I figure most people have seen this quote before. It’s scary — particularly for how matter-of-fact it is. You get the idea he has no doubt of the effectiveness of his strategy, probably from years of trial and error. It’s scary not just for its historical roots, but for how well it seems to work in more mundane but still important contexts — particularly with national leaders.
People as individuals consider themselves (ourselves) independent and intelligent. Large groups of people seem to lose those properties.
Anyway, sorry about posting something so serious out of the blue. I just keep meaning to refer to this quote many times and expect to again. I wanted it here for reference. If you haven’t read it before, I expect it will give you pause for thought.
Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship… voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
– Hermann Goering, From a conversation with psychologist Gustave Gilbert while jailed at Nuremburg on the evening of 18 April 1946, documented in Gilbert’s book “Nuremburg Diary.”
German Nazi marshal & politician (1893 – 1946)
Just because something will work doesn’t mean someone has to use it.
EDIT: A couple days after I posted this quote the New Yorker posted an article on the growth of political advertising in the U.S. I found the article well written, with many similarities to the quote above. Whatever its effects and the intent of people using strategies like the above, they work.