A recent linguistic analysis of Nazi propaganda suggests there was a shift in the dehumanization of Jewish people leading up to and during the Holocaust.
Propaganda leading up to the Holocaust progressively used less terms related to experience, such as human emotions, and propaganda during the Holocaust increasingly used language related to malevolence and intentionality.
The researchers wanted to examine the role of dehumanization in mass violence.
The analysis, which was conducted by Alexander Landry of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and colleagues, examined Nazi propaganda, such as political speech transcripts, newspapers, pamphlets and posters.
The research team looked at words associated with mental state and their prevalence.
They also distinguished between terms associated with capacity for agency, such as “think”, and those associated with experience, such as “hurt” or “enjoy.”
The findings suggest that mental state terms related to experience declined in the time leading up to the Holocaust, consistent with the idea that dehumanization weakens moral restraints against violence. In other words, the idea denying people’s humanity and their emotions helps justify violence against them.
Propaganda during the Holocaust increasingly utilized language related to maliciousness and intentionality.
The authors give a possible reason as to why there was a shift in the propaganda language used leading up to and during the Holocaust, in that it may have helped efforts to portray Jewish people as threatening.
Another possible explanation the researchers give is that the propagandists aimed to rationalize the mass murders taking place for the executioners who experienced trauma and revulsion.
The researchers used the MPD (Mind Perception Dictionary), a psycholinguistic tool consisting of 326 mental state terms. These terms are derived from various sources, including mind perception studies.
The MPD categorizes terms into either agency (ex. plan) or experience (ex. enjoy) and quantifies their ratio in a body of text.
The authors of the study mention the MPD’s shortcoming, even though they state that it is “a well-validated measure of mental state language.”
The authors also mention that there was limited data for some time periods, particularly the months before the onset of the Holocaust in July 1941.
There was also one researcher who was involved in drafting data collection guidelines.
“Therefore, we consider our results suggestive rather than conclusive and encourage future research to investigate more comprehensive corpora of Nazi propaganda” the researches state in the analysis.
Share This Post On
Leave a comment
You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in