Powers of Persuasion

David Welch argues that propaganda has had an essential, and not always dishonourable, role in conduct of affairs in the twentieth century.

‘Propaganda,' said its most notorious exponent, Josef Goebbels, 'is a much maligned and often misunderstood word. The layman uses it to mean something inferior or even despicable. The word propaganda always has a bitter after-taste.' Goebbels was speaking in March 1933 immediately after his appointment as Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda in Hitler's first government, a role in which he was to do more than most to ensure and perpetuate that 'bitter after-taste'.

'But,' Goebbels continued:

If you examine propaganda's most secret causes, you will come to different conclusions: then there will be no more doubting that the propagandist must be the man with the greatest knowledge of souls. I cannot convince a single person of the necessity of something unless I get to know the soul of that person, unless I understand how to pluck the string in the harp of his soul that must be made to sound.

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