Quotations about   propaganda

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All art is propaganda. It is universally and inescapably propaganda; sometimes unconsciously, but often deliberately, propaganda.

As commentary on the above, we add, that when artists or art critics make the assertion that art excludes propaganda, what they are saying is that their kind of propaganda is art, and other kinds of propaganda are not art. Orthodoxy is my doxy, and heterodoxy is the other fellow’s doxy.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
Mammonart, ch. 2 “Who Owns the Artists?” (1925)
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Added on 2-Jul-20 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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A revolution requires of its leaders a record of unbroken infallibility; if they do not possess it, they are expected to invent it.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, ch. 3 (1955)
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Added on 19-Jun-20 | Last updated 19-Jun-20
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Indeed, just as frightened horses raise their necks up high, in the same way all those devotees of empty glory raise themselves above everything else, above cities, laws, ancestral custom, and the affairs of individual citizens. As they move from demagoguery to dictatorship, they subdue some of their neighbors as they try to make themselves superior and upright — and then they plan to enslave however so many minds remain naturally free and unenslaved.

[τῷ γὰρ ὄντι καθάπερ οἱ γαῦροι τῶν ἵππων τὸν αὐχένα μετέωρον ἐξάραντες, ὅσοι θιασῶται τῆς κενῆς δόξης εἰσίν, ἐπάνω πάντων ἑαυτοὺς ἱδρύουσι, πόλεων, νόμων, ἐθῶν πατρίων, τῶν παρ᾿ ἑκάστοις πραγμάτων· εἶτα ἀπὸ δημαγωγίας ἐπὶ δημαρχίαν βαδίζοντες καὶ τὰ μὲν τῶν πλησίον καταβάλλοντες, τὰ δὲ οἰκεῖα διανιστάντες καὶ παγίως ὀρθοῦντες, ὅσα ἐλεύθερα καὶ ἀδούλωτα φύσει φρονήματα]

Philo of Alexandria (AD c. 20-50) Hellenistic Jewish philosopher [Philo Judaeus]
On Dreams, That They Are God-Sent [Quod a Deo Mittantur Somnia or De Somniis], Book 2, ch. 12 [2.78-79] [tr. @sentantiq]
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Alt. trans.: "In real truth, as spirited horses lift their necks high, so all who are companions of vain opinion place themselves above all things, above all cities, and laws, and national customs, and above all the circumstances which affect each individual of them. Then proceeding onwards from being demagogues to being leaders of the people, and overthrowing the things which belong to their neighbours, and setting up and establishing on a solid footing what belongs to themselves, that is to say, all such dispositions as are free and by nature impatient of slavery, they attempt to reduce these also under their power." [Yonge (1855)]
Added on 8-Jun-20 | Last updated 8-Jun-20
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Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 2 “The Totalitarian Movement” (1951)
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Added on 19-May-20 | Last updated 19-May-20
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Race and nationality are catchwords for which rulers find that their subjects are willing to fight, as they fought for what they called religion four hundred years ago.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“The Future of the English Race,” Galton Lecture (1919), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1920)
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Added on 23-Mar-20 | Last updated 23-Mar-20
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A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible, world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything is possible and that nothing was true. The mixture in itself was remarkable enough, because it spelled the end of the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds. Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Part 3, ch. 2 (1951)
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Added on 6-Feb-20 | Last updated 6-Feb-20
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Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Starting from Scratch, Part 3 “The Work,” “The Passive Voice, or The Secret Agent” (1989)
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Added on 26-Nov-18 | Last updated 26-Nov-18
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Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda, and entertainment without moral passion is television.

Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944) American author, playwright
Starting from Scratch (1989)
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Added on 26-Oct-18 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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RIPPER: I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) American film director, screenwriter, producer
Dr. Strangelove (1964) [with T. Southern, Peter George, based on Red Alert by Peter George]
Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
“Concerning Stories Never Written” (Oct 1952)
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Added on 2-Sep-17 | Last updated 2-Sep-17
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A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon (Apr 1946)
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Added on 25-Apr-17 | Last updated 25-Apr-17
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The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“On Stupidity” (1942)
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Added on 22-Mar-17 | Last updated 22-Mar-17
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Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong but of the weak.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (22 Sep 1920)
Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 28-Nov-16
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The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Jul-16 | Last updated 15-Jul-16
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Ya got trouble, folks!
Right here in River City.
Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
And that stands for pool!

Meredith Willson (1902-1984) American composer, songwriter, flutist, conductor, playwright
“(Ya Got) Trouble,” The Music Man (1957)
Added on 23-Sep-15 | Last updated 23-Sep-15
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He was afraid that the world struggle today was not of Communism against Fascism, but of tolerance against the bigotry that was preached equally by Communism and Fascism. But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word “Fascism” and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty. For they were thieves not only of wages but of honor. To their purpose they could quote not only Scripture but Jefferson.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
It Can’t Happen Here, ch. 36 (1935)
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Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 11-Aug-15
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But the most interesting — although horrible — sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where there were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda”.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Letter to George C. Marshall (15 Apr 1945)

Referring to the Ohrdruf concentration camp, part of the Buchenwald network of camps. It was the first camp liberated by US troops.
Added on 6-Aug-15 | Last updated 6-Aug-15
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That’s what I hate about the war on drugs. All day long we see those commercials: “Here’s your brain, here’s your brain on drugs”, “Just Say No”, “Why do you think they call it dope?” … And then the next commercial is “This Bud’s for yooouuuu.” C’mon, everybody, let’s be hypocritical bastards. It’s okay to drink your drug. We meant those other drugs. Those untaxed drugs. Those are the ones that are bad for you.

Bill Hicks (1961-1994) American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, musician [William Melvin "Bill" Hicks]
Performance, Pittsburgh (20 Jun 1991)

Recorded in Flying Saucer Tour, Vol. 1 (2002)
Added on 17-Apr-15 | Last updated 17-Apr-15
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If an idiot were to tell you the same story every day for a year, you would end by believing it.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
(Attributed)

Cited in J.F. Boyes, Lacon in Council (1865). Also attributed to Horace Mann.
Added on 6-Feb-15 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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Don’t let them tell us stories. Don’t let them say of the man sentenced to death “He is going to pay his debt to society,” but: “They are going to cut off his head.” It looks like nothing. But it does make a little difference.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Entre oui et non,” in L’Envers et l’endroit (1937)

Translated as "Between Yes and No", in World Review (Mar 1950).
Added on 29-Sep-14 | Last updated 29-Sep-14
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It is essential to persuade the soldier that those he is being urged to massacre are bandits who do not deserve to live; before killing other good, decent fellows like himself, his gun would fall from his hands.

André Gide (1869-1951) French author, Nobel laureate
Journal (10 Feb 1943) [tr. O’Brien (1951)]
Added on 9-Apr-14 | Last updated 9-Apr-14
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During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, … and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.

Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870-1924) Russian politician, revolutionary, political theorist [b. Vladimir Ilich Ulyamov]
The State and Revolution, 1.1 (1917)
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The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority, the dignity, the utility of History. If we may debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then History ceases to be a science, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the Wanderer, the upholder of that moral standard which the powers of earth and religion itself tend constantly to depress. It serves where it ought to reign; and it serves the worst cause better than the purest.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter to Bp. Mandell Creighton (3 Apr 1887)
Added on 28-Jan-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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We find it almost as difficult as the communists to believe that anyone could think ill of us, since we are as persuaded as the communists that our society is so essentially virtuous that only malice could prompt criticism of any of our actions.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) American theologian and clergyman
The Irony of American History (1962)
Added on 4-Dec-13 | Last updated 4-Dec-13
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All State propaganda exalts comradeship, for it is this gregarious herd-sense and herd-smell which keeps people from thinking and so reconsiles them to the destruction of their private lives.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
“Ecce Gubernator,” The Unquiet Grave (1945)
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Added on 13-Sep-12 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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Such things will cease to be written when men perceive that truth is the only merit that gives dignity and worth to history.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“The Massacre of St Bartholomew,” North British Review (Oct 1869)

Referencing Catholic denial and revisionism over the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Usually elided to start with "Truth is ..."

Collected in The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907)
Added on 15-Jul-09 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) American journalist
Speech, The Family of Man Award, The Protestant Council of New York (Oct 1969)

His last public speech.
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But every writer, especially every novelist, has a “message”, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Charles Dickens,” Inside the Whale (1940)
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See Sinclair.
Added on 26-Feb-09 | Last updated 2-Jul-20
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If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death? The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
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Sometimes paraphrased, "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Oct-19
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