The purpose of this post is to show how an evolution into Fascism made exquisite use of the Critical Skills.
These Critical Skills included Production (establishing an idea for something new and then creating it), Information (the essential “facts” – perhaps “myths” is a better word), Analysis (drawing conclusions from the “myths’) and Communications (getting the masses to understand the message). Technology was limited in those days to print and public speeches/rallies. Today, of course, we have cable news outlets, social media, Twitter, radio talk shows, podcasts, etc.
In the early 1900’s, Gustave Le Bon’s theory of “The Crowd” was put into play. Political thinking was that if the 19th century was the century of individualism, then the 20th century would be the century of collectivism. Anyone who was not thinking about collectivism in mass politics would be left behind in the 20th century – these included liberals who thought individualistically and conservatives who thought aristocratically. Their thinking was referred to as “dead energy.”
One thinker who seemed to have gotten it right was Karl Marx.
At the beginning of the 20th century, both of the founders of Marxism had died, but two adaptations of Marxism had begun to flourish.
- One path was that of Marx to Lenin to Stalin/Mao. That was known as “Marxism/Leninism.”
- The other path was headed by George Sorel who believed that the path based on “class” and “economics” was too narrow and that “sociology” should be factored in. Revolutionaries would need to create “mobilizing myths” that included stories containing all the strongest inclinations of people, stories that people are inspired by and cherish, and above all, stories that could be held above criticism. Of course, the created stories need NOT to be true. They could be anything consistent with the creator’s ultimate intent. Sorel’s focus became one of “strikes” – to get people to rally behind the stories and start a revolution. This path became known as Marx to Sorel to Mussolini/Hitler.
The end result of the second path – that of Sorel – was Fascism – not resembling Marxism at all.
On balance – Fascists believed that the Marxist movements correctly tapped into the spirit of mass politics – telling a simple story of a binary struggle between good and evil where “regular people” were good and “elites” were evil – especially financial elites. They felt that ultimately, the “good people” were deserving of power.
Hitler, although he despised Marxism, wrote that “No movement has operated with such a thorough knowledge of the masses as the Marxist movement.” In Mein Kampf, he added, “The strong attractive power of the Social Democracy, yes, of the whole Marxist movement, rested in large part on the homogeneity and hence one-sideness of the public it addressed. The more seemingly limited, indeed, the narrower its ideas were, the more easily they were taken up and assimilated by a mass whose intellectual level corresponded to the material offered.”
The challenge was to communicate the “mobilizing myth” to the masses – using the crowd psychology articulated by Gustave Le Bon – to “hypnotize” the crowd into believing whatever the hypnotist – the forceful speaker/communicator – had to say, whether or not the message was based on fact or simply a “big lie.”
Remember Le Bon’s theory about crowds:
- There is a psychological law of the mental unity of crowds.
- When individuals identify themselves with crowds, they lose the ability to think for themselves. Instead, they think WITH the crowd.
- Accordingly, crowd psychology acts as a hypnotizer – individuals in the crowd are hypnotized. All feelings and thoughts are bent in the direction determined by the hypnotizer.
Adolph Hitler was a master at hypnotizing the crowd and wasn’t shy about creating “mobilizing myths.” You should recall that he felt that “the bigger the lie, the more likely people will be prone to believe it . . .”
And that was precisely the strategy used by Hitler.
And his Reich Minister of Propagana, Josef Goebbles, added “. . . and the more times you tell it, the greater the chance that the masses will believe it. In fact, you will come to believe it yourself! Remember that a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”
Goebbles’ disdain for intellectuals was clear: “There is no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger – and this will always be ‘the man in the street.’ Arguments must, therefore, be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instinct – NOT INTELLECT. Truth is unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.”
Goebbles’ views on propaganda were crystal clear: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
While the Marxist call for revolution appealed to Fascists, they thought that the Marxist movement was fatally flawed and likely to fail for two reasons:
- It was inherently divisive – turning the working class against property owners;
- It tended to be dogmatic – rigidly adhering to Marxist ideas whether they worked in practice or not.
In his autobiography, Benito Mussolini wrote that “It was necessary to imagine a wholly new political conception, adequate to the living reality of the twentieth century, overcoming at the same time the ideological worship of liberalism, the limited horizons of various spent and exhausted democracies, and finally the violently Utopian spirit of Bolshevism.”
So, they needed to apply the principles articulated by Le Bon and Sorel – a simple idea around which the masses could rally.
This idea was to focus on nationalism and reject internationalism. National consciousness would replace class consciousness. As Mussolini put it, “We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality. It is a reality in the sense that it is a stimulus, is hope, is faith, is courage. Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything else.”
While the purpose of this post is not to go into depth of what happened as a result of both the efforts of Mussolini and Hitler, its purpose is to demonstrate that their efforts were highly successful in seizing power through the masses. Their method was clear, and seems to be the blueprint being followed today.
- The revolutionary/hypnotist creates the “mobilizing myth” (Find something which the masses can relate to and become passionate about. It doesn’t need to be true – it is the “mobilizing myth”)
- The revolutionary/hypnotist communicates the myth (Get the idea of the myth into the heads of the masses. Communicate it over and over and over again until they believe it.) The revolutionary becomes the “hypnotist.”
- The revolutionary utilizes technology to facilitate communicating the myth.
- The revolutionary convinces the hypnotized masses that the solution to the problem can be solved by putting her/him into power.
- The revolutionary rises into power.
Ultimately, the masses get what they wished for.
Sound familiar? It worked in the past – and is being tried today.