Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth and Morality
Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism
Date Written: 2017-01-24
Publisher: Open Culture
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20309
Observations on Hannah Arendt's 1951 book "Origins of Totalitarianism" on the nature of Totalitarianism and the role of propaganda in its rise and support within societies.
Why the constant, often blatant lying? For one thing, it functioned as a means of fully dominating subordinates, who would have to cast aside all their integrity to repeat outrageous falsehoods and would then be bound to the leader by shame and complicity. "The great analysts of truth and language in politics" - writes McGill University political philosophy professor Jacob T. Levy - including "George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel - can help us recognize this kind of lie for what it is…. Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It's something that was endemic to totalitarianism."