Silence Propaganda: A Semiotic Inquiry into the Ideologies of Taciturnity

Massimo Leone
2017 Signs and Society  
A B S T R A C T Societies should be analyzed not only from the point of view of what they talk about but also from the point of view of what they are quiet about. Areas of silence in the semiosphere vary across cultures and history and stem from a complex interaction of historical circumstances and social agencies. Implicit norms of taciturnity are often codified into explicit legal frameworks, whose enforcement, though, substantially relies on state and government propaganda. Citizens must
more » ... . Citizens must interiorize as a second nature the ideology of taciturnity that leads them not to share any content about certain topics. This mechanism of hegemonic silencing is macroscopically visible in times of war, when national interests solidify into specific rhetorics of taciturnity. This article is a comparative analysis of World War II silence propaganda. However, in times of relative peace both autocratic regimes and democratic states also need areas of silence and secrecy to pattern public discourse. Understanding how the creation of collective silence takes place is essential in an increasingly interconnected and global society in which limits to free disclosure and communication often give rise to tensions and conflicts. Rien ne rehausse l'autorité mieux que le silence. -Charles de Gaulle, Le Fil de l'épée (1932) S everal forces pattern public communication in society, some seeking to regulate the quantity of information that members are supposed to circulate. Depending on the sender, the receiver (Vittori 1975), the context, the message, the channel, and the code of communication, and above all depending on the topic, implicit norms and explicit laws set the ideal quantitative measure of content that should be exchanged in a given communicative circumstance.
doi:10.1086/690660 fatcat:kbr3uplf7ffzjo7vvrk2dzebte