Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Stephen Harper, Leo Strauss and Reductio ad Hitlerum
What do close advisers to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement." Donald Gutstein (1)
Those words are certainly true but I would also ask another question. What does Leo Strauss and the advisers to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing philosophy of Joseph Goebbels. And most of Joseph Goebbels brilliance as a propagandist came from reading Gustave Le Bon, and exploiting his study of mass mentality.
Gustave points out that individuals in a crowd may range in intellect, but when presented as a mass to a common cause they become homogenized: In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals, and in consequence their individuality, are weakened. The heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneous, and the unconscious qualities obtain the upper hand ... This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence ... In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated. (2)
Hence the notion of not just the "masses" but the "ignorant masses", reduced to ignorance by a common agitator.
Leo Strauss would develop a philosophical argument which he called Reductio ad Hitlerum which included playing the Hitler card. But Strauss also contends that not everything Adolf Hitler did was bad, so it would be wrong to conclude that something is bad just because Hitler did it. Actions can become "darkened by the shadow of Hitler" he warned.
So when neoconservative philosophy is attributed to Strauss, it's OK. He taught at American universities, and no matter what he taught it is legitimized. But as soon as you compare neoconservative principles to Joesph Goebbels, they cry foul, despite the fact that much of what Strauss taught is pure Nazi propaganda, that has been "darkened by the shadow of Hitler". And of course also darkened by the shadow of the Holocaust.
I'm not going to deny that Leo Strauss was a brilliant man, but I believe that in many ways he was simply the conduit for Goebbels, which is why so many legitimate followers of Strauss will question much of what has been attributed to him, especially when it comes to the actions of the Bush administration.
So I'm going to remove the shadow of Hitler and the Holocaust and outline the techniques used by the ultimate propagandist, Joseph Paul Goebbels. The similarities between him and the advisers of most neoconservative politicians are simply too vast to ignore.
This will be the first of a series.
Phenomena of a Hypnotic Order
The difference between Leo Strauss and Joseph Goebbels, is that Strauss's theories were philosophic, while Goebbels were scientific. Strauss was inspired by other philosophers, while Goebbels was inspired by a scientist, Gustave Le Bons.
As Le Bons himself states: I have endeavoured to examine the difficult problem presented by crowds in a purely scientific manner—that is, by making an effort to proceed with method, and without being influenced by opinions, theories, and doctrines. (2)
So scientifically speaking, when discussing crowd mentality, he suggests that individuals in the crowd are rendered unconscious, and it is this unconsciousness that becomes their collective strength. They are now devoid of reason and this is the best state for a skillful orator to do their work. Le Bons refers to this as the 'phenomena of hypnotic order'.
So ideally when trying to stir up the masses, you need to get them into an hypnotic state, and one way of doing this is with hand gestures. In the "mesmerizing trade" it's referred to as Covert Hypnotism. Goebbels mastered it. Look at his rhythmic hand gestures in the following video. Very unusual.
Of course Goebbels would say that the power comes from the "harmony of word, facial expressions and gestures", but at this particular rally he speaks of the mass as being in a state of "total spiritual mobilization". Aka: hypnotized.
Now watch Adolf Hitler, doing the same thing. He starts out in a humble stance and then builds up the momentum. But again watch his hands (Not too closely though. I wouldn't want you to start clucking like a chicken or anything)
The gravelly voice was the result of mustard gas during the war and Hitler's first handler, Dietrich Eckart taught him how to use it to his advantage. But every now and then he has to stop to cough. Eckart was a playwright and stage director, so gave him a flair for the dramatic.
Now just as kind of a funny aside, following is a video of Stephen Harper. I don't really know what his oratory style is because he rarely speaks to us, and certainly would not speak to us in this manner if he thought we were listening. This video was shot on the QT. But watch his hands and yes I am LMAO.
1. Harper, Bush Share Roots in Controversial Philosophy. The Tyee, Donald Gutstein, November 29, 2009
2. A Study of the Popular Mind, By: Gustave Le Bon, Book One: The Mind of Crowds