The Psychological Power of Trump's Hate Propaganda

Trump' Hitlerian rhetoric makes him do better the more he is attacked
Trump' Hitlerian rhetoric makes him do better the more he is attacked
Trump' Hitlerian rhetoric makes him do better the more he is attacked
On this Page:
Hitler's Hate Propaganda
Predicting Trump in <10 Minutes
The Crime
Ending Trump's Hate Propaganda
About the Author, and Good Bye
(Click the images for a lightbox slideshow)


Created: April 28, 20223
Modified: May 3, 2023
Final Rev.

The first book on propaganda was by Edward Bernays (New York, 1928). Brnays simply observed how things we buy can be associated with unrelated things we like. Bernays' work, which remains the cornerstone of modern advertizing, is directly drawn on measurements of a dog's increased salivation when a bell rings just before each feeding (Pavlov, 1897). Repetition is extremely effective at increasing the association in human beings too, especially if we are never directly told of any intent to form such an unconscious connection.

For example, suppose a TV in a bar plays an ad of a pretty girl holding a beer bottle. After each time the commercial airs, men leave more saliva in their beer bottles, exactly as for Pavlov's dogs (Dean, 2020)

There were naturally some concerns that people should not be 'treated like dogs' at the time, but Bernays' point was that such subconscious associations are so innate they are unavoidable anyway. If their purpose is to increase enjoyment, the result is not only harmless, but also beneficial to the society's members, as well as the economy. Bernays' perspective was overwhelmingly accepted.

Thus the USA originally considered propaganda as a bright and cheerful result of scientific progress, without the sinister connotations later derived from the West's condemnations of Soviet propaganda in the 1950s, since when the general public has still not learned that Hitler actually was the one who invented hate propaganda as it still is today. That's understandable, because reading Hitler is, to say the least, distasteful. But as a consequence, the public doesn't know it's being manipulated with Hitlerian hate propaganda. Hence, an unethical political leader can exploit Hitler's techniques particularly effectively, at least until the methods are widely understood.

Hitler's Hate Propaganda

Hitler described how to "manipulate the vacillating mess of human children who are wavering between one idea and another" in his book Mein Kampf ("My Fight") as follows:

"Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people…. so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed….The broad masses of the people are not made up of…persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating mass of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.

The great majority of a nation is so feminine…that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent…It has only the negative and positive notions of love and hated, right and wrong, truth and falsehood….

Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively…it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side...

All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea… Every change…in the subject…must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula."

-Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler (Berlin, 1928)

From studying Hitlert, Trump figured out that he goes up in polls, rather than down, by increasing polarization when he is attacked. There are very sound psychological grounds for his method, as follows.

Negative Conditioning to Reject Contrary Facts

Early in his career, Hitler discovered he could magnify propaganda's power by using negative conditioning rather than Bernay's positive conditioning. The biological reason for the greater power of negative conditioning is extremely well understood. Negative conditioning plays on the oldest part of the central nervous system, the 'limbic cortex,' popularly known as the lizard brain (Cannon, 1915). It is the root of the 'fight/flight' response, pumping adrenaline through us to increase reaction speed.

Because decisions made during an intentionally triggered but instinctive fight/flight response are accompanied by the strongest and most primitive emotions (fear, anger, and hatred), hate propaganda is particularly persistent, causing its victims to reject later contradictory facts.


Other hate propaganda methods include:

Predicting Trump in <10 Minutes

Linguistic techniques have been around since the 1970s to assess Trump's use of Hitler's techniques in his tweets and rally speeches, since when computer technology has made it rather easy. Analyses can draw upon on the following basic methods for manipulating the masses as described by Hitler:

  1. Oversimplified polarization.
  2. Intense provocation.
  3. Apparent justification with disregard for balanced truth.
  4. Reductionist focus.
  5. Repetition of slogans.
  6. Scapegoating.
Predicting Trump
Predicting Trump

Correlation of scapegoating with Fallup oll data was rapidly demonstrated on an Excel spreadsheet. Thisd analysis simply looks for the word 'Clinton' in Trump's campaign speeches, which started long before she was chosen as the Deocratic Presidential candidate. Initially, the scapegoating repetition was regular and interleaved with justification. As Democrats fell in the polls, the scapegoating fell. When the Democrats rose in the polls, scapegoating drastically increased in frequency, earlier in Trump's speeches. Then in October 2106, the FBI Director reported his opinion on Clinton's handling of secure e-mails (Corney, 2016). The Democrats suddenly fell 6 points in polls. The scapegoating stopped almost entirely. How to predict Trump Yourself

LinkedIn reported that it only takes 4 minutes to read this article, so you can do it yourself in <15 minutes total, as follows:

  1. Download data sources (links for the example are in the references under Trump and Gallup).
  2. Import the data into Excel, choosing the cell splitting method of your choice (the example splits full.speech.txt into sentences). Enter a formula to display specific word frequencies. For this example, the following formula was simply copied and pasted into rows and cells below the text import:
  3. For the displayed cell coloring, select all, then select:
    Home->Conditional Formatting->Highlight Cells->Equal To->1. 

A more detailed analysis could provide very specific predictions, and should also consider semantics.

The Crime

Hate propaganda is criminal in many nations, for example, in Canada it is punishable by up to two yearsz in prison, for which reason the DoJ still states it should also be considered criminal in the USA (U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1986):

Trump' Hitlerian rhetoric makes him do better the more he is attacked

It has however remained a contentious issue due to free-speech rights. The USA has not always considered it so debatable. During the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals, the USA defined hate propaganda as: "Asserting that groups are conspirators responsible for the degeneration and collapse of society," punishable by up to life imprionment or death. That definition is still in use as clause 3 of the full definition by the Intrnational Court:

"[1]Asserting that all members of a certain group deserve to be harmed or killed; [2]Describing certain groups of people, particularly historically equity-seeking groups, as subhuman; [3]Asserting that groups identifiable by race, sexual orientation, religion etc. are conspirators responsible for the degeneration and collapse of society." - Reported by Quuens University (Alberta, Canada).

Trump's allegations of a 'conspiracy' against hime have long been noted (e.g., Liptak, 2020) and recently recoomenced shortly after his declaration of intent to run for Presidency again (e.g., Thacker, 2023).

Ending Trump's Hate Propaganda

Emotive contradiction of false facts increases polarization to Trump's benefit (a result often noted in news media). Trump then simply changes the victim or invents another lie.

Thus, Trump's hate propaganda should instead be recognized for what it is, after which, it is also easy to ignore.


  1. Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of Group Pressure on the Modification and Distortion of Judgments.
  2. Bernays, Edward (1928). Propaganda.
  3. Bytwork, R. (1998). Nazi Propaganda Archive. Calvin University.
  4. Cannon, Walter (1915). Bodily changes in pain, hunger, fear and rage, an account of recent researches into the function of emotional excitement.
  5. Corney, James (2016). Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System. FBI.
  6. Dean, James (2020). Exposure to TV alcohol ads linked to drinking behavior. Cornell University.
  7. Gallup (2016). Republican/Democratic Party Favoritism. Gallup.
  8. Hitler, Adolf (1928). Mein Kampf. Project Gutenberg.
  9. Koch, Steven (2019). Hitler's Scapegoat: the Boy Assasin and the Holocaust. Amazon.
  10. Liptack, Kevin (2020). Trump’s tweets offer snapshot of conspiracy mindset. CNN.
  11. Milgram (1961). Behavioral Study of Obedience. University of Washington.
  12. Pavlov, Ivan (1897). The Work of the Digestive Glands.
  13. Thacker, Prem (2023). Donald Trump Responds to Indictment News With Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory and a Very Big Typo. the New Republic.
  14. Trump, Donald (2016). Major Speeches. Data.World (log in with Google).
  15. Trump, Donald (2021). All Presidential tweets (including deleted ones). GitHub.
  16. U.S. Dept. of Justice (1986). Hate Propaganda. DoJ.
  17. Zimbardo, Philip (1971). The Lucifer Effect. Amazon.

About the Author, and Good Bye

Ernest L. Meyer sat Philosophy, Psychology, and Politics (PPP) at Oxford University, specializing in philosophy of science and linguistics. His father, Dr. Karl E. Meyer, was on the New York Times editorial board and senior writer, foreign affairs. Ernest is now retired.

That concluces my final post. Due to health reasons, I will not be further maintaining this server. Wioth thanks for all the support from all of you through the years.