I read recently in an in-depth book-length study by an investigative journalist on the Rwandan Genocide that the work of the French psychologist, Robert Muchielli, was implicated in organised propaganda preceding the genocide.

There is an article in the French Wikipedia, which I note, calls him a 'psychopedagogue', which in French, probably has a normative meaning, but which if the allegation is correct, has overtones in English which are difficult not to miss in this context.

His work has been compared to the Nazi propagandist Goebbels by Human Rights Watch in their report Propaganda and Practise. I'm looking for a more in depth study of the influence of his work on the genocidaires of Rwanda..

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    $\begingroup$ The Wikipedia article does not mention any allegations of this sort. What is your source? $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2019 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko: Wikipedia isn't the source for everything. A book by an investigative journalist which I picked up in a public library six months ago. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2019 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ So provide the name of the book and the author, and then check his references. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2019 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ You may be confusing a psychologist's writings (which appear to agree with many other folks' assessment of people's tendancies to follow charismatic leaders) with his personal views of power grabs in Rwanda $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2019 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @MoziburUllah You should know the drill by now. If you're going to supply information in response to someone's comment, edit that information into your post. Don't make another comment. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Nov 14, 2019 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


–– Note: this currently answers the first revision of the question. The current edit invalidates this answer.

It seems to be a bit more indirect than how I read your question. But here are the relevant parts from one such reference:

Propagandists echoed and magnified the hatred and suspicion sown by Habyarimana and officials around him. Under the cover of the newly-established freedom of the press, they blared forth messages disseminated more discreetly by officials, such as many of the conclusions about the “enemy” presented in the military memorandum of September 21, 1992.

Propagandists developed the same themes over and over, both before and during the genocide. While some of the similarities in their messages may result simply from sharing the same cultural milieu, other similarities in technique suggest deliberate coordination among propagandists and between them and government officials. In a mimeographed document entitled “Note Relative à la Propagande d’Expansion et de Recrutement,” found in Butare prefecture, one propagandist tells others how to sway the public most effectively. Obviously someone who had studied at university level, the author of the note presents a detailed analysis of a book called Psychologie de la publicité et de la propagande, by Roger Mucchielli, published in Paris in 1970.

The author of the note claims to convey lessons learned from the book and drawn from Lenin and Goebbels. He advocates using lies, exaggeration, ridicule, and innuendo to attack the opponent, in both his public and his private life. He suggests that moral considerations are irrelevant, except when they happen to offer another weapon against the other side. He adds that it is important not to underestimate the strength of the adversary nor to overestimate the intelligence of the general public targeted by the campaign. Propagandists must aim both to win over the uncommitted and to cause divisions among supporters of the other point of view. They must persuade the public that the adversary stands for war, death, slavery, repression, injustice, and sadistic cruelty.

In addition to these suggestions, the propagandist proposes two techniques that were to become often used in Rwanda. The first is to “create” events to lend credence to propaganda. He remarks that this tactic is not honest, but that it works well, provided the deception is not discovered. The “attack” on Kigali on October 4-5, 1990 was such a “created” event, as were others—the reported discovery of hidden arms, the passage of a stranger with a mysterious bag, the discovery of radio communications equipment—that were exploited later, especially during the genocide.

The propagandist calls his second proposal “Accusation in a mirror,” meaning his colleagues should impute to enemies exactly what they and their own party are planning to do. He explains, “In this way, the party which is using terror will accuse the enemy of using terror.” With such a tactic, propagandists can persuade listeners and “honest people” that they are being attacked and are justified in taking whatever measures are necessary “for legitimate [self-] defense.” This tactic worked extremely well, both in specific cases such as the Bugesera massacre of March 1992 described below and in the broader campaign to convince Hutu that Tutsi planned to exterminate them. There is no proof that officials and propagandists who “created” events and made “accusations in a mirror” were familiar with this particular document, but they regularly used the techniques that it described.

April, 1994

April 3: RTLM broadcast a prediction that the RPF would do “a little something” with its bullets and grenades on April 3 to April 5 and again from April 7 to 8. This may have been an “accusation in a mirror”—like that advocated by the disciple of the propaganda expert Mucchielli—with Hutu hard-liners accusing Tutsi of preparing to do just what they themselves were planning.137 The prediction increased fears in an already tense situation. Some people who felt at risk sent their children away from Kigali while others took refuge in places thought to be safe havens.

Like the “spontaneous anger” justification, this effort at legitimating violence through “self- defense” was meant both to quiet foreign critics and to incite Hutu to kill more. When the propagandist who disseminated his summary of the work of Mucchielli wrote about “accusations in a mirror,” he recommended that adversaries be accused of terrorism because “honest people” will take action if they believe they are legitimately defending themselves.112 Officials and propagandists alike encouraged Hutu to feel righteous anger at the Tutsi and to give “them the punishment they deserve.”

In another incident that afternoon, a Tutsi charged the burgomaster with a machete in an attempt to kill him. According to one survivor:

Just after he [the burgomaster] spoke, one man ran up to try to kill him. He said, “I am going to die, but I will save a lot of people.” He was stopped, of course, but this frightened the burgomaster, so he left right after that. He took his family to safety in Butare and went to get more military men.

Another informant who saw the event confirms this version. She reports that the assailant, who was her uncle, was stopped before he even reached the burgomaster and that the burgomaster was not injured in the attack.

Ntaganzwa and his supporters made full use of these incidents to heighten fear of the Tutsi exactly as the disciple of the propaganda expert Mucchielli had directed. The burgomaster traveled throughout the commune with his head bandaged warning the population that RPF soldiers were in the church, hiding in the midst of the Tutsi civilians. He insisted that everyone must help defend the commune. A Hutu witness from Rutobwe recounts:

The burgomaster went around doing propaganda meetings, during which he said that the people of Cyahinda had thrown a grenade at him and that he had escaped by a miracle. There were witnesses who said that it was only a stone, but the burgomaster said that it was a grenade. He got in his pickup truck with his head bandaged and went around telling the population: “They tried to kill me!” People saw that his head was bandaged and they believed. I believed itmyself when I saw his bandage. Only later did I find out that he had taken advantage of the stone to arouse anger in the commune: a stone had become a grenade. And the truth? Well, people saw the bandage and believed it was the truth.

–– Alison Liebhafsky Des Forges: "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda", Human Rights Watch, Year: 1999.

  • $\begingroup$ I've already seen that. Its was easy enough to find by keying the terms 'Goebbels' & 'Muchielli' into the google search-engine. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2019 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see why you say it is 'indirect' as it's well-known that the Hutu extremists used a radio network to piggy-back their hate speech onto. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2019 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @MoziburUllah If you were already aware of HRW comparing Muchielli to Goebbels, what was the point of asking for reference to that in the OP? $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Nov 15, 2019 at 1:23
  • $\begingroup$ @confiold: Thats what I remember reading from the book I looked at six months ago. And that is how I found the HRW report. $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2019 at 10:45

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