Habermas, Systematically Distorted Communication, and the Public Sphere
The work of the German political philosopher, Jürgen Habermas, provides the framework for the analysis of the formation of national identities in the public sphere, and their erosion by means of systematically distorted communication. The object of this article is an exhibit that traveled throughout Germany, one designed to undermine a myth concerning Germany's "unmasterable" past, the legacy of its brutal conduct in World War Two. The history of the exhibit and its reception trace a path from courageous confrontation to prudent retreat in the face of systematically distorted communication. The article concludes by reflecting on the rhetorical significance of systematically distorted communication.