Ridicule as a Weapon: a Fate for Nazis Worse Than Death

A bayonet shoves Hitler’s book in front of a prisoner and says “Here, improve your mind!”. Source: “Donald in Nutziland”, Disney 1943.

In 2006 a special international communication draft was released by the applied studies program of The Institute of World Politics (IWP) called “Ridicule as a Weapon, White Paper No. 7“. It contained sharp analysis such as this:

…U.S. strategy includes undermining the political and psychological strengths of adversaries and enemies by employing ridicule as a standard operating tool of national strategy. Ridicule is an under-appreciated weapon not only against terrorists, but against weapons proliferators, despots, and international undesirables in general. Ridicule serves several purposes:
• Ridicule raises morale at home.
• Ridicule strips the enemy/adversary of his mystique and prestige.
• Ridicule erodes the enemy’s claim to justice.
• Ridicule eliminates the enemy’s image of invincibility.
• Directed properly at an enemy, ridicule can be a fate worse than death.

More precisely, it offers this applied context:

The Nazis and fascists required either adulation or fear; their leaders and their causes were vulnerable to well-aimed ridicule. […] Like many in Hollywood did at the time, the cartoon studios put their talent at the disposal of the war effort. Disney’s Donald Duck, in the 1942 short “Donald Duck In Nutziland” (retitled “Der Fuehrer’s Face”), won an Academy Award after the unhappy duck dreamed he was stuck in Nazi Germany.

And then it concludes with this suggestion:

U.S. policymakers must incorporate ridicule into their strategic thinking. Ridicule is a tool that they can use without trying to control. It exists naturally in its native environments in ways beneficial to the interests of the nation and cause of freedom. Its practitioners are natural allies, even if we do not always appreciate what they say or how they say it. The United States need do little more than give them publicity and play on its official and semi-official global radio, TV and Internet media, and help them become
“discovered.” And it should be relentless about it.

And for what it’s worth John Lenczowski, a National Security Council staffer under President Ronald Reagan, founded the IWP.

A modern and somewhat nuanced take on what this all means today is captured in a new talk by General Glen VanHerck, head of US Northern Command:

“Rather than primarily focusing on kinetic defeat, for the defense of the homeland, I think we must get further left,” VanHerck told an audience at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium. “Deterrence is establishing competition by using all levers of influence as I conveyed, and most importantly, the proper use of the information space to demonstrate the will, the capability, the resiliency, and the readiness by creating doubt in any potential adversaries mind that they can ever be successful by striking our homeland.”

Putting “doubt in any potential adversaries mind that they can ever be successful”… is to ridicule them, as Rommel found out the hard way when he quickly lost all his potential to be an adversary.

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