Beating the Big Drum

A blatantly aggressive spirit in a nation, as in many individuals, is frequently the product of a deep-rooted inferiority complex. By beating the big drum, by feverish window-dressing, it strives to convince both its own people and foreigners that here is a force to be reckoned with. It makes a parade of arrogance to impress the world. On the other hand, a people who, despite differences of opinion on many important points, are conscious of a fundamental unity, do not feel compelled to indulge in perpetual heroics.

In an autocracy or dictatorship the rulers aim always to link the power of the State with the dogma of their own indispensability…….. To provide an animate link between the emotions of the herd and the abstract entity of the State, the leader emerges and on him is concentrated the frenzied adulation of the people.

Linked with this combative instinct is the emotion of fear. When people are afraid the foundations of the social order are crumbling, they willingly surrender the right to decide their own destinies. The strong hand is welcome and if the minority rebels the strong hand is ruthless. Later, if the mutterings of revolt become ominously loud, the orthodox solution is to unearth a new terror beyond the frontiers. This point is too obvious, has been too frequently illustrated, to require emphasis. The psychology of the nursery has time and again been utilised by the propagandist to cow a restive people. They are hushed: the bogey-man is near.

‘Propaganda Boom’, A.J. MacKenzie, The Right Book Club, London. 1938.

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