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Home » Sections » Background File » The “West” and the Shadow of History

The “West” and the Shadow of History

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by Leslie Colbert
August 13th, 2010  |  Section: Background File

The unexamined word should not worth using, to adapt Socrates, and indeed in this age of rampant mass media the unexamined word in the geopolitical arena can be dangerously misleading. Words support people’s attitudes and colour their thinking  And sometimes it seems as if their seductive properties  can leave us blind to the actual qualities of reality. These days the vast outpourings of language unleashed in the manifold forms of modern mass communication threaten to become the matrix of some huge illusion. There is no shortage of slogam wielding salesmen manipulating things behind the scenes to take advantage and push their product. Modern civilisation seems no better equipped than any other to the task of propagating essential truths among the mass of the population.

We reflect in horror and wonder how that extraordinary political agitator, Adolf Hitler, was able so completely to mesmerise his audiences. Yet much of his vocabulary had its roots in the political and intellectual chaos of the Weimar Republic and indeed earlier.  He had no need to invent verbal buttons to press. Key words such as  ”Reich”, “Kampf” , ‘Volk ‘and many others came with a meaning and emotional charge already loaded and absorbed uncritically by a large segment of the German population, right-wing mostly to be sure, but widely dispersed in the 1920’s  through universities, churches, salon society and beer halls.  Hitler only had to brandish these words as slogans in order to bring his listeners to heel.

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