Nicholas Terry and Black Propaganda

In his contribution to the holocaust controversies manifesto, Nicholas Terry makes (p. 43) a big fuss over the somewhat loose use of the term “black propaganda” which has been made in some revisionist works. The objection seems rather pointless, given that the writings of Mattogno, Graf, and Kues were written in and translated into multiple languages, causing an inevitable variability in terminology. As long as the meaning of a term is clear in the context it is used, why quibble about the “correct” technical meaning? In any event, Terry is hoist by his own petard on this issue, as his own writing displays a poor understanding of the use of the term ‘black propaganda’. Terry gives the definition “Black propaganda is propaganda purporting to come from the enemy side.” In the definitions to which Terry is appealing, propaganda is divided into white, gray, and black, according to whether it declares its origin, obscures its origin, or falsifies its origin. Terry’s interpretation that “falsifies its origin” must mean “purports to come from the enemy side” is exceedingly narrow, even within this framework. Moreover, in the context of the second world war, the classifications given were not generally quite so refined. Consider this header from a file of the British Political Warfare Executive (PWE):


Does this header introduce materials exclusively consisting of “propaganda purporting to come from the enemy side”? Not in the slightest. Its contents might be said to encompass the categories of both black and gray propaganda, in the sense of the terms given above. That is to say, anything which did not declare its origin as allied propaganda could be fit in the “black propaganda” category. The term “underground propaganda” is also used in PWE documents as an alternative to “black propaganda”. One might define both terms as meaning “clandestine propaganda”, i.e. propaganda which does not reveal its identity as propaganda. This usage is in sharp contradiction with Terry’s narrow and dogmatic definition. Thus, Nicholas Terry’s attack concerning the use of the term ‘black propaganda’ rests on his misunderstanding of how the term was used during the second world war.

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