If conservatives don't want to be seen as bitter people who cling to their guns and religion and anti-immigrant sentiments, they should stop being bitter and clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant sentiments.
Our theme this evening is hotly disputed. I realize that my viewpoint is subjective. There is really little point to discussing propaganda. It is a matter of practice, not of theory. One cannot determine theoretically whether one propaganda is better than another. Rather, that propaganda is good that has the desired results, and that propaganda is bad that does not lead to the desired results. It does not matter how clever it is, for the task of propaganda is not to be clever, its task is to lead to success. I therefore avoid theoretical discussions about propaganda, for there is no point to it. Propaganda shows that it is good if over a certain period it can win over and fire up people for an idea. If it fails to do so, it is bad propaganda. If propaganda wins the people it wanted to win, it was presumably good, and if not, it was presumably bad. No one can say that your propaganda is too crude or low or brutal, or that it is not decent enough, for those are not the relevant criteria. Its purpose is not to be decent, or gentle, or weak, or modest; it is to be successful. That is why I have intentionally chosen to discuss propaganda along with a second theme, knowledge. Otherwise, our discussion this evening would be of little value. We have not gathered to discuss lovely theories, but rather to find ways of practically working together to deal with our everyday challenges.
It's been a week now, and I still don't know what those "tea bag" protests were about. I saw signs protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy who's going to win "American Idol." But it wasn't tax day that made them crazy; it was election day. Because that's when Republicans became what they fear most: a minority.
What is propaganda, and what role does it have in political life? That is the question of greatest interest to us. How should propaganda look, and what is its role in our movement? Is it an end in itself, or only a means to an end? We must discuss that, but we can do that only when we begin with the origin of propaganda itself, namely the idea, then move to the target of propaganda, namely people.
Ideas in themselves are timeless. They are not tied to individuals, much less to a people. They rest in a people, it is true, and affect their attitudes. Ideas, people say, are in the clouds. When someone comes along who can put in words what everyone feels in their hearts, each feels: "Yes! That is what I have always wanted and hoped for." That is what happens the first time one hears one of Hitler's major speeches. I have met people who had attended a Hitler meeting for the first time, and at the end they said: "This man put in words everything I have been searching for for years. For the first time, someone gave form to what I want." Others are lost in confusion, but suddenly someone stands up and puts it in words. Goethe's words become reality: "Lost in silent misery, God gave someone to express my suffering."
The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because ... well, nobody knows. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Even though they're not quite sure what "it" is. But they know they're fed up with "it," and that "it" has got to stop.
Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law.
And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a teleprompter too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.
Some kind of idea is at the beginning of every political movement. It is not necessary to put this idea in a thick book, nor that it take political form in a hundred long paragraphs. History proves that the greatest world movements have always developed when their leaders knew how to unify their followers under a short, clear theme. That is clear from the French Revolution, or Cromwell's movement, or Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity. Christ's goal was clear and simple: "Love your neighbor as yourself." He gathered his followers behind that straightforward statement. Because this teaching was simple, crisp, clear, and understandable, enabling the broad masses to stand behind it, it in the end conquered the world.
One then builds a whole system of thought on such a brief, crisply formulated idea. The idea does not remain limited to this single statement, rather it is applied to every aspect of daily life and becomes the guide for all human activity — politics, culture, the economy, every area of human behavior. It becomes a worldview. We see that in all great revolutionary movements, which begin with a clear, crisp, understandable, all-encompassing idea. They spread more and more and become a mirror of life that reflects all activities of the peoples, and indeed in a particular way.
Then one can say that a person has a worldview—not because he knows a lot or has read a lot—but because he sees all of life from a certain standpoint, and measures everything by a certain standard. I am a Christian when I believe that the meaning of my life is the heavy responsibility to love my neighbor as myself. Kant once said: "Act as if the principle of your life could be the principle for your entire nation." I am a National Socialist not when I want this or that from politics, rather when I consider all aspects of daily life. I must act in all things by putting the good of the whole above my personal good, by putting the good of the state above my personal good. But then I also have the guarantee that such a state will be able to protect my personal life. I am a National Socialist when I see everything in politics, culture or the economy from this standpoint. I therefore do not evaluate the theater from the standpoint of whether it is elegant or amusing, rather I ask: Is it good for my people, is it useful for them, does it strengthen the community? If so, the community in turn can benefit, support and strengthen me. I do not see the economy as some sort of way of making money, rather I want an economy that will strengthen the people, make them healthy and powerful. Then too I can expect that this people will support and maintain me. If I see things in this way, I see the economy in National Socialist terms.
Do these sound like the concerns of a healthy, vibrant political party?
It's sad what's happened to the Republicans. They used to be the party of the big tent; now they're the party of the sideshow attraction, a socially awkward group of mostly white people who speak a language only they understand. Like Trekkies, but paranoid.
The GOP base is convinced that Obama is going to raise their taxes, which he just lowered. But, you say, "Bill, that's just the fringe of the Republican Party." No, it's not. The governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is not afraid to say publicly that thinking out loud about Texas seceding from the Union is appropriate considering that ... Obama wants to raise taxes 3% on 5% of the people? I'm not sure exactly what Perry's independent nation would look like, but I'm pretty sure it would be free of taxes and Planned Parenthood. And I would have to totally rethink my position on a border fence.
I know. It's not about what Obama's done. It's what he's planning. But you can't be sick and tired of something someone might do.
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota recently said she fears that Obama will build "reeducation" camps to indoctrinate young people. But Obama hasn't made any moves toward taking anyone's guns, and with money as tight as it is, the last thing the president wants to do is run a camp where he has to shelter and feed a bunch of fat, angry white people.
Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.
That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.
But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.
The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib. If someone tells me today: "You are a demagogue," I answer him in this way: "Demagogy in the good sense is simply the ability to get the masses to understand what I want them to understand." Of course, I can adjust to the feelings of the broad masses, which is demagogy in the bad sense. Then I change not only the form of what I want to say, but also the content.
You cannot tell me that things have changed. Formerly, speakers built movements; today we live in the age of the press, and it is the writers who are influential. This theory is obviously false. Of course the press is important. But if you examine well-written editorials, they turn out to be speeches in disguise. The Marxists did not win through their editorials, but rather because each Marxist editorial was a little propaganda speech. They were written by agitators. They sat in their offices or in smoke-filled bars, writing not elegant, intellectual and polished essays, but rather brutal, direct words that the average man understood. That is why the masses devoured the Red press. We must learn from their example. Marxism did not win because it had great prophets — they had none. Marxism won because its nonsense was promoted by agitators of the ability of August Bebel and Lenin. They led Marxism to victory. If the völkisch movement had had such agitators at its disposal, its stronger intellectual foundations would surely have led it to victory. Some critics complain: "All you do is criticize! You only complain. You can't do things any better yourselves!" Others say that "the Angriff [Goebbels's newspaper in Berlin] is entirely negative. Say something positive for a change." Well, I am not in a position to say anything positive about Isidor Weiss [the Jewish Vice Chief of Police in Berlin, and a regular Goebbels target]. I can only be negative. And there is nothing positive I can say about the Republic. There is nothing positive about it. I can say something positive only when I eliminate the negative. The most brilliant statesman on earth could do nothing with this Republic. And Marxism preached only the negative for sixty years. The result was that it took over the state on 9 November 1918. Hitler once said: "Keep those know-it-alls who always want to do something positive away from me." We can do something positive only when we have first gotten rid of the negative. A leader does not emerge from a conference table. He develops from the masses, and the more a true leader rises from the masses, the more he draws the masses to him. The mass is the weak, cowardly, lazy majority of people. One can never entirely win the broad mass. The best elements from the mass must be put in a form where they can be victorious. That is the task of a brilliant mind. We thank fate that it has given us one of these minds, a mind superior to all others, whom we willingly serve. That is the proof that we will win. If others find their wisdom in majority rule, but a movement is led by one person, that movement will win. When it wins is irrelevant. It will win because that is the way things are. Look around as much as you want. You will everywhere see our movement's intellectual foundations.
The task of the leaders and followers is to drive this knowledge ever deeper into the hearts of our shattered nation. Each must make that clear, each must think things through. Everything we do must be clear. We will never give up. If everything is clear, one does not have to be an outstanding speaker. If he can say it all in a few words, he is a propagandist. If we have an army of such propagandists, from the littlest to the Führer himself, and if each spreads our crystal-clear knowledge to the masses, the day will come which our worldview takes over the state, when our organization seizes the reins of power, when we are no longer members of a slave colony, but rather citizens of a political state that we ourselves have formed.
That is our task on this planet: to create the foundation on which our people can live. When we do that, this nation will create works of culture that will endure for eons in world history!
And if today's conservatives are insulted by this, because they feel they're better than the people who have the microphone in their party, then I say to them what I would say to moderate Muslims: Denounce your radicals. To paraphrase George W. Bush, either you're with them or you're embarrassed by them.
The thing that you people out of power have to remember is that the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public.The important thing is not to find people who agree with me about every theoretical jot and tittle, but rather that I find people who are willing to fight with me for a worldview. Winning people over to something that I have recognized as right, that is what we call propaganda. At first there is knowledge; it uses propaganda to find the manpower that will transform knowledge into politics. Propaganda stands between the idea and the worldview, between the worldview and the state, between the individual and the party, between the party and the nation. At the moment at which I recognize something as important and begin speaking about it in the streetcar, I begin making propaganda. At the same moment, I begin looking for other people to join me. Propaganda stands between the one and the many, between the idea and the worldview. Propaganda is nothing other than the forerunner to organization. Once it has done this, it is the forerunner to state control. It is always a means to an end.
Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."
What a Juice Bag!