Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Monday, February 27, 2017

Word of the Month: Die Gleichschaltung

Word of the Month: Index

Gleich is an adjective/adverb/prefix indicating that something is the same as or indistinguishable from something else. For example, if two people have "die gleiche Meinung", they have the same opinion. Schaltung refers to the sum of the connections between the components of an electrical, electronic, or mechanical device as depicted, for example, by the wiring diagram of an appliance. In a car, Schaltung refers to its gear mechanism.

Combining the two words we get Gleichschaltung. The term refers to the enforced uniformity of opinion and purpose in the administrative and cultural institutions of a country—the goal is to have them all "wired the same" in the end. The emphasis is on "enforced": Gleichschaltung doesn't happen by itself, but is always ordered and orchestrated from above, like when independent reporters at state-owned media are fired and replaced by conformists.

Gleichschaltung typically accompanies the beginnings of an autocratic regime or a dictatorship, starting with the media and moving on to the civil service, especially the judiciary; the police; the military; the arts; and eventually the universities, when professors critical of the regime are fired, if not put in jail, and research challenging the official propaganda is suppressed.

Getting the media under control is always an important first step because it takes away peoples' ability to receive uncensored news and to learn what's really happening in their country. We saw this taking place when Putin came to power in Russia and now in Turkey, where Gleichschaltung has already reached the universities.

Acknowledgment. I would like to thank Al Rodbell for pointing me to this term, which has lost none of its relevance [more about this in my comment].

1 comment:

Ulrich said...

In light of what has happened in Russia and Turkey, the attack of the Trump administration on the media is ominous. Since the constitution prevents them from silencing critical media outright, they attempt to discredit them, and they do this in a truly Orwellian fashion: Having run a campaign that relied heavily on fake news being sold as real, Trump is now calling any real news that puts him in a less than favorable light "fake".

We see similar attempts by the far-right in Europe. In Germany, for example, the party that calls itself Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) has, from the get-go, called the main-stream media Lügenpresse (lying press)—"Lügenpresse, halt' die Fresse!" ("Lying press, shut your trap!") is a popular slogan shouted at their rallies.