Henry Ford defined psychological crime as the abuse of people’s most noble motivations to manipulate them for dishonest and self-serving purposes. Ford himself, however, became a psychological crime victim and unwitting accomplice when he believed, and then re-published as The International Jew, anti-Semitic propaganda from a Tsarist propagandist named Boris Brasol. No citizen, therefore, should ever dare think himself or herself too intelligent to believe a well-packaged lie.
The role of propaganda in drawing the United States into the Spanish-American War and First World War, along with Adolf Hitler’s perpetration of the most monstrous psychological crimes in history, reinforces the conclusion that a basic understanding of psychological warfare should become a mandatory element of high school civics classes. The propaganda that is now coming from the enemies of the Second Amendment is a good current-issues case study.
A recent advertisement from Mayors Against Illegal Guns features a “gun owner,” complete with beard, pickup truck, and Southern drawl, who supports universal background checks. He does this while he holds a shotgun in an unsafe direction, and with its chamber closed so it is not possible to tell whether there is a live round inside. This gruesome psychological warfare blunder tells us that this man is clearly not a gun owner, and his father never taught him to hunt as he claims. He is almost certainly an actor whom billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg hired to portray a stereotype of the people whom President Obama says “cling to guns and religion.” Wilkes-Barre’s Mayor, Thomas Leighton, should seriously reconsider his membership in this organization.
President Obama posed with a shotgun to suggest that the Second Amendment protects the right to shoot clay targets, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that nobody needs ten bullets to kill a deer. These are lies by omission, because the Second Amendment does not relate to sporting uses of firearms.
Former Governor Ed Rendell said of the Sandy Hook school shooting, “The good thing about Newtown is, it was so horrific that I think it galvanized Americans to a point where the intensity on our side is going to match the intensity on their side.” It sounds, quite frankly, like Mr. Rendell is glad that Adam Lanza murdered 26 people instead of being shut down at two fatalities by an armed staff member, which is what happened when Assistant Principal Joel Myrick used a pistol to arrest Luke Woodham at Pearl High School. “Armed Teacher Stops School Shooter” is not the kind of headline that Rendell and Rahm “Never let a good crisis go to waste” Emanuel need to support their agenda.
Plenty of people in England were similarly glad the death toll on the Lusitania (1915) was as high as it was, and for similar reasons. Images of dead American women and children, as propagated by cartoonist William Allen Rogers, were the best way to sell a world war to a nation that had no stake in it. These images evoked visceral hatred of Germany while they discouraged rational inquiries into the well-founded suspicion, and now proven fact, that the Lusitania’s cargo included ammunition whose sole purpose was to kill German soldiers. This psychological crime killed more than 100,000 Americans along with countless Germans with whom we had no legitimate quarrel. We need to remember this whenever anybody tries to exploit a tragedy for political gain, whether it consists of Rogers’ “Little Lost Children of the Lusitania” or the President’s posturing with the families of Adam Lanza’s victims.
William A. Levinson is a coauthor of “The Expanded and Annotated My Life and Work: Henry Ford’s Universal Code for World-Class Success,” and other books on quality, management, and industrial productivity.