Friday, September 11, 2015

The Futility of Propaganda

When asked, “What do you know about Yugoslavia?” the peasant, painstaking and placid, answered, “It is a pseudosocialist country run by revisionist hyenas in the pay of American capitalism.”
Somewhat later, the interviewer asked: “If you could choose, where would you like to live?”
“Well, in Yugoslavia, for example”
“It seems that in pseudosocialist countries run by revisionist hyenas in the pay of American capitalism, oil and cotton cloth are not rationed.”
From an interview, sometime in the early 1960s, of a Chinese peasant who had fled to Hong Kong from the People’s Republic of China. Found in Simon Leys, Chinese Shadows, p. 52.


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  2. This reminds me of the jokes about life in Soviet Russia -

    "Stalin is dead and things have begun to lighten up a bit relatively speaking. An old couple live in an apartment in Moscow and she sends him down to buy some meat for supper. After queueing for the obligatory three hours he gets to the counter and the woman says 'No more meat, meat finished'. He cracks and starts raving 'I fought in the Revolution, I fought for Lenin in the First World War and for Stalin in the Second World War and we are still in this shit?' One of the leather-jacketed brigade takes him on one side and says 'Look old man you know you can't talk like this. Just think, a few years ago you would have been shot for saying these things.' The old man trudges home. His wife seeing him empty-handed says 'Run out of meat again have they?' He says: 'It's worse than that, they've run out of bullets.'"

    Interesting to see the development of your thought on these topics - I'm partway through a PhD at Otago focusing on dictatorship and I've been reading & thinking about a lot of the same issues. Have you come across Paul Corner's "Popular Opinion in Totalitarian Regimes" yet? It has a lot of tremendously interesting research into popular opposition and support under the Nazi, Fascist and Soviet regimes.

    1. Hi Jonathan - have heard that joke!

      I have not read Corner's book, though I have done some research on public opinion in authoritarian regimes recently, mostly for thinking about cults of personality. I spent some time in the archives in Madrid researching public opinion in Franco's Spain a year or so ago (see, and I have an unfinished paper on the topic, and a chapter in the book I'm writing synthesizing some of these ideas.

      I'm a great fan of Kershaw's book on public opinion under Hitler - have you read that one? (For some thoughts on it, see here

    2. By the way, thanks for the reference to Corner's book - checking it out form the library right now!

    3. Not a problem, it's a good read. I haven't read Kershaw's book (it's somewhere deep in the 'to read' pile) but he has a chapter in the Corner book on the same topic.