Hitler admirer pointed out in three model war sermons and in his 1941 writing “War as a Spiritual Achievement” the necessity of “sacrificing one’s own life”: “It must be written not only on the soldiers’ belt buckles, but in heart and conscience: With God! Only in the name of God can one legitimize this sacrifice.” This writing was so well received by those in power that he was to be “officially promoted.” In 1947 he became the regional bishop of the largest German Lutheran regional church in Hanover. His name was Hanns Lilje. His friend was Bishop Otto Dibelius of Berlin, who had made himself a bishop in 1945 and in 1949 became the longtime chairman of the Council of the Lutheran Church. Together, the two then played a major role in pushing through the remilitarization pursued by Adenauer in the 1950s.
Otto Dibelius’ rise to the highest office in the Protestant Church would be inconceivable without his lifelong glorification of war and soldiering. During World War I, he published an annual collection of sermons; at the beginning, in 1914, he preached under the confession “God with us,” which supposedly “rings through every German heart: Death for the Fatherland is a glorious death. Glory to those who die it. Gratefully remembers them the Fatherland.” And at the end of the war, in 1918, he wants nothing to do with the fact that the killing will stop. “Peace of understanding: Yes or No? (…) The answer is: No! Not renunciation or understanding, but exploitation of our power to the extreme.” In 1930 he published a paper entitled “Peace on Earth?” in which it is stated: “War (is) a natural order of life of peoples. Even religion does not protest against it. Nor does Christianity.” A chapter heading is “The Joy of War”: the war lover learns about this: “Not only the soldier rejoices. They rejoice all who long for the unusual.” So that’s what the author wrote in 1930. Now only those had to get the power who really wanted to bring about the war with such a joy. After the Reichstag elections at the beginning of March 1933, he could write to “his” pastors about the new rulers of the NSDAP with joy: “Now power and mass are again with those who affirm the church and to whom the faithful visitors of the church in their overwhelming majority politically profess themselves.” And then, on the “Day of Potsdam,” March 21, 1933, in his sermon in the Nikolaikirche, he gave these rulers the green light for their criminal activities: “We have learned from Dr. Martin Luther that the church must not fall into the arms of the legitimate state power when it does what it is called to do. Not even when it acts harshly and ruthlessly.” Hermann Göring, so it is handed down, liked that very much.
Dibelius evidently remained true to his “joy of war” even after 1945. In addition to his aforementioned commitment to remilitarization, he also found appropriate words in the 1950s in the dispute over equipping the Bundeswehr with tactical nuclear weapons, as sought by CDU Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, his party colleague. Historian Manfred Görtemaker, in his book “History of the Federal Republic of Germany” (1999, p. 259), states: “Karl Otto Dibelius, as chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church, asserted that even the use of a hydrogen bomb was not such a terrible thing from the Christian point of view, since we are all striving toward eternal life. If such a bomb killed a million people, those affected would ‘reach eternal life all the more quickly.'” “Joy of war,” yes, nuclear war – that was the message of Otto Dibelius. He was granted honorary citizenship in West Berlin during the Cold War in 1958.
An open letter
by Hermann Theisen
[This open letter posted on 2/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.ossietzky.net/artikel/ein-offener-brief/.]
for more than 11 months, a merciless war has been raging in the middle of Europe, which began last February with Russia’s attack on Ukraine. A war is a serious conflict that has gotten out of control and is fought by military means. Like any other conflict, it goes through several phases for which all parties to the conflict bear a (shared) responsibility. There are also such levels of responsibility in relation to the war in Ukraine: For its prehistory, its beginning, its course, its termination, and the period afterwards. It is indisputable that Russia alone is responsible for the start of the war of aggression against Ukraine, while the responsibility for the other levels is much more difficult to pinpoint and inevitably leads to ourselves in the end.
For several months now, the public debate on the war in Ukraine in Germany has been largely determined by the fact that the call for arms deliveries is getting louder and louder and that stereotypical demands are being made for further arms deliveries even before the previous demands have been met. You are repeatedly criticized for your deliberative stance, and media reports like to paint the picture of a driven man: Driven by Ukraine, the military alliance supporting it, the arms industry and the war supporters within your own government. I am always amazed by the seemingly unshakable certainty of the proponents of arms deliveries that this war can only be brought to a good end by military means, while those voices calling for more diplomacy are all too often ignored and disavowed, even if they are proven military experts.
Only a few decades ago, the slogan “Never again war” determined the Germans’ attitude to life. It was born in Germany after World War I, when the “Peace League of War Participants” tried in 1919 to rally those Germans whom the war had turned into pacifists and who turned away in disgust from Prussian-German militarism. In May 1945, after the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht, the slogan “Never again war” experienced a renaissance, and it seemed as if the great majority of Germans would from now on be ready for a pacifist attitude. The peace commandment of the Basic Law, which was supposed to give Germans a basic pacifist orientation to protect them from further experiences of war, also came into being at this time.
In the meantime, almost eighty years have passed, and a war is raging again in the middle of Europe, in which Germany is involved by supplying weapons, providing financial aid and training Ukrainian soldiers on German army bases. And suddenly there is even talk of a “good war” (Sonja Zekri) against Russia, which can only be decided militarily, as if the painful experiences of the two previous world wars had not existed.
For us Germans, the deep sense of (war) guilt, but also the equally deep experience of forgiveness and reconciliation has been placed in our historical DNA. After the end of the Second World War, we Germans began a long and arduous journey toward peaceful coexistence, both within our society and within the world community, which extended its reconciling hand to us and thus allowed Germany to become what it is today. This specifically German experience of forgiveness and reconciliation may have played a role that should not be underestimated in Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which is etched in our historical memory with the image of his genuflection in Warsaw and his words “Peace is not everything, but everything is nothing without peace.”
In the war in Ukraine, it is estimated that 200,000 Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have been killed and injured so far, and about 50,000 civilian casualties, as well as millions of refugees. And it still seems that neither of the two warring parties can win this war.
Against this backdrop, your consistently deliberative stance on the issue of ever more arms deliveries to Ukraine has been more than welcome. In the meantime, however, you have given in to pressure and agreed to the delivery of Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, to which, in the meantime, the delivery of fighter jets is already being demanded as an immediate response: “Russian aggression can only be stopped with adequate weapons,” the Ukrainian president is quoted as saying in the Tagesschau, because “the (Russian) terrorist state will not understand otherwise,” according to Volodymyr Selenskyj.
In this situation, an urgent appeal is made to you:
Educate the public about your concrete goal in the Ukrainian war!
Take a non-military and peace-oriented leadership role within the communities of states supporting Ukraine and initiate the first steps towards a ceasefire as well as a diplomatic solution of the Ukrainian war!
In doing so, help the peace commandment of the Basic Law to play the peace policy role that the mothers and fathers of the Basic Law had in mind in order to prevent and, if necessary, end future wars!
Media makes politics
by Georg Rammer
[This article posted on 2/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.ossietzky.net/artikel/medien-machen-politik/.]
The year is 2019, and the largely state-funded U.S. think tank Rand Corporation for advising the military (focus, according to Wikipedia: strategies for destabilizing Russia and considerations for war with China) publishes a study, “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia.” In numerous tables, recommended courses of action to the government are evaluated according to how intensely they can contribute to Russia’s ruin and the costs and risks they entail for the United States. Examples: “Provide lethal aid to Ukraine,” “Increase support to the Syrian rebels,” or “Encourage domestic protests (in Russia) and other nonviolent resistance.” The U.S. obviously feels not only justified but also capable of carrying out all this. In Germany, we read only in alternative media about the plans of the Western superpower to destabilize Russia, which have been implemented to a large extent in the meantime.
The silence has a system. The leading media do not try to present the complex social and political reality, but to construct their own reality, close to the government and the parties. They make politics, with all methods of “strategic communication””, i.e. propaganda. Of course, “lying press” is a right-wing fighting term, a multitude of critical reports and comments by journalists who take their profession seriously prove it. But in key economic, political and military issues, where Western interests and power are at stake, we see a systematic distortion.
Examples of strategic communication can be found every day. Newspapers carry a report from dpa, for example: EU and NATO have agreed on even closer cooperation. Because the livelihood of millions is threatened by global warming: “Even more humanitarian disasters, flight and migration, and increasing conflicts over resources such as water and land could be the result.” This security threat, he said, must be met at a new level of partnership. That this is reported is fine – but where are the critical questions: Who is causing the disasters? Why is remedial action a matter for NATO? Is this aid or neo-colonialism?
There are also reports about the planned military mission to fight terrorism, called “EU Partnership Mission Niger”. Another paper reports rumors of fake news by Russia-friendly trolls: France wants to secure raw materials such as uranium. Rumors? Fake News? Russian trolls? An investigation reveals that the allegedly selfless military operation is also intended to fight migration to Europe and to secure the uranium mines of the French state-owned company, which, by the way, significantly increase the mortality rate among workers and among residents.
Propaganda rules in war. But is it acceptable that the opinion-forming quality media in Germany, according to a study by the Otto Brenner Foundation, which is close to the trade unions, report tendentiously, one-sidedly and very uniformly? Since the beginning of the war, only four percent of the reports have described the West as (partly) responsible, while 93 percent put the blame exclusively on Putin. Doesn’t that have to be called historical fakery, isn’t that indoctrination? The reports clearly favor arms deliveries over diplomacy. Do these reports reflect the mood of the population or do they seek to create it? After all, as recently as last August, 77 percent of respondents thought the West should seek negotiations to end the war.
Incidentally, the leading media have largely concealed the results of the study from their audience. The pillar of freedom of the press, so important to a democracy, is primarily intended to protect against government interference; what happens when the leading media serve as mouthpieces for government war policies?
“Turn of the times” means militarization, war logic, friend-foe thinking and also an economic-military leadership role for Germany (which 68 percent of respondents reject). The Federal Academy for Security Policy propagates a change in mentality among the population; among soldiers, it must be developed as a readiness to fight according to the motto “fight, kill, die.” Is that what the population wants? The vast majority of people (up to 90 percent) demand an improvement in services of general interest, 92 percent a ban on nuclear weapons. Promoting militarization when ailing clinics, a destroyed climate, unaffordable housing, the wretched state of public transportation characterize everyday life? As a result, only just under one-third express confidence in the government and the Bundestag, and only 17 percent in the political parties. Dissatisfaction with the functioning of democracy (up to 70 percent of the population, depending on their social situation) is growing.
Instead of remedies, indoctrination on all channels: Strack-Zimmermann, the chairwoman of the defense committee, who has been omnipresent in the media for months, has a free hand and voice for warmongering and breeding enemy images: Politicians, too, “need an image of the enemy in order to act from the perspective of the Bundeswehr”; they need “an image of a possible enemy who wants to eliminate our freedom and democracy.” No mention is made of the fact that she also acts as an arms lobbyist: on the presidium of the Förderkreis Deutsches Heer, the German Defense Technology Society, as vice president of the German Atlantic Society and on the advisory board of the Federal Academy for Security Policy.
Edward Bernays, one of the most important developers of modern propaganda, wrote almost a hundred years ago: “The manipulation of the opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the unseen mechanisms of society form an invisible government, which is the true ruling power of our country.” The media have taken the advice to heart. Instead of education and critical reports about the power structures and the interests behind them, we are fed propaganda.
Concealed were the proposals and concepts of various states, ex-diplomats and -militants for peace negotiations. We search in vain for analyses of ex-Chancellor Merkel’s admission that the Minsk agreements were concluded in 2014 to give Ukraine time to rearm for war. But the German media process the population with the message that Putin is not to be trusted, that he understands only the language of violence. By the way: NATO is working at full speed on “cognitive warfare”, the “war of thought” as an extreme further development of information warfare, according to a defense expert “the most advanced form of manipulation”.
Refusal to report, which would enable one’s own judgment, also on the living conditions of the people in Ukraine. If one really wants to help, an honest stocktaking would be indispensable. Where is it pointed out that war has been going on there for eight years, long before Feb. 24, 2022; that even before the Russian invasion Ukraine was considered the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe, ruled by six oligarchs? Nothing about the emigration of seven million people in twenty years after 1990. Economist Heiner Flassbeck has described the privatization demanded and encouraged by the West in both Russia and Ukraine, which has fostered de-democratization, oligarchic structures, and the exploitation of the countries as suppliers of raw materials. President Selenskyj is currently bringing in the politically and economically powerful, uncontrollable investment company Black Rock to build up the country – for whose benefit? Agricultural and biotech giants Cargill, DuPont, Monsanto/Bayer are buying millions of hectares of fertile land. Does this serve the people of Ukraine?
“Respect for the truth (…) and truthful information of the public are top priorities of the press,” says the “ethical standards for journalism.” Instead, we are witnessing: The leading media make politics. They construct a colored reality. Dissenting opinions are eliminated, and peace negotiations are put down in a war propaganda manner. The freedom of the press, which is primarily intended to protect the media from state intervention, is being turned into the opposite by the editors-in-chief, who are narrowing the corridor of opinion and engaging in selective and manipulative war propaganda. This, too, is part of the “turn of the times”: the logic of war and the destruction of the livelihoods of billions of people must be supported by the creation of a moral narrative. That it is a fake reality is felt by many; in this climate hatred, violence, disintegration of social cohesion thrive. Hannah Arendt wrote in 1967: “Where facts are consistently replaced by lies and total fictions, it turns out that there is no substitute for truth. For the result is by no means that the lie is now accepted as true and truth is defamed as a lie, but that the human sense of orientation in the realm of the real, which cannot function without the distinction between truth and untruth, is destroyed.”