ethics of journalism
freedom of speech and expression

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The term totalitarianism describes a government that takes total, centralized, state control over every aspect of public and private life. Totalitarian leaders appear to provide a sense of security and to give a direction for the future. In the 20th century, the widespread use of mass communication made it possible to reach into all aspects of citizens' lives.Totalitarianism is a form of government in which the national government takes control of all aspects of both public and private life. Thus, totalitarianism seeks to erase the line between government and society.

It has an ideology, or set of beliefs, that all citizens are expected to approve. It is often led by a dynamic leader and a single political party. Mass communication technology helps a totalitarian government spread its aims and support its policies. Also, surveillance technology makes it possible to keep track of the activities of many people.

Finally, violence, such as police terror, discourages those who disagree with the goals of the government. To dominate an entire nation, totalitarian leaders devised methods of control and persuasion. These included the use of terror, indoctrination, propaganda, censorship, and religious or ethnic persecution.


Dictators of totalitarian states use terror and violence to force obedience and to crush opposition. Normally, the police are expected to respond to criminal activity and protect the citizens. In a totalitarian state, the police serve to enforce the central government's policies. They may do this by spying on the citizens or by intimidating them. Sometimes they use brutal force and even murder to achieve their goals.


Totalitarian states rely on indoctrination-instruction in the government's beliefs-to mold people's minds. Control of education is absolutely essential to glorify the leader and his policies and to convince all citizens that theirunconditional loyalty and support are required. Indoctrination begins with very young children, is encouraged by youth groups, and is strongly enforced by schools.


Totalitarian states spread propaganda, biased or incomplete information used to sway people to accept certain beliefs or actions. Control of all mass media allows this to happen. No publication, film, art, or music is allowed to exist without the permission of the state. Citizens are surrounded with false information that appears to be true. Suggesting that the information is incorrect is considered an act of treason and severely punished. Individuals who dissent must retract their work or they are imprisoned or killed.


Totalitarian leaders often create "enemies of the state" to blame for things that go wrong. Frequently these enemies are members of religious or ethnic groups. Often these groups are easily identified and are subjected to campaigns of terror and violence. They may be forced to live in certain areas or are subjected to rules that apply only to them.