Among other factors, “press indifference” helped the Nazi party consolidate power in the early 1930’s in Germany, according to our guide at the National Archives-Kansas City’s exhibit of “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.”
The Park University peace journalism class toured the exhibit today.
It is exactly this press indifference to tyrants, war-mongers, and propagandists that peace journalism preaches against. Instead of simply parroting propaganda, peace journalists help the public identify propaganda and its purposes while offering news consumers a counter-narrative that relies on facts instead of distortions.
Once the Nazis came to power, they swiftly crushed free media, making it impossible to report anything that didn’t echo official propaganda. However, before the Nazis ascended to power, during the late 1920’s until they were elected to a Reichstag majority in 1933, the German press could have attempted to expose Hitler and his broken ideology. Why didn’t this happen? Our informative guide Ellen told my students that the German press regarded Hitler as a powerless nobody, a preposterous lightweight, before he came to power. This dismissive attitude had the gravest repercussions for Germany and the world.
Of course, the Nazis weren’t the first or the last to use propaganda. Monday in peace journalism class, we talked about how ISIS was using social media to spread their messages, and how responsible media should react to offer counter-narratives. Later this semester, we’ll talk about how the American media shirked their responsibility to not simply regurgitate administration propaganda during the run-up to the Iraq war in 1993.
The outstanding “State of Deception” exhibit is a must visit, and a vivid reminder of the destructive power of communication. In teaching peace journalism, I hope to offer my students the antithesis—an education in the power of communication to be constructive.
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