In Man Against Mass Society, Gabriel Marcel writes, "In spite of everything that can be said to the contrary, is not the real and deep purpose of propaganda after all that of reducing men to a condition in which they lose all capacity for individual reaction? In other words, whether the men in control of propaganda intend this or not, is it not of the very nature of propaganda to degrade those whose attitudes it seeks to shape? And is it possible to be unaware of the fact that propaganda presupposes, in these men in control, a fundamental contempt for the rest of the human race? If we really attach any value at all to what a man is in himself, to his authentic nature, how can we assume the responsibility of passing him through the flattening-out machinery of propaganda?
What we ought to enquire into, however, is the nature of this contempt. There are, of course, fine shades of distinction that analysis ought to bring out: but is there any essential difference between the attitude of someone like Goebbels, for instance, and that of a chief of Communist propaganda? In both cases we are faced with a radical and cynical refusal to recognize the competence of individual judgment, an impatience with what appears, from this point of view, the intolerable presumptuousness of the individual. It is also broadly noteworthy that even the sense of truth cannot fail gradually and unconsciously to be destroyed in those who assume the task of manipulating opinion. It would require a very uncommon degree of simple-mindedness in a professional propagandist for him to remain very long convinced that his truth was the whole truth. Such simple-mindedness is only conceivable in a fanatic." (pp. 50-51).
We witness such a fanaticism in Rudolf Hess, who became deputy leader of the Third Reich, and who said: "It was granted to me for many years of my life to live and work under the greatest son whom my nation has produced in the thousand years of its history. Even if I could I would not expunge this period from my existence. I regret nothing. If I were standing once more at the beginning I should act once again as I did then, even if I knew that at the end I should be burnt at the stake. No matter what men do, I shall one day stand before the judgment seat of the Almighty. I shall answer to him, and I know that he will acquit me."
For such a fanatic, the State is beyond criticism. Its realm is utterly sacred. And even if one should have convictions which run counter to those of the State, these must be subordinated to the State. Hermann Goring expressed this belief when he said, "I have no conscience! Adolf Hitler is my conscience!" and "It is not I who live, but the Fuhrer who lives in me."
As Dusty Sklar notes, "In the suggestible state, the proselyte may attribute divine powers to his leader and accept dogmas which he might have rejected in a more normal state [see here for example]. Some of the men closest to Hitler, for example, acknowledged that they believed in his divinity. Himmler's masseur, Felix Kersten, relates that he once answered the phone and heard Hitler's voice before passing the phone on to Himmler, who exclaimed" 'You have been listening to the voice of the Fuhrer, you're a very lucky man.' Himmler told Kersten that Hitler's commands came 'from a world transcending this one.' and that they should be 'saved' by 'a figure of the greatest brilliance' which had 'become incarnate' in Hitler's person." (The Nazis and the Occult, p. 157).
Even intelligent people are not immune from the desire to conform. As Sklar notes, "We 'catch' ideas, too, because we want to be like others, particularly when we want not to be our despised selves. If we're satisfied, we don't need to conform, but if we're not, we imitate people whom we admire for having greater judgment, taste, or good fortune than we do. Obedience itself is a kind of imitation. Through conformity, the person who feels inferior is in no danger of being exposed. He's indistinguishable from the others. No one can single him out and examine his unique being. Conformity, in turn, sets him up to be further canceled out as an individual, to have no life apart from his collective purpose. This gives a movement tremendous power over the individual...Hoffer [Eric Hoffer] observes: 'Above all, he [the true believer] must never feel alone. Though stranded on a desert island, he must still feel that he is under the eyes of the group. To be cast out from the group should be equivalent to being cut off from life. This is undoubtedly a primitive state of being, and its most perfect examples are found among primitive tribes. Mass movements strive to approximate this primitive perfection, and we are not imagining things when the anti-individual bias of contemporary mass movements strikes us as a throwback to the primitive.'" (Dusty Sklar, The Nazis and the Occult, citing Eric Hoffer, p. 158).
What is a Christian to do when faced with a mass movement which seeks to subjugate the individual to the collective? A movement which "refuses to recognize the competence of individual judgment" and to enslave all in a prison of absolute conformity to the State? The Christian must prepare himself or herself by relinquishing the fear of public opinion and to pray for the Holy Spirit's gift of Fortitude.
It was the Cure of Ars [St. Jean Vianney, patron saint of parish priests] who said: "Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels, and the saints - they are your public." To which he added: "If you are afraid of other people's opinion, you should not have become a Christian."
There is always a price to be paid for following Jesus. Those committed to their Christian faith must expect a certain amount of unpopularity. God knows I live with this unpopularity every day. So be it. What difference does this make? It was St. Gerard Majella who asked, "Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?" To which I would add: look closely at the photograph at the top of this post. Think of the masses who succumbed to Hitler's propaganda of a "thousand year Reich" which would transform the world. Were these throngs of people any happier at the end of the war? Did the world satisfy their hearts? Were these people not left with the bitter and empty taste of defeat?
What is the absolute worse the world can do to us? Why do we fear the world so much? We must recall the words of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J., as he faced his firing squad: Viva Christo Rey! Long live Christ the King! For, as St. Paul of the Cross has told us, "The aversions that you experience, the ridicule, the scorn, the jokes, etc., should be received with great gratitude toward God. These serve as the pyre of love on which the victim of love is burned..."
The soul that gives itself completely to God can expect to be persecuted. Even killed. But what of it? We should remember the words of Jesus: "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12: 4-7).
The time has come for those who truly care about this nation to rise up and speak out against this dictatorship.