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Well That's the Point

Reader comment on item: Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World
in response to reader comment: Jeffrey Herf's thesis is probably not true

Submitted by Timothy (United States), Oct 1, 2010 at 13:08

Mr/Ms PPS,

Your point about propaganda not necessarily being very effective is a good one and a point that I was thinking about while reading the article as well. I thought of the Stilyagi in Russia during the 1940's-60's. The Soviet government attempted to ignore them, then harass them, then jail them, then produce propaganda complete with Soviet dances and jazz music (and later rock) none of which took. I thought of the Soviets blasting rock and roll into Afghanistan hoping to disrupt Islamic society which of course failed.

But then I thought of the American printed textbooks for children that were recovered in 2002 in Afghanistan praising jihad which were left over from our propaganda aiding the resistance to the previous Soviet invasion. Then I thought of "The Looming Tower" and conversations reported between Saudi intelligence and Osama Bin Laden that showed Saudi disbelief that Bin Laden bought the propaganda they put out about him. I remember the impact of books like "Free to Choose" in Eastern Europe that were smuggled in. Yes, raw propaganda is often useless because substance makes style and not the other way around, but when propaganda is based on underlying beliefs (like Islamist tendencies predating Nazism) then there can be a real affect. Nazi literature continues to sell in high volumes throughout the middle east and it would not be wise to ignore the influence that was planted by the Germans years ago and maintained by institutions which encourage conspiracy thinking in the years since. Aristotle influenced Islamic thinkers like Averroes and the brief empire of Alexander the Great left a lasting culture impact on the Byzantine Empire until the 15th century. When done right, ideas can have a powerful and lasting effect.

P.S. For more information about the ability for culture to linger on for generations see "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell.

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