Modeling the Persuasion Techniques
The Social Change Processes
& The Frames of Terrorism in
“Our national leaders are all human beings
who had childhoods and childhood experiences that shaped them.
What map was Hitler following,
and where did it come from?”
Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (p. 50)
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Hitler– we know what he did, and we sort of know why he did it, but how did he do it? We know that he deceived his countrymen and an entire nation and nearly brought about the end of Western civilization as it had developed in the twentieth century. He was legally appointed to power as Reich Chancellor and between 1933 and 1940 one of the most popular heads of a state in the world.
But how did he pull all of that off?
What tactics and strategies did he use?
What mental and emotional Games did he play?
What frames drove his own distorted vision?
How did he influence an entire nation to accept his mad tactics?
What Games were he able to recruit people to play?
We know that he was a deeply disturbed person with a genius of political savvy for persuasion. What we do not know is how could a destructive and demonic-like movement (the Nazi movement) so full of hatred and formalized prejudice gained such power and influence in one of the most advanced nations in the world? How could a man with such a pathological personality “lead” so many people? How could a minority opinion of an extremist right-wing group effect the politics of an entire nation and then of the world?
Over the past year and a half, since we have been developing Neuro-Semantic models for modeling cultural phenomena, I have been exploring the key political and conceptual frames that Adolf Hitler used. I began by reading the two massive volumes of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s own biographical propaganda written during his first imprisonment (1924). I then followed that up by reading a biography of him and then multiple books and works that offered various interpretations and analysis.
This is a presentation of some of the things that I have found, some of the key frames (political, economic, and personal frames) that governed Hitler’s mind and emotions as he took over the Socialist Worker’s Party and eventually swung a nation to go along with his ideas about race superiority and “blood purity.” And yet it is so much more than just about Hitler. Above and beyond what happened in Germany is the story of how personal frames play out inside of larger frames– political frames, economic frames, socio-cultural frames, etc. And these frames all occur within various historical contexts.
It took a great many things working together in a unique combination to create the monstrous disaster of Hitler. It was not just Hitler, it was not just Germany, it was not just the mishandling of the aftermath of the first World War, it was all of that and it was the economic disasters in the USA, it was the fears of Communism, it was the desperation of a people over a runaway inflation, etc.
Caveat about Germans and Germany
At the beginning of this presentation I think it necessary to set several frames for this study. First, what happened during the second and third decades of the 20th century that produced Hitler is not the fault of anyone living today. No person from Germany today or of Germany heritage has any connection or responsibility to what Hitler did 80 years ago or for that post World War I generation. No one today should hold anyone from Germany or of German descent responsible.
I know that there is a sensitivity that continues even into the 21st century of many of the younger generation in Germany, sensitive souls who continue to feel bad, some even feel guilty for what Hitler did. This is totally inappropriate. What people did in previous ages is not our responsibility. We are responsible for what we believe and do, for the responses we make today.
As an overview, when we look at Hitler as a man on the personal level, he had little going for him. Throughout childhood and young adulthood he suffered from a strong sense of inferiority and he coped with that by using denial, illusions of grandeur, and blaming. As a young man he was rejected repeatedly from the Art School that he wanted to enter. He blamed his dad, then he blamed the Jews, then he blamed the German authorities. These were some of the foundational Games that he played in his life.
Until he entered World War I (WWI) as a young man, he was a drifter and suffered the consequences of his own lack of purpose, dilettante, laziness, and grandiose schemes. It wasn’t until he became a soldier that he found a purpose. When that endeavor ended in defeat, he experienced the shame of that as a severe trauma. When he was sent home after Germany lost the war, he went home dejected, angry, bitter, and shocked. It was not only another trauma, but the biggest one and the most defining. Again, he coped with that one as he had the others, by blaming. This time he blamed the German authorities and government, he blamed the lack of spirit for the Fatherland, he blamed the superior propaganda methods of the British, he blamed the Jews for undermining German’s role in the War, and he blamed the intelligentsia.
It was then that, in the beer halls, he discovered that (as he expressed it) “I could speak.” He found that by formulating the angry expressions over the injustices and the bitter experiences that he could move a crowd. And this was his gift and our curse. As he turned to politics and to the use of propaganda, he found that he could persuade people. He found that he could capture the minds-and-hearts of the people in that age with his extremist ideas. And, of course, it was an age that allowed such extremist ideas to take root and grow.
His “persuasion” was fitting for that age in that time in that situation. It was not that he was charming, he was not. It was not that he was warm and compassionate, he was not. It was not that he could extend himself for the benefit of others, he could not. His was a sick and tormented mind. His was also a sick heart that suffered numerous psychological distortions. But he was able to put into words the feelings of so many people who had suffered in various ways and play upon their fears, hatreds, prejudices in just the right way so as to make his perverted vision of the future for them a legitimate hope.
Nor would it have happened in any other age or time. He was the result of larger forces than just his brutal home life, the prejudice of his hometown, the personal misfortunes his own lack of discipline created, he arose from the tragedies and injustices perpetuated upon Germany after WWI, he arose from the economic malaise felt around the world from the fall of the American Stock Market in 1929, he arose from the fear of the German people against the encroaching Communism of that age, and he arose from the political mistakes of the Weimar Republic which weakened democracy, and left the Nazi party the surprised beneficiary.
Hitler reeked his own revenge and hatred on those he blamed and impose his beliefs about race superiority upon his countrymen because of a great many contributing factors. The myth that he created in Mein Kampf, and which his party perpetuated in his lifetime pictured him as rising up as the new national leader due to his own force of will, strength of intellect, and more than human powers. That was the myth.
The key to Hitler, as the key to anyone’s life, lies in our frames.
- What were the frames of reference and the frames of mind that drove Hitler and that empowered him with his persuasive influential?
- What were the frames in others, in Germany, and in the rest of the world that somehow played into it all?
What I found was a mixture of good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, wise statements of incredible insight and the most perverse stupidity, political acumen and utter nonsense.
When I began reading Mein Kampf I really thought that I would be reading from a raving lunatic. That was not the case. Hitler may have been a bigot, prejudicial, hateful, cruel, a fanatic ideologue, extremist, and immoral, but Mein Kampf reads more like a Sunday sermon on the injustices perpetuated against Germany and a call for better housing for workers, a national welfare system, sweeping away the privileges of the past, modernizing industry, improving social conditions, and calling patriots of the country to care about the moral threats to their society. He sold his racism and hatred inside of a strategy for national recovery. That made it acceptable.
This surprised and shocked me. This is Hitler the monster, the tyrant, the dictator, the murderer of millions? It was in this way that he gained control. He paced, paced, paced. He paced the current situation and concerns. He gave voice to their fears, resentments, bitterness. This gave him credibility. When he finally won the 1932 election and the Nazi party actually won the majority of seats in the Reichstag, it was because, while the National Socialists were vulgar and distasteful, they at least stood for German interests in the face of the growing Communism threat. By finding an easy target in the Jews and blaming them for over a decade, he gave the people a target or scapegoat for their negative emotions. He also had a plan for a new and better Germany. Of course, he didn’t tell them all that he would do.
In modeling this madman, I still find it hard to credit him with being a “genius” in his powers of reading the political situation, in his opportunism, and in his powers of persuasion. And yet, I have to give that to him. Even though he terribly misused his powers of persuasion, he certainly had a “genius” (though in demonic form) for influence, political intelligence, and effectiveness. In pulling apart the facets and factors that made him who he was and that enabled or allowed him to do the monstrous damage he did, there are some frames that were very powerful and then those that were very sick and pathological. In fact, sorting out the sickness allows us to see wherein his genius lay and what we can learn from him.
WHY did Hitler Play Frame Games?
Hitler played Games, frame games, because he could not have forced the nation, he had to recruit them for his Frame Games. He used the trickery of propaganda to invite and seduced them to play his Games.
Eric Fromm described a common illusion about Hitler in the following way. He noted that this is perhaps the “most dangerous” illusion of all. The illusion is:
“… that men like Hitler had gained power over the vast apparatus of the state through nothing but cunning and trickery, that they and their satellites ruled merely by sheer force; that the whole population was only the willess object of betrayal and terror. In the years that have elapsed since, the fallacy of these arguments has become apparent. We have been compelled to recognize that millions in Germany were as eager to surrender their freedom as their fathers were to fight for it; that instead of wanting freedom, they sought for ways of escape from it; that other millions were indifferent and did not believe the defense of freedom to be worth fighting and dying for.” (1969, p. 19)
What Games did Hitler have to play to facilitate an “escape from freedom” in people? Fromm said that he relied upon “the idea of the unworthiness of the individual, his fundamental inability to rely on himself and his need to submit” (1969, p. 54).
Recognizing that psychologically, a lust for power is never rooted in strength, but always in weakness, Fromm says that an authoritarian character is such that a person admires authority and tends to submit to it but really wants to be an authority and have others submit to him (p. 186). This is the nature of fascist systems and why the role of authority plays a dominate role in the social and political structures.
“The feature common to all authoritarian thinking is the conviction that life is determined by forces outside of man’s own self, his interest, his wishes. The only possible happiness lies in the submission to these forces. The powerlessness of man is the leitmotif of masochistic philosophy.” (p. 194)
“In Hitler’s ideology, the emphasis on the injustice of the Versailles treaty plays a tremendous role, and it is true that he was genuinely indignant at the peace treaty. However, if we analyze his whole political ideology we see that its foundations are an intense wish for power and conquest, and although he consciously gives much weight to the injustice done to Germany, actually this thought has little weight in the whole of his thinking.” (pp. 84-85)
Quoting L. Mumford, Fromm identifies the true sources of Fascism as “in the human soul, not in economics.”
“In overwhelming pride, delight in cruelty, neurotic disintegration– in this and not in the Treaty of Versailles or in the incompetence of the German Republic lies the explanation of Fascism.” (Quoted from Mumford, Faith for Living, Harcourt, Bruce and Company, New York, 1940, p. 118) (p. 232)
The Games that Hitler Played to Win Power
Hitler did not play a great many Games. He played a few Games really well. He played Games that pulled the wool over the eyes of people, including many of his own colleagues.
- The Blame and the Hate Game:
He recognized “hate” as the most powerful emotion and so played the Hate Game, arousing it, playing to it, stimulating it, and validating it. Once there was anger, hatred, and outrage about injustice, then he played the Blame Game to give the Hate a target for release, for a catharsis.
- The Moralistic and Injustice Games:
He stimulated hate, anger, and fear by playing, “But we’ve Not been Treated Fairly!” He campaigned for years to arouse a nation to play, “We’re as Mad as Hell and we’re not going to take it any longer!” He framed it as a moral duty, as a legitimate response from people who truly care.
- The Persuasion or Propaganda Games:
He set out to learn how the propaganda of the British worked so well and became a persuasion genius in reading the political times and opportunistically taking advantage of everything to persuade people to see things his way.
- The Opportunist or “Desperate Times Calls for Desperate Actions” Game:
Hitler’s genius of playing to the times and the events of the times arose as the socio-economic situation grew increasingly worse. Inflation became hyper-inflation, Government became less effective, then the Stock Market crashed, etc. He played the Opportunist Game.
- The Strength and Power Games:
“Power” was his drug and he became quite intoxicated on it. You can see him playing the power Games by the way he presented the Power and Right and Might of his party by the way marches, rallies, and force. He created the Storm Troopers as part of this Game. Even the way he talked and wrote, with the Dogmatism, the Black-and-White, no-bars hold approach was part of the way he played the Power Game.
- The “Be Bigger Than Life” Guru Games:
Hitler discovered and played out Games that invited people to frame him as a messiah, a savor, the coming great national leader, etc. As he learned the propaganda arts he learned how to stage things for effect. This led him to use pageantry and razzmatazz in the meetings, parades, and rallies to impress people. He used techniques to posture himself as the exciting and inexplicable “guru” that seemed more than and other than human that brought forth worship, adoration, and an unthinking following. He led by his idealism and vision for Germany, by his installation of fear and by his black-and-white blaming Game.
The Blame and Hate Games
When I began this project I sat down and read the two volumes of Mein Kampf to see what clues I could find there. That reading absolutely surprised me in how Hitler laid it all out. He pulled no punches about his attitudes, especially toward the Jews and about what he wanted to do to them. During his 13-months in prison for a failed coup, he laid it out regarding what he would do to the “inferior” races if he had the power. That hate-filled and paranoid book makes it clear how much he hated and treated with contempt the “inferior” races. He called parasites to the superior races that “carry culture,” the others are germs, infections, and diseases.
The backside of his intense hatred of the black races, the Jews, and others was his fantastical passion for the Aryan race. He set out his plans for how to get rid of, and exterminate, both Germans and non-Germans who interfered with his world-changing and history-molding plans.
Konrad Heiden noted in his introduction to 1943 translation:
“For years Mein Kampf stood as proof of the blindness and complacency of the world. For in its pages Hitler announced– long before he came to power– a program of blood and terror in a self-revelation of such overwhelming frankness that few among its readers had the courage to believe it….” (Hitler, 1926, p. xv)
Hitler play the Blood Purity Game. This was one of his most fundamental belief frames that drove the way he perceived people. It allowed him to feel superior. It also supported his actions to exterminate them.
“All great questions of the day are questions of the moment and represent only consequences of definite causes. Only one among all of them, however, possess causal importance, and that is the question of the racial preservation of the nation. In blood alone resides the strength as well as the weakness of man. As long as people do not recognize and give heed to the importance of their racial foundation, they are like men who would teach poodles the qualities of greyhounds, failing to realize that the speed of the greyhound like the docility of the people are not learned, but are qualities inherent in the race. People which renounce the preservation of their racial purity renounce with it the unity of their soul in all its expressions.” (Hitler, p. 327, italics added)
“The crown of the folkish state’s entire work of education and training must be to turn the racial sense and racial feeling into the instinct and the intellect, the heart and brain of the youth entrusted to it. No boy and no girl must leave school without having been led to an ultimate realization of the necessity and essence of blood purity. Thus the groundwork is created by preserving the racial foundation of our nation and through them in turn securing the basis for its future cultural development.” (427-428)
Using what we would now call genetic determinism, Hitler assumed the superiority of the Ayran race and made that his creed. This was the frame that ultimately supported his racism. For him, the Jewish menace was a menace that threatened the very existence of Germany. It was also a moral crime, a crime against God.
“Peoples which bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence… (Hitler, p. 327)
When he looked at and analyzed the pre-war decay in Germany, he wrote it “can in the last analysis be reduced to racial causes” (p. 328). He had no tolerance for the democratic idea of equal rights for all people. All people, in his mind, were not equal.
“The present era is liquidating itself: it introduces universal suffrage, shoots off its mouth about equal rights, but finds no basis for them.” (435)
“Anyone who wants to cure this era, which is inwardly sick and rotten, must first of all summon up the courage to make clear the causes of this disease. And this should be the concern of the National Socialist movement: … becoming the vanguard fighters for a new philosophy of life.” (435)
Mein Kampf presents his contempt, disgust, and hatred for the Jewish people as something he learned from studying history and the causes of Germany’s defeat in WWI. Yet several historians have noted that he grew up in Vienna, “the most virulently anti-Jewish city in Europe at the time” (Kershaw, p. 65). His anti-Semitic hatred was justified so that he came to framed the socio-economic and political problems in Germany as the now infamous, “The Jewish problem.” It was out of his own personal hatred that he easily fell into believing a conspiracy theory that it was the Jews plotting and scheming that was at the source of all the woes of that age.
“He soaked up Viennese anti-semitism having experienced bereavement, failure, rejection, isolation, and increasing penury. It was personalized hatred–blaming the Jews for all the ills that befell him in a city that he associated with personal misery.” (Kershaw, p. 66)
“Without the clearest knowledge of the racial problem and hence of the Jewish problem there will never be a resurrection of the German nation.” (Hitler, p. 339)
So with that as a belief system, it only makes sense that he began to
“… take cognizance of the Jews, Vienna … Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity…” (56)
This was the Superiority Game that he played. The Game of “Blood Purity,” “You are a real somebody if you are of the right race.” This led him to hate and argue against the democratic idea of equality. He said that was “the idiotic bourgeoisie idea.” He accused the Jews of “trying to funnel [that idea] into the minds of the nations.” (Hitler, p. 430).
“It doesn’t dawn on this depraved bourgeois world that this is positively a sin against all reason; that it is criminal lunacy to keep on drilling a born half-ape until people think they have made a lawyer out of him, while millions of members of the highest culture-race must remain in entirely unworthy positions; that it is a crime against the will of the Eternal Creator if His most gifted beings by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands are allowed to degenerate in the present proletarian morass…” (430)
Hatred is a very powerful emotion and Hitler played it to the max. He did so by blaming the Jews and others for the national defeat and all of the problems (economic, social, moral, and political) in the nation. Of course, the interesting thing in playing the Hate Game is that it encourages irrationality. When we hate … when we dislike … when we feel strong feelings of aversion, disgust, and rejection, it is extremely easy to access the primordial states of Fight/Flight of intense fear and anger. This puts us in survival mode so that blood is withdrawn from brain and stomach and sent to the larger muscle groups. This makes for black-and-white thinking and less finer distinctions and discriminations in our thinking. In the hate state, we become more susceptible to the irrational “mob mentality” state.
Hate and Blame Games are still with us today. The neo-Nazi ideas of race superiority powerfully influenced the two teenage boys who perpetuated the violence at Columbine High School in Denver. To try to booster their own feelings of value and worth, they used the toxic ideas of blood purity to degrade others. As with all who play the Hate and Blame Games, they felt inadequate and threatened, and so responded to their own dis-valuing by dis-valuing others. Their need to respond with hate led them at first to react by insulting and dehumanizing those who they feel caused the pain. Late it led to violence, planned revenge, and eventually to acts of terrorism.
These are the Games that Osama Ben Laden and his kind of fundamental Moslem extremists play. They revel in hate, they nurse old resentments that are not only decades old, but centuries old, and they brood on their hatred by visions of revenge. Forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love for all people have no place for those who play Hate and Blame Games.
The Moralistic and Injustice Games
Lots of factors contributed to the hatred that Hitler lived in and brooded upon. From his overly moralistic dad who apparently was extremely brutal with him, to the rejection of his peers, to some of his own personal resentments and inadequacies. These were the influence that made him susceptible to falling into states of hatred, resentment, bitterness, and frustration. Things didn’t go well for him in his early life. He wanted to be an artist and was rejected repeatedly from the academy. He apparently picked up that whinny, complaining, and bitter attitude. It’s the attitude of “Poor Me,” Entitlement, and Victimhood.
This is the attitude that, strangely enough, drives the “criminal mind.” I discovered this working with the Department of Corrections in the State of Colorado. As a psychologist, I worked with the court system in seeing those convicted of domestic violence and who needed anger control, I worked with a group of juvenile boys (14 to 18 years of age) convicted of violent crimes, and with the group of men being released from the federal pen at Canyon City.
Everybody, almost to a person, had an attitude of having been victimized. They lived in and perceived the world through an extreme filter of Fair/ Unfair, Just/ Unjust. And they also absolutely hated and refused to tolerate injustice.
“Haven’t you heard that the world isn’t fair?” I asked one day in a naive kind of way, assuming that they knew this and I just needed to remind them in order to put things in perspective.
“Don’t be give me any of that bull shit!” yelled a man who only the moment earlier was in a quiet demeanor. “I won’t put up with that crap! The world is going to be fair, by God, or I’m going to make it fair!”
Whoowwha. Guess I pushed a button with that one.
“So the world has to be fair?”
“That’s right! It has to be.”
“And if it’s not?”
“That’s not a choice. I am not going to be treated unfairly.”
I’ve written about this in other places. Paradoxically, it is the mind that accepts unfairness and the moral injustices in the world that gets along better and does not make a major moral issue out of every injustice. This mindset actually reflects the mind of a child. It’s children who sort for their cookie being a tad smaller than their mate’s cookie. It’s the child who throws temper tantrums because something isn’t precisely and immediately “fair” in just the way the child wants it to be fair. And it’s the child’s mind that doesn’t grow up, learn patience, tolerance, acceptance, ego strength, altruism, balance, etc. that becomes the mind of a criminal. The criminal is the person who justifies forcing his will upon others because he “wants what he wants when he wants it.”
As you can tell, this is what makes a moralistic mindset dangerous. To moralize is one of our highest and most spiritual skills. And watching children, it seems to be built into the natural and inevitable developmental stages of human development. Every child in every culture experiences it. We are a species who can represent, sort for, recognize, and care about moral values. The problem with this arises when we turn everything into moral issues. When words become moral issues; when the experience of a negative emotion becomes a moral issue; when how we dress is a moral issue, when any difference is a moral issue– then we are probably over-moralizing. It is an occupational hazard of every religion and every ethical stance. When the Pharisees did this in the first century during the time of Christ, Jesus made them comic examples of over-zealous and out-of-balanced religious nuts.
Hitler had this problem. Or he at least used the over-moralizing to play the Injustice Game and therefore called upon people who really cared to do something about it. So just as the medieval Christians fell into this trap and created Crusades against the infidels and inquisitions against unbelievers, and extremist fundamentalist Moslems today call for a Jihad, or Holy War, against America and send suicide bombers into the World Trade Center and right-wing extremists bomb abortion clinics, so extremists were called into the Game that Hitler played and seduced into it, ironically, by his moralistic diatribes against those who he blamed for the degeneration of that society.
Blaming is the primary sign of the moralizer who is unbalanced by love, patience, empathy, compassion, discipline, self-esteem, etc. Blaming is the sign of a sick mind.
Blaming however differs from firm assertiveness that holds people accountable. Holding someone accountable for their actions is not “blaming.” Asking someone to make amends, to make something right, to apologize, straighten something out, etc. is not blaming. Blaming is accusation that confuses person with behavior. This is what Hitler did. He didn’t just blame some Jews who might have held to Marxist theory, he over-generalized and identified all Jews as Marxists and then declared them all guilty, inferior, worthless, contemptible, a disease on society, etc.
Hitler was well trained in the art of Blaming. It was the Game that he knew best. He seemed to have never taken personal responsibility for looking at himself, re-examining his skills, knowledge, and applying himself. Taking every rejection personal, he blamed others for his problems. Of course, this is an excellent strategy for how to not improve and how to keep making the same mistakes for the rest of your life. Even the title of his book, Mein Kampf, tells about his blaming and whining attitude. The title means, “My Sufferings.” An apt title for someone detailing the injustices of his life for which he needs to blame someone.
So, when the end of WWI came and Germany was defeated, and Hitler went home a broken and depressed young man, the loss of the war because yet another emotionally significant event that he had to blame someone for. In the following quotation, Hitler reveals his min-_set and the Games that he was playing as he frames the National Defeat as a personal trauma and the validation of his move into politics. Here he plays the Justifying and Rationalizing Game.
“Since the day when I had stood at my mother’s grave, I had not wept. When in my youth Fate seized me with merciless hardness, my defiance mounted. When in the long war years Death snatched so many a dear comrade and friend from our ranks, it would have seemed to me almost a sin to complain– after all, were they not dying for Germany? And when at length the creeping gas …attacked me, too, and began to gnaw at my eyes, and beneath the fear of going blind forever, I nearly lost heart for a moment, the voice of my conscience thundered at me: Miserable wretch, are you going to cry when thousands are a hundred times worse off than you! And so I bore my lot in dull silence. But now I could not help it. Only now did I see how all personal suffering vanishes in comparison with the misfortune of the fatherland.
“And so it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations; in vain the hunger and thirst of months which were often endless; in vain the hours in which, with mortal fear clutching at our hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; and in vain the death of two millions who died … The more I tried to achieve clarity on the monstrous event in this hour, the more the shame of the indignation and disgrace burned my brow. What was all the pain in my eyes compared to this misery? … I, for my part, decided to go into politics.” (Hitler, pp. 204-206)
What did Hitler say in his speeches that people found so convincing. This is fascinating. He repeatedly used the speech which he called, “Peace Treaties of Bres-Litovsk and Versailles.” He would make this presentation night after night in the rallies as he toured cities throughout Germany. By contrasting the previous treaties, he could present the Treaty of Versailles that concluded WWI against Germany as one of “the most shameful acts of rape in the world.” This was his theme. He would then set forth how that the Treaty and the treatment of Germany was one of total injustice, that it was shameless and monstrous. Here’s what he wrote:
“I contrasted the two peace treaties, compared them point for point, showed the actual boundless humanity of the one treaty compared to the inhuman cruelty of the second, and the result was telling.
At that time I spoke on this theme at meetings of two thousand people, and often I was struck by the glances of three thousand six hundred hostile eyes. And three hours later, I had before me a surging mass full of the holiest indignation and boundless wrath. Again a great lie had been torn out of the hearts and brains of the crown numbering thousands and at truth implanted in its place.” (Hitler, p. 468)
About all of this, Hitler was right. He was correct about the treatment of Germany after WWI. It was not just. Yet it was more than that. He had to connect the injustice with intolerance and a refusal to accept and as an insult to national pride and honor.
“[Hitler] was the typical representative of the lower middle class, a nobody with no chances or future. He felt very intensely the role of being an outcast. He often speaks in Mein Kampf of himself as the ‘nobody,’ the ‘unknown man’ he was in his youth. But although this was due essentially to his own social position, he could rationalize it in national symbols. Being born outside of the Reich he felt excluded not so much socially as nationally, and the great German Reich to which all her sons could return because for him the symbol of social prestige and security.” (p. 241-242)
From all of this Hitler was able to play the Intolerance Game. Having found the cause of the problem, he Blamed and Accused and called upon a Moral Outrage that demanded fanatical correction. By fanning the hatred, he provided the moral validation of the anger and of the “necessary” actions to correct the injustice.
The Intolerance Game has jut a few simple rules. Mostly it operates from, “Do things my way or else.” If you disagree with me, you are wrong, depraved, morally corrupt, and deserve to die. To play, you have to cultivate an intolerance to any difference. This means difference itself becomes a threatening moral issue. In this Game difference becomes morally wrong.
You can see this in the September 11, 2001 attack on America by the terrorists as they used civilian airliners as missiles to kill thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Why did they do that? Many tried to explain it in terms of the anger and hatred of people in third-world and under-developed countries against capitalism, western civilization, oil exploration, former grievances, etc. But all of that is symptomatic. All of that is surface. Long before the Fundamental extremists among Moslems did that, the same Taliban government used dynamite to blow up the 1500 year-old Buddha’s on the side of a mountain. Why? It certainly had nothing to do with oil exploration, capitalism, Western civilization, or Christianity. They did that out of their intolerance for difference. They didn’t want “graven images” and so even an old piece of art and architecture from the ancient world was a threat to their need for conformity.
In a similar way, Hitler was also intolerant of those who differed and so used power, military might, propaganda, and everything he could to create a monolithic conformity to his way of thinking. This violates the very foundations of democracy and the ability to appreciate differences. This also explains why those who play the Intolerant Game don’t play fair and can’t be reasoned with. Their basic Frame of Mind that differences are issues of morality and depravity prevent them from negotiating. This feeds the toxic fanaticism and makes them very dangerous.
The Propaganda or Persuasion Games
While a soldier in the trenches, Hitler recognized that the ultimate battle is always the battle for the mind and hearts of people. He knew that the primary frame game is winning the game of persuasion. In what follows, remember that in those days “persuasion” went by the term “propaganda.” Recognizing that the battle for the mind was where the real battle waged, he began Chapter 7, “The Revolution,” in Mein Kampf with these words:
“With the year 1915 enemy propaganda began in our country, after 1916 it became more and more intensive, till finally, at the beginning of the year 1918, it swelled to a positive flood. Now the results of this seduction could be seen at every step. The army gradually learned to think as the enemy wanted it to.” (187, italics added)
“The German press above all conducted itself with such miserable awkwardness, nay, criminal stupidity, that my wrath mounted by the day, and the question arose within me: Is there really no one who can put an end to this spiritual squandering of the army’s heroism?” (187)
The trauma of the war defeat blinded him to the causes of that defeat. Feeling disgusted with the statesmen and the press (which he concluded was Jewish or as he designated it, “Marxist”), he decided to study more the nasty “propagandist” activity of the enemies to understand how they infiltrated the Germans, captured their minds, and made them think according to their plans.
Modeling Propaganda– Hitler as a Modeler
Where did Hitler get his persuasion savvy? I was surprised, and even stunned, to discover that Hitler had modeled British propaganda. His persuasive powers began to develop as he developed a fascination with the “propagandist activity” which he considered “a true art.” This is the propaganda that the Socialist-Marxists used “with astonishing skill” (Hitler, p. 176). As a young soldier in the First World War, Hitler blamed German’s lost of the war upon the effectiveness of the enemy’s power of propaganda. It took the spirit out of the soldiers. It was the ‘seduction” of the enemy’s propaganda that defeated them. He wrote, “The army gradually learned to think as the enemy wanted it to.” (p. 197). On the British side:
“How they whipped the fever heat of national passion into the faces of the hastily retreating regiments in those countries! What propaganda and ingenious demagogy were used to hammer the faith in final victory back into the hearts of the broken fronts!” (Hitler, p. 188)
He viewed things in terms of the poison of the propaganda beginning to work:
“In the fall of 1918… though the battlefield was the same, the men had changed: for now ‘political discussions’ went on even among the troops….” (201)
For him, this was the central problem. The solders were thinking. They were not simply operated from unquestioning compliance.
Hitler put “the magnifying glass” to the speeches of Lloyd George, the munitions minister of England, and while the German intelligentsia thought they were “scientifically inferior products and hackneyed to boot,” he recognized them as “psychological masterpieces in the art of mass propaganda.”
“This man judged these speeches solely according to the impression they left on his own blase nature, while the great English demagogue had set out solely to exert the greatest possible effect on the mass of his listeners, and in the broadest sense on the entire English lower class. Regarded from this standpoint, the speeches of this Englishman were the most wonderful performances, for they testified to a positively amazing knowledge of he soul of the broad masses of the people. And their effect was truly powerful.” (476)
“Lloyd George proved that he not only the equal in genius of a Bethmann-Hollweg, but was a thousand times his superior, precisely by the fact that in his speeches he found that form and that expression which opened to him the heart of his people and in the end made this people serve his will completely. Precisely in the primitiveness of his language, the primordiality of its forms of expression, and the use of easily intelligible examples of the simplest sort lies the proof of the towering political ability of this Englishman. For I must not measure the speech of a statesman to his people by the impression which it leaves in a university professor, but by the effect it exerts on the people. And this alone gives the standard for the speaker’s genius.” (Hitler, p. 477)
Did you catch some of his fundamental frames in that passage? Hitler recognized the value of inducing very strong primitive states (primordial states) in people. He believed that such states were easily understandable by the common people and that such would give them a fanatical drive and obedience to him.
The last statement of that quotation by Hitler also reflects the principle that later came to be know in NLP as, “The meaning of your communication is the response you get.” And if you want to fire the soul of the masses, you judge your speech by the response you get.
Propaganda had convinced the Germans that the English people were basically cowards and would not stake their own blood for economic policy. They presented the British as “a business man as shrewd a personally he was unbelievably cowardly.” (144_145). But all of this was a delusion and an under-estimation “for which we would have to pay most bitterly. This falsification was part of their propaganda he said.
“It was then that I began my first reflections about the importance of the form of propaganda.” (Hitler, p. 145)
Regarding Hitler’s pragmatic side, he was very focused on results. To that end, he focused almost exclusively on arousing the emotions and forgetting the intellect. Having very little faith in the intellectual capacity of the masses, he discounted any attempt to “reason” with them. His was not a persuasion of the mind first, but of the emotions. He seemed to have an intuitive knowledge that once people were in a certain passionate state, they would find or invent the reasons to justify the feelings. This isn’t far from the tactics of most cult leaders today. And not a few in the field of marketing have adopted this approach.
“The whole art consists is doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc. But since propaganda is not and cannot be the necessity itself, since its function … consists in attracting the attention of the crowd, and not in educating those who are already educated … its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect.
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…
The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses. … It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided… The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. … all 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. (181)
Hitler played to the emotions rather than to the mind, that is, to educate. It wasn’t about educating, it was about inducing strong primitive emotions to create a fanatical mob mentality. He would rather “harp on” his basic ideas until they became slogans in the mind. If he could do that, he would have them.
In his modeling of British propaganda, Hitler recognized several things that they did right that were superior in effect and result than what the Germans had attempted. Rather than downgrade the expectations as the Germans had down, he saw the need to make the call to battle a call that would challenge men to their greatest effort.
“It was absolutely wrong to make the enemy ridiculous, as the Austrian and German comic papers did. It was absolutely wrong because actual contact with an enemy soldier was bound to arouse an entirely different conviction, and the results were devastating; for now the German soldier, under the direct impression of the enemy’s resistance, felt himself swindled by his propaganda service. His desire to fight, or even to stand firm, was not strengthened, but the opposite occurred. His courage flagged.
“By contrast, the war propaganda of the English and Americans was psychologically sound. By representing the Germans to their own people as barbarians and Huns, they prepared the individual soldier for the terrors of war, and thus helped to preserve him from disappointments. After this, the most terrible weapon that was used against him seemed only to confirm what his propagandists had told him; it likewise reinforced his faith in the truth of his government’s assertions, while on the other hand it increased his rage and hatred against the vile enemy. …
“And so the English soldier could never feel that he had been misinformed by his own countrymen, as unhappily was so much the case with the German soldier that in the end he rejected everything coming from his source as ‘swindles’ and ‘bunk.'”
“And so the German war propaganda offered an unparalleled example of an ‘enlightenment’ service working in reverse, since any correct psychology was totally lacking. … What our authorities least of all understood was the very first axiom of all propagandist activity: to wit, the basically subjective and one-sided attitude it must take toward every question it deals with. (182)
“The function of propaganda is not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. .. (182)
Against we see the simplistic, black-or-white frame of mind that Hitler had and imposed on others. Forget pondering the rights of different people. He valued posing things in either-or terms to make his proposals more stark. He used a persuasion that rested on absolutism. That would crate more energy, more power, and more focus.
“English propagandists understood all this most brilliantly– and acted accordingly. They made no half statements that might have given rise to doubts. Their brilliant knowledge of the primitive sentiments of the broad masses is shown by their atrocity propaganda… As ruthless as it was brilliant, it created the preconditions for more steadfastness at the front, even in the face of the greatest actual defeats, and just as strikingly it pilloried the German enemy as the sole guilty party for the outbreak of the War…” (Hitler, p. 184)
By contrast, he talked about the inner ambiguity of the German propaganda created by the feather_brained statesman who tried to use “insipid pacifistic bilge” to fire men’s spirits.
“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle in borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as is often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.” (184)
Today those in marketing, sales, communication influence recognize these principles as fundamental to the art of persuasion. We increase our persuasiveness through persistence, repetition, and focus. Persuasion, after all, ultimately aims at engaging attention in such a way that it captures and holds attention. Whatever does that has persuasive influence on the minds and hearts of people. To that end he played the Keep it Simple Game. He used simplicity so that the recipients would not think, would not question, would not doubt. He needed fanatics to carry out his program, obedience and submissive fanatics, not equals who would think, run their own brain, and question his ideas. Again, directly from Mein Kampf:
“It must be one-sided and clearly express itself in the propaganda. … If propaganda renounces primitiveness of expression, it does not find its way to the feeling of the broad masses.” (341)
“Among a thousand speakers there is perhaps only a single one who can manage to speak to locksmiths and university professors at the same time, in a form which not only is suitable to the receptivity of both parties, but also influences both parties with equal effect or actually lashes them into a wild storm of applause. We must always bear in mind that even the most beautiful idea of a sublime theory in most cases can be disseminated only through the small and smallest minds. The important thing is not what the genius who has created an idea has in mind, but what, in what form, and with what success the prophets of this idea transmit it to the broad masses.” (342)
“Propaganda must be adjusted to the broad masses in content and in form, and its soundness is to be measured exclusively by its effective result..” (342)
“If the folkish idea wants to arrive at a clear success from the unclear will of today, it must pick out from the broad world of its ideas certain guiding principles, suited in their essence and content to binding a broad mass of men, that mass which alone guarantees the struggle for this idea as laid down in our philosophy.” (458)
With regard to dialogue and discussion, Hitler feared such Games. He didn’t want his followers to be thinkers, but submissive. So he framed things in his rallies, parades, and party organization so that there was as little discussion as possible. For him, discussion only plants doubt. And that’s just one of the evils of discussion. Instead, he set out to frame his ideas and proposals so that they would be as solid as granite!
“With a doctrine that is really sound in its broad outlines, it is less harmful to retain a formulation, even if it should not entirely correspond to reality, than by improving it to expose what hitherto seemed a granite principle of the movement to general discussion with all its evil consequences. Above all, it is impossible as long as a movement is still fighting for victory. For how shall we fill people with blind faith in the correctness of a doctrine, if we ourselves spread uncertainty and doubt by constant changes in its outward structure?” (459)
As a Game of Persuasion, the “Blind Faith” Game works. People who believe in their beliefs and then feel proud of those beliefs, and who identify with their beliefs became fanatics. It’s the structure of fanaticism. It creates what Eric Hoeffer called, the “true believer” phenomenon. To achieve that he also presupposed the highest principles or doctrines of his beliefs without expressing them specifically. In doing that, it kept people from being tampered with or questioned those frames by presupposition. It actually made them blind to them.
“The truth is that the most essential substance must never be sought in the outward formulation, but only and always in the inner sense. This is immutable.” (p. 459)
He argued for this by quoting several examples. For instance, he quoted the way the Catholic Church obtained submissive obedience, by “rigidly holding to dogmas once established!”
In summary, Hitler described his model of effective propaganda in “War Propaganda” (Sixth Chapter) as a way to effectively persuade the masses. To do that, one needed to use the following techniques:
- Keep the dogma simple: make only a few points. “Aside from a few changes in the form of presentation, their content was almost always the same.” (p. 189)
- Be forthright and powerfully direct. Speak in the telling or ordering mode.
- Hold forth an extreme either-or, black-and-white a call to action.
- Make it emotional: Direct your words to the emotions and stir them vigorously.
- Use lots of repetition: persistently repeat your point over and over.
- Forget beauty, literary criteria, scientific reasoning, balance, and novelty.
- Focus solely on convincing people and creating zealots.
- Find slogans that you can use and drive the movement forward.
He considered these the guiding principles in rough outlines that he set down in his treatise on propaganda. His focus was to–
“Effect on the broad masses, concentration on a few points, constant repetition of the same, self-assured and self-reliant framing of the text in the forms of a apodictic statement, greatest perseverance in distribution and patience in awaiting the effect.” (p. 366)
The persuasion that he learned and developed in handling crowds, even large crowds of thousands, involved pacing the objections he knew that they would have against his argument and using them in the service of persuasion. He did that by pacing and leading.
“Even on the first day of our public appearance, we had a chance to experience this. Truly we did not ‘curry favor with the masses,’ but everywhere opposed the lunacy of these people. Nearly always it came about that in these years I faced an assemblage of people who believed the opposite of what I wanted to say, and wanted the opposite of what I believed. Then it was the work of two hours to lift two or three thousand people out of a previous conviction, blow by blow to shatter the foundation of their previous opinions, and finally to lead them across to our convictions and our philosophy of life.
In those days I learned something important in a short term, to strike the weapon of reply out of the enemy’s hand myself. We soon noticed that our opponents stepped forward with a definite ‘repertory’ in which constantly recurring objections to our assertions were raised, so that the uniformity of this procedure pointed to a conscious, unified schooling. … Here we had an opportunity to become acquainted with the incredible discipline of our adversaries’ propaganda, and it is still my pride today to have found the means, not only to render this propaganda ineffective, but in the end to strike its makers with their own weapon. Two years later, I was a master of this art.” (466_467)
In every single speech it was important to realize clearly in advance the presumable content and form of the objections to be in the speech itself.”
In Mind-Lines we call this Pre-Framing. This means that we set a frame ahead of time so that when an objection occurs later, it has already been dealt with and made irrelevant. Hitler knew that if he took the ideas that people would operate from and if he answered them during the presentation, he could use pre-frames to take them away from his audience as “objections.” This gave him an attitude of wanting to know objections so that he could make them irrelevant from the beginning.
“He himself will utter their objections, which he senses though unspoken, and go on confusing them and exploding them, until at length even the last group of an opposition, by its very bearing and facial expression, enables hm to recognize its capitulation to his arguments. … False concepts and poor knowledge can be eliminated by instruction, the resistance of the emotions never. Here only an appeal to these mysterious powers themselves can be effective…” (471)
Hitler also seemed to have a natural intuition about how to “read” a crowd and calibrate to their ongoing feedback so as to pace them for the purpose of then leading.
“While the speaker gets a continuous correction of his speech from the crowd he is addressing, since he can always see in the faces of his listeners to what extent they can follow his arguments with understanding and whether the impression and the effect of his words led to the desired goal– the writer does not know his readers at all.” (469)
“The speaker. .. He will always let himself be borne by the great masses in such a way that instinctively the very words come to his lips that he needs to speak to the hearts of his audience. And if he errs, even in the slightest, he has the living correction before him. As I have said, he can read from the facial expression of his audience, whether, firstly, they understand what he is saying, whether, secondly, they can follow the speech as a whole, and to what extent, thirdly, he has convinced them of the soundness of what he has said.” (471)
There were other facets of persuasion with groups of people. He knew that the best time for a public rally was in the evening, and the later the better. Why? Because people would be tired and therefore more susceptible the influence of his ideas. He also knew the power to “convince” people by giving them the sense that they are a part of something and that many others believe.
“The mass meeting is also necessary for the reason that in it the individual, who at first, whole becoming a supporter of a young movement, feels lonely and easily succumbs to the fear of being alone, for the first time gets the picture of a larger community, which in most people has a strengthening, encouraging effect. … The community of the great demonstration not only strengthens the individual, it also unites and helps to create an esprit de corps.” (478)
The Opportunistic or “Desperate Times Calls for Desperate Action” Game
Part of Hitler’s genius involved his skill in playing to the times that occurred and using them to his benefit. In this, he was extremely skilled as an opportunist. He was able to read the political and economic situation and exploit to his advantage.
After WWI Hitler found himself in a nation suffering from tremendous political instability, economic crisis, and social polarization. Without this backdrop to his own personal failures, he would not have had an audience. But he did. And that’s what made his narrow-minded, intolerance opinionism attractive in the beerhalls. To that audience in that day his fanaticism and populist style were absolutely compelling. Over the months and years from 1918 at the end of the lost war to 1921 when he took over the Social Nationalist party he slowly discovered simple slogans that kindled the angers, resentments, hatreds, and fears of people.
Yet he did more than just play with the negative emotions, he outlined a road to national rebirth. He not only fanned the emotions of aversion, he stimulated emotions of attraction to a better future. He gave hope. Kershaw (1998) described it this way:
“He could inspire an audience which shared his basic political feelings, by the way he spoke, by the force of his rhetorical, by the very power of his prejudice, by the conviction he conveyed that there was a way out of Germany’s light, and that only the way he outlined was the road to national rebirth. Another time, another place, and the message would have been ineffective, absurd even. As it was, indeed, in the early 1920s the great majority of the citizens of Munich, let alone of a wider population to whom Hitler was, if at all, only known as a provincial Bavarian hot-head and rabble-rouser, could not be captivated by it. Nevertheless, at this time and in this place, Hitler’s message did capture exactly the uncontainable sense of anger, fear, frustration, resentment, and pent-up aggression of the raucous gatherings in the Munich beer halls. The compulsive manner of his speaking derived in turn much of its power of persuasion from the strength of conviction that combined with appealingly simple diagnoses of and recipes to Germany’s problems. Above all, what came naturally to Hitler was to stoke up the hatred of others by pouring out to them the hatred that was so deeply embedded in himself.” (p. 132)
As the economic and political crisis mounted in the early years of the 1920s, most people joined the party out of protest, anger, and bitterness. In those years, inflation became hyper-inflation. Currency lost all of its value in the hyper-inflation of 1923. On the eve of WWI, it was 4.20 marks to the dollar. By 1923, it was 18,000 marks to the dollar. And that blossomed to 25,000,000 in September of 1923. This put the nation in a state of extreme emergency as lifetime savings were rapidly wiped out and unemployment led to hunger and poverty. No wonder people were angry, scared, stress, and in a mood to blame.
Is it any wonder that there was an attempted cue in Germany on November 8, 1923? Yet the putschists failed to carry off the coup. Even though the revolutionists put up placards proclaiming Hitler as Reich Chancellor and proclaimed a “national dictatorship” neither the army nor the state police joined in with the putschists. When that happened, the Nazi leaders repudiated the putsch. Hitler was arrested and imprisoned in the Fortresss at Landsberg am Lech, the party was banned and the volkisch movement split into factions.
In those desperate times, Hitler played his cards in just the right way as a skilled opportunist. How did he do that? What did he do?
With the rest of the leadership denying responsibility, Hitler stepped up at the trial to defend and glorify in his role in attempting to overthrow the Weimar State. This move overturned the leaders in the party and positioned himself as the bold and fearless leader. Knowing he was going to jail anyway, he gambled that this move would give him a new edge as the leader of the Nazi movement. During the trial, he turned the courtroom into a stage for his own propaganda. He called witnesses and presented his case__not to win freedom, but to promote his case and to be recognized as the leader of the Nazi party. Then during his 13 months imprison, he was nearly deified by fawning disciples. In late December of 1924 when he was released, he was the very soul of the movement.
This was the beginning of the Hitler cult. And he took full advantage of it, staging a dramatic re-entering of Munich’s political scene in Feb. 1925. Also, was while in prison he wrote Mein Kampf to create much of the mythology of himself and of the movement. Upon his release from prison, he was banned from speaking in public in Germany until 1927. Again, he used that to the full. He spent the following years building up the anticipation for when he would speak and what he would say. When that finally happened, the party scheduled it so that there were thousands in attendance and the mass rallies.
In spite of this, the 1928 election suggested the end of Hitler and his movement (Kershaw, p. 320). But then on October 24, 1929 came the Wall Street Crash. That was the crisis that Hitler needed. He used that to offer a simple explanation, he blamed the “Red” government and scapegoat the Jews. And because the sense of betrayal and exploitation was already acute, the desperateness of the people made it believable.
Simultaneous to all of these crises in the country was the Weimar Republic and some of the things that the Chancellor did that was so destructive to democracy. For example, after he tendered his resignation on March 27, 1930, he dissolved the parliament on July 18. Kershaw commented, “The Nazis could hardly believe their luck.” (p. 325). When the September elections came, the Nazis obtained 107 seats in the government making it the second largest party. Then two years later, July 31, 1932, the Nazis won 230 seats to become the largest party in the Reichstag. Hitler was offered the Vice-Chancellor, but his All-or-Nothing thinking caused him to immediately turn it down.
Nazi myth has it that Hitler rose from humble beginnings to “seize” power by a “triumph of the will.” But that is just the stuff of mythology, and mostly Hitler’s own propaganda.
“In fact, political miscalculation by those with regular access to the corridors of power rather than any actions on the part of the Nazi leader played a larger role in placing him n the chancellor’s seat. Democracy was far from healthy state when the Depression struck Germany.” (Kershaw, p. 426)
Hitler also played that the unethical and manipulative game, The Ends Justifies the Means Game. Propaganda was just a means to an end and therefore he felt that anything that would work in the fight for survival was justified (pp. 177-178).
“Humanitarianism and aesthetics would vanish even from a world inhabited by man if this world were to lose the races that have created and upheld these concepts. But all such concepts become secondary when a nation is fighting for its existence; in fact, they become totally irrelevant to the forms of the struggle .. where they might paralyze a struggling nation’s power of self-preservation. … And since these criteria of humanitarianism and beauty must be eliminated from the struggle, they are also inapplicable to propaganda.” (p. 178)
In part, this was the way he played, The Pragmatic Game. He set the frame that propaganda must–
“… be addressed always and exclusively to the masses. … the content of propaganda is not science … The art of the poster lies in the designer’s ability to attract the attention of the crowd by form and color. … The poster should give the masses an idea of the significance of the exhibition, it should not be a substitute for the art on display. … the function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc…. ” (p. 179, italics added)
“The First World War made Hitler possible. Without the experience of war, the humiliation of defeat, and the upheaval of revolution the failed artist and social drop-out would not have discovered what to do with his life by entering politics and finding his métier as a propagandist and beer hall demagogue. And without the trauma of war, defeat, and revolution, without the political radicalization of German society that this trauma brought about, the demagogue would have been without an audience for his raucous, hate-filled message. The legacy of the lost war provided the conditions in which the paths of Hitler and the German people began to cross. Without a war, a Hitler on the Chancellor’s seat that had been occupied by Bismarck would have been unthinkable.” (p. 73)
“Hitler was able most signally to exploit the belief that pluralism was somehow unnatural or unhealthy in a society.” (p. 75)
The Opportunist Game means using whatever you can regardless of who gets hurt. In the years prior to the 1932 election and especially in those that followed, there was a general paranoia among the Nazi movement. Hitler engendered it and used it to keep everybody on their toes, suspicious, and ready to turn others in. The rule of this game is that the ends justifies the means so don’t worry about the morality of an action. The ends justifies it. This again was a call for fanaticism, for blind fanaticism.
You can hear his Opportunist Game in the way he strategized about how to take control of things.
“It will take a struggle, in view of the fact that the first task is not creation of a folkish state conception, but above all elimination of the existing Jewish one. As so frequently in history, the main difficulty lies, not in the form of the new state of things, but in making place for it. … first of all the negative part of the fight…” (453)
“First weapon … the probe of criticism in all its sharpness.”
The Strength and Power Games
“Power” wrote Kershaw, “was Hitler’s aphrodisiac.” So it should be no surprise to find to find that he played lots of Power Games– Games of intimidation, bullying, threatening, posturing of strength, and anything and everything that increased his sense of power. Hitler could have written the book, “Winning by Intimidation.” It was an art form with him. We can see it in the way he conducted the rallies and parades, the big meetings, his use of the Storm Troopers, and even in the way he talked. His absolute dogmatism was yet another expression of his “power” addiction.
In Mein Kampf he argued that his program needed to have a granite-like sound. It needed to be expressed dogmatically and in a creed-like tone.
“Since the so-called program of the movement is absolutely correct in its ultimate aims, but in its formulation had to take psychological forces into account, in the course of time the conviction may well arise that individual instances certain of the guiding principles ought perhaps to be framed differently, given a better formulation. Every attempt to do this, however, usually works out catastrophically. For in this way something which should be unshakable is submitted to discussion, which, as soon as a single point is deprived of its dogmatic, creed like formulation, will not automatically yield a new, better, and above all unified formulation, but will far sooner lead to endless debates and a general confusion.” (Hitler, p. 458)
He spoke dogmatically and absolutely to convey the power of certitude. He formulated his principles so that they had a “granite” like feel to evoke states of belief and conviction. He wanted his followers dogmatic and intolerant about those principles. That would create the fanaticism that he needed.
Because Hitler believed in the strength of fanaticism he sought to create and use it. He did not think the bourgeois population had the potential for being fanatical like the masses. Notice the meta-state structures in these words.
“They lack that great magnetic attraction which alone the masses always follow under the compelling impact of towering great ideas, the persuasive force of absolute belief in them, coupled with a fanatical courage to fight for them.” (p. 377)
In terms of the meta-states structure here, it wasn’t mere belief that he sought to instill in people, but an “absolute belief in an idea” and “fanatical courage.” He wanted people to close off openness to other ideas. He wanted them to believe in their beliefs and to feel sure of that.
Hitler needed people “to bear in their hearts fanatical faith in the victory of a movement.” He wanted people with an “indomitable energy and will, and if necessary with ruthlessness, to sweep aside any obstacles which might stand in the path of the rising new idea. For this only beings were fitted in whom spirit and body had acquired those military virtues which can perhaps best be described as follows: swift as greyhounds, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel.” (356).
“I saw my own task especially in extracting those nuclear ideas from the extensive and unshaped substance of a general world view and remolding them into more or less dogmatic forms which in their clear delimitation are adapted for holding solidly together those men who swear allegiance to them.” (385)
He also knew that strength would come from acting on such beliefs. To that end he spoke and worked against sterile knowledge of his principles. He wrote, “Creative achievements can only arise when ability and knowledge are wedded.” (p. 430).
“When these principles enter the flesh and blood of our supporter, the movement will become unshakable and invincible.” (p. 352)
This is the Mind-to-Muscle principle. We speak about it in Neuro-Semantics when we refer to translating our highest principles into everyday practices. Hitler knew of this power and so he set out to create memorable slogans that would help with that translation. He sought to first obtain unconditional clarity with regard to the nature and essence of the ideas. This transformation of a general, philosophical, ideal conception of the highest truth into a definitely delimited, tightly organized political community of faith and struggle, unified in spirit and will, is the most significant achievement, since on its happy solution alone the possibility of the victory of an ideal depends.
“The greater and more essentially revolutionary an idea is, the more activistic its membership will become, since the revolutionary force of a doctrine involves a danger for its supporters, which seems calculated to keep cowardly little shopkeepers away from it.”(584)
To make knowledge living rather than dead, we need will power and determination (that puts it into muscle.)
“We Germans, by God, have never lacked scientific education; but we have been all the more lacking in any will power and determination. The more ‘intellectual’ our statesmen were, for example, the feebler, as a rule, was their actual accomplishment. … our statesmen and rulers were over-educated men, crammed full of knowledge and intellect, but bereft of any healthy instinct and devoid of all energy and boldness. It was a calamity that our people had to conduct its struggle for existence under the Chancellorship of a philosophizing weakling. If instead… We had had a robuster man of the people as a leader, the heroic blood of the common grenadier would not have flowed in vain.” (432, italics added)
“Every philosophy of life … will remain without significance for the practical shaping of a people’s life, as long as its principles have not become the banner of a fighting movement which for its part in turn will be a party as long as its activity has not found completion in the victory of its ideas and its party dogmas have not become the new state principles of a people’s community.” (380)
Hitler recognized that by using infallibility he could create more power for himself. To that end he admired the Roman Catholic Church and modeled their use of infallibility. He wanted the cultish role of being a pope to the Nazi movement.
“Political parties are inclined to compromises; philosophies never. Political parties even reckon with opponents; philosophies proclaim their infallibility.” (455)
“Since a philosophy of life is never willing to share with another, it cannot be willing either to collaborate in an existing regime which it condemns, but feels obligated to combat this regime and the whole hostile world of ideas with all possible means; that is, to prepare its downfall.” (455)
The “Be Bigger Than Life” Guru Game
To play this Game, he first of all presented an extremely big Vision. It was a Vision to restore the lost dignity of Germany. This was a Vision to gain new lands for Germany, to change the entire culture, and to oust those who were not German. He set forth his plan as a plan for the very survival and freedom of the Aryan race. He believed that it would take such a Vision to create the necessary enthusiasm– an intoxicating enthusiasm.
“It is an intoxication and must be preserved in this state. How, without this power of enthusiasm, should a country withstand a struggle which would make the most enormous demands?” (167)
“I knew the psyche of the broad masses too well not to be aware that a high ‘aesthetic’ tone would not stir up the fire that was necessary to keep the iron hot. In my eye it was madness on the part of the authorities to be doing nothing to intensify the glowing heat of passion…” (167)
Hitler knew that he would not be able to persuade the thinking populace, so he went after “the masses.” To win the masses, Hitler used several tactics. From setting his goal to “win the masses,” to setting out his big enough Vision, he wanted a German state “with its own sovereignty will have to direct its fight entirely to wining the broad masses.” (p. 333).
Tactically he realized that “the idea of an outward German liberation seems senseless as long as the broad masses are not also prepared to enter the service of this liberating idea.” (334). So he would have to “tear out of their hearts and brains” the international Marxist philosophy of life. This meant democracy and equality of people. Only then could they then win the masses for the idea of national independence (335). To do this, he called for sacrifice.
“To win the masses for a national resurrection, no social sacrifice is too great. … Only pigheaded short-sightedness … can fail to recognize that in the long run there can be no economic upswing… unless the inner national solidarity of our people is restored.” (336)
To that end, he linked national survival, safety and security, wealth and economic well-being, etc. as dependent upon developing a new National Pride. For this he could then call upon “a fanaticism and ruthlessness” for the fatherland. There were no “half-measures” for him “but only a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientations toward the goal to be achieve.” (337).
This was the bigger than life vision and to play that Game, there would have to be a call to extremism and fanaticism. He argued that the German worker must clearly realize that economic sacrifices are of no importance whatever in comparison to national independence.
“A nation’s ability to form alliance is determined much less by dead stores of existing arms than by the visible presence of an ardent national will for self-preservation and heroic death-defying courage.” (333)
It was in this way that he played on the emotions of people. He aroused them in order to call them to action.
“The broad masses of people … The scantiness of the abstract knowledge they possess directs their sentiments more to the world of feeling. That is where their positive or negative attitude lies. It is receptive only to an expression of force in one of these two directions and never to a half-measure hovering between the two. Their emotional attitude at the same time conditions their extraordinary stability. Faith is harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than respect. Hate is more enduring than aversion, and the impetus to the mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times consisted less in a scientific knowledge dominating the masses, than in a fanaticism which inspired them and sometimes in a hysteria which drove them forward. Anyone who wants to win the broad masses must know the key that opens the door to their heart. It’s name is not objectivity (read weakness), but will and power.” (pp. 337-338, italics added)
“The folkish state, a general picture of which I have attempted to draw in broad outlines, will not be realized by the mere knowledge of what is necessary to this state. It is not enough to know how a folkish state should look. Far more important is the program for its creation.” (452)
“It is not necessary that every individual fighting for this philosophy should obtain a full insight and precise knowledge of the ultimate ideas and thought processes of the leaders of the movement. What is necessary is that some few, really great ideas be made clear to him, and that the essential fundamental lines be burned inextinguishably into him, so that he is entirely permeated by the necessity of the victory of his movement and its doctrine. The individual soldier is not initiated into the thought processes of higher strategy either. He is, on the contrary, training in rigid discipline and fanatical faith in the justice and power of his cause, and taught to stake his life for it without reservation…” (456)
Hitler recruited people for the Idealism Game. To do that he had to evoke great Ideals and present himself as the coming Fuhrer. He offered something to his party members that was bigger than life. Ideals are one thing, but idealism goes further. What were the great ideas that became the idealism in the Nazi movement? The ideas included that of preserving the national organism and willingness to stake everything on it with all possible means. Hitler argued that such state-forming and state-preserving qualities have little connected with economics.
The idealism that grew in the hearts of the idealistic was that of a bold new future for the Reich– the beauty of the Germans, their courage, will-power, discipline, determination, the joy in responsibility (p. 416).
“They were all energetic young people, accustomed to discipline, and from their period of service raised in the principle: nothing at all is impossible, everything can be done if you only want it.” (356) “I, too, had forgotten how to say: ‘that’s impossible,’ or ‘it won’t work’; ‘we can’t risk that,’ ‘that is too dangerous,’ etc. (357)
“A man does not die for business, but only for ideals. Nothing proved the Englishman’s superior psychological knowledge of the popular soul better than the motivation which he gave to his struggle. While we fought for bread, England for for ‘freedom’; and not even her own, no, for that of the small nations. In our country we laughed at this effrontery, or were enraged at it, and thus only demonstrated how empty-headed and stupid the so-called statesmen of Germany had become even before the War. We no longer had the slightest idea concerning the essence of the force which can lead men to their death of their own free will and decision. (Italics added)
“In 1914, as long as the German people thought they were fighting for ideals; they stood firm, but as soon as they were told to fight for their daily bread, they preferred to give up the game.” (153)
“Any attempt to combat a philosophy with methods of violence will fail in the end, unless the fight takes up the form of attack for a new spiritual attitude. Only in the struggle between two philosophies can the weapon of brute force, persistently and ruthlessly applied, lead to a decision for the side it supports.” (172)
“By the principles of your parliamentary cattle-trading, you helped to drag the nation into the abyss; but we, in the form of attack and by setting up a new philosophy of life and by fanatically and indomitably defending its principles, shall build for our people the steps on which it will some day climb back into the temple of freedom.” (378)
“We may therefore state that not only does man live in order to serve higher ideals, but that, conversely, these higher ideals also provide the premise for his existence.” (379-380)
“But all these ideas, regardless how convincing they may be for the individual, are submitted to the critical examination of this individual and hence to a fluctuating affirmation or negation until emotional divination or knowledge assumes the binding force of apodictic faith. This, above all, is the fighting factor which makes a breach and opens the way for the recognition of basic religious views.
These words point out Hitler’s Game Plan of making his program visionary. He had to persuade them that everything was at stake and that “firm belief in the right to apply even the most brutal weapons” was legitimate. Fanatical movements always have to do this– legitimize their use of cruelty and hatred. And it is commonly legitimized by belief in a particular religion, ideology, or nationality.
“Care must be taken not to underestimate the force of an idea, I should like to remind those who become faint-hearted in this connection … of a time whose heroism, represented the most over-powering proof of the force of idealistic motives. For what made men die then was not concern for their daily bread, but love of the fatherland, faith in its greatness, a general feeling for the honor of the nation….” (437)
“The lack of a great, creative, renewing idea means at all times a limitation of fighting force. Firm belief in the right to apply even the most brutal weapons is always bound up with the existence of a fanatical faith in the necessity of the victory of a revolutionary new order on this earth.
A movement that is not fighting for such highest aims and ideals will, therefore, never seize upon the ultimate weapon.
The fact of having a new great idea to show was the secret of the success of the French Revolution; the Russian Revolution owes its victory to the idea, and only through the idea did fascism achieve the power to subject a people in the most beneficial way to the most comprehensive creative renewal.” (533)
Because Hitler proclaimed the idea of national pride and love of country as fundamental, he was able to call the young idealists to play The Sacrifice Game. At this point, the Guru Game was also in play. Here he presents the Rules of the Game that he calls Patriotism.
“In order that this national sentiment should be genuine from the outset and not consist in mere hollow pretense, beginning in youth one iron principle must be hammered into those heads which are still capable of education: any man who loves his people proves it solely by the sacrifices which he is prepared to make for it. There is no such thing as national sentiment which is only out for gain. No more is there any nationalism which only embraces classes. Shouting hurrah proves nothing and gives no right to call oneself national if behind it there does not stand a great, loving concern for the preservation of a universal healthy nation….” (426-427)
He focused on the spirit, the heart, the courage that would make it happen.
“The question of regaining German power is not: How shall we manufacture arms? But: How shall we manufacture the spirit which enables a people to bear arms? If this spirit dominates a people, the will finds a thousand ways, every one of which ends in a weapon! But give a coward ten pistols and if attacked he will not be able to fire a single shot. And so for him they are more worthless than a knotted stick for a courageous man.” (332)
“A national ability to form alliance is determined much less by dead stores of existing arms than by the visible presence of an ardent national will for self-preservation and heroic death-defying courage.” (333)
The Fuhrer cult
In the 20th century we have seen many cult movements rise and fall around a guru leader. The leaders, typically men, present themselves as a messiah or special messenger. They then build a cult organization around themselves by demanding total obedience. The total compliance they, at first ask for and eventually demand, becomes the structure of the organization. It is built around one person, around a personality, and so we speak of such as “personality cults.” It happened with entertainers like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, etc., it happens with religious leaders like Jim Jones and David Koresh. And it happens with political leaders, especially dictators and tyrants.
In running his organization, Hitler rejected committee decisions.
“In the place of committee decisions, the principle of absolute responsibility was introduced.” (588, 589).
Talk about a reframe! It wasn’t absolute power of the Fuhrer that he wanted, it was absolute responsibility. And for people not coping well, for people traumatized by inflation, unemployment, poverty, helplessness, etc., escaping from responsibility seemed nature, especially if they were playing the Victim Game.
“The movement decisively rejects any position on questions which either lie outside the frame of its political work or, being not of basic importance, are irrelevant for it.” (345)
“The future of a movement is conditioned by the fanaticism, yes, the intolerance, with which its adherents uphold it as the sole correct movement, and push it past other formulations of a similar sort.” (350)
I can’t think of a statement that better expresses or illustrates Aristotelian thinking. Here is absolutism, the excluded middle, black-and-white thinking. Here is Hitler’s call to a fanatical Intolerance.
“The greatness of every might organization embodying an idea … lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance with which, fanatically convinced of its own right, it intolerantly imposes its will against all others. If an idea is sound and, thus armed, takes up a struggle … it is unconquerable and every persecution will only add to its inner strength.” (351)
Hitler made the integrating mechanism of the movement the cult of the leader. He consciously strengthened the Fuhrer cult and tied his leadership principle into the German mindset. He called “unconditional authority downwards and responsibility upwards” Germanic democracy. Then to further reinforce this he anchors the whole political movement with the city of capital itself.
“The geo-political significance of a focal center in a movement cannot be overemphasized. Only the presence of such a place, exerting the magic spell of a Mecca or a Rome, can in the long run give the movement a force which is based on inner unity and the recognition of a summit representing this unity.” (347)
He also pushed for the cultish use of blind obedience and discipline.
“They never understood that the strength of a political party lies by no means in the greatest possible independent intellect of the individual members, but rather in the disciplined obedience with which its members follow the intellectual leadership. …This is the basic insight which we must constantly bear in mind in examining the possibility of transforming a philosophy into action.” (457)
Part of his strategy to put himself into the role of a Guru was his unavailability. As the years passed, he became less and less available to any except his inner circle. Only they saw his pathology deepen and grow. He would appear at the rallies 30 minutes late up to 2 hours late, leaving the crowds waiting, in anticipation. He would use the most emotional symbols from bands to soldiers to vast numbers of people. All of this was to reinforce the illusion and the myth of the Fuhrer as being other-than-human, more than human, super-human.
Yet actually it was a very sick and twisted mind within Hitler. And it was those Frames of his distorted ideas about race superiority, blood purity, intolerance, etc. that took on a fanatical zeal. This ultimately led him to become ruthless in his fanatical commitment to eliminate anything and everything that got in his way.
In spite of that pathology, Hitler discovered that he could speak and became a powerful persuader. He also had a genius for reading the masses and developing political tactical approaches for winning the minds and hearts of the people to take over a country. In that sense, he was a man of his time who simply took full advantage of the political situation. Having lived in a desperate time of socio-economic change, of fear and poverty, of insecurity and powerlessness, of indignity and shame, he played on the sympathies of those who wanted to find someone to blame. In was in this way that he played the Injustice Game for all it was worth and used it to leverage his own sick “solutions.” What Hitler did makes perfect sense when we start with the Frames that drove his Games. They were just sick frames, and so were the Games. And the Frame Games that he played are not all that different from those being played as we enter the 21st century.
Fromm, Erich. (1941/1969). Escape from freedom. New York: Avon Books.
Fromm, Erich. (1961). May man prevail: An inquiry into the facts and fictions of foreign policy. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Hitler, Adolf (1926). (Translated by Ralph Manheim). Mein kampf. NY: A mariner Book, Houghton Mifflin Co.
Kershaw, Ian. (1998). Hitler: 1889-1936. Hubris. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.