How stable are democracies? ‘Warning signs are flashing red’

Amanda Taub writes: Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.

His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

Mr. Mounk’s interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, “Stranger in My Own Country.” It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities.

He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?

To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.

Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.” [Continue reading…]

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Denounce the hate, Mr. Trump

In an editorial, the New York Times says: In his victory speech early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump pledged that he “will be president for all Americans,” and he asked those who did not support him “for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

Here’s some guidance right off the bat, Mr. President-elect: Those sentiments will have more force if you immediately and unequivocally repudiate the outpouring of racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic insults, threats and attacks being associated with your name. Do this in a personal plea to people who supported your candidacy. Tell them this is not what you stand for, nor is it what your new administration will tolerate.

Explicit expressions of bigotry and hatred by Trump supporters were common throughout the campaign, and they have become even more intense since his election. On a department-store window in Philadelphia, vandals spray-painted “Sieg Heil 2016” and Mr. Trump’s name written with a swastika. In a Minnesota high-school bathroom, vandals scrawled the Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and next to it, “Go back to Africa.” There are many more reports pouring in of verbal and physical harassment of Muslims, Latinos and other members of minorities. Though not all are verifiable, the atmosphere of intimidation and fear is unquestionably real and will keep growing. Mr. Trump may not be able to stop it by himself, but he must do everything he can.

The problem, of course, is that Mr. Trump’s campaign was based on appeals — some explicit, some coded — to racial and ethnic resentment and division. His followers heard it starting with his speech declaring his candidacy, warning of Mexican immigrant “rapists,” continuing to a rally last weekend where he promised to bar all Syrian refugees because they “will import generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism into your schools and throughout your communities.” These statements emboldened and even encouraged those who have been looking for a license to lash out against immigrants, refugees, minorities and anyone else they find threatening. They take his victory as vindication of their feelings.

David Duke, the former Louisiana lawmaker and former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted that Mr. Trump’s victory was “one of the most exciting nights of my life,” and also, “Our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!” In another tweet, he wrote, “Anyone telling you this was a vote for ‘unity’ is a liar and they know it!”

As a candidate, Mr. Trump could get away with ignoring racist and sexist abuse by his supporters. But as the president-elect, he has the moral duty to reject it in the most aggressive terms. There should be no space in American political discourse for violent or abusive behavior. And that includes, of course, acts of vandalism and other violence by anti-Trump demonstrators.

In a little more than two months, Donald Trump will take charge of a country of more than 320 million people of all races, ethnicities and religions. Every one of them deserves to live in safety, with dignity. [Continue reading…]

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‘Republicans against Trump’ protester: Trump is a fascist who is turning his supporters into animals

 

The Guardian reports: The man whose protest saw Donald Trump rushed off the stage by Secret Service agents has said the Republican nominee’s supporters turned on him when he held up a sign reading: “Republicans against Trump”.

The man, who identified himself as Austyn Crites from Reno, told the Guardian he was holding the sign at a rally when Trump supporters wrestled him to the ground.

The 33-year-old – who says he has been a registered Republican for about six years – said he was kicked, punched and choked, and feared for his life when the crowd turned on him at the gathering in Reno, Nevada.

Crites cited Trump’s treatment of Mexicans, Muslims and women as the reason he decided to protest again Trump, who he described as “a textbook version of a dictator and a fascist”. [Continue reading…]

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A scholar of fascism sees a lot that’s similar with Trump

Jonathan Blitzer writes: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an American-born professor of Italian history at New York University, specializes in male menace. What interests her is the manufactured drama of world-historical strongmen — their mannerisms, speech patterns, stagecraft, and mythomania. Late last year, Ben-Ghiat had just published a book called “Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema,” about the years of Benito Mussolini, when another spectacle wrested her attention. One of the candidates for the American Presidency was looking a lot like her principal academic subject. As President Obama put it, the United States now had its own “homegrown authoritarian.”

Earlier this week, Ben-Ghiat sat at a table in her office, at N.Y.U.’s Casa Italiana, on Twelfth Street, inspecting two signatures on the screen of her laptop. One of them belonged to Donald Trump, the other to Mussolini. The scrawls — loopy, cursive, steepled — looked so similar that they seemed to blur together. Ben-Ghiat, who wore a gray sweater and dark skirt, is gracefully soft-spoken, her manner reserved. “I’m interested in how their language and writing are a kind of emanation of their bodies,” she said.

When Mussolini was a Socialist, he wrote his name as “Benito Mussolini.” “Then he dropped the Benito,” Ben Ghiat said. “He even had his stage name, which was Il Duce.” Trump also likes talking about himself in the third person. “He’s selling his product, which is himself,” she said. It’s a cult of personality peddled as good business. During the primaries, he recited a loyalty pledge in which he led his supporters in a promise to vote for him. (“I do solemnly swear that I — no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there’s hurricanes or whatever — will vote . . . for Donald J. Trump for President.”) While administering the oath, he raised his arm before the crowds in a quasi-Fascist salute. (“I mean, we’re having such a good time,” Trump said later. “Sometimes we do it for fun, and they start screaming at me, ‘Do the swearing! Do the swearing!’ ”) [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump is the first demagogue of the Anthropocene — he won’t be the last

Robinson Meyer writes: Lately I’ve been thinking back to something that John Kerry told The Atlantic’s editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, earlier this year. Asked about the importance of the Middle East to the United States, Kerry answered entirely about the Islamic State.

“Imagine what would happen if we don’t stand and fight [ISIS],” he said:

If we didn’t do that, you could have allies and friends of ours fall. You could have a massive migration into Europe that destroys Europe, leads to the pure destruction of Europe, ends the European project, and everyone runs for cover and you’ve got the 1930s all over again, with nationalism and fascism and other things breaking out. Of course we have an interest in this, a huge interest in this.

The 1930s all over again — Kerry was laying out a prediction in April, but it sounds a little more like description now. Even if America’s current dunderheaded demagogue loses the presidential election, the European project already falters in the United Kingdom, and Russia rumbles with revanchism. Fueled now (as then) by an ailing global economy, far-right nationalism seems ascendant worldwide. It’s hard not to think of the 1930s as the catastrophe which presaged our contemporary tragicomedy.

I write and report climate change, not a pursuit that usually encourages optimism, but watching all this unfold with the atmosphere in mind has been particularly bleak. For the past few months in particular, I’ve been thinking: Wow, this is all happening way earlier than I thought it would.

Spend enough time with some of the worst-case climate scenarios, and you may start to assume, as I did, that a major demagogue would contest the presidency in the next century. I figured that the catastrophic consequences of planetary warming would all but ensure the necessary conditions for such a leader, and I imagined their support coming from a movement motivated by ethnonationalism, economic stagnation, and hatred of immigrants and refugees. I pictured, in other words, something not so far from Trump 2016.

I just assumed it wouldn’t pop up until 2040. [Continue reading…]

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How Dostoevsky predicted Trump’s America

By Ani Kokobobo, University of Kansas

As a professor of Russian literature, I’ve come to realize that it’s never a good sign when real life resembles a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, with its riotous rhetoric and steady stream of scandals, calls to mind Dostoevsky’s most political novel, “Demons,” written in 1872. In it, the writer wanted to warn readers about the destructive force of demagoguery and unchecked rhetoric, and his cautionary messages – largely influenced by 19th-century Russian political chaos – resonate in our present political climate.

To show his readers just how bad things could get if they didn’t pay attention, Dostoevsky linked his political nightmare to unhinged impulses and the breakdown of civility.

A passion for destruction

Dostoevsky was as addicted to newspapers as some of us are to social media, and he often plucked crises and violence right from the headlines, refashioning them for his fiction.

Russia during the 1860s and 1870s – the heyday of the author’s career – was experiencing massive socioeconomic instability. Tsar Alexander II’s Emancipation of the Serfs freed Russian peasants from a form of class bondage, while the subsequent Great Reforms aimed to restructure the executive and judidical branches, as well as the military, tax code and education system. The reforms were supposed to modernize the country by dragging it out of the caste-like system of estates and legal privilege. But it didn’t do much to improve the economic lot of the peasant.

It was a reversal of America’s present political landscape. While today there’s simmering discontent from the right, in 19th-century Russia it was leftists who were enraged. They were angered by the reforms for not going far enough and had lost hope in the government’s ability to produce meaningful change.

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The mind of Donald Trump

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Dan McAdams writes: Donald Trump’s basic personality traits suggest a presidency that could be highly combustible. One possible yield is an energetic, activist president who has a less than cordial relationship with the truth. He could be a daring and ruthlessly aggressive decision maker who desperately desires to create the strongest, tallest, shiniest, and most awesome result — and who never thinks twice about the collateral damage he will leave behind. Tough. Bellicose. Threatening. Explosive.

In the presidential contest of 1824, Andrew Jackson won the most electoral votes, edging out John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and William Crawford. Because Jackson did not have a majority, however, the election was decided in the House of Representatives, where Adams prevailed. Adams subsequently chose Clay as his secretary of state. Jackson’s supporters were infuriated by what they described as a “corrupt bargain” between Adams and Clay. The Washington establishment had defied the will of the people, they believed. Jackson rode the wave of public resentment to victory four years later, marking a dramatic turning point in American politics. A beloved hero of western farmers and frontiersmen, Jackson was the first nonaristocrat to become president. He was the first president to invite everyday folk to the inaugural reception. To the horror of the political elite, throngs tracked mud through the White House and broke dishes and decorative objects. Washington insiders reviled Jackson. They saw him as intemperate, vulgar, and stupid. Opponents called him a jackass—the origin of the donkey symbol for the Democratic Party. In a conversation with Daniel Webster in 1824, Thomas Jefferson described Jackson as “one of the most unfit men I know of” to become president of the United States, “a dangerous man” who cannot speak in a civilized manner because he “choke[s] with rage,” a man whose “passions are terrible.” Jefferson feared that the slightest insult from a foreign leader could impel Jackson to declare war. Even Jackson’s friends and admiring colleagues feared his volcanic temper. Jackson fought at least 14 duels in his life, leaving him with bullet fragments lodged throughout his body. On the last day of his presidency, he admitted to only two regrets: that he was never able to shoot Henry Clay or hang John C. Calhoun.

The similarities between Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump do not end with their aggressive temperaments and their respective positions as Washington outsiders. The similarities extend to the dynamic created between these dominant social actors and their adoring audiences — or, to be fairer to Jackson, what Jackson’s political opponents consistently feared that dynamic to be. They named Jackson “King Mob” for what they perceived as his demagoguery. Jackson was an angry populist, they believed — a wild-haired mountain man who channeled the crude sensibilities of the masses. More than 100 years before social scientists would invent the concept of the authoritarian personality to explain the people who are drawn to autocratic leaders, Jackson’s detractors feared what a popular strongman might do when encouraged by an angry mob.

During and after World War II, psychologists conceived of the authoritarian personality as a pattern of attitudes and values revolving around adherence to society’s traditional norms, submission to authorities who personify or reinforce those norms, and antipathy — to the point of hatred and aggression — toward those who either challenge in-group norms or lie outside their orbit. Among white Americans, high scores on measures of authoritarianism today tend to be associated with prejudice against a wide range of “out-groups,” including homosexuals, African Americans, immigrants, and Muslims. Authoritarianism is also associated with suspiciousness of the humanities and the arts, and with cognitive rigidity, militaristic sentiments, and Christian fundamentalism.

When individuals with authoritarian proclivities fear that their way of life is being threatened, they may turn to strong leaders who promise to keep them safe — leaders like Donald Trump. In a national poll conducted recently by the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams, high levels of authoritarianism emerged as the single strongest predictor of expressing political support for Donald Trump. Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out and his railing against Muslims and other outsiders have presumably fed that dynamic.

As the social psychologist Jesse Graham has noted, Trump appeals to an ancient fear of contagion, which analogizes out-groups to parasites, poisons, and other impurities. In this regard, it is perhaps no psychological accident that Trump displays a phobia of germs, and seems repulsed by bodily fluids, especially women’s. He famously remarked that Megyn Kelly of Fox News had “blood coming out of her wherever,” and he repeatedly characterized Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during a Democratic debate as “disgusting.” Disgust is a primal response to impurity. On a daily basis, Trump seems to experience more disgust, or at least to say he does, than most people do.

The authoritarian mandate is to ensure the security, purity, and goodness of the in-group — to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. In the 1820s, white settlers in Georgia and other frontier areas lived in constant fear of American Indian tribes. They resented the federal government for not keeping them safe from what they perceived to be a mortal threat and a corrupting contagion. Responding to these fears, President Jackson pushed hard for the passage of the Indian Removal Act, which eventually led to the forced relocation of 45,000 American Indians. At least 4,000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears, which ran from Georgia to the Oklahoma territory.

An American strand of authoritarianism may help explain why the thrice-married, foul-mouthed Donald Trump should prove to be so attractive to white Christian evangelicals. As Jerry Falwell Jr. told The New York Times in February, “All the social issues — traditional family values, abortion — are moot if isis blows up some of our cities or if the borders are not fortified.” Rank-and-file evangelicals “are trying to save the country,” Falwell said. Being “saved” has a special resonance among evangelicals — saved from sin and damnation, of course, but also saved from the threats and impurities of a corrupt and dangerous world.

When my research associates and I once asked politically conservative Christians scoring high on authoritarianism to imagine what their life (and their world) might have been like had they never found religious faith, many described utter chaos — families torn apart, rampant infidelity and hate, cities on fire, the inner rings of hell. By contrast, equally devout politically liberal Christians who scored low on authoritarianism described a barren world depleted of all resources, joyless and bleak, like the arid surface of the moon. For authoritarian Christians, a strong faith — like a strong leader — saves them from chaos and tamps down fears and conflicts. Donald Trump is a savior, even if he preens and swears, and waffles on the issue of abortion.

In December, on the campaign trail in Raleigh, North Carolina, Trump stoked fears in his audience by repeatedly saying that “something bad is happening” and “something really dangerous is going on.” He was asked by a 12-year-old girl from Virginia, “I’m scared — what are you going to do to protect this country?”

Trump responded: “You know what, darling? You’re not going to be scared anymore. They’re going to be scared.” [Continue reading…]

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Anger has come to saturate our politics and culture — philosophy can show a way out

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Martha C Nussbaum writes: There’s no emotion we ought to think harder and more clearly about than anger. Anger greets most of us every day – in our personal relationships, in the workplace, on the highway, on airline trips – and, often, in our political lives as well. Anger is both poisonous and popular. Even when people acknowledge its destructive tendencies, they still so often cling to it, seeing it as a strong emotion, connected to self-respect and manliness (or, for women, to the vindication of equality). If you react to insults and wrongs without anger you’ll be seen as spineless and downtrodden. When people wrong you, says conventional wisdom, you should use justified rage to put them in their place, exact a penalty. We could call this football politics, but we’d have to acknowledge right away that athletes, whatever their rhetoric, have to be disciplined people who know how to transcend anger in pursuit of a team goal.

If we think closely about anger, we can begin to see why it is a stupid way to run one’s life. A good place to begin is Aristotle’s definition: not perfect, but useful, and a starting point for a long Western tradition of reflection. Aristotle says that anger is a response to a significant damage to something or someone one cares about, and a damage that the angry person believes to have been wrongfully inflicted. He adds that although anger is painful, it also contains within itself a hope for payback. So: significant damage, pertaining to one’s own values or circle of cares, and wrongfulness. All this seems both true and uncontroversial. More controversial, perhaps, is his idea (in which, however, all Western philosophers who write about anger concur) that the angry person wants some type of payback, and that this is a conceptual part of what anger is. In other words, if you don’t want some type of payback, your emotion is something else (grief, perhaps), but not really anger. [Continue reading…]

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How patriotism brings people together — and divides them

Adam Piore writes: It started with one man quietly sipping a Tom Collins in the lounge car of the Cleveland-bound train.

“God bless America,” he sang, “land that I love …”

It didn’t take long. Others joined in. “Stand beside her … and guide her …” Soon the entire train car had taken up the melody, belting out the patriotic song at the top of their lungs.

It was 1940 and such spontaneous outpourings, this one described in a letter to the song’s creator Irving Berlin, were not unusual. That was the year the simple, 32-bar arrangement was somehow absorbed into the fabric of American culture, finding its way into American Legion halls, churches and synagogues, schools, and even a Louisville, Kentucky, insurance office, where the song reportedly sprang to the lips of the entire sales staff one day. The song has reemerged in times of national crisis or pride over and over, to be sung in ballparks, school assemblies, and on the steps of the United States Capitol after 9/11.

Berlin immigrated to the U.S. at age 5. His family fled Russia to escape a wave of murderous pogroms directed at Jews. His mother often murmured “God Bless America” as he was growing up. “And not casually, but with emotion which was almost exaltation,” Berlin later recalled.

“He always talked about it like a love song,” says Sheryl Kaskowitz, the author of God Bless America, the Surprising History of an Iconic Song. “It came from this really genuine love and a sense of gratitude to the U.S.”

It might seem ironic that someone born in a foreign land would compose a song that so powerfully expressed a sense of national belonging—that this song embraced by an entire nation was the expression of love from an outsider for his adopted land. In the U.S., a nation of immigrants built on the prospect of renewal, it’s not the least bit surprising. It is somehow appropriate.

Patriotism is an innate human sentiment. It is part of a deeper subconscious drive toward group formation and allegiance. It operates as much in one nation under God as it does in a football stadium. Group bonding is in our evolutionary history, our nature. According to some recent studies, the factors that make us patriotic are in our very genes.

But this allegiance—this blurring of the lines between individual and group—has a closely related flipside; it’s not always a warm feeling of connection in the Cleveland-bound lounge car. Sometimes our instinct for group identification serves as a powerful wedge to single out those among us who are different. Sometimes what makes us feel connected is not a love of home and country but a common enemy. [Continue reading…]

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Brexit ‘most important moment since Berlin Wall’ says France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen

 

BBC News reports: France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen has called the UK’s Brexit vote “the most important moment since the fall of the Berlin Wall”.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, the far-right leader said her party has been given a boost by the result.

Ms Le Pen – one of the contenders for the French presidency in 2017 – said she would call a referendum if elected.

A number of other far-right leaders in Europe say they would like to hold their own referendums on EU membership.

In her first broadcast interview since the UK’s Leave vote in the referendum, Ms Le Pen commended “the courage of the British people who didn’t allow themselves to be intimidated by the threats, blackmail, and lies of the European elites”. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Emboldened by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, nationalists across the continent are daring to dream big, saying they, too, should have the chance for an up-or-down vote on the unloved bureaucracy in Brussels.

From Finland to Denmark to the Netherlands to Austria, far-right politicians are salivating at the idea of exiting a club they blame for unwanted immigrants, economic squalor and a loss of sovereignty.

And nowhere could the possibility pose a greater threat to the E.U.’s future than in France, where the far-right National Front party is surging in polls a year ahead of presidential elections.

That is part of the challenge facing E.U. leaders as they gather Tuesday for an unprecedented summit to start divorce talks with one of their own.

Allowing Britain to walk away with generous terms could energize anti-E.U. forces elsewhere. But too harsh a response could also blow back on Europe, fueling a continent-wide recession that would drive angry voters into the embrace of populists. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump hails EU referendum result as he arrives in UK

The Guardian reports: Donald Trump has touched down in Scotland in the middle of the UK’s biggest political crisis for decades to welcome Brexit, hailing the referendum result as a reflection of anger over loss of control to the European Union.

“The UK had taken back control. It is a great thing,” the Republican presidential candidate said.

He landed by helicopter on the front lawn of his Trump Turnberry golf resort shortly after 9am on Friday to find a Britain shell-shocked by the Brexit vote.

Wearing a white baseball cap, Trump strode the couple of hundred yards up the gravel path to the Ayrshire hotel accompanied by his family. He was not scheduled to speak to the press but could not resist responding to shouted questions from the media scrum.

He described the referendum result as a historic vote and predicted many such uprisings around the world. “It will not be the last. There is lots of anger.” [Continue reading…]

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Populism and hatred do not erupt, they are stoked

By Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol

This was once a referendum about whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. But not anymore. The referendum has effectively turned into a plebiscite about diversity and tolerance vs divisiveness and hatred: the Leave campaign in particular has largely ditched its long-demolished economic arguments and remoulded itself into an appeal to increasingly shrill and ugly emotion.

How could it have come to that? How could a campaign find so much popular traction by explicitly disavowing rational and informed deliberation?

Some commentators have responded to those questions with bewilderment and resignation, as if right-wing populism and hatred are unavoidable socio-political events, much like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes.

Far from it. Populism and hatred do not erupt, they are stoked. The “Tea Party” in the US was not a spontaneous eruption of “grassroots” opposition to Barack Obama but the result of long-standing efforts by libertarian “think tanks” and political operatives.

Likewise, the present demagoguery in the UK against the EU arises at least in part from media ignorance or hostility towards migrants, and a similar well-funded but nebulous network of organisations (often linked to human-caused climate change denial).

Populism is not an inevitable natural disaster but the result of political choices made by identifiable individuals who ultimately can be held accountable for those choices.

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The roots of Hitler’s power

Neal Ascherson writes: Thousands of people around us daydream about world conquest, fondle hate fantasies about what they might do to immigrants or jihadists, lap up conspiracy theories or impress their mates – after a pint or six – with bellowing rants about politicians or bankers. Most of them, fortunately, stay below the political radar. They lack a soil in which their urges can swell until they overshadow the earth. They lack the licence of Alasdair Gray’s Law of Inverse Exclusion (outlined in his novel Lanark), which ‘enables a flea in a matchbox to declare itself jailer of the universe’. And they lack a weapon.

But Hitler, hopping mad in his own matchbox, had all three. Fermenting Munich after a lost war and a failed revolution provided the soil, while his weapon was oratory: Hitler’s one tremendous gift and his only natural talent. One day in Munich, as a lecture to demobilised soldiers ended, the speaker noticed a knot of men in the emptying hall. They were listening ‘transfixed by a man who was speaking to them with growing passion and an unusual guttural voice’. The lecturer saw ‘a pale, drawn face underneath a decidedly unmilitary shock of hair, with a trimmed moustache and remarkably large, light-blue, fanatically cold, gleaming eyes’.

Hitler had an excellent voice, and his harsh ‘Austrian’ (actually Lower Bavarian) accent seems to have given North Germans an impression of sincerity rather than provincial uncouthness. But to read or listen to his speeches today is disconcerting: how could anyone have taken seriously such stagy bellowing and preposterous ideas? What we are missing now is not only the desperation and paranoia which his early audiences brought with them into the beer cellar or the stadium, but the tricks of Hitler’s trade. He required a strong warm-up before, deliberately late, he strode into the hall. He insisted where possible on seating that was spread horizontally before him rather than a narrow corridor reaching far back: this gave him as much close impact as possible. Cleverly, he channelled his own tendency to throw tantrums into a speech-style: beginning with long, droning and ostensibly sober recitals of fact and analysis, he would suddenly shift his voice upwards almost an octave, double its pace and explode into yelling demagogy. (I once saw Oswald Mosley do exactly this in the 1950s, and in spite of my contempt for all that he was saying, that sudden gearshift raised all the hairs on my neck.) His old trench comrade Max Amann saw him in 1919: ‘He yelled and indulged in histrionics. I’d never seen the like of it. But everyone said: “This fellow means what he says.” He was drenched in sweat, completely wet. It was unbelievable.’

The discovery of this gift of rhetoric, and the techniques to intensify its impact, set Hitler on his way. [Continue reading…]

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