Joseph Goebbels was the propaganda minister for Hitler’s Third Reich and is recognized as a master of propaganda. After the war, US personnel discovered a large diary dictated by Goebbels, which contained his principles of propaganda. These principles were applied in wartime and involve issues that do not arise otherwise. However, some of the principles are generally applicable and not limited to wartime. It is interesting to note that Goebbels‘ principles derive from Hitler’s own ideas of propaganda.
The principles of propaganda, as dictated by Goebbels, include the need for propagandists to have access to intelligence concerning events and public opinion. Propaganda must be planned and executed by only one authority, which must issue all the propaganda directives, explain propaganda directives to important officials, and maintain their morale. The authority must also oversee other agencies‘ activities that have propaganda consequences, and the propaganda consequences of an action must be considered in planning that action.
Propaganda must affect the enemy’s policy and actions. This can be achieved by suppressing propagandistically desirable material that can provide the enemy with useful intelligence, by openly disseminating propaganda whose contents or tone causes the enemy to draw the desired conclusions, and by goading the enemy into revealing vital information about himself. Propaganda can also be facilitated by leaders with prestige, must be carefully timed, and must reach the audience ahead of competing propaganda.
A propaganda campaign must begin at the optimum moment and a propaganda theme must be repeated, but not beyond some point of diminishing effectiveness. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans that evoke responses which the audience previously possesses, are easily learned, and are utilized again and again, but only in appropriate situations. Propaganda to the home front must prevent the raising of false hopes, create an optimum anxiety level, and reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat. Propaganda must diminish anxiety that is too high and cannot be reduced by people themselves, and must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.
Inevitable frustrations must be anticipated, placed in perspective, and displaced by some form of action or diversion, or both. Lastly, propaganda must be boomerang-proof and must reinforce the propagandist’s own objective. These principles can be considered a guide for the conduct of propaganda operations, although it is important to note that these principles were applied in wartime and involve issues that do not arise otherwise.