Sunday, 26 October 2008

Mass Movements and How They Work


So begins an interesting topic series that I will blog on....Mass Movements and how they work.

The centerpiece? Eric Hoffer in the 1940s wrote a reasonably short piece called "The True Believer". It should never have been printed....Eric really wasn't that great of a writer....but someone saw material in the book that demanded absolute analysis...which is what Eric could do very well.

The book? Well....it ended being printed and even President Eisenhower required the inner members of his staff to read the book.

Hoffer does some fascinating analysis...looking at positive self-esteem and then turning it around...the consequence of lack of self-esteem. He centered this entire focus around Joe Stalin and Adolf Hitler. The analysis is simple....a fanatic who believes in his self-righteousness....really has self-hatred, self-doubt, and lots of insecurity. Hoffer's analysis leads to people who want to make up or compensate for what they have....using mass movements to achieve their status.

Hoffer is quiet fair about this....he could envision the efforts of Islam and Christianity using the same tactics.

A fanatic in any vision...could change and become a fanatic in another vision...from being a Nazi fanatic to a communist fanatic or a socialist fanatic.

The fascinating thing is that Hoffer laid out the tactics....making people feel woeful about their environment and needing it fixed (not taking the action themselves but needing a figure or authority to do that part). He envisioned a sales like approach to this mass movement...like a marketing ploy....you need posters...you need key words....you need a pitch that sells.

Hoffer didn't limit mass movements to non-democratic societies. He knew they could easily fixate themselves anywhere.....even in the US.

1 comment:

ian in hamburg said...

Perhaps the term malignant narcissist wasn't bandied about much back then, but when you mention lack of self-esteem and turning it around, you're talking about narcissism. Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw says Hitler was a supreme narcissist.

Do a google search under What Makes Narcissists Tick. Fascinating stuff, especially if you're like me and have personally known a textbook case and can see her described line-by-line.