Ah for the charm.  Imagine being able to persuade people without the bother of even being right.  How much more unstoppable would one be if one had that plus an insight into truth.

I never had charisma.  Never thought I did.  But there is a book out.  (Laurence Rees Hitler's Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss ($30, Pantheon)) and it has been reviewed.

I shouldn’t tell you what the review says; Huffpost doesn’t like that.  But I think, this being an educational site, it’s fair to say what I think the review says.  Then let’s see how I stack up.  But first, let me say that Hitler’s influence is far greater than is generally believed.  If what I am about to say (and I am to a degree repeating myself) offends you, don’t believe me.  This whole exercise is not mission critical. 

Not only did Hitler seize control of a power that was a basket case (had been made so by us and our allies) and turned it into a fighting machine that shook the planet, sent untold numbers to death camps (I know.  I had friends among the survivors.) or just gunned them down out of hand, spread lies, hate and horror that can still be seen but only in desperately poor countries, never in living memory a country that had recently been the flower of civilization. 

He won.

Oh he lost the war right enough.  Two basic rules of life: don’t get into a ground war in Asia and don’t get into a war with the United States.  Both were as insane then as they would be now.  Hitler made both mistakes.  But he won the peace.

He was not ten years burning in brimstone when the United States Supreme Court declared, with respect to segregated school, “Separate but equal is unconstitutional.”  You could not use tax payer money to promote separate societies in America.  Further rulings insisted that you could use tax payer money, were obliged to use taxpayer money, to discourage separate societies.  Right to the pursuit of happiness?  That was trumped by the needs of a national society.  Hitler’s party, the Nazis – the word stands for National Socialism – it was voted in in Germany.  It was imposed by court fiat without a fig leaf of constitutionality in this country and enforced at bayonet point.  Nazi’s and storm troopers seem inseparable.  So far did Hitler’s charisma reach.

And there was more.  He drew under his spell people who made or tried to make or at least thought of making a national limited access highway system, a high speed, cheap, efficient car to use that system, a desktop information processor (not too good – only useful for coded messages), the long endurance submarine, the flying wing (known to us as stealth aircraft), the cruise missile, the ballistic missile, the atom bomb, the radio equipped tank, the massed tank attack, close in air support, forward decision making in the command chain, modern helmet design, the assault weapon, the jet fighter with swept back wing, space travel, global satellite communication and intimate cooperation between business and government.  And that’s just off the top of my head with no particular study.  The world doesn’t need any of those things, but we have embraced them. 

All right.  He was bad and we are good, or at least a lot better.  Maybe he was voted into office, but there was never an opportunity to vote him back out.  If Americans really didn’t like the Supreme Court initiative we could have passed an amendment to the effect that separate and equal would be all right if it is voluntary all around.  We didn’t so we got what we ended up wanting after all. 

So here are his secrets as I imagine them to be outlined in the book:

Tell people what they want to hear.  I certainly do not do that.  I tell them what they don’t want to hear at all.

Appeal to magical thinking rather than evidence and logic.  Sorry.  Nothing magical here.  In fact it accounts logically and with evidence for things that seem sort of magical in a dark way; like why people are so beasly to people. 

Don’t have any friends.  You can’t give your heart to an insane mob and to a real person at the same time.  The technical term used to be “Have poor object relations” with “object” taking the meaning it does in “the object of my affection.”  Well there are people I care for very much and have for many years, so I score zero on that one.

Never doubt yourself.  Well I’m always questioning myself.  Data serves no purpose if you don’t question it.  I could never have found myself believing what I now have reason to believe if I hadn’t changed my mind a number of times.

Find a handy enemy to hate and get others to hate along with you.  I really don’t hate anybody.  There are people from whom I need to isolate myself in the name of self protection, but even they would be no threat if I didn’t basically like them.  They’d have nothing to turn against me.

Offer hope.  Well I don’t say I deny hope, but I offer insight into danger that it seems any rational person should be able to sense.  But somehow they manage to squelch it in some murky bit of the mind.  They certainly don’t appreciate having it dragged out into the sunlight.

Flaunt a series of successes.  There maybe I do pretty well.  I have had a number of successes.  My first success was in discovering the pattern of failure of Mesopotamian societies.  That success has been repeated every time I have had sufficient historical data to apply.  My second success was to be able to trace the time course of pre-zygotic versus post-zygotic infertility using virtual populations.  (Those definitions I just went over in “back to the stats.)  My third success was to be able to characterize the mechanism in flies.  I am working on another paper and have high hopes for another success in a couple of years.

So the successes are there.  Flaunting them … well … that’s not been happening and it would probably be outside my performance envelope anyway.  No charisma, don’t you know. 

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