Since propaganda and public opinion is something that I’m highly interested in, this week’s readings were ones that I thought were highly valuable when it comes to our discussion of mass communication and social thought.
A connection which I found interesting is the use of propaganda and public opinion in the form of polling and questionnaires. Lind argues that polls show that the population often does not think rationally and that the majority often believes that because they are in the majority that the truth lies in this fact. However, history shows us that propaganda has been used to sway public opinion into believing an outright lie under the pretense that since the mass public was unified in this belief that it must therefore be fact.
A simple Google image search shows the plethora of Nazi Germany propaganda posters which were circulated in order to swirl up public hatred for the Jewish population. Now, if one were to have taken a poll in the middle of war-time Germany about public sentiment of the Jewish population, one would most likely receive results confirming a general hatred, or at least a strong dislike, of Jews. This would in fact prove two things. 1. Propaganda really does have an effect on public opinion and 2. As Lind wrote, “…modern psychology has taught us (a) that men are rational only fragmentarily, sporadically and with great difficulty, (b) that they are not free, but heavily and coercively conditioned by their past and by their surroundings; and (c) that in capacity they run the gamut from imbecility to genius.”
This goes to show that the genius of Goebbels in Nazi Germany, however insidious his intentions were, was able to turn what could have been a rational society into a majority of vile anti-Semites. If polled, this population would have believed that they were in the right for their hatred of Jews, but therein lies the fault with polling in the sense that the majority is not always right and that the power of coercion distorts the idea of truth.