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Archive for October 22nd, 2010

Quotable: On the interchangeability of Leaders and Followers

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“There goes the mob, and I must follow them,  for I am their leader”Comte de Mirabeau

What might emerge from the riots in France and the UK over the economic crisis?   (read about it)

Some observations from  Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (Harvard Kennedy School of Government)

In times of social crisis, such as war or economic depression, temporarily overwhelmed followers may hand over power to leaders that they later find difficult to retrieve.  Hitler came to power by elections in Germany in 1933, and then used coercion to consolidate his power.  But he also used the soft power of attraction, constructing narratives that turned Jews into scapegoats, glorified the past, and promised a thousand-year Reich as a vision of the future.  Followers also helped to create Hitler.  As Albert Speer put it, “Of course Goebbels and Hitler know how to penetrate through to the instincts of their audience; but in a deeper sense they derived their whole existence from the audience.  Certainly the masses roared to the beat set by Hitler and Goebbels’ baton; yet they were not the true conductors.  The mob determined the theme.”

One can think of Hitler’s followers in terms of concentric circles, with true believers like Goebbels, Goering, and Speer as an inner core; they are followed by a next circle of “good soldiers” like the Hamburg Reserve Police Battalion 101, who willingly executed Jews and Poles out of “crushing conformity;” an outer circle of complicit bystanders who knowingly acquiesced; and a further circle of passive bystanders who made no effort to know what was behind the myths and propaganda. Beyond them were those who refused to follow and resisted, many of whom were destroyed or coerced into silence.

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Written by frrl

October 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

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