Some background on C.P. Taylor’s “Good”

Good revolves around John Halder, a German literature professor dealing with family problems in the 1930s. Halder explores his personal circumstances in a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. When the book is unexpectedly enlisted by powerful political figures in support of government propaganda, Halder finds his career rising in an optimistic current of nationalism and prosperity. Yet with Halder’s change in fortune, his decisions potentially jeopardize the people in his life with devastating effects.  But what is propaganda?

“Propaganda is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels.” Richard Alan Nelson, A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States, 1996

Most propaganda in Germany was produced by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. All journalists, writers, and artists were required to register with one of the Ministry’s subordinate chambers for the press, fine arts, music, theatre, film, literature, or radio.  The Nazi Party believed in propaganda as a vital tool in achieving their goals. Adolf Hitler was impressed by the power of Allied propaganda during World War I and believed that it had been a primary cause of the collapse of morale and revolts in the German home front and Navy in 1918. Hitler would meet nearly every day with Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels to discuss the news and share his thoughts on the subject; Goebbels would then meet with senior Ministry officials and pass down the official Party line on world events. Broadcasters and journalists required prior approval before their works were disseminated. Along with posters, the Nazi Party produced a number of films and books to spread their beliefs.

In chapter six of Mein Kampf, Hitler reviewed the use of propaganda during World War I and included comments on the function of propaganda in general. His statements offer insight into the methods used by the Nazi Party.

“All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to.  If, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be extended in this direction.

“The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses…  It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance… All effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand…”

Though the play deals with much deeper questions of ethics, culpability and the idea of “goodness,” it is important to understand how propaganda was viewed and used during the time period in which the play is set.

English Translation:  “60000 RM (Reichsmark) This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime.  Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too.  Read ‘[A] New People,’ the monthly magazine of the Office for Race Politics of the NSDAP.”

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