Watch for Exaggerated Emotions (Before Inflated Vocabulary) to identify a Political Propagandist


”In 1933 I travel to Lausanne and Geneva for the fifteenth session of the League of Nations. There, sitting in the hotel garden, was Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. He smiled, but not at me.”
Alfred Eisenstaedt, “First Portrait of Dr. Goebbels”, “Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt”, Abberville Pr., 1942, p. 60


”Suddenly he spotted me… His expression changed. Here are the eyes of hate. Was I an enemy?”
A.E., Second Portrait of Dr. Goebbels, “ibid”, p. 61

Eisenstaedt made these two photos of Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda in 1933. The first one registers Goebbels looking at somebody who obviously fascinates him. But the second photo catches Goebbels’ reaction on Eisenstaedt. What is common to both photos? – The exaggerated emotion on Goebbels’ face. As the first photo registers Goebbels’ over-positive reaction on somebody Eisenstaedt didn’t know, the second picture grasps his not less over-articulated over-suspicious reaction on Eisenstaedt’s face. In both photos the intensity of Goebbels’ facial expression is rhetorically exaggerated. It expresses not what he really feels but what people should notice and understand about his feelings (real feelings in human adults are only partially expressed on our faces and need to be interpreted). Goebbels’ feelings cannot be separated from what he wants to communicate to the public. His emotions are fused with what they are intent to communicate – (they don’t need to be interpreted, they should be obvious like full moon on the night sky). Individualism in a propagandist doesn’t exist – his emotions belong to the audience. His very individuality is communal – it’s common, socialized, it’s a public property. Propagandist is intra-communal communicator – his feelings are identical with their displaying for the purpose of being easily read and identified with by the public. We could say that a propagandist is an actor if it couldn’t be an insult to good actors. But we also cannot say that a propagandist is a bad actor because it would be equally an insult to bad actors. No, propagandist is an actor in life. He is acting instead of living. He is living by acting.

The good or bad actors are human beings, so their acting – whether on the stage or in front of the camera is something additional, something extra to their personality. It is not the case with propagandist who is acting in life because he/she is not a personality. Propagandist is less than a personality. He/she is just acting, not living because s/he psychologically is not yet capable to live (as a full-fledged person). Actor in life is an underdeveloped person. S/he is always in bad faith – s/he apes the potential emotions of crowd. S/he wants to be liked like a lake by the person who looks at its surface. Propagandist doesn’t have subjective truth, for him/her truth is what s/he expects to be emotions of the populace. S/he never belongs to him/herself; s/he doesn’t know who s/he really is, what are his/her real feelings. Propagandist belongs to collective emotions, like advertiser to emotions of consumers. When an advertiser wants people to buy his product it doesn’t mean that s/he likes it – it means that s/he wants people to like it, so s/he sincerely fakes love for what s/he advertizes (it’s like to fake an orgasm without even being sure whether it was real or not).

Goebbels in Eisenstaedt’s photos is, psychologically, every propagandist and every advertiser. The very exaggeration of his emotions is their normal condition – what we identify as exaggeration is not exaggeration at all, it is their fraudulent nature not in the sense that these emotions are false (don’t correspond to what the propagandist as a person really feels) but in a sense that they belong to nobody (nobody can take responsibility for them). They are born not inside the human soul, but in between the soul of propagandist/advertiser and soul of the propaganda and ads’ consumers. It is as if a baby could be conceived between the sexual organs of its father and mother. In this sense propaganda/advertisement suggestions and ideas are like the result of Immaculate Conception.

Propaganda/ads’ emotions were never conceived, never born; they don’t have a birth certificate. They are completely artificial; they are plastic like lipstick or city hall. The fact that they seem exaggerated is as if to compensate itself for not existing – they belong to no one and to everyone. They belong to the potential global village. Emotion coded in propaganda/ads message is totalitarian, mass emotion (without belonging to souls of the people in the crowd) – it is an emotion which belongs only to the crowd, the group, masses (without belonging to any of the individuals the mass consists of). This is the reason why it is so contagious, resonant in the social field and so potent – it is a flow, not a substance. It is not breakable.

Propagandist emotion is a collective property. It is born in the middle of a collective field. But for it to exist and to become recognized as popular – somebody must name it as “belonging to the people” (as being born from people’s soul). It is at this point that a professional propagandist is needed, the one who will find the baby under the cabbage leaf and proclaim that it belongs to the whole village, to everybody. It is the role of Goebbelses of propaganda/advertisement. In this sense propagandist (imaginary) emotion is appropriated and registered by the propagandists linguistically. They are the “mothers” of propagandist emotion not because it’s theirs before it became a collective property (not because they gave it birth), but because they named it as a collective property, as a collective baby.

The both emotions we see on Goebbels’ face in the two Eisenstaedt’s photos – sentimental attraction and sentimental suspicion and animosity are not “his” “before being seen and noticed by the viewers”, they are represented by him as objectively true, as universal, as absolutely truthful, as created by god through naming. These emotions are named by Goebbels as the law of the land, as a planetary verdict, as metaphysically conceived. They are totalitarian in global, globalist sense.

Joseph Goebbels is essential propagandist – he coins emotions, he wraps emotions into facial expressions as candies into a bright wrapper. He is successful at creating waves of common (communal) emotions – he is a master of organizing them for mass imitation which triggers commonality which in its turn triggers totalitarianism.

Fascism starts with rhetorically exaggerated emotions which can quickly spread around setting the whole social field ablaze. There is no reason why Goebbels should be so inflamed by Eisenstaedt’s face. His “opinions” about “Jews” are habitual to him. When he offered Fritz Lang the post of managing director of the entire German film industry, and Lang reminded him that he is Jewish, Goebbels’s answer was “Here we decide who is a Jew and who is not.” There is no reason for Goebbels to look at a person of a Jewish descent with such alertness besides wanting to communicate this alertness as a battle banner for mass use. Goebbels wants to communicate to the world naturalness, desirability and necessity for this alert suspicion, like today in US the right wing talk show hosts and neo-conservative politicians express/disseminate the same alertness towards “liberal plague” and Obama to their tea-partying crow-crowds.

Rhetoric becomes the essence of the message. Message becomes the emotional massage, to paraphrase Marshall Mc’Luhan. Give people the emotion of tender loyalty to the personification of goodness (registered by the first Eisenstaedt’s photo of Goebbels) and hateful emotion of suspicion (like we see in the second photo), and people will self-sacrificially follow any hairy fist of a totalitarian leader to any spot of the globe to destroy and to conquer. Nobody’s invention, pure metaphor, projection of a hypothetical collective unconscious in the mind of propagandist/advertiser, feverish propagandist emotions become the most potent political tool shielding the figures of power and wealth much more effectively than a round wall of bodyguards.


Alfred Eisenstaedt
May be, Goebbels was frightened by Eisenstaedt’s photo-camera – in the same way like today’s American police (of the palace of financial power) is hatefully suspicious of photo- and video-cameras in the hands of protesters against Wall Street’s abuses of American public?