The Psychology of Propaganda in Star Wars

The Psychology of Propaganda in Star Wars

Three years after the outbreak of The Clone Wars;

Decades after the Jedi began their deception;

Hours after the corrupt Republic has fallen,

Our Emperor, Sheev Palpatine, declares peace and stability in our new Galactic Empire.

These lines are directly influenced by the opening scene of the German propaganda film, Triumph of the Will. Triumph of the Will is a film created and directed by Leni Rienfenstahl at the request of Chancellor Adolf Hitler in order to present to the German public that Germany is on the rise again after the humiliation they faced as a country after The First World War. The use of propaganda films like these served as a useful tool when trying to present to the public a biased or misleading political cause or point of view.

Am 5. September 1934

[On 5 September 1934]

20 Jahre nach dem Ausbruch des Weltkrieges

[20 years after the outbreak of the World War]

16 Jahre nach dem Anfang deutschen Leidens

[16 years after the beginning of German suffering]

19 Monate nach dem Beginn der deutschen Wiedergeburt

[19 months after the beginning of the German rebirth]

flog Adolf Hitler wiederum nach Nürnberg, um Heerschau abzuhalten über seine Getreuen

[Adolf Hitler flew again to Nuremberg to review the columns of his faithful followers]

I’ll refrain from giving a general summary of the documentary, but at the same time it’s hard to watch it and not be absolutely amazed at the outpouring of admiration Hitler receives from his followers. Of course at the time of this films completion, no one knew what was to come. Even director Leni Reifenstahl claims she did not know about the Holocaust, despite the fact that she was known to be an admirer of Hitler’s. Again, I really don’t want to get into summaries, but during each of Hitler’s speeches, the one feeling he tries to pound into the people is the feeling of pride; in their country, in themselves and in their heritage. As the opening scene of Triumph of the Will progresses the music of Richard Wagner and Herbert Windt soars and cascades as an aerial view looked down upon the towns of Germany. The aerial view coming from the plane in which Hitler arrives in to greet his admirers. To the German people, Hitler was a savior. In the film, Hitler appears young and vibrant—much like Palpatine in the Empire’s propaganda’s films where he appears as he did before his duel with Mace Windu. Hitler promises to bring Germany back to a world power. Similar sentiments were preached by Palpatine once his declaration of peace was made, at the expense of the Jedi Order. When granted Emergency Powers, Palpatine created a clone army built specifically to fight the Separatist droid army. Begun the propaganda machine has.

In the Star Wars galaxy however, Palpatine and his Empire were not the only ones to use propaganda as a means to recruit. According to Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy written by Pablo Hidalgo, the Separatist Alliance used propaganda art to recruit young talent to build their battle droids. During Hitler’s last speech of the film, he addresses an event known as The Night of the Long Knives, which was a purge carried out by the Nazi Party to eliminate rival political parties and threats to Hitler’s rise to power. This purge essentially eliminated the SA (Sturmabteilung) or Storm-Detachment, and replaced that with Hitler’s own SS (Schutzstaffel) or Protection Squad. During the fall of the Republic and the eventual rise of the Empire, Palpatine also uses covert means to remove Chancellor Valorum from power and then his ultimate goal of eliminating the Jedi in the massacre that was Order 66.



During the ongoing parade scenes in Triumph of the Will, Hitler parades around while hordes of people cheer and wave in order to gain his attention to prove their loyalty to their Fuhrer. It’s Nazi Germany’s version of Empire Day. Except instead of parading AT-DP’s and troop transports, they parade panzer and tiger tanks and heavy artillery. The music lifts the spirit; the flags wave proudly, all to make the unification of Germany under the Nazi regime the only choice. It reminds me of Empire Day, when the Empire celebrated their 15th anniversary, revealing new spacecraft, the Sienar Systems Advanced TIE Starfighter, as announced by Minister Tua.

In the Star Wars Rebels episode, “Empire Day,” TIE pilots enter Old Jho’s Pit Stip and forcibly remind Jho that the Imperial Holonet Broadcast should “play here at all times! It’s the law.” The Republic, and the Rebel Alliance used to propaganda to recruit soldiers for their cause. The Alliance had in my opinion the most effective use of propaganda art, which was a poster of Alderaan that says never forget. There isn’t much more to say about that. The Empire was evil and bold enough to destroy an entire planet. On one side if you a soldier for the Empire, it could be looked at as a group of terrorists got what they deserved, while on the other hand a great atrocity was committed. A war crime unparalleled by any other until The First Order destroyed Hosnian Prime in The Force Awakens.

That is the purpose of propaganda. It all depends on how one wants to look at it. Propaganda sounds like such a dirty word, and it really is. When you look at it, it’s all lies and we know that. So why do we fall for it? It all has to do with how it’s presented to us. The Stormtroopers on the poster look so strong and proud, yet what do they stand for? Honor? Brutality? Even in the aforementioned Alderaan poster, how can a tragedy like that have any other point of view right? What if the Empire released a poster about Alderaan that said, “These terrorists will never harm anyone again.” Even Ciena Ree in Lost Stars had second thoughts about her Empire when it destroyed an entire planet.

What about the Holocaust? How could a proud, strong German soldier commit such atrocities? I’m sure there were more than a few German soldiers that signed up because they were genuinely proud of their country and their nationality. I’m also sure there were some that signed up because they believed there should only be one race on earth. What happens when a soldier discovers that that poster, film or pamphlet didn’t exactly tell the whole truth? Take Finn for example, he knew he couldn’t live his life as a First Order Stormtrooper.

Why do propaganda films and posters exist? If a particular organization is pure and truthful and worth fighting for, then why the lies? Why not let your organization speak for itself. Given not all are lies exactly, some are there to reveal the evilness of the opposition. Which when I think about it may be a more effective method. Keep the attention on them.

The psychology of propaganda is a fascinating concept.

All is fair in love and war right?


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  1. MelindaW
    July 9, 2017 at 00:24 Reply

    Propaganda is an interesting topic. You certainly are right about that, Eric.

    People get sucked into believing what they’re told because … of so many reasons. Probably more than I have room to point out and discuss here. 😉 At its base, I think propaganda works — and works so well — because people WANT to believe in something. Even when that “something” is false. It isn’t that they can’t think for themselves (although I think that’s the case for some), but there is something inherent in human beings that they want to believe in something bigger than themselves.

    What if Hitler had been a benevolent individual, who truly wanted the best for ALL Germans, no matter what their heritage, what their religious beliefs, from where they or their ancestors came? Wouldn’t that have been a great Germany? A country in which EVERY German citizen could be proud? Truly? Imagine if he had been someone to raise Germany from the ashes of WWI to be a strong country — for ALL. Wouldn’t that have been something.

    Then, when the lies start surfacing, so many who believed the propaganda find it difficult to see the truth. They cannot believe they have been duped … and they continue to believe. If they admit their unwise choice to follow in the wake of those lies, what does that say about them? Hmm…?

    It’s really sad, when you think about it.

    Excellent blog, Eric. Thank you for sharing.

    MTFBWY 🙂

  2. Eric Onkenhout
    July 9, 2017 at 15:14 Reply

    Thanks for your feedback Melinda!
    When I think of how Hitler rose to power I think of how Germany was psychologically as a country plus Hitler’s own shortcomings as an individual. He suffered from an inferiority complex and he took it out on the Jewish people. The German population were just looking for someone to restore their pride.
    Hitler lusted for power just as Palpatine did, and did anything he wanted to obtain it.

    MTFBWY 🙂

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