Throughout history, there have been relatively few leaders who effectively persuaded millions of followers. This paper examines 3 figures, Hitler, Churchill and Jesus to assess what lead to their success.The 3 historical messengers I have chosen as examples obviously had very different messages. However they all possessed impressive oratory skills…
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As human beings we communicate with each other in both written and spoken form with many purposes in mind, that is, to educate, to inform, to entertain and finally to persuade. We are bombarded daily with advertising messages to buy this or that product, or to support or reject a particular political and/o religious view. Usually these messages have little impact on us, except perhaps subliminally, as we tune them out in our minds if not literally.
However there are occasions in history when messages, especially political and/or religious have resonated with thousands even millions of people. To effectively persuade so many amenable aspects of the 3 elements of communication, that is, source, message and target. This is not to say that all 3 elements must be “perfect” in every way to achieve impact.
However they must each have sufficient strengths that taken together they will impact the target population in the way desired by the source. This source or messenger must be able to articulate an issue and provide a vision for resolving it which resonates with the target audience. Basically there are 2 kinds of persuasive communications, rhetorical and relational. The object of rhetorical communication is to persuade the recipients that they can improve their situation by acting in ways urged by the source. On the other hand, the goal of a relational communication is for the recipient to establish a relation with the messenger, irrespective of whether the recipient changes his or her actions in any way. I would argue that the categories are not mutually exclusive and may be embodied in the same message, likely with one aspect stressed more than the other. I intend to exemplify these points in a discussion of 3 historical figures Adolf Hitler A short man, Hitler was not an imposing figure. In spite of this he was able to persuade millions of Germans to act on his vision of the Third Reich. This was because of his great oratory skills and his message of Aryan superiority which resonated with audiences suffering under the Great ( Worldwide) Depression exacerbated by the harsh reparation terms of the Versailles Treaty imposed by the Allies after World War II (youtube) Although he railed against this treaty, the harm allegedly done by international finance especially credit, the impotence of the League of Nations and the weak government he succeeded, theses rants in my view were not as effective as the scapegoating of segments of society, especially Jews (1937 Anniversary Speech). Even people who did not understand more abstract complicated issues could see the tangible difference between the wealth of most Jews compared to their own. COMMUNICATION-PERSUASION PARADIGM He also appealed to their sense of national pride, humiliated after World War II. Unlike his Communist rivals, Hitler was able to mobilize the German people behind him by restoring a sense of pride, marrying notions of nationhood with the alleged superiority of the Aryan race. For him neither democratic individualism nor Communist collectivism should prevail, but the “folk” community of an Aryan German nation. Although Hitler’s message was largely rhetorical to inculcate Aryan Germans to act as he wished under his leadership, it was also relational. He designated himself as Fuehrer which I believe translates as father. He therefore persuaded Germans to regard him as their national father. Winston Churchill Hitler’s adversary for most of World War II, British Prime Minister Churchill also sought to uplift his nation, however in a very different way with different tactics. His facial features,
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