Monday, November 9, 2009

Dehumanization through propaganda

Throughout history, politicians have used propaganda to dehumanize the enemy. By doing this, politicians trick their followers into believing that the enemy deserves to be killed, for they are portrayed in the propaganda as being murderers, rapists, or just plain scum. The result then is that the people are more willing to engage in war against the enemy since they have a firm belief that the enemy should be out-right eliminated.
For example, Hitler was able to gain widespread support for World War II by using the Jewish population as a scapegoat. He used propaganda to make them seem disgusting and different, making them the root of the German people’s troubles (Nazi Propaganda). Which as a result, created greater support from German citizens. Hitler used caricatures that represented Jews having huge noses, skinny, and just plain ugly. Of course, this was not a true representation of the Jewish population. However, when people would see these posters, they associated them with the Jewish community. As this association grew, so did the atmosphere of hate towards the Jews. Violence became more accepted towards Jews and soon came the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935 which restricted the Jewish population from many normal activities (O’Brien). Then the movement by the Nazis to completely eliminate the Jewish population, by using concentration camps, that the German population was well aware of. All were supported because of the slow progression of using anti-Jewish propaganda that slowly turned the minds of the non-Jewish community into hating the Jews and agreeing with the Nazi regime that they were the root of Germany’s problems.
A modern day example is the dehumanizing of Saddam Hussein. We dubbed him “the new Hitler” after claims in 1988, that he was supposedly gassing his own people (Clark 1). Along with other claims of Saddam’s cruel acts towards his own people, the U.S. population began to view him as a murderer, a womanizer, and just an overall horrible being. One of the main reasons that President Bush gave for invading Iraq was the claim that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (Clark 1).The Bush administration was unable to articulate exactly why we were going to war, being the true reason was the “plans for U.S. domination and exploitation under its New World Order” (Clark 1). So, in demonizing Hussein, they were able to still gain support even without telling the U.S. exactly why we were going to war. Doing so lead the United States into believing that invading Iraq and driving Saddam out of power was the right thing to do. As a result of the U.S. population, being influenced by the demonization of Saddam Hussein through modern propaganda, supported the U.S. invading Iraq February 22, 1991 which became known as the Gulf War. To this day, we are still in Iraq, after a new invasion in 2003, even though Saddam Hussein is now dead.
Why do we dehumanize others? This is an easy answer. To help make it easier to hurt the “enemy”, it gives one a justification for killing, torturing, and hurting those they believe are bad. The theory that we must dehumanize others in order to aggress against them is called moral justification. Looking at moral justification it is seen that with it, “ people can see themselves (or one’s group) as having fought in the name of righteous ideologies or nationalistic imperatives.” (Cehajic-Clancy). It is clear that many people in this situation probably feel much cognitive dissonance. They know hurting people is wrong, but they know that these bad people must pay. So to make their cognitive dissonance disappear, they simply tell themselves that these people are far from human! They are animals who have committed horrible acts against others and deserve to pay. Cognitive dissonance occurs when two thoughts contradict one another. So, “ When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior.” (Cognitive Dissonance (L. Festinger) ).
When a leader uses dehumanization of the enemy, their country fall into a mindset of pure hate for the enemy. Thus, the people are far more willing, whether they know all the facts of why their country wishes to go to war, to back up their leaders. Propaganda clearly wins in ensnaring the minds of a population into believing the lies their leaders tell them about their enemy with the use of dehumanization.

"Nazi Propaganda". Holocaust Encyclopedia. October 3, 2009 /wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005274>.

O'Brien, Joseph. "Nazi Racial Legislation: The Nuremberg Laws". Information For
Students. October 3,2009 .

Clark, Ramsey. "Demonize to Colonize". Global research November 29, 2005.

Cehajic-Clancy, Sabina. "Dehumanization of the victims." Puls Demokratije. 30 June 2009. Puls Demokratije, Web. 10 Dec 2009. .

"Cognitive Dissonance (L. Festinger) ." Explorations in Learning & Instruction: The Theory Into Practice Database . Web. 10 Dec 2009. .

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