(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Hitler

“Authoritarian populism can be seen as a pushback of elements of human nature—tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, zero-sum thinking—against the Enlightenment institutions that were designed to circumvent them”*…

 

Populists

 

We live in the age of charismatic elected would-be despots. His — it is almost always a “he” — are the politics of fear and rage. It takes a certain sort of personality to be a master of such politics. In the right — that is, the wrong — circumstances, such leaders emerge naturally. That is not surprising after a violent revolution. What is far more so is that such leaders have been emerging in well-established democracies.

We now see elected “strongmen” — actual and would-be — everywhere. Leading examples are Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Narendra Modi in India, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Matteo Salvini in Italy and Donald Trump in the US. These leaders differ in degrees of sophistication. The countries in which they operate also differ. Some are economically developed, while others are not. Some are longstanding democracies; others, again, are not.

Yet these men are all characters in a story powerfully told by the independent US watchdog Freedom House. Freedom in the World 2019, published in February, reported a 13th consecutive year of decline in the global health of democracy. This decline occurred in all regions of the world, notably in the democracies that emerged after the cold war. Above all, it occurred in western democracies, with the US — the most influential upholder of democratic values — leading the way…

People want to believe a powerful and charismatic leader is on their side in an unjust world.  The estimable Martin Wolf unpacks the mechanism of “strong man” rule: “The age of the elected despot is here.”

For a different angle on the phenomenon the Wolf unpacks, one that speaks directly to Steven’s Pinker’s quote in the title of this post, see “Dialectics of Enlightenment.”

*”A very different threat to human progress is a political movement that seeks to undermine its Enlightenment foundations.

The second decade of the 21st century has seen the rise of a counter-Enlightenment movement called populism, more accurately, authoritarian populism. Populism calls for the direct sovereignty of a country’s “people” (usually an ethnic group, sometimes a class), embodied in a strong leader who directly channels their authentic virtue and experience.

Authoritarian populism can be seen as a pushback of elements of human nature—tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, zero-sum thinking—against the Enlightenment institutions that were designed to circumvent them. By focusing on the tribe rather than the individual, it has no place for the protection of minority rights or the promotion of human welfare worldwide. By failing to acknowledge that hard-won knowledge is the key to societal improvement, it denigrates “elites” and “experts” and downplays the marketplace of ideas, including freedom of speech, diversity of opinion, and the fact-checking of self-serving claims. By valorizing a strong leader, populism overlooks the limitations in human nature, and disdains the rule-governed institutions and constitutional checks that constrain the power of flawed human actors.

Populism comes in left-wing and right-wing varieties, which share a folk theory of economics as zero-sum competition: between economic classes in the case of the left, between nations or ethnic groups in the case of the right. Problems are seen not as challenges that are inevitable in an indifferent universe but as the malevolent designs of insidious elites, minorities, or foreigners. As for progress, forget about it: populism looks backward to an age in which the nation was ethnically homogeneous, orthodox cultural and religious values prevailed, and economies were powered by farming and manufacturing, which produced tangible goods for local consumption and for export.”

Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Consider also:

“Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view—one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction.”

– Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism”, New York Review of Books (June 22, 1995)

###

As we think for ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that Joseph Goebbels died.  One of Adolf Hitler’s closest and most devoted associates, Goebbels was a student of the shaping of public opinion; he served as Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.  He was  a gifted public speaker, who was particularly adept at using the relatively new media of radio and film for propaganda purposes, emphasizing antisemitism, attacks on the Christian churches, and (after the start of World War II) the boosting of public morale.

Hitler committed suicide in his bunker on April 30, 1945. In accordance with his will, Goebbels succeeded him as Chancellor of Germany, serving one day in this post.  The following day, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide, after poisoning their six children with cyanide.

220px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1968-101-20A,_Joseph_Goebbels source

 

Written by LW

May 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Great necessities call out great virtues”*…

 

ksyndrome

Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Tiber Island, Rome

 

Behind the closed doors of the Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome was a ward filled with patients being treated for K Syndrome. This new and unfamiliar disease – whose name evoked Koch Syndrome (tuberculosis) – was a strong deterrent to the occupying Nazi soldiers who carried out routine searches of the hospital for Jews, partisans and anti-fascists. Fearing infection, the Nazis did not dare enter the ward, turning their attention elsewhere.

Patients in this ward had been hospitalised and classified as suffering from K Syndrome in late 1943. On 16 October of that year, the Nazis combed the Jewish ghetto and other areas of Rome, deporting about 1,200 Jews. Only 15 survived the camps. After this, the hospital’s doctors and friars welcomed ever-increasing numbers of patients. These patients were, however, refugees. K Syndrome was an invented illness…

The remarkable story of hundreds hidden from the Nazis: “K Syndrome, the Disease that Saved.”

* Abigail Adams

###

As we admire audacity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that Germany held a Presidential election.  With six million unemployed, chaos in Berlin, starvation and ruin, the threat of Marxism, and  a very uncertain future, the German people turned to Hitler by the millions.

Incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg was 84 years old and in poor health. Never enthusiastic about the presidency (or public office in general), Hindenburg had planned to stand down after his first term. But the prospect of Adolf Hitler being elected President of Germany persuaded the reluctant incumbent to seek a second term.  In the first round of voting, Hindenberg received 49.6% of the vote, just shy of the majority necessary to avoid a run-off.  Hitler polled 30%; Thälmann, the Communist candidate, 16%, and other candidates, 7%.

Hitler took to the skies, criss-crossing Germany by airplane in the run-off campaign.  He raised his total to 37% of the vote.  Although Hitler lost the presidential election of 1932, he achieved his goals when he was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933.  Then on February 27, Hindenburg paved the way to dictatorship and war by issuing the Reichstag Fire Decree which nullified civil liberties.  Hitler succeeded Hindenburg as head of state upon Hindenberg’s death in 1934, whereafter he abolished the office entirely, and replaced it with the new position of Führer und Reichskanzler (“Leader and Reich Chancellor”), cementing his rule.

170px-Reichspräsidentenwahl_1932_-_1._Wahlgang

1932 Ballot

source

 

Written by LW

March 13, 2019 at 12:01 am

“il n’y a pas de hors-texte”*…

 

… or not.

An exercise in radical juxtaposition that serves a reminder of the defining importance of context: “Motivational Hitler.”

Reality is not a function of the event as event, but of the relationship of that event to past, and future, events.
― Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men

* “There is no outside-text” Jacques Derrida (often paraphrased, “There is nothing outside the text”)

###

As we stop to think, we might spare a thought for Florence Nightingale Graham; she died on this date in 1966.  Better known by her “business name,” Elizabeth Arden, she built a cosmetics empire in the U.S., and at the peak of her career, was one of the wealthiest women in the world.  Arden was a pioneer in the marketing of cosmetics as the key to a youthful, beautiful image; she was largely responsible for establishing makeup as “proper” and “appropriate”—even necessary—for a ladylike image, when before makeup had often been associated with lower classes and such professions as theatrical performers and prostitution.  She was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French government in 1962 for her contributions to the cosmetics industry.

Elizabeth Arden in 1939

source

 

Written by LW

October 18, 2015 at 1:01 am

“About astrology and palmistry: they are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm”*…

 

In a 1938 book, How to Know People by Their Hands, palmist Josef Ranald included these three handprints of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler, analyzing each. His analyses offer an unexpected window into popular perspectives on these leaders’ personalities, before the outbreak of World War II.

“I myself began my study of hands in a spirit of skepticism,” Ranald, who served as an officer in the Austrian army during World War I, admits in the introduction to the book. An encounter with a palmist while Ranald was in the service irritated him rather than impressing him, and while he got out of a tight spot when a prisoner of war by pretending to read the palms of his captors, he reported that he still saw the practice as a scam. (Such admissions of doubt may have been well-designed to gain credibility with his reading audience.)

As a newspaper correspondent, Ranald had contact with many people, whose palms he read on a lark. He wrote that he came to see the practice as scientific: he gathered ten thousand such handprints, using sensitized paper (some sheets of which he included in the back of this book, so that the reader could follow his lead). “With a larger and larger sampling to go by, I felt that I could draw some conclusions from my findings,” he wrote. “On the basis of probabilities derived from statistical averages, I could associate certain markings in the hand with certain characteristics in men and women.”

The spatulate hand of FDR, Ranald wrote, belonged to a person of “advanced and liberal views.” The president was “social-minded,” “of sanguinary temperament,” not at all reclusive or introverted. (Read Ranald’s full analysis of FDR here.)

Read Mussolini’s and Hitler’s palms at Rebecca Onion’s “Handprints of Hitler, Mussolini, and FDR, Analyzed by a Palm Reader in 1938.”  (From the Tumblr of the Public Domain Review, reposted from Tumblr user nemfrog. The Internet Archive’s copy of the book was scanned from the collection of the Prelinger Library.)

* Kurt Vonnegut

###

As we trace out life lines, we might spare a thought for Heinz Edgar Lehmann; he died on this date in 1999.  A psychiatrist who recalled that at the beginning of his practice, in Canada in the 1930s, psychiatric hospitals were “Snake Pits,” Dr. Lehmann led the transformation of North American asylums into the therapeutic environments they are today. But Lehmann’s greatest legacy was a single pill – Largactil (chlorpromazine hydrochloride, best known on the U.S. as Thorazine), the first anti-psychotic drug used in North America.  In successfully treating patients with this drug, Lehmann introduced the world to the idea that biology plays a role in mental illness.  Chlorpromazine remains on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a basic health system.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

By any other name…

 

General Order Number Eleven was short. Three items were wrapped into one edict. It read:

  1. The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.
  2. Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.
  3. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

In short, “no Jews allowed,” effective nearly immediately.

But the “Department” wasn’t a section of Nazi-controlled Europe or Inquisition-era Spain. The edict wasn’t issued by Adolf Hitler. It was issued by Ulysses S. Grant, who would later be President of the United States. The year was 1862, and the “Department” was the “Department of Tennessee,” an area consisting of western Tennessee, western Kentucky, and northern Mississippi.

Read the whole sordid story at “General Order Number Eleven.”

###

As we wince at realization that Twain was right that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1925 that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published (Volume One; the second volume followed the next year).  Part autobiography and part political philosophy– an announcement of his hatred of what he believed to be the world’s twin evils: Communism and Judaism– Mein Kampf was begun as dictation while Hitler was imprisoned for what he considered the “political crime” of his failed 1923 Munich Putsch.  It sold 228,000 copies between 1925 and 1932, and one million copies in 1933, Hitler’s first year in office.

source

 

Written by LW

July 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

(Not so) Solid Gold…

During World War II, Hitler banned the export of gold from Germany.  But gold, valuable in small amounts and not easily traced, is notoriously difficult to regulate.  (Indeed, that is likely where much of its value derives.) Hitler’s edict was, frustratingly to him, mostly unenforceable.

One exception? Nobel Prize medals.

Before 1980, the medals given by Sweden (that’s to say, all but the Nobel Peace Prize , which is awarded by Norway) were made of 600 grams of 23-karat gold — thus subject to Hitler’s export ban.  And as the recipient’s name was engraved on the back of the medal, its ownership was all-too-clear.  This proved particularly perilous for two German physics laureates, Max von Laue (winner, 1914) and James Franck (1925).  At the outset of World War II, they had entrusted the Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen, Denmark (the research institution of fellow physics laureate Neils Bohr) with the safe keeping of their medals, assuming that Nazi soldiers would otherwise confiscate their prizes.  But when Nazi troops invaded Denmark, they also raided the Institute.  Had von Laue’s and Franck’s medals been discovered, the consequences for the learned duo would most likely have been dire.

Enter Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy, a future Nobel Laureate himself (in Chemistry).  He, Jewish, had gone to the Institute looking for — and temporarily at least, finding — safe haven from the Nazis.   He and Bohr decided that more standard ways of hiding the medals (e.g. burying them) would not suffice, as the risk of harm to von Laue and Franck was too great to chance the medal’s discovery.  The chemist de Hevesy took more drastic action.  He created a solution of aqua regia — a concoction consisting typically one part nitric acid to three parts hydrochloric acid, which is so named because it can dissolve two of the “royal” metals, gold and platinum.  (Wikipedia explains how, for those with a sizable understanding of chemistry.)  He then left the gold-bearing aqua regia solution on his laboratory shelf within the Institute, hidden in plain sight as Nazi stormtroopers ransacked the Institute.

The plan worked, and von Laue and Franck were safe — as were their awards.  The gold remained safely on that shelf, suspended in aqua regia, for the remainder of the war, unnoticed by the German soldiers.  When the war ended, de Hevesy precipitated the gold out of the solution, and the Nobel committee recast the medals.

Bonus fact: Throughout human history (through 2009, at least), mankind has successfully mined roughly 165,000 metric tons of gold.  At gold’s density, that comes out to about 300,000 cubic feet — a relatively tiny-sized amount. For comparison’s sake, all the gold ever mined could be contained by the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room (seen here), which has a volume of approximately 1.2 million cubic feet.

From the always-illuminating Now I Know.

###

As we remark that sometimes even things that don’t shine are gold, we might send elemental birthday greetings to Morris William Travers; he was born on this date in 1872.  As the laboratory partner of Sir William Ramsay (who later won a Nobel Prize for the work), Travers participated in the discovery of the “noble gases”– Neon, Xenon… and Krypton.

Bohr model of a Krypton atom

Not, as Wired reminds us, to be confused with the planet Krypton…

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in Action Comics No. 1 (published June 1938), they named their superhero’s home planet after the chemical element discovered 40 years earlier. Retellings of Superman’s origins place his arrival on Earth around the time of World War I, a mere 20 years after Ramsay’s and Travers’ discovery of krypton.

Siegel and Shuster may have been inspired by the element’s cryptic name [from the Greek kryptos for hidden], its ghastly glow, or perhaps just its sound– like George Eastman favoring the strength of the letter K.

Travers went on to be the founding director of the Indian Institute of Science in the course of a long and productive career as a chemist in both academe and industry…  still he was, from his days with Ramsey, known in scientific circles as “Rare Gas Travers.”

 source

Written by LW

August 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

First Impressions…

 

source

Via the always-rewarding Dangerous Minds, a simple– and simply wonderful– graduation film made by Jurjen Versteeg, who explains the idea behind his project:

Designed as a possible title sequence for a fictitious documentary, this film shows a history of the title sequence in a nutshell. The sequence includes all the names of title designers who had a revolutionary impact on the history and evolution of the title sequence. The names of the title designers all refer to specific characteristics of the revolutionary titles that they designed.

This film refers to elements such as the cut and shifted characters of Saul Bass’ Psycho title, the colored circles of Maurice Binder’s design for Dr. No and the contemporary designs of Kyle Cooper and Danny Yount.

This title sequence refers to the following designers and their titles: Georges Méliès – Un Voyage Dans La Lune, Saul Bass – Psycho, Maurice Binder – Dr. No, Stephen Frankfurt – To Kill A Mockingbird, Pablo Ferro – Dr. Strangelove, Richard Greenberg – Alien, Kyle Cooper – Seven, Danny Yount – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang / Sherlock Holmes.

 

As we remember to “tell ’em what we’re going to tell ’em,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the first Cannes Film Festival opened.  It had originally been scheduled for September, 1939 as an “answer” to the Venice Film Fest, which had become a propaganda vehicle for Mussolini and Hitler; but the outbreak of World War II occasioned a delay.

source

 

%d bloggers like this: