Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 456
Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.
In her discussion of propaganda, Arendt notes that totalitarian dictators are not concerned about the truth of what they say. The truth doesn't matter to them, because according to their understanding of the world, power alone determines truth. Once a person and party amasses enough power, they can make their reality become the truth. So, for example, Arendt says that Stalin was unconcerned about his lie that the Moscow subway was the only subway system in the world, because he believed he would soon enough have the power to make this lie a reality: he would come to control the world and destroy all the other subway systems. He would simply make reality conform to what he said it was. This is a hallmark of totalitarianism.
The truth is that the masses grew out of the fragments of a highly atomized society whose competitive structure and concomitant loneliness of the individual had been held in check only through membership in a class.
Arendt distinguishes between classes and masses. Totalitarianism can only arise, she argues, in nations where the class system has come undone, and people no longer identify with a certain set of civic organizations or groups. Only when individuals become cut off from one another and atomized can the generalized ideas of a mass movement, such as that all Jews or immigrants are evil, replace the narrower and more concrete goals and objectives of normal politics.
There are no parallels to life in the concentration camps. Its horror can never be fully embraced by the imagination for...
(The entire section contains 456 words.)
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