The Nazis and Political Ignorance

January 8, 2012

If anyone thinks the Ron Paul supporters are uninformed, they are in denial. Paul’s supporters are attracted to his platform because of the enormous amount of anger and hate many people in the United States have. The so called skeletons in his closet are not skeletons at all, they are what draws Ron Paul supporters to Ron Paul. To his detractors Paul people are voting for Ron Paul because they have been deceived. If there is one person who might be deceived it is Ron Paul who might not even realize the inherent bigotry of his foreign policy. America can not enter an age of cutting budgets and keep to any allusion that we will be cutting programs based on any systematic legal rejection. Many of the decisions we will be making will be political and it is naive to think otherwise. It would also be morally wrong to not address transparently the distinctions in future policy.

(Eugene Volokh) In today’s Wall Street Journal, Jonah Lehrer has an article arguing that political ignorance makes democracy work better, and may even be essential to its survival. Much of the article is based on extrapolations from a dubious study of fish behavior, which I criticized here. Lehrer takes the argument a step further by claiming that excessive political knowledge may have been a big factor in facilitating the Nazis’ rise to power in 1930s Germany:

If every voter was well-informed and highly opinionated, then the most passionate minority would dominate decision-making. There would be no democratic consensus—just clusters of stubborn fanatics, attempting to out-shout the other side. Hitler’s rise is the ultimate parable here: Though the Nazi party failed to receive a majority of the votes in the 1933 German election, it was able to quickly intimidate the opposition and pass tyrannical laws.

That the Nazis succeeded because German voters were too knowledgeable would have come as news to Adolf Hitler, who wrote in Mein Kampf that “[t]he receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous.” As a result, he advocated taking advantage of political ignorance by using crude and simplistic propaganda:

All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be extended in this direction…..
Once understood how necessary it is for propaganda in be adjusted to the broad mass, the following rule results:
It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance….
[A]ll effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered.

This kind of propaganda was an important part of the Nazis’ electoral success under the Weimar Republic, when they eventually managed to get over one third of the vote, making themselves the single most popular party. If the average German voter was “well-informed,” it would have been much harder for the Nazis to achieve so much electoral success. For example, a well-informed German electorate would have been skeptical of absurd Nazi claims that Germany’s political and economic crisis was caused by the tiny Jewish minority. They might also have rejected the Nazis’ crude zero-sum view of the world economy, which posited that Germany could only achieve prosperity by conquering other nations. It isn’t possible to list here all the different ways that the Nazis benefited from voter ignorance. But the bottom line is that a more knowledgeable German electorate would not have been to their advantage.
Lehrer also presents a distorted view of what happened after the Nazis took control of the government in early 1933. They did not “intimidate the opposition” by being “the most passionate minority,” as may have occurred in the fish study. Rather, they did so by the more conventional method of banning all opposition parties, imprisoning their leaders, and inflicting severe punishment on anyone who resisted. Absent these measures, it is unlikely that they would have been unable to crush the opposition so completely. There is no reason to believe that an electorate composed of “opinionated and well-informed” voters would necessarily give in to the most “most passionate” minority absent the use of force. Indeed, the more opinionated and well-informed you are, the less likely it is that you will change your mind about an important issue merely because a “passionate minority” loudly claims that you are wrong. As Hitler recognized, crude propaganda is usually most effective with ignorant audiences.
I don’t deny that there can be unusual situations where political ignorance is actually beneficial. But the rise of the Nazis is one of the last places to look for evidence that ignorance leads to bliss.

buyer beware… and stay informed. The Ron Paul minions know exactly what they are doing. It’s disgusting

a few pictures of Socialism from the past #OWS

December 19, 2011
sometimes pictures speak better then words

Israeli, German researchers expose the Nazi past of a prominent historian and ‘resistance hero’ – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

December 16, 2011

(RT @ChallahHuAkbar) ( The night of April 17, 1945 was a dramatic one in the Bavarian town of Ansbach. The Third Reich was on the verge of collapse and U.S. forces were besieging the city. They would take it in less than 24 hours. That night a small, courageous group of young anti-Nazis tried to get the town to surrender without bloodshed or destruction.

Karl Bosl - Magnes Press - 16122011
Karl Bosl (on the right)

The tragic events of that night and the following morning would enable one of Germany’s most important postwar historians to clear his name of accusations that he was pro-Nazi. Through a web of lies and half-truths, the historian, Karl Bosl, swept away his Nazi past and replaced it with the image of a brave opponent of the Nazis. Research by Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, the vice president of the National Academy of Sciences, and Peter Herde of Wurzburg University in Germany, has exposed what really happened that night, as well as Bosl’s true Nazi past. As a result, the government of the Bavarian city where Bosl was born, Cham, announced about two weeks ago that it was changing the name of a square from Dr.-Karl-Bosl-Platz and removing a statue of Bosl from town hall. The two scholars discovered that Bosl had tried to gain anti-Nazi credentials through his previous contact with Ansbach’s true hero, a young man named Robert Limpert, who had been Bosl’s student. Limpert, born in 1925, had established an anti-Nazi underground cell in Ansbach. In the days before April 18, he and his comrades posted flyers on city hall calling on residents to disrupt the defense of the town and get it to surrender to Allied forces. Limpert even secured the deputy mayor’s consent to surrender, but he was overridden by Ansbach’s Nazi military commander, Col. Ernst Meyer, who insisted that the town fight to its last bullet. Limpert then took the courageous, perhaps crazy, step of cutting communications wires he thought linked Meyer’s headquarters with Nazi forces in the town. But the lines were not connected. Limpert’s act of sabotage was witnessed by two members of the Hitler Youth, who turned him in to Meyer. Limpert was arrested at home, quickly convicted and executed on a gallows set up outside city hall. On April 18, Limpert actually escaped his captors but was recaptured. Meyer himself put the noose around the young man’s neck, but on the first attempt the rope broke. The executioners were successful with their second try. Shortly after the execution, Meyer fled Ansbach and U.S. forces captured the town. Three days later, Limpert was buried in Ansbach in a ceremony in which he was eulogized by his former teacher, Bosl. The eulogy was Bosl’s first attempt to rid himself of his Nazi past, say Kedar and Herde. “He spoke about Limpert as if they had been on the same side,” Kedar said. An American officer, Frank Horvay, who was in charge of Ansbach’s denazification, played a key role in further burnishing Bosl’s image. The two men apparently became friends. The researchers obtained a letter in which Horvay wrote about Bosl to his teacher in the United States. Horvay recounted the cutting of the communications wires but said Bosl was the one who carried it out. This account found its way into a number of other letters, and in January 1946, Bosl received a document from the American forces stating that although he had nominally been a member of the Nazi Party, he had also been a member of the anti-Nazi underground who had risked his life to post anti-Reich notices. The document also noted Bosl’s purported act of bravery in cutting the wires. Horvay helped Bosl publish an account on the “New Germany” in an American publication, and the way was paved toward clearing his name. During his research, Kedar located Horvay’s daughter in Kentucky and was provided some of her father’s personal papers. The truth came out after research into Bosl’s papers and interviews with two members of Limpert’s underground group who survived. The researchers dispelled Bosl’s claim that he had only been a member of the Nazi Party for a short time and had left for ideological reasons. He had been a member for years, Kedar and Herde say, and Bosl left the party for failure to pay a fee. The scholars also found that Bosl had also been a member of other Nazi organizations. After the war, Bosl became a leading historian of the Middle Ages. Stories surfaced occasionally about his Nazi past, but they were countered by accounts of his alleged anti-Nazi activity. “Bosl was cautious,” said Kedar, a Holocaust survivor and also a historian of the Middle Ages. “He never said he had cut the cables himself, but he provided the letters in which others said so. When people interviewed him and asked him directly about the case, he said he didn’t want to talk about it.” Kedar and Herde’s research was recently published in English by Hebrew University’s Magnes Press in a book entitled “Karl Bosl and the Third Reich.” Bosl died in 1993