1933 Germany

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Propaganda versus Press Releases

Propaganda has a negative feel to the word, as opposed to truthful but biased pro-government press releases, but aside from the morality of it, they are very similar.  I guess one difference is that government lies are vulnerable to being proved wrong, so they are much more of a complement to censorship. In fact, if the government statements are true, censorship hurts, because people can't tell the that government statements would hold up under criticism.  There might be some paper to write on defamation laws using the same ideas.  In the US, the press are essentially allowed to lie about people, because of the doctrine that "actual malice" must be proved  when a lie is published in order to win a defamation suit. In the UK, this is not true. Thus, in the UK, rational people should trust the press a lot more.  Journalists definitely behave differently in the two countries-- even the purple press in the UK is pretty reliable, whereas the New York Times in the US is unreliable. 

Propaganda as Ritual Humiliation

     I read somewhere recently another  use of propaganda, a subtle one. The idea is that the government promotes a party line, which ideally uses recognizable jargon and is entirely implausible. The use of it is that the government can then see what citizens say. If they parrot back the party line, that shows they're subservient. If they get it wrong, that shows they are careless and thus not in enough fear. If they contradict it, or even if they clearly don't try to learn to parrot it, that shows they are defiant and need purging. 

See Theodore Dalrymple's famous quote on this in Communism. 

Hitler's Rise to Power

   On Germany in 1933: the interesting question is why the conservative parties cooperated in their own destruction.  They formed a coalition with the Nazi's, their old enemies, in January 1933 because the Nazis had gotten 1/3 of the vote in the last election.  It is understandable why they wouldn't mind when the Nazis then persecuted the Social Democrats and the Communists,  but they also stood by while an apparatus was constructed that obviously was going to be used against them next, and in the big vote on the Enabling Act that gave Hitler 4 years of power to rule by decree, the Nationalist, Steel Helmet, and Center Parties all voted for it, giving the 2/3 majority needed, with only the Social Democrats voting against (the Communists had been expelled from the Reichstag). Within 2 months, Hitler had banned all those parties. I think it can be modelled as a coordination game, much as in papers on Naked Exclusion and Cheap Bribes with Ramseyer and Wiley, with Goebbels being very good at getting his desired equilibrium to be the one actually played out.