The greatest villains in history can teach useful and practical lessons in psychology, sociology, politics and more . . . that is if readers can separate themselves from the visceral revulsion for the person and consume the works for their academic and informative value. Such is the case for these selections from Mein Kampf.
When I was reading Mein Kampf, a friend asked why I would read such a work. "Well," I said, "I want to know what makes genocidal maniacs tick. What tactics do such people use to take over an entire country and, in the case of Hitler, plunge the entire world into war? Just reading a book doesn't imply admiration for the author." If history truly does repeat itself . . . to a degree, at least . . . doesn't it mean that the world will still have to deal with genocidal maniacs? How will we know when we're dealing with another one. A lot can be said about "reading the tea leaves." That's what works like Mein Kampf are . . . tea leaves.
Case in point: The United Nations (UN) was organized at the conclusion of World War II. Its most fundamental purpose was to prevent, through international cooperation, another World War II. Among other things, the UN took a stand against genocide and war crimes with some strongly worded resolutions to ensure they never happen again . . . and then the world watched the Balkan War and Rwanda in the early '90s. These conflicts were replete with racism/tribalism, dehumanizing propaganda, mass murder, concentration camps, and other shadows of the 1930s and '40s. It was as if the world learned nothing from World War II and all the UN resolutions did little to mitigate the viciousness. However, the "tea-leaf readers" could see the storm coming.
With the foregoing as context, let's move to these two selections. It doesn't take great acumen to see the dishonesty endemic in politics. Ambitious politicians are often experts in political calculation as they shill for votes. Political calculation is rooted in understanding the psychology and social dynamics of a population. The following selections will illustrate this concept as used by Adolf Hitler.
August Glen-James, editor
For the members of this third group, it must be admitted, the nonsense that newspaper scribblers can put down is not very dangerous or even very important. Most of them in the course of their lives have learned to regard every journalist as a rascal on principle, who tells the truth only once in a blue moon.
All of this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true in itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility . . .
- Concerning Journalism and the public consumption of information:
Journalistic circles in particular like to describe the press as a 'great power' in the state. As a matter of fact, its importance really is immense. It cannot be overestimated, for the press really continues education in adulthood.
Its readers, by and large, can be divided into three groups: First, into those who believe everything they read; second, into those who have ceased to believe anything; third, into the minds which critically examine what they read, and judge accordingly.
Numerically, the first group is by far the largest. It consists of the great mass of the people and consequently represents the simplest-minded part of the nation. It cannot be listed in terms of professions, but at most in general degrees of intelligence. To it belong all those who have neither been born nor trained to think independently, and who partly from incapacity and partly from incompetence believe everything that is set before them in black and white. To them also belongs the type of lazybones who could perfectly well think, but from sheer mental laziness seizes gratefully on everything that someone else has thought, with the modest assumption that someone else has exerted himself considerably. Now, with all these types, who constitute the great masses, the influence of the press will be enormous. They are not able or willing themselves to examine what is set before them, and as a result their whole attitude toward all the problems of the day can be reduced almost exclusively to the outside influence of others. This can be advantageous when their enlightenment is provided by a serious and truth-loving party, but it is catastrophic when scoundrels and liars provide it.
The second group is much smaller in number. It is partly composed of elements which previously belonged to the first group, but after long and bitter disappointments shifted to the opposite and no longer believe anything that comes before their eyes in print. They hate every newspaper; either they don't read it at all, or without exception fly into a rage over the contents, since in their opinion they consist only of lies and falsehoods. These people are very hard to handle, since they are suspicious even in the face of the truth. Consequently, they are lost for all positive, political work.
The third group, finally, is by far the smallest; it consists of the minds with real mental subtlety, whom natural gifts and education have taught to think independently, who try to form their own judgment on all things, and who subject everything they read to a thorough examination and further development of their own. They will not look at a newspaper without always collaborating in their minds, and the writer has no easy time of it. Journalists love such readers with the greatest reserve.
For the members of this third group, it must be admitted, the nonsense that newspaper scribblers can put down is not very dangerous or even very important. Most of them in the course of their lives have learned to regard every journalist as a rascal on principle, who tells the truth only once in a blue moon. Unfortunately, however, the importance of these splendid people lies only in their intelligence and not in their number- a misfortune at a time when wisdom is nothing and the majority is everything! Today, when the ballot of the masses decides, the chief weight lies with the most numerous group, and this is the first: the mob of the simple or credulous.
2. Concerning the BIG LIE:
All of this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true in itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large scale falsehood. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.
—Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf