How to Lie: Advice from the Pioneers of Propaganda

Joseph Goebbels

  • “What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.”
  • “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
  • “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
  • “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
  • “Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. I speak differently in the provinces than I do in Berlin, and when I speak in Bayreuth, I say different things than I say in the Pharus Hall. That is a matter of practice, not of theory. We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.”
  • “Man is and remains an animal. Here a beast of prey, there a house pet, but always an animal.”
  • “Every age that has historical status is governed by aristocracies. Aristocracy with the meaning – the best are ruling. Peoples do never govern themselves. That lunacy was concocted by liberalism. Behind its people’s sovereignty, the slyest cheaters are hiding, who don’t want to be recognized.”

Edward L. Bernays

  • “When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And “propaganda” got to be a bad word because of the Germans using it, so what I did was to try and find some other words so we found the words ‘public relations’.”
  • “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
  • “It is sometimes possible to change the attitudes of millions but impossible to change the attitude of one man.”
  • “The best defense against propaganda: more propaganda.”