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Prophets of Deceit (A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator) is a 1949 book co-written by the German sociologist Leo Löwenthal and the Polish-Jewish scholar Norbert Guterman. The authors analyze and define media appeals specific to American pro-fascist and anti-Semite agitators of the 1940s, such as the application of psychosocial manipulation for political ends. The book details psychological deceits that idealogues or authoritarians commonly used. The techniques are grouped under the headings "Discontent", "The Opponent", "The Movement" and "The Leader".
The authors demonstrate repetitive patterns commonly utilized, such as turning unfocused social discontent towards a targeted enemy. The agitator positions himself as a unifying presence: he is the ideal, the only leader capable of freeing his audience from the perceived enemy. Yet, as the authors demonstrate, he is a shallow person who creates social or racial disharmony, thereby reinforcing that his leadership is needed. The authors believed fascist tendencies in America were at an early stage in the 1940s, but warned a time might come when Americans could and would be "susceptible to ... [the] psychological manipulation" of a rabble rouser.
The first chapter, ("The Themes of Agitation"), presents samples of an agitator's diatribe, which might be mistaken as "simply ... the raving of a maniac". Generally agitators rely on core motifs, labeled as "Discontent", "The Opponent", "The Movement" and "The Leader".
"Social Malaise", the second chapter, examines how social malaise or discontent can be manipulated by converting perceived problems into grievances. The response to economic grievances is to say that "too much help is being extended to foreign nations”, that not only are "foreigners taking our money, they also threaten our jobs". Political grievances are addressed by the call to action against international "commitments by the United States government [that] jeopardize political liberties." Media outlets are the source of cultural grievances, and labeled "the enemies of the nation", while other enemies are depicted as morally lax, "a crowd of Marxists, refugees, [and] left-wing internationalists."
"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." -LBJ
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