Emails and articles of interest are posted here by John Ray to make them more widely available
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" -- Genesis 12:3
My (Gentile) opinion of antisemitism: The Jews are the best we've got so killing them is killing us.
I have always liked the story of Gideon (See Judges chapters 6 to 8) and it is surely no surprise that in the present age Israel is the Gideon of nations: Few in numbers but big in power and impact.
Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.
America is no longer the land of the free. It is now the land of the regulated -- though it is not alone in that, of course
The Leftist motto: "I love humanity. It's just people I can't stand"
Why are Leftists always talking about hate? Because it fills their own hearts
Envy is a strong and widespread human emotion so there has alway been widespread support for policies of economic "levelling". Both the USA and the modern-day State of Israel were founded by communists but reality taught both societies that respect for the individual gave much better outcomes than levelling ideas. Sadly, there are many people in both societies in whom hatred for others is so strong that they are incapable of respect for the individual. The destructiveness of what they support causes them to call themselves many names in different times and places but they are the backbone of the political Left
The large number of rich Leftists suggests that, for them, envy is secondary. They are directly driven by hatred and scorn for many of the other people that they see about them. Hatred of others can be rooted in many things, not only in envy. But the haters come together as the Left.
Leftists hate the world around them and want to change it: the people in it most particularly. Conservatives just want to be left alone to make their own decisions and follow their own values.
Ronald Reagan famously observed that the status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.” So much for the vacant Leftist claim that conservatives are simply defenders of the status quo. They think that conservatives are as lacking in principles as they are.
The shallow thinkers of the Left sometimes claim that conservatives want to impose their own will on others in the matter of abortion. To make that claim is however to confuse religion with politics. Conservatives are in fact divided about their response to abortion. The REAL opposition to abortion is religious rather than political. And the church which has historically tended to support the LEFT -- the Roman Catholic church -- is the most fervent in the anti-abortion cause. Conservatives are indeed the one side of politics to have moral qualms on the issue but they tend to seek a middle road in dealing with it. Taking the issue to the point of legal prohibitions is a religious doctrine rather than a conservative one -- and the religion concerned may or may not be characteristically conservative. More on that here
Some Leftist hatred arises from the fact that they blame "society" for their own personal problems and inadequacies
The Leftist hunger for change to the society that they hate leads to a hunger for control over other people. And they will do and say anything to get that control: "Power at any price". Leftist politicians are mostly self-aggrandizing crooks who gain power by deceiving the uninformed with snake-oil promises -- power which they invariably use to destroy. Destruction is all that they are good at. Destruction is what haters do.
Leftists are consistent only in their hate. They don't have principles. How can they when "there is no such thing as right and wrong"? All they have is postures, pretend-principles that can be changed as easily as one changes one's shirt
I often wonder why Leftists refer to conservatives as "wingnuts". A wingnut is a very useful device that adds versatility wherever it is used. Clearly, Leftists are not even good at abuse. Once they have accused their opponents of racism and Nazism, their cupboard is bare. Similarly, Leftists seem to think it is a devastating critique to refer to "Worldnet Daily" as "Worldnut Daily". The poverty of their argumentation is truly pitiful
The Leftist assertion that there is no such thing as right and wrong has a distinguished history. It was Pontius Pilate who said "What is truth?" (John 18:38). From a Christian viewpoint, the assertion is undoubtedly the Devil's gospel
"If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." - Ludwig von Mises
The naive scholar who searches for a consistent Leftist program will not find it. What there is consists only in the negation of the present.
Because of their need to be different from the mainstream, Leftists are very good at pretending that sow's ears are silk purses
Among well-informed people, Leftism is a character defect. Leftists hate success in others -- which is why notably successful societies such as the USA and Israel are hated and failures such as the Palestinians can do no wrong.
A Leftist's beliefs are all designed to pander to his ego. So when you have an argument with a Leftist, you are not really discussing the facts. You are threatening his self esteem. Which is why the normal Leftist response to challenge is mere abuse.
Because of the fragility of a Leftist's ego, anything that threatens it is intolerable and provokes rage. So most Leftist blogs can be summarized in one sentence: "How DARE anybody question what I believe!". Rage and abuse substitute for an appeal to facts and reason.
Their threatened egos sometimes drive Leftists into quite desperate flights from reality. For instance, they often call Israel an "Apartheid state" -- when it is in fact the Arab states that practice Apartheid -- witness the severe restrictions on Christians in Saudi Arabia. There are no such restrictions in Israel.
Because their beliefs serve their ego rather than reality, Leftists just KNOW what is good for us. Conservatives need evidence.
“Absolute certainty is the privilege of uneducated men and fanatics.” -- C.J. Keyser
"Almost all professors of the arts and sciences are egregiously conceited, and derive their happiness from their conceit" -- Erasmus
THE FALSIFICATION OF HISTORY HAS DONE MORE TO IMPEDE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT THAN ANY ONE THING KNOWN TO MANKIND -- ROUSSEAU
"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Proverbs 26: 12). I think that sums up Leftists pretty well.
Eminent British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington is often quoted as saying: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." It was probably in fact said by his contemporary, J.B.S. Haldane. But regardless of authorship, it could well be a conservative credo not only about the cosmos but also about human beings and human society. Mankind is too complex to be summed up by simple rules and even complex rules are only approximations with many exceptions.
Politics is the only thing Leftists know about. They know nothing of economics, history or business. Their only expertise is in promoting feelings of grievance
Socialism makes the individual the slave of the state – capitalism frees them.
MESSAGE to Leftists: Even if you killed all conservatives tomorrow, you would just end up in another Soviet Union. Conservatives are all that stand between you and that dismal fate.
Many readers here will have noticed that what I say about Leftists sometimes sounds reminiscent of what Leftists say about conservatives. There is an excellent reason for that. Leftists are great "projectors" (people who see their own faults in others). So a good first step in finding out what is true of Leftists is to look at what they say about conservatives! They even accuse conservatives of projection (of course).
The research shows clearly that one's Left/Right stance is strongly genetically inherited but nobody knows just what specifically is inherited. What is inherited that makes people Leftist or Rightist? There is any amount of evidence that personality traits are strongly genetically inherited so my proposal is that hard-core Leftists are people who tend to let their emotions (including hatred and envy) run away with them and who are much more in need of seeing themselves as better than others -- two attributes that are probably related to one another. Such Leftists may be an evolutionary leftover from a more primitive past.
Leftists seem to believe that if someone like Al Gore says it, it must be right. They obviously have a strong need for an authority figure. The fact that the two most authoritarian regimes of the 20th century (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) were socialist is thus no surprise. Leftists often accuse conservatives of being "authoritarian" but that is just part of their usual "projective" strategy -- seeing in others what is really true of themselves.
Following the Sotomayor precedent, I would hope that a wise older white man such as myself with the richness of that experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than someone who hasn’t lived that life.
IQ and ideology: Most academics are Left-leaning. Why? Because very bright people who have balls go into business, while very bright people with no balls go into academe. I did both with considerable success, which makes me a considerable rarity. Although I am a born academic, I have always been good with money too. My share portfolio even survived the GFC in good shape. The academics hate it that bright people with balls make more money than them.
If I were not an atheist, I would believe that God had a sense of humour. He gave his chosen people (the Jews) enormous advantages -- high intelligence and high drive -- but to keep it fair he deprived them of something hugely important too: Political sense. So Jews to this day tend very strongly to be Leftist -- even though the chief source of antisemitism for roughly the last 200 years has been the political Left!
And the other side of the coin is that Jews tend to despise conservatives and Christians. Yet American fundamentalist Christians are the bedrock of the vital American support for Israel, the ultimate bolthole for all Jews. So Jewish political irrationality seems to be a rather good example of the saying that "The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away". There are many other examples of such perversity (or "balance"). The sometimes severe side-effects of most pharmaceutical drugs is an obvious one but there is another ethnic example too, a rather amusing one. Chinese people are in general smart and patient people but their rate of traffic accidents in China is about 10 times higher than what prevails in Western societies. They are brilliant mathematicians and fearless business entrepreneurs but at the same time bad drivers!
The above is good testimony to the accuracy of the basic conservative insight that almost anything in human life is too complex to be reduced to any simple rule and too complex to be reduced to any rule at all without allowance for important exceptions to the rule concerned
"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here. For roughly two centuries now, antisemitism has, throughout the Western world, been principally associated with Leftism (including the socialist Hitler) -- as it is to this day. See here.
Leftists call their hatred of Israel "Anti-Zionism" but Zionists are only a small minority in Israel
Some of the Leftist hatred of Israel is motivated by old-fashioned antisemitism (beliefs in Jewish "control" etc.) but most of it is just the regular Leftist hatred of success in others. And because the societies they inhabit do not give them the vast amount of recognition that their large but weak egos need, some of the most virulent haters of Israel and America live in those countries. So the hatred is the product of pathologically high self-esteem.
Conservatives, on the other hand could be antisemitic on entirely rational grounds: Namely, the overwhelming Leftism of the Jewish population as a whole. Because they judge the individual, however, only a tiny minority of conservative-oriented people make such general judgments. The longer Jews continue on their "stiff-necked" course, however, the more that is in danger of changing. The children of Israel have been a stiff necked people since the days of Moses, however, so they will no doubt continue to vote with their emotions rather than their reason.
Who said this in 1968? "I am not, and never have been, a man of the right. My position was on the Left and is now in the centre of politics". It was Sir Oswald Mosley, founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists
The term "Fascism" is mostly used by the Left as a brainless term of abuse. But when they do make a serious attempt to define it, they produce very complex and elaborate definitions -- e.g. here and here. In fact, Fascism is simply extreme socialism plus nationalism. But great gyrations are needed to avoid mentioning the first part of that recipe, of course.
Politicians are in general only a little above average in intelligence so the idea that they can make better decisions for us that we can make ourselves is laughable
A quote from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931–2005: "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
The Supreme Court of the United States is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amendment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do.
"Some action that is unconstitutional has much to recommend it" -- Elena Kagan, nominated to SCOTUS by Obama
The U.S. Constitution is neither "living" nor dead. It is fixed until it is amended. But amending it is the privilege of the people, not of politicians or judges
The book, The authoritarian personality, authored by T.W. Adorno et al. in 1950, has been massively popular among psychologists. It claims that a set of ideas that were popular in the "Progressive"-dominated America of the prewar era were "authoritarian". Leftist regimes always are authoritarian so that claim was not a big problem. What was quite amazing however is that Adorno et al. identified such ideas as "conservative". They were in fact simply popular ideas of the day but ones that had been most heavily promoted by the Left right up until the then-recent WWII. See here for details of prewar "Progressive" thinking.
The basic aim of all bureaucrats is to maximize their funding and minimize their workload
A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is an example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here
Some ancient wisdom for Leftists: "Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise: Why shouldest thou die before thy time?" -- Ecclesiastes 7:16
People who mention differences in black vs. white IQ are these days almost universally howled down and subjected to the most extreme abuse. I am a psychometrician, however, so I feel obliged to defend the scientific truth of the matter: The average black adult has about the same IQ as an average white 11-year-old. The American Psychological Association is generally Left-leaning but it is the world's most prestigious body of academic psychologists. And even they have had to concede that sort of gap (one SD) in black vs. white average IQ. 11-year olds can do a lot of things but they also have their limits and there are times when such limits need to be allowed for.
Jesse Jackson: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." There ARE important racial differences.
Some Jimmy Carter wisdom: "I think it's inevitable that there will be a lower standard of living than what everybody had always anticipated," he told advisers in 1979. "there's going to be a downward turning."
R.I.P. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet deposed a law-defying Marxist President at the express and desperate invitation of the Chilean parliament. He pioneered the free-market reforms which Reagan and Thatcher later unleashed to world-changing effect. That he used far-Leftist methods to suppress far-Leftist violence is reasonable if not ideal. The Leftist view that they should have a monopoly of violence and that others should follow the law is a total absurdity which shows only that their hate overcomes their reason
Did William Zantzinger kill poor Hattie Carroll?
The "steamroller" above who got steamrollered by his own hubris. Spitzer is a warning of how self-destructive a vast ego can be -- and also of how destructive of others it can be.
Many people hunger and thirst after righteousness. Some find it in the hatreds of the Left. Others find it in the love of Christ. I don't hunger and thirst after righteousness at all. I hunger and thirst after truth. How old-fashioned can you get?
Heritage is what survives death: Very rare and hence very valuable
I completed the work for my Ph.D. at the end of 1970 but the degree was not awarded until 1974 -- due to some academic nastiness from Seymour Martin Lipset and Fred Emery. A conservative or libertarian who makes it through the academic maze has to be at least twice as good as the average conformist Leftist. Fortunately, I am a born academic.
As well as being an academic, I am an army man and I am pleased and proud to say that I have worn my country's uniform. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.
Two lines below of a famous hymn that would be incomprehensible to Leftists today ("honor"? "right"? "freedom?" Freedom to agree with them is the only freedom they believe in)
First to fight for right and freedom,
And to keep our honor clean
It is of course the hymn of the USMC -- still today the relentless warriors that they always were.
I imagine that few of my readers will understand it, but I am an unabashed monarchist. And, as someone who was born and bred in a monarchy and who still lives there (i.e. Australia), that gives me no conflicts at all. In theory, one's respect for the monarchy does not depend on who wears the crown but the impeccable behaviour of the present Queen does of course help perpetuate that respect. Aside from my huge respect for the Queen, however, my favourite member of the Royal family is the redheaded Prince Harry. The Royal family is of course a military family and Prince Harry is a great example of that. As one of the world's most privileged people, he could well be an idle layabout but instead he loves his life in the army. When his girlfriend Chelsy ditched him because he was so often away, Prince Harry said: "I love Chelsy but the army comes first". A perfect military man! I doubt that many women would understand or approve of his attitude but perhaps my own small army background powers my approval of that attitude.
The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"
UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.
Despite my great sympathy and respect for Christianity, I am the most complete atheist you could find. I don't even believe that the word "God" is meaningful. I am not at all original in that view, of course. Such views are particularly associated with the noted German philosopher Rudolf Carnap. Unlike Carnap, however, none of my wives have committed suicide
I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak. Some might conclude that I must therefore be a very confused sort of atheist but I can assure everyone that I do not feel the least bit confused. The New Testament is a lighthouse that has illumined the thinking of all sorts of men and women and I am deeply grateful that it has shone on me.
I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age. Conservatism is in touch with reality. Leftism is not.
I imagine that the RD are still sending mailouts to my 1950s address
Most teenagers have sporting and movie posters on their bedroom walls. At age 14 I had a map of Taiwan on my wall.
"Remind me never to get this guy mad at me" -- Instapundit
I have used many sites to post my writings over the years and many have gone bad on me for various reasons. So if you click on a link here to my other writings you may get a "page not found" response if the link was put up some time before the present. All is not lost, however. All my writings have been reposted elsewhere. If you do strike a failed link, just take the filename (the last part of the link) and add it to the address of any of my current home pages and -- Voila! -- you should find the article concerned.
It seems to be a common view that you cannot talk informatively about a country unless you have been there. I completely reject that view but it is nonetheless likely that some Leftist dimbulb will at some stage aver that any comments I make about politics and events in the USA should not be heeded because I am an Australian who has lived almost all his life in Australia. I am reluctant to pander to such ignorance in the era of the "global village" but for the sake of the argument I might mention that I have visited the USA 3 times -- spending enough time in Los Angeles and NYC to get to know a fair bit about those places at least. I did however get outside those places enough to realize that they are NOT America.
If any of the short observations above about Leftism seem wrong, note that they do not stand alone. The evidence for them is set out at great length in my MONOGRAPH on Leftism.
COMMENTS: I have gradually added comments facilities to all my blogs. The comments I get are interesting. They are mostly from Leftists and most consist either of abuse or mere assertions. Reasoned arguments backed up by references to supporting evidence are almost unheard of from Leftists. Needless to say, I just delete such useless comments.
My academic background
My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 65 at the time of writing in 2009. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. I trace my ancestry wholly to the British Isles. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools. Fuller biographical notes here
MY OTHER SITES
EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL
FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC
EYE ON BRITAIN
IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL
Of Interest 3
There are also two blogspot blogs which record what I think are my main recent articles here and here
Mirror for "Dissecting Leftism"
China Mirror for "Dissecting Leftism"
Longer Academic Papers
Academic home page
Academic Backup Page
General Backup 2
MONOGRAPH ON LEFTISM
CONSERVATISM AS HERESY
Fascism is Leftist
Hitler a socialist
What are Leftists
Psychology of Left
Leftism is authoritarian
James on Leftism
Irbe on Leftism
Beltt on Leftism
Pyszczynski et al.
Cautionary blogs about big Australian companies:
St. George bank
Bank of Qld.
(My frequent reads are starred)
10 o'clock scholar
11 Day Empire
American Indian Movement
Anthropology & Econ
Blogs against Hillary
Blood & Guts
Brian Leiter scrutinized
Campus Newspaper Confab
Candle in dark
Civilian Gun Self defense
Common-sense & Wonder*
Discover the networks
Elephants in Academia
Enter Stage Right
Everything I Know
Fighting in the Shade
Gates of Vienna
Gay and Right
Ghost of Flea
Global warming & Climate
One Good Turn
GOP & The City
Grumpy Old Sod
Gust of Hot Air
Hall of Record
R. Hide MP
Hummers & Cigarettes
Junk Food science
Just One Minute
Keeping it Simple
Kim Du Toit
Knowledge is Power
Let it bleed
Little Green footballs
Lost Tooth Soc
Midwest by DC
More Sense than Money
Museum of Left Lunacy
My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Neo Con Blogger
Never Yet Melted
New Media Journal
New Zeal Pundit
Norm Quantum Weatherby
Northeastern Intelligence Network
OC Register blog
On the Right Side
Political Theory Review
Regions of Mind
Rhymes with Right
Right Wing news
Sine Qua Non
Stop and Think
Stop the ACLU
Talk Climate Change
Truth Laid Bear
Voices in Head
Watt's up with that
Winds of Change
World of Reason
Write Wing Warrior
You Big Mouth
Early Childhood Education
No 2 Pencil
Environmental Economics & Sust. Devel.
Truck & Barter
Aussie Political Report
A E Brain
L. Hissink's Crazy World
Little Tin Soldier
Tao of Defiance
Voice of Pacific
Paul & Carl
It's A Matter of Opinion
The Dog Blog
Welcome to the Asylum
BNP and Me
Britain & America
Burning our Money
Campaign Against Political Correctness
Campaign for English Parliament
House of Dumb
IQ & PC
Right to be Free
Walking the Streets
Freedom & Whisky
A Place to Stand
Brit Nats in Wales
Hot Air Forum
Ice & Fire
Not A Fish
The Portuguese connection
A Razao das Coisas
Avaliando o mundo
Boticario de Provincia
Nadando contra a mare
O Blog do Alex
European Family Health
Le Guerre Civili
Best of Web
Business Review Weekly
International Business Times
Sydney Morning Harold
12/30/2001 - 01/06/2002
08/11/2002 - 08/18/2002
01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003
03/02/2003 - 03/09/2003
03/09/2003 - 03/16/2003
03/23/2003 - 03/30/2003
04/06/2003 - 04/13/2003
04/13/2003 - 04/20/2003
05/04/2003 - 05/11/2003
05/11/2003 - 05/18/2003
05/18/2003 - 05/25/2003
05/25/2003 - 06/01/2003
06/01/2003 - 06/08/2003
06/08/2003 - 06/15/2003
06/15/2003 - 06/22/2003
06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003
06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003
07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003
07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003
07/27/2003 - 08/03/2003
08/03/2003 - 08/10/2003
08/10/2003 - 08/17/2003
08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003
08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003
08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003
09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003
09/14/2003 - 09/21/2003
09/21/2003 - 09/28/2003
09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003
10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003
11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003
11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003
12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004
01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004
01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004
01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004
01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004
02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004
02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004
02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004
03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004
03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004
03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004
03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004
04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004
04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004
05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004
05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004
05/16/2004 - 05/23/2004
05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004
05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004
06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004
06/13/2004 - 06/20/2004
06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004
06/27/2004 - 07/04/2004
07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004
08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004
09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004
09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004
09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004
10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004
10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004
11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004
11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004
12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004
12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005
01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005
01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005
03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005
04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005
04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005
05/01/2005 - 05/08/2005
06/19/2005 - 06/26/2005
07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005
07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005
07/31/2005 - 08/07/2005
09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005
09/25/2005 - 10/02/2005
10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005
12/25/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 01/08/2006
01/22/2006 - 01/29/2006
04/09/2006 - 04/16/2006
04/16/2006 - 04/23/2006
05/07/2006 - 05/14/2006
05/14/2006 - 05/21/2006
06/04/2006 - 06/11/2006
06/18/2006 - 06/25/2006
07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006
08/06/2006 - 08/13/2006
08/13/2006 - 08/20/2006
09/24/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/22/2006 - 10/29/2006
12/24/2006 - 12/31/2006
02/18/2007 - 02/25/2007
03/04/2007 - 03/11/2007
05/13/2007 - 05/20/2007
07/01/2007 - 07/08/2007
08/05/2007 - 08/12/2007
03/30/2008 - 04/06/2008
12/05/2010 - 12/12/2010
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
THE UNBEARABLE FLEXIBILITY OF BELIEFS: SCANDINAVIAN FELLOW TRAVELERS
By: Lennart Sjöberg
(Center for Risk Research, Stockholm School of Economics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
This paper is about the political psychology of opportunism and risk denial. The concept of fellow travelers is applied to the analysis of four Scandinavian writers (three of them very well-known locally) who traveled to Nazi Germany in the 1930's and the People=s Republic of China (PRC) during the Cultural Revolution. Their writings are analyzed for the distortions of reality they depicted, often quite glaring. In most cases, the admiration they expressed for totalitarian and brutal regimes was connected with a rejection of their own culture, in spite of the fact that they had reached very prominent positions in their home countries and were, in three cases, invested with considerable power. The cases are discussed from a social psychological standpoint, on the presumption that understanding the sort of evil propaganda practiced by some prominent members of a democratic country should be of some aid towards promoting human dignity.
A fellow traveler is a person who openly endorses significant aspects a totalitarian regime, without being committed in the sense of being an active member of a Nazi or communist party. Fellow travelers from the USA and Western Europe have been discussed in the light of current knowledge about the Nazi and communist dictatorships, and also with regard to what was known at the time of their writings (Caute, 1988; Griffiths, 1980). These people, often "liberals", were deluded by their hosts in the Soviet Union, Cuba, Nazi Germany or China to give positive, even glowing, accounts of the "progress" achieved by the totalitarian regimes of these three countries, and to deny or ignore any existence of a dark side. They were, to use Lenin's term, "useful idiots" and their writings were often regarded as very credible in the Western democracies and given prominent attention by exposure in important media. The notion of a "rational" society was indeed very alluring to these people and many of their readers.
The fellow travelers were many and several cases have been widely discussed. Yet, by no means all cases are well known. Memories of such writings are short since their authors, understandably, were not always eager to have them preserved or reprinted. In this paper, I discuss a few Scandinavian fellow travelers that carry some interest because of their local prominence or, in one case, because of a later encounter with a historical figure of great importance. Three traveled to Nazi Germany in the 30's and one to communist China during the Cultural Revolution. A few additional cases are briefly noted.
The purpose of the present paper is to analyze the distorted world views that form the basis of extreme political views, and to do so with the help of public statements and rhetoric available in print. The distortion by itself is a depressing banality, but its details and dynamics are interesting. Attitude research in social psychology is often concerned with less strong convictions and matters of merely passing interest. The fellow travelers were traveling to the hot spots of their times, and they came back full of illusions that they tried to persuade people to believe. They were the willing servants of tyrants, not forced by violence and threat of violence, but lured by their own vanity and deeply held anti-democratic values. Such people are by no means rare, and we should learn about them.
Böök, Landquist and Hitler
Two persons of towering importance in Swedish cultural life of the 1930's were John Landquist and Fredrik Böök. Böök was an important literary critic at Svenska Dagbladet (the major conservative morning newspaper in Stockholm), had been a professor of literature at the University of Lund, and was a member of the enormously prestigious Swedish Academy, which awarded the Nobel prize in literature. Landquist likewise had a background in literary criticism, had edited Strindberg's collected works, was the cultural editor of Aftonbladet (at the time the largest newspaper in Sweden, published as an evening paper and something of a tabloid in modern terms). Landquist was to be appointed to the chair of Psychology and Education at the University of Lund in 1936. It should be added that in those times, professorial appointments were very few and highly prestigious.
Böök was a literary prodigy, signing his first book contract at the age of 18. He was enormously successful in his professional life, and enormously productive, publishing some 200 books as well as innumerable articles and edited works. Having achieved a professorial appointment in Lund at the age of 39, he stayed there for only 4 years, then left to a senior appointment as editor of Svenska Dagbladet in Stockholm. This appointment enabled him to quadruple his professorial salary.
Yet, he was by no means popular. As a literary critic he showed little mercy with many authors, favoring a few, among them foremost Swedish author and Nobel laureate Verner von Heidenstam, who intervened in his favor at several critical points in his career and finally suggested him for election to the Swedish Academy. His political writings were not well liked by the majority of intellectuals and politically active persons in Sweden, and his extreme pro-German stance probably had little resonance among the population. His books often met with some very aggressive criticisms in liberal and socialist media. In conservative circles he also was seen as a liability at times, and there was no clear support for him at all times. Although he was no anti-semite he did show some racist tendencies against blacks. An extensive biography on Böök is available (Nordin, 1994).
Already in the spring of 1933, Böök was to publish a book entitled Hitlers Tyskland (Hitler's Germany) (Böök, 1933b). Böök's book must have been written quickly, since it deals with Germany in the spring of 1933 and was released in July of that year. It has some marks of haste in poor proofreading. It also has no preface, statement of purpose or any account of how and when the information was obtained. It is based, however, on a number of articles published in Svenska Dagbladet. The book is written in a terse and somewhat archaic style no longer used in Sweden, and probably unusual even in 1933. The reader is apparently presumed to know German, because the many important citations in that language are not translated. The book was quickly translated and published in German (Böök, 1934), English (Böök, 1933a) and Danish (Böök, 1933b).
Böök's message is the following. We see in Germany under Hitler a national awakening and enormous enthusiasm, especially among the young. The regime is admittedly brutal but also very efficient and clever. Hitler himself is undoubtedly a great man and basically democratic, in an original sense of the word, contrasted with the "formal" democracy of such countries as the USA and Great Britain.
The antisemitic strand of the National Socialist policies is regretted by Böök, who feels that it may be OK to fire people who are or were not loyal with Germany, but not simply because they are Jews. Most Jews are not traitors to the German cause, according to him. Some are, however, and some have excelled in "anti-germanism". Anti-germanism exists among the Jews just as well as anti-semitism exists among "Aryans". It is regrettable, but is the truth. Some Jews have been corrupt and they have supported each others' vested interests against the Germans and become rich and powerful at the expense of the people of Germany. This must stop.
Böök claimed that he met with Hitler in 1933 and tried to persuade him to a less aggressive policy against the Jews. Böök seems to have believed that Hitler´s policy at this point was harmful to the long term interests of Germany. Hitler did not agree, of course, and more or less threw him out after having delivered a long aggressive monologue. When the book "Hitler´s Germany" was published in a German translation it did not include the sections where Böök criticized the German policies toward Jews.
Be all that as it may, Hitler's aggression towards the Jews is mostly verbal, says Böök. It will lead to no physical harm, and there is no boycott or overt antisemitism, other than some Jews being fired from their jobs. Böök also is uneasy about censorship and control of the German press. Very unnecessary, according to him. Almost all are already very loyal to the regime. Undoubtedly, things will improve both with regard to the press and the Jewish question, as time goes by. After all, we witness a national revolution and revolutions are seldom neat affairs.
Germans are no dangerous people. They are, in fact, innocent and defenseless, decent and kind. They would not stand a chance in a new war against the Poles or the Checks. They have been grossly mistreated by the Western allies after the war, especially by the treaty of Versailles. German culture is enormously important and so much more advanced than that of the primitive Russians or the childish Italians. It must be saved from Bolshevism. Indeed, Hitler has saved Europe from communism.
Hitler himself, a soldier first and foremost, is enormously perceptive and has a great will-power. His youth was spent in construction work in Vienna and Munich. Hitler knows very well the plights of the workers, and he is honestly and profoundly engaged in improving life for all Germans. Other leaders are hardly mentioned, with the exception of Göbbels who is given a glowing description. Hitler´s Mein Kampf is clearly a very great book, although the parts about the Jews are a failure.
Böök acts as an apologist for the brutal Nazi dictatorship. Playing with words, Hitler is said to be basically democratic, albeit in a more basic than "formal" sense of the word. Böök is ominously hinting at his close relationship with the Nazi leaders. Any independent journalist or author would have told his readers just how he came into contact with them and what the extent of those contacts were. Böök gives the reader none of this.
Böök goes on and on. The Nazi project is enormously hopeful and important. It is about saving Europe from Bolshevism, no more and no less. To do so, a German renewal is necessary and much can be excused in the name of this noble goal. The great demonstrations and the military elegance of the Nazis are quite impressive in Böök's eyes. The speeches and the propaganda are naturally coarse and lack subtlety but that is a necessary ingredient in propaganda which, by the way, Hitler and Göbbels have learned from the Western powers and their smearing of Germany during the war. Book burning, treated in the final chapter of the book, is not at all regrettable, a very remarkable statement by a member of the Swedish Academy. It is an efficient expression of rejection of unworthy works, and what is scientifically important, such as Marx (sic!), is always available to researchers. (Although Marx is so boring that it would lead to no harm to make his works more generally available). Interestingly, Böök admires Marx and the socialist strands of National Socialism are just as attractive to him as the nationalist ones.
Böök was to continue to support German interests, and even moved to Berlin for some time in the end of the 1930s. In 1940 he published a small book called Tyskt väsen och svensk lösen (German nature and Swedish password) (Böök, 1940). The message is that German militarism and brutality is a reaction to oppression from its enemies, in particular during the first world war and its aftermath, but also earlier. It is, however, comforting to see how the present war is conducted by German who are gentlemen and quite merciful (sic!). There are no massacres. Sweden must accept a new Europe and not be prejudiced against the Germans, although we do have different values and a very different historical experience. The current German way of being will be replaced by the mild forces of life, for German nature is basically humanistic and deeply cultural. The Nazis are forever changing.
Böök's pro-German attitude was deep and pervasive throughout his adult life. Thulstrup gave a very clear analysis of his writings about international politics from WWI and onwards, always ending up with a pro-German stance (Thulstrup, 1941). It is interesting to inquire about how this attitude was established.
There are several problems in trying to understand the political attitudes of a fellow traveler. Why were they acquired? And when? In the case of Böök there is a fairly extensive literature and at least one detailed biography (Nordin, 1994). Nordin claims that Böök´s extremely pro-German attitude was not established until the beginning of WWI. However, if that is true it was indeed established amazingly fast. Already in the early fall of 1914 it is possible to discern the extreme views that Böök held. The book he published in 1916 about his trip to France (Böök, 1916) is remarkably biased and full of disdain for the French. According to Nordin (Nordin, 1994), Böök had been invited to join in this visit to France in order to have at least one well known person who was known to be pro-German in the group and Böök qualified indeed for that role.
Maybe Böök´s attitudes were somehow prepared by earlier experiences. Many people in Sweden were pro-German, and Swedish culture had received much input from Germany. The first foreign language to learn in Swedish secondary schools used to be German, it changed to English only after WW2. Böök's mentor, von Heidenstam, was also a great admirer of German culture, but he did not react to the outbreak of WWI in the same belligerent manner as Böök.
So where do we finally find Böök? Was he a Nazi? Almost, but not quite. He was not in agreement with the policies towards the Jews, but otherwise he seemed to subscribe to all of the Nazi project, as it looked in 1933. He loved German culture and was very pro-German and cold towards the Western powers, including France. Yet, there is no saying that he subscribed to military aggression against neighboring countries, or violence in general. Hence, his naivete. He saw clearly some of the brutality of the regime but he excused it as a necessary and temporary excesses that would soon pass, the underlying and very advanced German culture would surely prevail. He did not support a Nazi regime in Sweden, at least not openly. He seemed to have considered a Nazi regime as good or necessary for Germany, but not suitable in Sweden. This is a typical fellow traveler attitude (Griffiths, 1980).
Böök's book about Hitler's Germany was given a glowing review by Landquist in Aftonbladet (Landquist, 1933c). To summarize briefly the message of this very extensive review: a great book! Böök is not committed to any side, but a positive cultural liberal (whatever that means). The regular liberals, on the other hand, have not lived up to their duty to make a liberal judgment of current events, and just shown their lack of a balanced mind. (Landquist is not explicit about this, but the reader gets the impression that the "liberals" have been critical of Hitler). Böök is on the contrary out to seek the truth, whether it is pleasant or not.
People in Sweden have not understood that Hitler is basically a democrat [in an original and ruthless sense of the word (sic)], and that he despises the upper classes (that may have been true). He has found a basis in the masses, not in the upper class or in a dynasty. He is a good socialist. The people's unity is founded in the common war experience. The anti-semitic policies of Hitler are regrettable but will surely disappear after some time. There are too many human relations in Germany (sic). Dictatorship is regrettable, but democracy can be criticized as well. If democracy is to prevail, it is because it is supported by honor and hard work, not by "libertarian excesses". We do not know the future fate of Germany, but must study it with an open mind. This is the defensive concluding note of the review, which is an attempt to defend Böök’s pro-Nazi stand.
Landquist was soon to travel to the new Germany himself and he published a series of articles in Aftonbladet in the fall of 1933. The stage is set by an article about traveling on the "Hindenburg" to Germany with a group of Scandinavian journalists (Landquist, 1933f). The article gives a romantic account of that fantastic experience of floating in the air over the beautiful German landscape. Dr. Göbbels succeeded clearly in setting a positive stage for the visit of the Nordic journalists in this way.
The first meeting was with a number of industrialists (Landquist, 1933e). After a brief interlude in a rural setting (more festive than usual, due to the beautiful red swastika flags) the first stop was I. G. Farben and its leader, Geheimerat and Professor Carl Duisberg. The workers were busy and singing. The allies had robbed I. G. Farben after the war. Communism had been rampant among the workers who systematically had stolen from the company; Duisberg had had to employ some 40 detectives and order body searches of employees when leaving work.
Next to Krupp. Almost no arms were being manufactured here, but the factories were very impressive. A whole city for workers had been donated by Alfred Krupp. In the evening, beer drinking and a speech by the doyen of German industry, Staatsrat Thyssen. He gave vent to unreserved homage of Hitler and expressed great personal warmth to the Führer. Hitler had introduced a new idea to history, that of leadership. Whatever would happen, the German people was behind its leader. Thyssen was also very peace oriented and positive to France. Germany WANTED peace and would achieve it.
The third article describes a visit to a concentration camp (Landquist, 1933b) at Prettin, Saxonia. The very fact that such a visit was allowed by the German hosts shows how open-minded and honest they were. They had surely nothing to conceal. (That the visit could have been rigged seems not to have occurred to Landquist and is nowhere mentioned in the article).
The inmates were quite varying, only few looked Jewish. The older, especially, appeared closed and bitter, the younger more open. Bodily punishment was prohibited, and on the whole the treatment of the inmates was "not inhuman". The inmates were mostly communists, but did not admit to having done anything illegal. They looked healthy enough, a meal (soup) was tasted by Landquist who found it nourishing and tasty. There was not enough work for the prisoners, only 25% of the time, the rest of the time was used for sport. The work they did was agricultural. It was not heavy but somewhat boring, some said. In other words, the concentration camp was much like a boarding-house with something of a low-budget profile.
The rooms were clean, but there were no beds, so inmates had to sleep on the floor. The prisoners surely suffered psychologically, not physically, since they had to live together in such a varied group of people, and with no information about when they could be released (assuming they would ever be released, something Landquist takes for granted). They were incarcerated not under law, but due to political necessity, to pacify the country. And note that they were not executed, as prisoners in Russia or during the French revolution. Anyway, concentration camps should be abolished as soon as possible, Landquist hoped, and they were, in fact, already being phased out. In only two months, the number of prisoners had dropped from 40,000 to 20,000.
Concentration camps were of course not yet the death machines that they would become later. Still, Landquist's account is very misleading. He pretends that the inmates were only communists, but it was known at the time that many other groups were incarcerated in the camps, such as social democrats. One reads with disbelief his report that physical punishment did not occur because it was asserted to be "prohibited". More realistic views of the Nazi concentration camps were available already in the fall of 1933, when Landquist wrote his article (Arnold-Foster, 1933).
The subsequent article gives a political analysis of national socialism (Landquist, 1933a). Here, Landquist pointed to similarities between national socialism and "bolshevism". They both turned against class society and did not tolerate the weak, wavering democratic society with all its divisions. It is pure humbug to depict national socialism as a party of the right. It has a true democratic passion. The mass is always present, always salient.
What Hitler has done is similar to the policies of old kings of Sweden: speak directly to the people, not through a parliament. Hitler wants his thoughts to be the people's thoughts, and he is close to socialism. Some excesses have been necessary, but the regime makes its utmost to compensate the people, among other things with grandiose festivals. (The festival of crafts in Berlin is described). And patriotism is, of course, given the first place. Through patriotism will come democracy. People are puritanistic and even the upper classes wear only simple clothes. This is very nice and quite a break with the habits of rich people in the Weimar republic.
A work camp near Essen is described. Unemployed can join such camps if they wish, but youths who want to enter a university must first spend 20 weeks in agricultural work. The idea of the regime is to foster respect for work, only the working person has a place in the unity of the people. Especially agricultural work is highly valued. The rentier is as anti-social as a tramp.
The youngsters of the Essen camp were in a good mood and looked open and free. (They were free to leave the camp at any time, if they got a regular job, but had apparently to return if they lost the job. Presumably they were not free to leave the camp if they did not get a job, but Landquist does not mention that). A year ago some 50% of the camp dwellers had been communists, according to the camp warden. Apparently they were not so any more.
Youth in Germany make a strong impression. Many have important posts, the festive processions with their young and nice SA guards are ever present. Innumerable groups of youngsters marched in the morning to Munich to celebrate the Day of Art. They expressed hope and renewal. Is this a display of hostility? No, not at all. What they want to fight is a spiritual enemy inside, moral decay and desperation. It is indeed innocent and also pathetic since its outcome is uncertain, yet it is necessary.
The final article is about Germany's decision to leave the League of nations, which took place while Landquist was still in Germany (Landquist, 1933d). Hitler's speech of 14 October 1933 surely promised peace with France, now nobody could suspect Germany of having any hostile intentions. In all of Germany, peace was the word of the day, and even the concept of pacifist, recently despised and hated, was now a positive thing. The peace initiative coincided with leaving the League of Nations, a very clever political move. The decision itself was apparently very quickly taken, and showed impressive force of action. Germans loved peace and wanted nothing more than peace. They just wanted a decent future among decent friends, according to the Prime Minister of Bavaria (Wagner).
Landquist finally had a few reservations. The regime made it hard for women to have gainful employment, but here a new development was planned. Freedom of the press was no more and censors appeared sometimes to be just stupid. However, it was impossible to imagine that this was not just a passing phase, the German culture was too strong for it to linger. The lack of a functioning legal system was the most serious drawback, but that was a response to bolshevism. Improvements were much more likely in the case of National Socialism, built on living historical culture, than Bolshevism, a case of "abstract semi-culture" (whatever that is). The German regime has its good sides, and we must be careful not to reject it entirely.
The strongest impressions in Germany are youth and unity. The young have learnt idealism, to let the common good prevail rather than the individual good. They are immature and prejudiced right now, but they will mature, and hatred and prejudice will disappear. Indeed, pacifism is now an accepted value of great valor, while it used to be despised.
Inga Arvad in Nazi Germany
Inga Arvad (born 1913) was a young Danish upper class woman who had been elected miss Denmark in 1929. She is best known for her amorous relationship with John F. Kennedy in Washington, D. C., in 1941-42 (Hamilton, 1992). The FBI suspected Arvad of espionage and it is known that she had been well connected with leading Nazi circles. There was even an infamous photograph of her together with Hitler. She admitted to the FBI that she had been offered, by the Germans upon her moving to the USA, to work for Nazi propaganda there. There was also a rumor that she had been working for Nazi propaganda in Denmark. She said she had declined the offer. In addition, Arvad was at this time married to a Hungarian film maker, Paul Fejos, who was employed by Swedish financier Axel Wenner-Gren (another of Inga’s lovers) and the latter was closely associated with the Nazis, identified as such by American intelligence. John F. Kennedy, a young ensign then working for Naval Intelligence, was attracted to Arvad and they became lovers. At the time of her affair with Kennedy, Arvad was working as a journalist for the Washington Times-Herald.
Hamilton discusses the question whether Arvad was a Nazi agent of some kind, and dismisses this suspicion, important at the time, on the ground that there is no solid evidence for it. That may be true, depending upon what is required for evidence to be sufficiently solid, but the political values of Arvad are still of some interest and as a fellow traveler she is a good illustration of a naivete that was not unusual in Scandinavia in the 30's. In addition, a very different picture of Arvad is provided by a TV documentary (Anonymous, 1991). In this source, it is stated, among other things, that:
- Arvad made frequent and unexplained trips to Berlin around 1939-40
- she sent lengthy telegrams to Berlin from the USA in 1940-41
- she questioned JFK (as recorded by FBI) about sensitive information about US top military leaders and administrators
- JFK himself seems to have been aware of the risk that she was a spy and joked to her about it
- she gave information to Wenner-Gren and was well paid by him
- she was an outspoken anti-semite and greatly admired Hitler and Germany, something she made no secret of
Besides, there is a photo of Hitler with a warm personal dedication to Arvad, dated 1936 (St. John, 1997). The documentary also points to several intriguing and unexplained aspects of Arvad's initial career in the US, such as how she managed to be accepted by the prestigious Columbia school of journalism (she had no previous college education), how she made so quick and frequent contacts with the very top Nazi leadership that even the German Foreign office was alarmed at the time, or how she could, after only a few months at Columbia, end up with the ideal job for a Nazi agent, as a society reporter in Washington, DC, working for a leading isolationist newspaper.
In 1935-36 Arvad had published several articles in evening newspaper Berlingske Aftenavis, published by the same publisher as Berlingske Tidende, the most important Danish newspaper. In these articles she gave accounts of interviews with Nazi luminaries, culminating in two interviews with Hitler, in 1935 and 1936. I have located these articles, and give here a brief summary of their contents. It should be noted that Arvad later trivialized these articles, saying that she had just asked about A trivial things like what people had for breakfast@ (Hamilton, 1992). As we shall see, the articles are far more interesting and revealing than that.
Arvad's articles about the Nazis
A Danish-speaking police commissioner. To her delight, Arvad noted that the Nazi Police Commissioner of Berlin, Admiral von Levetzow, had been raised in Denmark and spoke fluent Danish. He had attended high-school in Copenhagen, and that fact is stated in the heading of the article. The admiral turned out to be a great friend of Denmark.
The Commissioner told her that he saw the job to head the Berlin police, 15,000 men, as an important challenge. It had been offered to him, a naval officer, immediately after the Nazis had seized power. There had been a lot of crime in the capital, and book-sellers had sold sexually explicit books. But now, crime was down by 50% and the dirty book-stores had been closed or at least the books were prohibited. The admiral confided in her that he saw Denmark as his second fatherland (Arvad, 1935b).
von Levetzow apparently was charmed by Arvad, and let her visit Berlin prisons (I have seen no accounts of these visits by Arvad, however), and introduced her both to Himmler and to his daughters, who became her friends. Later, Arvad was to make the amazing statement to the FBI that von Levetzow was her uncle (he was probably not, but the sources have different opinions on this matter) and that she stayed with von Levetzow while in Berlin (Hamilton, 1992). If the latter is true it is likewise amazing.
Women in Nazi Germany. Arvad published three articles about Nazi women. Two were interviews with actress Emmy Sonnemann, the fiancé of Hermann Göring, and Joseph Göbbels=s wife Magda (Arvad, 1935a, 1935d), the third a more general article about women in Germany (Arvad, 1935e). The latter article also featured photographs of 4 prominent Nazi women: Frau Dr. Göbbels, Frau Emmy Göring, Frau Gertrud Scholls-Klink (official Führerin of German women), and the famous film director Leni Riefenstahl.
What are women in the Third Reich like? Well, says Arvad, do not expect to see a lot of women with heavy make-up and eccentric Paris clothes. On the contrary, it is striking how many intelligent, open-minded women with low-heel shoes that you meet, women with great energy and a clear conscience of goals. Frau Dr. Göbbels, who is unusually beautiful and intelligent, tells Arvad that women need not be MP's to serve the fatherland. A woman can pull the strings behind the scene.
Frau Scholls-Klink is a small woman with blue eyes radiant of iron energy. She is the happy mother of 6 wonderful children, but she raises not only them, but ALL young women of the Reich. She leads the Women's Work Service where all German young women must serve before they are 25.
Arvad visits a work camp for young girls. There she meets with a group of happy, healthy girls, whose eyes seem to say: "Isn't life just wonderful"? (Apparently only their eyes said so for there is no mentioning of any interview with any of them).
Leni Riefenstahl is briefly mentioned in the article but does not seem to have been interviewed by Arvad. At any rate, it is stressed that she just got a prize for the movie "Triumph of the will" (the well-known propaganda piece about the 1934 Nürnberg party rally) and that she has an important position as Party Film Consultant.
How did Emmy Sonnemann manage to attract the important and strong General and Prime Minister Hermann Göring? Well, the answer is all but obvious: she is a woman full of grace and charm. Besides, the Führer himself introduced her to Göring. (We are not told how she happened to be a friend of Hitler's).
Emmy admires greatly not only the General but also his previous, now deceased, wife Karin and keeps Karin's portrait standing beside Göring's. Is she happy? Of course, she is only sorry that her mother did not live to see her marital success. Emmy Göring's first goal in life is to make her husband forget his political problems while he is at home, but she is not a background figure. The General lets her represent the country, and she does so gracefully, and she is very popular. But she had to give up her career after marriage, of course. As an additional piece of information, we learn that the General is a great friend of animals. The Görings used to have a lion at home but it grew to be a little too big, so Hermann donated it to the Berlin zoo. It is about to have cubs, and the happy couple will adopt one of them. The positive contact with the Görings earned Arvad an invitation to their wedding which she attended (Hamilton, 1992).
In a second interview, Arvad pays a visit to Joseph and Magda Göbbels's beautiful home (Arvad, 1935a). (Lots of flowers, very pretty). Charming children are introduced. Magda has intelligent eyes. Her opinion is that a woman's place is in her home, but she will still have influence, due to her female intuition, in pulling strings. (Göring=s wife to be, Emmy Sonnemann, had the same idea, as we have just seen). Hitler is a frequent guest, he is a genius and a man with a heart for those who are weak and suffer.
Meeting the Führer. The first of the two interviews with Hitler took an hour according to the published account (Arvad, 1935c). She had to work for months to get a chance to interview him. One day, Dr. Göbbels suddenly sent a message: "The door is open, come immediately". And she went there. How should she greet him? Do you say "Heil Hitler!" to himself? She did it, and he seemed pleased. She sits down, and Hitler's gaze is upon her. His eyes are full of the goodness of his heart and radiate forcefulness.
How about his private life?
"Well, there is not time for much of it. Just my little house in Bavaria, the only thing I own. It must now be expanded because of my duties. Why are you a vegetarian and a teetotaller? Well, animal corpses are a strange kind of human food, they just give a brief kick, like alcohol. As a vegetarian, you live longer and in a better condition. Look at the lion, it can eat half a calf, but can only run for half an hour. But an elephant can with no problems run for six hours. But anyway, those of us who took part in the war do not get to be old - it is incredible how young people are when they die."
How did you become a great speaker, Herr Reichskansler? Were you born with it or did you learn it?
"Both. You do not quickly realize for yourself that you have such a talent, only after long practice. But the ability must be developed and practiced. Have you seen much of Germany, by the way?
Yes, I have seen all of it, so to say, but why are the mine workers such devoted National Socialists? Their life seems horrible.
"You are wrong, they love their work, in spite of its risks. They are like the soldiers of the front who feel that they protect all others.
How about women's position in the Reich? Could there be a woman minister?
"No, no, absolutely not. They must be real women. We raise healthy, successful and physically trained men for them, what more can a woman ask for?
When they part, the Führer smiles heartily and in an excellent mood he says: -
"You are really nice. Next time you are in Berlin you may visit me.
The second interview took place in connection with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (Arvad, 1936b), in his gigantic, but sparsely furnitured, office. Hitler was once more the easiest person in the world to interview. He willingly answered all questions.
About the Olympics - he was not quite satisfied. Germany would have needed more than 3 years to prepare. Anyway, he was very impressed with Japanese runners. And he was especially proud of the German women's achievements. But should not women stay at home?
"No, no, absolutely not! Innumerable women have prominent positions in Germany, we only wish that they keep to such jobs where their womanhood is adequate. I recently read about a case in the USA where a female sheriff was to execute a criminal. This would not be acceptable in the Reich - but sports and suitable work are OK for women.
A large finishing section of the interview deals with the theme of optimism, which Hitler brought up.
"Optimism is necessary for all important projects, and it is the characteristic of youth. I got all my important ideas when I was quite young. I study history. Only optimists had any importance in history.
I have many plans on a 10- or even 20-year basis. Perhaps I shall not live to see them realized. Germany has probably more plans than any other nation in Europe. But to carry them through, I must have peace!
But have you not already carried through a lot?
"Yes, indeed. The people loves me... You should join me in my limosine, and see how the people loves me...
Do you have a private wish?
"Yes, to travel. But there is no time for that... I saw the coastline of Denmark, it was so pretty. Yes, travel... that is what I want to do.
Was she a Nazi and a spy?
Arvad comes through in these articles as a great admirer of the Nazis, but not necessarily as a Nazi herself. In contrast to Swedes Böök and Landquist, she was however clearly anti-semitic. But there is no way to tell just how close to a Nazi she was, because she only scratches the surface of things and stays in a descriptive mode. She refrains from any criticism, of course, and she does convey an impression that all is well in Germany, very well indeed. People are happy and goal oriented. Crime is going down, etc etc. The brutality of the regime, the anti-semitism and the oppressive treatment of political opposition, as well as the very aggressive foreign policies and frantic armament - these things seem just not to exist. The articles could as well have been published in a traditional bourgeois ladies= magazine, with an interest in the "human" and "psychological" side of things. In Hitler, who was about to become one of the worst mass murderers of all times and at the time of the Arvad interviews already was responsible for many murders, she only saw the idealism of a German patriot, a good heart and great forcefulness and charm.
It is striking that the articles give so little information. An alleged hour with Hitler, the first interview, is summarized with his answers to four or five questions. These answers could not have taken more than 10 minutes for him to make and for her to write down, at the most. One wonders what happened in the other 50 minutes. At any rate, she and Hitler were on friendly terms and she was given a seat in the Führer's box at the Stadium during the 1936 Olympics (Hamilton, 1992). Her explanation that this was because she was a foreign correspondent cannot be taken seriously. There were surely hundreds of such correspondents in Berlin at the time, who were not given a seat in Führer's box.
Information about Arvad is sketchy and inconsistent at important points. Was von Levetzow really her uncle? That should be possible to find out, but so far different answers to the question have been given. Maybe he was her uncle and maybe he did introduce her to Nazi leaders. Why else would she stay with him? (Pardon the naive question). Arvad may have been a mythomaniac. She apparently lied about having been elected Miss World in 1929 (she got the 4th place in that competition in Paris). Arvad's erotic escapades were many and she had at least one more lover than JFK at the time of their romance, besides being married to Fejos. It is also stated that both Hitler and Göring enjoyed her erotic favors (Anonymous, 1991).
Whether she was a spy or agent of some kind cannot be established with any certainty. Some writers, including Hamilton, deny the suspicions against her entirely but with little justification. Several US agencies and politicians, including President Roosevelt, were quite suspicious of her at the time, and there are indications that she was deeply involved with the top Nazi leadership and that she worked for Wenner-Gren, who also was very much involved with the Germans. On the other hand, her behavior in the USA was not very smart if she was an agent. She openly supported Germany and voiced strong prejudice against Jews. She had been known to be a friend of Hitler's, information easily available and indeed the reason why the FBI got interested in her in the first place. Spies and agents must surely be much more covert than that.
Olof Lagercrantz in China
In 1970, the editor of Sweden's leading daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter (DN), traveled to PRC and then published a number of articles in that newspaper. These articles make interesting reading today, 30 years later, in the light of knowledge that we now have about the events that took place in China in those turbulent times. The articles are available in German (Lagercrantz, 1971) and Spanish (Lagercrantz, 1972) translation.
The name of the traveler was Olof Lagercrantz (born in 1911) and he played an important role in the cultural life of Sweden for decades, both as a journalist and as an author. Lagercrantz had been a cultural editor of DN under the legendary editorship of Herbert Tingsten. Tingsten was a well-known professor of political science before accepting the job as editor and, under his directorship, the newspaper became a very outspoken and influential liberal voice in Swedish political and cultural debate. When he retired in 1960 Lagercrantz was appointed his successor. Up to that point, Lagercrantz had kept a low profile in politics - he was mostly known as a poet and a literary critic - but that was to change. Under his rule, the newspaper - still officially labeled "liberal" - was to assume a leftist, often extreme leftist, position.
The China articles constitute something of a climax of the leftist vogue of DN, and at the time Swedish society as a whole was turning left. Its new and young Prime Minister, Olof Palme, had made his career a few years earlier as an outspoken critic of US policies in Vietnam, and was an ardent supporter of Castro's Cuba. The trade unions had been quickly radicalized in the end of the 1960's and salary differences were about to be drastically decreased. Palme was perfectly fitted to follow and to lead this movement, and DN under Lagercrantz as the leading newspaper with enormous influence on debate and opinion formation in Sweden, was the perfect companion.
Indeed, Lagercrantz seems to have admired Palme enormously. He wrote a review of a book published by Palme in 1974. Almost all commentators on Palme have seen him as controversial and polarizing. Not so Lagercrantz. In a review full of glowing admiration he wrote that "Olof Palme is, for better or for worse and to some extent against his own nature, the beloved leader we have created and supported throughout the centuries. He is basically the leader that we all want". But whatever Palme was, he was no uniting force. It took a complete lack of reality contact to see him that way. The China articles illustrate the same blindness.
It may be added that the two Swedish television channels of the time were under government control and also leftist (especially TV2, a then fairly new channel), as much of the rest of the print media (there were important exceptions, of course) and the radio, also government controlled. What Lagercrantz wrote about China was thus placed in a very prominent position, and probably given much credibility. Opinion polls have shown that Swedes do trust the quality newspapers and government TV and radio, while they distrust politicians, the labor leaders and tabloids. DN is a prime example of a Swedish quality newspaper.
Lagercrantz's China project should be seen also in the light of Jan Myrdal's earlier and very successful writings about red China. Myrdal was one of the first Western authors and journalists allowed to visit Mao's China for an extended period of time, and he did so in the beginning of the 60's. His book (Myrdal, 1963, 1965) was translated to many languages, and widely believed to give a correct picture of the situation in China. In hindsight, it is a naive distortion of reality, and its author shows little or no insight into the plight of the Chinese under communist dictatorship. In particular, the disastrous famine resulting from Mao's failed "great leap" of 1960-61 (Becker, 1996) is nowhere apparent in the book, which depicts rural life in China as altogether positive. However, this is a criticism that was not often heard in the 1960's and Myrdal was to embark on a very successful career as an author and journalist. In 1968, he spoke with great success to the radicalized students in Sweden, and he has enjoyed, since the 1960's and up to today, easy access to all major Swedish media, in spite of growing skepticism to his Maoist and Stalinist world views.
Setting the stage. The first article was published 10 November 1970 (Lagercrantz, 1970a). On the first page of DN that day, the heading reads "Smiling is self defense in China of togetherness (gemenskap)". In the article Lagercrantz focuses on how many smiling people he had seen, speculating that smiling is necessary to cope with all the frictions among 800 million people in the largest country of the world, and on his interpretation that "people" meant so much more in China than in the West. He wrote
"The decisive difference between China and our world is that the concrete people, as they go and stand on their two legs, mean so enormously much more than with us, and that this is experienced as coming home to something known and recently past". (p. 3).
It seems that this impression was related to the lack of technology in China, and to Mao's famous dictum that the atom bomb was a "paper tiger". Thus, the stage was set. In China, people are smiling and friendly, and the value of human beings in that country is enormous. This notion seems to be a pure fantasy product.
Barefoot journalists. Lagercrantz visited a newspaper in Shanghai (Lagercrantz, 1970d) and was told that journalists now must spend 3 months working in agriculture, where they would train "barefoot journalists" to report to the newspaper. All is politics, and rightly so. If you are asked "How are you" and answer "fine, thanks" you have revealed you bourgeois mentality. You should have answered something like "Fine, thanks to my studies of the writings of Chairman Mao". Ridiculous? Not at all. We live in the West, says Lagercrantz, in a state of false innocence. We do many things that seem innocent - playing with our children, washing our cars etc - but in fact are not because they imply that we abstain from working for a better world - "if you do not hoist a red flag you hoist a white flag".
Is the press allowed to criticize the party? Yes, of course. Examples are given when the newspaper sided with workers in a factory who had criticized the management. It was not made clear in what sense this showed that the party could be criticized.
The happy peasants. The rural areas in China are alive, and there is never a boring moment (Lagercrantz, 1970e). All those things that happen seem either happy, productive or slight mishaps. A very good harvest is in the making, the ninth in a row. Irrigation works are very impressive.
The people's commune "October" is a good, representative example. In 5 years livestock increased 61%, number of tractors 425%, and income in fixed prices 90%. Productivity increased 19%. These figures are in all probability representative for all of China - there is no famine in China.
Still, it is primitive. But, who are we to criticize? Just consider all the risks of the way of life in the West. Every second death threatens our children in a traffic which is more and more intense, and air and water are polluted. All this is due to the market economy. But in China, there can never be unemployment. It will not be allowed. The large cities are a threat to the West, but in China young people are happy to move to the rural areas and work for the common good. Besides, the Chinese are convinced that it is not Destiny which rules, but that humans can change things. Indeed, Mao is the most optimistic person in the world. China will create a new human being and a new society.
Secondary education. Lagercrantz visited high school no 23 in Beijing (Lagercrantz, 1970b). The students were sent to work in factories and communes and there they were graded for entry to a university. The school worked hard to obliterate the destructive influence of Liu-Shao Chi, which had created a rift between workers and intellectuals. Indeed, says Lagercrantz, the growing gap between theory and practice is one of the most serious problems of our civilization. China tries to solve that problem in a radical manner.
Lagercrantz grants that before coming to China, he had seen their strategy in this respect as bizarre and abstract, distant. Now, seeing it concretely, it seemed natural, reasonable and sensible. School subjects should be organized in direct relation to practical life and the students should work in factories tied to the schools. This was done at High school no 23 with excellent results.
Barefoot doctors. Medical doctors were of course also subjected to the education prescribed by the Cultural revolution, they were sent to work in the fields and factories and in this way, says Lagercrantz, they learned many things they could use to improve their medical practice. However, Mao had also prescribed that students be accepted from primary schools for brief education of perhaps 3 months, then sent to the communes as "barefoot doctors". They could then learn from the people about natural medicine, acupuncture etc. Intellectual qualifications take too much place in the selection of future doctors, according to Lagercrantz. These people do not understand their patients, they are too distant. Besides, they have no empathy. Empathy should be the criterion for selection of medical students.
It has been "proven" that the Chinese have succeeded to wipe out almost entirely cholera, bubonic plague and smallpox. The Chinese experiments with medical care appeared to be eminently sensible in the eyes of Lagercrantz. "Coming to China with our prejudices and arrogance is decidedly not called for. What is called for is to listen humbly" (Lagercrantz, 1970c).
These articles by Lagercrantz are a set of rather typical examples of the writings of a fellow traveler. The official picture that the regime wants to communicate is readily accepted, with a few token reservations. Absolutely no negative information is anywhere provided in these articles and the tremendous suffering of the Chinese people under the cultural revolution (Jiaqi & Gao, 1996) seems not to have existed at all.
On the other hand, Western society is subjected to serious criticism. The environment is being destroyed by pollution, it is claimed, but nowhere is it mentioned that similar problems may be at hand in China. Of course, the Chinese environmental problems are now known to be enormous while they are under at least some degree of control in the industrialized west.
The rhetoric and reality distortions of the writings summarized here are striking. Human misery was simply not seen, nor were oppression and cruelty. The propaganda picture was swallowed immediately and without any questioning at all by Lagercrantz and Arvad, with only a few mild reservations by Böök and Landquist. On the other hand, Landquist even managed to visit a concentration camp and find it to be mostly a rather pleasant place, maybe slightly depressing because it was so boring, but not really bad. He apparently believed every word of his hosts when they assured him that no physical "punishments" ever were given to the inmates, that they were in fact prohibited. And the soup they were fed tasted so good.
The rhetorical tricks used by the authors are only too obvious. There may be some things that seem to us to be undesirable, but who are we to judge? We must remember the special background of these countries. And things are surely developing in a positive direction. We can already see strong indications of that. So many, many positive things exist. Why ponder on the few drawbacks?
There are some interesting similarities among the four fellow travelers I have presented here. Widely different in some background characteristics, they did share an upper class and establishment basis. They had easy access to major media. They wrote well. They were obviously quite intelligent people. Yet they came out with conclusions that were outrageously wrong. Why?
In the cases of Böök, Landquist and Lagercrantz you can discern a discontent with the society to which they belonged. Lagercrantz is quite explicit about this, Landquist somewhat less but he surely has an axe to grind with a liberal establishment whose criticism of Germany he resents deeply. Arvad really does not tell, but her background was that of an unstable person, having eloped with an Arab diplomat (or student?) at the age of 16 and under pressure from a very ambitious mother. It is not unlikely that she shared similar attitudes toward the society from which she came. In her female charm, she had a very powerful weapon, not available to the middle-aged men. She was also the only one to get an interview with the Führer himself, and to have a personal relationship established with the leading circles. On the other hand, her journalism was more superficial and dealt mostly with personal details rather than politics, while it still by no means excluded politics altogether.
In all four cases we see a fascination with an alleged unity of society and people working for the common good. They were dismayed, in other words, with the divisions and conflicts and egotism they saw in modern Western society. They longed for unity and idealism. All four fellow travelers were also strongly attracted to autocratic leadership. Hitler and Mao were wise men in their eyes, wise and strong and benevolent. They saw no despotism or fanaticism in them. There was probably a longing for deferring to authority (Prilleltensky & Gonick, 1996).
Nazi and communist thinking is frequently concerned with consipracy theories of various kinds. For the Nazis, the Jews were the prime example of a group plotting to destroy their world. For the communists, similar anti-semitic thoughts are connected to notions about Jewish capitalists and their alleged conspiracies. The tendency to construct such paranoic belief structures is probably connected with a feeling of alienation and powerlessness (Abalakina?Paap at al., 1999), and general suspiciousness has been found to be related to enhanced risk beliefs (Sjöberg, 2005). The feeling of being powerless and that society is run by upper echelons with little regard for the common man is wide-spread (Sjöberg, 1996, 1997), even in a democratic country such as Sweden.
The lure of fascism is well described by Griffiths (Griffiths, 1980). The communist state established by Lenin was undoubtedly a source of great concern to the Right, and Fascism seemed like a successful way of channeling the collectivist urges of the workers, tying them to nationalist causes and at the same time preserving the existing economic power structure. How could it otherwise be done? In the USA and UK, and in Scandinavia, there were other solutions. Representative democracy provided for the development of a power position of reformist socialist movements, and the beginnings of the welfare state could be seen. These reformist movements, the Social Democrats, were however not quite as likely to accept the economical existing power structure and the established variation in wealth, and were ready to legislate important changes by means of taxation. They also tended to be provocative in their anti-militaristic and anti-establishment rhetoric. Their democratic credibility was at times seen as doubtful.
"If there is one fact, in relation to political behavior, which has emerged from this study, it is that most people take their political stances from ignorance or from carelessness". (p. 378).
Only a direct threat to their own society could alert the British to the realities of the Nazi regime and its brutality and ruthlessness, according to him. This may be part of the truth, though he did not really study "most people" but various members of elites who had access to media or could otherwise publish their views. Yet, the negligent attitudes to the very strange and different regime of the Nazis, or such far-away and exotic places as China or Cuba, could also be dependent on other factors than ignorance and carelessness. The very nature of the Nazi regime was something new and quite unlikely, especially since Germany was a nation with an advanced and well established culture. The nature of the regime evolved step by step, and even if Hitler's rhetoric was frank enough it could easily be dismissed as just that, as mere rhetoric. After all, German and Austrian politicians had been heard before to make mortal threats especially towards the Jews but not much had come out of that. It was easy to see such threats as just attempts to whip up support among the prejudiced masses.
Griffiths sums up three types of indulgence towards Nazi antisemitism: Germany as a special case which cannot be judged by our standards, it is much worse somewhere else (particularly in Russia), and it does not really happen - or if it happens it is not so bad, after all. The latter can be seen as an example of what we have called Double Denial (Sjöberg & Montgomery, 1999).
Caute (Caute, 1988) published a very detailed account of fellow travelers to communist dictatorships. In many ways, the stories of these people are quite similar to those who traveled to see the wonders of Nazism. But there were also differences. Caute traces the leftist fellow traveler motivations back to the Enlightenment and the cult of Reason. It was all about
""a return to the eighteenth-century vision of a rational, educated and scientific society based on the maximization of resources and the steady improvement (if not perfection) of human nature" (p. 264)
The collectivistic and undemocratic policies of Communists and Nazis were similar, and the Nazis were to a large extent also involved in a modernistic and anti-capitalist project justified as the triumph of Reason. But in their case, there was also a romantic and occult strand (Goodrick-Clarke, 1985). Cult of the Will, and the National character or Race can not to be found as easily in the Communist doctrine. The Marxist-Leninist doctrine proclaimed class war, the Nazis favored national unity in a war against other "races". Maybe the choice of which type of fellow traveler you became was, in the 1930s, mostly a question of ethnic preferences and aversions. Böök was clearly first and foremost a great lover of all things German and that made him into a spokesman for the Nazis. To take another example, Norwegian author Knut Hamsun hated the British and the Americans, and that made him a friend of Germans and Nazis (Hansen, 1978).
The fellow travelers to the USSR in the 1930s were fascinated by what they saw as triumphs of Planning and Reason, and the privileged position of scientists. Indeed, many of the travelers were themselves academics who had been frustrated back home by the lack of funds and recognition awarded to science and scientists. They dreamed of a future society ruled by philosopher-kings, where greedy capitalists no longer had a place. Education should be dominated by Science and Technology, not the traditional Humanities. They yearned for "power, social relevance, status and prestige" (Caute, 1988). The populace would hurry from work to the open meetings of the Academy of Science:
"In the body of the hall the proletariat, fresh from factory, plant, technical school, docks. On the spacious stage file the academicians amid thunderous applause from the gathering". (p. 281).
It is amazing and frightening to see how some of the best minds of a generation could fall prey to the simple propaganda trick of tyrants, simply because they were flattered and felt the sweet smell of power and prestige, and because they had naive beliefs about the nature of humans and society.
Beliefs about society and politics have an unbearable flexibility. You may construe any notion that you wish, no matter how absurd, and cling to it. All the pertinent facts are usually subject to various interpretations, or sources can be questioned. In such a situation, wishful thinking becomes a powerful force, and people mutually reinforce each others' reality distortions. In an interesting recent book, dictators themselves were interviewed and found to exhibit the same kind of reality distortion (Orizio, 2003).
The newspapers in the end of August 1939 are full of wishful speculations that, after all, Hitler wanted no war and was not about to start one. Who could want a war? Hitler has promised that he loves peace, and who are we to question what a great statesman says, to paraphrase a Swedish MP in a debate of his country's defense budget. In April 1940, the Norwegian government received many warnings about an imminent German invasion, but chose to ignore them and did not mobilize its defense, instead ordered an investigation of what it would cost to do so. Stalin, as is well known, also received many warnings about a German invasion in June of 1941 but chose not to believe any of them.
Did fellow travelers cause any harm? Illusions are harmful, and these people did what they could to create and sustain the propaganda myths of their hosts. In some cases, the harm may be intensified by the fact that the traveler is in a unique position to give a credible account of what is happening in a country. Swedish diplomats, most notably Sweden's then ambassador to PRC, Kaj Björk, did much to stop the truth about the killings in Kampuchea to be believed in the Western world, in the end of the 1970's (Lindquist, 1999). (The Swedish diplomats were the first Westerners allowed to visit the country after the communist rise to power). Interestingly, he still, some 25 years later, insists that things were not so bad under the Khmer Rouge, and speaks now about, possibly, some 10 000 murders - a very small percentage of credible estimates published on this topic. AIt was necessary to have a flexible attitude, not to be a "rigid democrat". There could not be so many killings, because there was a shortage of labor. People always die of illness and old age. -- Such nonsense was uttered by Sweden's ambassador to the PRC.
It is characteristic of political opinions that they vary greatly. Are some better and more realistic than others? Can we say that the fellow travelers were unrealistic or had corrupt and distorted views of reality? The answer must take into account what they could have known at the time of their writing, not what we know now even if current knowledge is important in putting their viewpoints in a perspective. Landquist could have found out more about concentration camps than he did, for example, but he chose to be content with the version that his hosts presented. If he had any doubts, he did not present them to his readers. Arvad surely must have known something about the dark side of Adolf Hitler, since the dealings of the Nazi regime had been given wide publicity for years when she met Hitler, and much that had been written about him and the Nazis was highly critical and deeply disturbing to all but the most devoted supporters and sycophants. Yet she chose to portray him as honest and charming and very intelligent and did not hint with a word that there might be another side to the man. These are just a few examples.
It is obvious that the fellow travelers were distorting reality not only from the point of hindsight but also on the basis of their times and the knowledge that was then available. Distortions, then. But were they cynical or honest in the sense that they did believe what they were writing? I believe they were honest in the latter sense of the word. They had distorted opinions and closed their eyes to obvious oppression and cruelty and corruption, but once they had done so they loved the view of the world that they saw and they believed in it. This is the true danger of the flexibility of belief and this is why it may be termed unbearable. People can believe ANYTHING, and tend to develop consistent world views that support their notions to the very end, no matter how bizarre or distorted and unfounded they are. They search for others who share their opinions, and such people can usually be found. Once found, they provide first hand social support which is quite effective as reinforcement. The sects that are the result of this process then form platforms for continued support of beliefs in the unlikely and the grotesque. There are similarities between political and religious beliefs, often noted. But religion has few contacts with the real word and deals with a wholly postulated reality, and with written testimony by people dead long ago. Current sightings of the supernatural are the subject of endless scrutiny and doubt and can never be proven to be anything but hallucinations.
The fellow travelers have typically been slow to retract their distorted world views. Since belief structures are so open and flexible, it is easy to come up with arguments to justify beliefs even in the face of obvious facts that support the opposite views. Jan Myrdal is still arguing in favor of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and prefers to believe that the mass murder stories are just propaganda lies which are part of a giant conspiracy. The revisionist version of the Holocaust is that it never happened to begin with, or if it happened it did so without Hitler's knowledge. And so on. Creating a closed belief structure is not hard, and once in place, it tends to stay. Understanding this process may help us to keep our sanity, even if it also makes us pessimistic.
Abalakina-Paap, M., Stephan, W. G., Craig, T., & Gregory, W. L. (1999). Beliefs in conspiracies. Political Psychology, 20, 637-647.
Anonymous. (1991). John F. Kennedy and the Nazi spy: MPI Home Video MP 6068.
Arnold-Foster, W. (1933). Germany's concentration camps. Nineteenth Century and After(November), 559.
Arvad, I. (1935a, 31 July). Alt for damerne. Berlingske Aftenavis, pp. 6.
Arvad, I. (1935b, 2 July 1935). Berlins politi-praesident gik i Östre Borgerdyds. Berlingske Aftenavis.
Arvad, I. (1935c, 30 November 1935). En time hos Adolf Hitler. Berlingske Tidende.
Arvad, I. (1935d, 22 March 1935). Hos Tysklands förste dame. Berlingske Tidende.
Arvad, I. (1935e, 8 December 1935). Kvinden i det tredje rige. Berlingske Tidende.
Arvad, I. (1936a). Dr. Fejos vendte i aftes hjem fra Afrika med enestaaende films. Berlingske Tidende.
Arvad, I. (1936b, 5 September 1936). Kun optimister skaber historie. Berlingske Aftenavis.
Becker, J. (1996). Hungry ghosts. Mao's secret famine. New York: The Free Press.
Borgnäs, L. (2006). En iskall vind drog genom Sverige. Mordet på Olof Palme. Stockholm: Norstedts.
Böök, F. (1916). Resa till Frankrike 1915. Stockholm: Norstedt.
Böök, F. (1933a). An eyewitness in Germany. London.
Böök, F. (1933b). Hitlers Tyskland. Sockholm: Norstedts.
Böök, F. (1934). Hitlers Deutschland von aussen. Munich: Deutschen Akademie.
Böök, F. (1940). Tyskt väsen och svensk lösen. Malmö: Dagens böcker.
Caute, D. (1988). The fellow-travellers: intellectural friends of communism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Goodrick-Clarke, N. (1985). The occult roots of nazism. Secret Aryan cults and their influence on Nazi ideology. New York: New York University Press.
Griffiths, R. (1980). Fellow travellers of the right: British enthusiasts for Nazi Germany 1933-9. London: Constable.
Hamilton, N. (1992). JFK. Reckless youth. New York: Random House.
Hansen, T. (1978). Processen mot Hamsun. Oslo: Gyldendal.
Jiaqi, Y., & Gao, G. (1996). Turbulent decade. A history of the cultural revolution. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Kershaw, I. (1998). Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris. New York: Norton.
Lagercrantz, O. (1970a, 10 November). Leendet självförsvar i gemenskapens Kina. Dagens Nyheter, pp. 1, 3.
Lagercrantz, O. (1970b, 18 November). Läroverk har egna fabriker. Dagens Nyheter, pp. 1, 20.
Lagercrantz, O. (1970c, 25 November). Medkänsla bästa merit för läkare. Dagens Nyheter, pp. 1, 3.
Lagercrantz, O. (1970d, 12 November). Minsta ord från partiet stor nyhet. Dagens Nyheter, pp. 1, 28.
Lagercrantz, O. (1970e, 15 November). Primitivt jordbruk - hårt arbete. Dagens Nyheter, pp. 1, 11.
Lagercrantz, O. (1971). China-Report: Bericht einer Reise. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
Lagercrantz, O. (1972). Reportaje sobre China. Barcelona: Anagrama.
Landquist, J. (1933a, 31 October 1933). De röda fanornas Tyskland. Aftonbladet, pp. 4, 19.
Landquist, J. (1933b, 26 October 1933). Ett besök i ett tyskt koncentrationsläger. Aftonbladet, pp. 4.
Landquist, J. (1933c, 11 July 1933). Fredrik Böök om Hitlers Tyskland. Aftonbladet.
Landquist, J. (1933d, 7 November 1933). Tysklands utträde ur N. F. Aftonbladet, pp. 4, 13.
Landquist, J. (1933e, 25 October 1933). Vi vilja freden och vinna vad vi vilja. Aftonbladet, pp. 4,13.
Landquist, J. (1933f, 21 October 1933). Över molnen på Hindenburgs vinge. Aftonbladet, pp. 2.
Lindquist, B. (1999, 11 November). Björk spred tvivel om morden. Svenska Dagbladet, pp. 2.
Lööw, H. (1990). Hakkorset och Wasakärven : en studie av nationalsocialismen i Sverige 1924-1950. Göteborg: University of Göteborg.
Myrdal, J. (1963). Rapport från kinesisk by. Stockholm: Norstedts.
Myrdal, J. (1965). Report from a Chinese village. New York: Pantheon books.
Nordin, S. (1994). Fredrik Böök. En levnadsteckning. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.
Orizio, R. (2003). Talk of the Devil: Encounters with seven dictators. New York: Walker & Co.
Östergren, B. (1984). Vem är Olof Palme? Stockholm: Timbro.
Prilleltensky, I., & Gonick, L. (1996). Polities change, oppression remains: On the psychology and politics of oppression. Political Psychology, 17, 127-148.
Ray, J. J. (2006). Hitler was a socialist. Accessed 14 April, 2006.
Sjöberg, L. (1996). Riskuppfattning och inställning till svenskt medlemskap i EU. (Risk perception and attitude to Swedish membership in the EU). Stockholm: Styrelsen för Psykologiskt Försvar.
Sjöberg, L. (1997). Valet till EU-parlamentet 1995. En socialpsykologisk studie. (The election to the EU Parliament in 1995. A social psychological study). Stockholm: Styrelsen för psykologiskt försvar.
Sjöberg, L. (2005). The perceived risk of terrorism. Risk Management: An International Journal, 7, 43-61.
Sjöberg, L., & Montgomery, H. (1999). Double denial in attitude formation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 606-621.
St. John, B. (1997, 12 September). Hitler photo focuses on twist of fate. The Dallas Morning News, pp. 25A.
Thulstrup, Å. (1941). Fredrik Böök som politisk skriftställare. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Men as wimps or vicious villains, women as innocent victims
By: Lennart Sjöberg
(Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. E-mail: email@example.com)
Gender-based prejudice is an important factor in human misery. Its roots are manifold, but one is found in media, in particular in entertainment movies. In the present paper, several movies, conceived in a misoandric mood, are discussed. Women are depicted as victims and good, men as perpetrators and bad. This stereotypical theme is so common that it is not even noticed and it is commonly accepted without reflection. Causes of contemporary misoandry are discussed and it is suggested that they reside in the economic and political conditions, together with the basic psychobiology of love and sex, which have fundamentally changed the conditions of family life in most of the USA and Europe. Reflection on these conditions will not change anything but understanding prejudice is better than not even recognizing how prevalent it is.
The stereotypes of men and women are factors in gender-based prejudice. They are present everywhere: in media, in common-sense thinking and talk, in schools, homes and places of work. In the present paper I focus on the movies where the stereotypes are, at the same time, obvious and invisible. The invisible messages are particularly persuasive and therefore dangerous. The much-celebrated Dutch movie Antonia (1995), which won an Oscar for best foreign movie in 1995, is a very cleverly done piece. Here, women are strong and very clever, even brilliant, and men are either brutal criminals, stupid wimps or mentally disturbed. Marriage is out of the question, of course, and the male role in reproduction, while unfortunately still necessary, is minimized. The movie is extremely clear in its prejudices, so very obvious in its distortions of how real men and women are – yet it was given great praise by critics. On the web site www.imdb.com we read that it is “An immensely charming tribute to life”. More examples will now be mentioned, their structural causes and effects discussed.
Since a few decades, views of what is male and female are changing. Men and male sexuality are depicted as suspect and malevolent, women as victims. The trend is very obvious in the world of the cinema and clever movie creators do a lot to persuade us about the validity of their values and worldviews. In such movies as Thelma and Louise (1991) women have to resort to violence in order to defend themselves against male abuse. In more brutal variations such as Natural born killers (1994) or the French, much celebrated movie, Baise-moi (2002) violence is exerted without discrimination towards any advances from men towards the heroines of the story. The movie industry is a reflection of the societal values and anxieties, and therefore changing dramatically over time, as a study of silent movies from the time period 1915-1927 shows (Shrock, 1997).
It would be easy to make a long list of movies, which exploit the theme male villains/female victims. Let me take two more examples. Crazy in Alabama (1999) is a black comedy, which starts with a woman murdering her husband, decapitating his body and then carrying around his head in a hatbox. In the end she is brought to court and we learn that the brutal husband certainly deserved to die. The nice old man who is the presiding judge assures us that he has "never sent a lady to the chair, and never will", apparently regardless of what the ladies in question have done. The law is different for men and women, good. The heroine gets a very light sentence and is free to join her lovely and sweet children, whose perfect mother she clearly is.
Movies often exhibit a strong dislike for men. In Glengarry Glen Ross, a group of men are depicted as fiercely competitive, deceptive and ruthless (Greenbaum, 1999); the movie (1992) was huge success. The male malefactor is frequently a pedophile, often abusing his own children. Antonia also develops that theme, which is now more or less routine. More simple Hollywood productions often use incest as a major or supplementary theme, possibly combined with some form of superstition. The movie The gift (2000) is about a clairvoyant fortune-teller who solves a murder case, of course in spite of condescending and aggressive attitudes from male police officers and lawyers. A mentally disturbed car mechanic who is her friend and client provides a supplementary theme. In a central scene, he ties his elderly father to a chair and whips him, then pours gasoline on him and burns him to death, all as retribution for sexual abuse he was subjected to as a child. In Natural born killers the murderous behavior of the heroine is explained by sexual abuse by her father. Murdering first the father satisfies her retribution urge -and that of the audience -, and then also the mother (gasoline again), uttering the standard line to all these mothers who were accomplices: "You did nothing".
In the world of the cinema, all clichés are true and all prejudice realistic. When did we see a movie where a fortune-teller kept getting things wrong? When did we see a movie where a woman had destructive motives and the man was a victim? Yes, there are some movies like that, but note carefully, they are rare and usually do not give the whole burden of guilt to the female perpetrator. In Fatal Attraction (1987) a woman is stalking a man, and she is increasingly unstable and desperate. Why? The man had enjoyed a one-night stand with her and then dropped her. He now has to live with the consequences of his immoral behavior. In The hand that rocks the cradle (1992) all misery is traced to a male scoundrel, a gynecologist who is abusing his patients. One patient reports him and he is exposed, and commits suicide. His widow then seeks retribution. She wants a child, just like the woman in Fatal Attraction, she is after love and children and a family, nothing else.
Thus, Hollywood usually finds excuses for female criminal and aggressive acts, even of the most macabre kind. Clearly, women do not hunger for power, money and sex, as men do. If men maltreat them they may become unstable and, rightly of course, seek retribution, but they are never evil or lecherous. They are victims. A book by Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young (Nathanson & Young, 2001) gives many more examples. Nathanson and Young also point out that the phenomenon is so common that it is taken for granted; nobody notices and nobody objects.
It is all very strange. Female aggression is depicted as justified and admirable and always as a response to oppression by men. Male aggression, however, is an outrage especially if sexually motivated and directed towards women and children, which it routinely is. Male abuse of children leads to enormous personality deformations of these children when they grow up, many seem to become serial killers, and of course they become pedophiles themselves and attack their own children. This is the vicious circle of male sexual oppression.
Movies and popular culture in general give a very simplistic picture of the male villains that they so often depict. Screenwriters simply tune in with the common prejudices of their time, hence reinforcing and spreading them even more (Paris, 2000). Of course there are commercial reasons for all of this. The stories are popular and politically correct. Nobody needs to be disturbed by having her prejudices questioned.
One possible reason for all these male villains in movies, and for the routine incest theme, may be the end of the cold war. Before 1990 the conflict between East and West generated thousands of spy stories and other thrillers. It was so wonderfully obvious who were the bad guys and the good guys. Now that conflict is over and movies about the Russian mafia seem not to be quite as attractive as a replacement. Instead, abuse entered the picture as a replacement. Sex is always fascinating as a theme, and combined with brutal serial killers it is irresistible, or so it seems. It is also likely that movies about male abuse of women and children are relatively cheap to make; they need no expensive special effects like Star Wars or spectacular mass scenes like The Gladiator.
Is there nobody out there to stand up for men? Not as far as I can see. In a movie like Magnolia (1999), also highly celebrated, there is a confused character that runs male self-help seminars, played by Tom Cruise. However, the purpose of the seminars is utterly perverse: it is all aimed at developing skills of seducing women, to be used for maximizing the number of sex partners. The childhood of this character was a tragedy because his father (who else?) had let him down. Another main character, now elderly and dying in cancer, is found to have been the perpetrator or incest some decades ago. His wife then leaves him with the line “You deserve to die alone”.
The great anti-male wave in popular culture may have something to do with changing gender roles and unchanging human motivation, as analyzed by psychologists. Let us look at a few books, which contribute to understanding these matters.
The psychology of love
The conflict between male and female, perversely depicted and exploited in popular mass culture, is however not only the outcome of the work of smart and clever media moguls and their greediness. It is probably also biologically based, and maybe a perpetual part of the human condition. John Marshall Townsend, a psychobiologist, has written an interesting book about the biological foundations of the conflict (Townsend, 1998). He argues that the differences between sexes with regard to sexual desire can be understood developmentally. Men have a genetically based desire to have as many children as possible. Women have a desire, also genetic, to give birth to relatively few children and care for them in a stable family together with a "strong" man - a man rich in resources. Townsend makes his case in a persuasive manner and points out that these differences between men and women appear in all cultures and all times as far as we know. The differences in sexual behavior and preferences of men and women are by now well documented in research (Peplau, 2003).
Anthropologists such as Margaret Mead have claimed that they have shown that sexual behavior is wholly or mostly contingent on culture. This is a point, which is only weakly supported by research, if at all, however popular it may be. To take Mead as an example, Derek Freeman has shown that her famous descriptions of "free love" in Samoa in the 1920's had very little to do with realities (Freeman, 1999). It was all a construction with the aim of promoting ideology.
As shown by Townsend men and women tend to have different values when it comes to love and family life. It takes time for a man to learn about the female values, and a woman has the same difficulties vis a vis the male values. It takes time, if it is at all possible and the problem is at all discovered. More communication about what goals you have in life would be of value. Books such as the one by Townsend are informative reading about male and female priorities, but also depressive because everything seems to be pre-determined by our genes. The decreased social pressure towards conformity with the traditional nuclear family has created a market for sex and new relations, but not by any means freedom from our "nature". Rather, it has created exactly the opposite: indulgence in desires and whims to the extent that the stability of families is severely threatened. In this process we are all victims, but most of all the children - something which Townsend amazingly does not mention.
Many marriages and stable relations tend to break down after a certain time. Why? Psychologist Robert Sternberg has given an interesting discussion of this question (Sternberg, 1998). He points out that after a positive start, almost everything can only deteriorate in a relation. This may have something to do with what statisticians call a regression effect. Establishment of a relationship starts out when two people function maximally well together. However, such a high level of happy togetherness is unlikely to prevail for a long time. Unforeseen problems of one kind or another appear. Intimacy between the two parties decreases and mutual interest drops. Especially women seem to find it very hard to accept such a development.
Vicious circles are developed and are further reinforced by the fundamental attribution error (Ross & Fletcher, 1985). We attribute others= behavior to their more or less permanent personality, but our own behavior to flexible adaptation to the situation. Others are therefore seen as less adaptable than we are, and hence there is less hope for improvement. We also find it very easy to explain away our own faults and shortcomings, which are attributed to circumstances beyond our control and we have a long way to go before we accept part of the guilt and try to improve. Many people are very creative when it comes to finding excuses.
Hence, passion and fire in a relation are likely to be fading over time, and here is another and well-known danger. The basic phenomenon is called habituation, meaning that we react more weakly to things habitual to us. A relation who is wholly rigid and predictable creates boredom and a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. How do these basic human tendencies interact with gender role changes?
Cultural climate and relationships
Regardless of the reasons, men and women do have different views of love and sex. I think this is an ultimate reason why we see a growing female outrage and indignation, and the development is further strengthened by the threats to families and other relations. The new "freedom" is much more in tune with male than female needs. Families with two full time working parents and small children live a life full of stress and also of worry. Women continue to do most of the chores, and they are many times ambivalent about leaving their children in the care of others. Time during the weeks is scarce and rigidly scheduled with early mornings taking the children to the day-care center, even if they are ill which they often are due to the spread of infections in child groups. Then, at the end of a long working day, they have to hurry back to the day-care center to fetch the kids, shop and prepare dinner, put the children to bed and hope they will go to sleep soon, which they often do not. There is not much energy left for sex after all this. The men will start looking for other women, not least in the places of work, where both sexes now are represented, as a rule.
The picture of the man as a villain may have its basis in these structural conditions, together with the psychobiological differences between the sexes. The promises once given for life turn out to be fragile under the pressure of everyday chores and stress and women are disappointed that the relationship does not give them what they had hoped for. In this way, there is a resonance created for demonizing men, and clever Hollywood producers have a good feeling for what are the trends of the times. So here we are, seated in the cinema or in front of the TV, identifying with the caricatures of realty that movie producers offer. Our prejudices are strengthened, and the chances of finding a more tolerable life-style diminished. If it exists at all.
Freeman, D. (1999). The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research. New York: Westview Press.
Greenbaum, A. (1999). "Brass balls: Masculine communication and the discourse of capitalism in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross". Journal of Men's Studies, 8, 33-43.
Nathanson, P., & Young, K. K. (2001). Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press.
Paris, J. (2000). Myths of childhood. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Peplau, L. A. (2003). Human sexuality: How do men and women differ? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 37-40.
Ross, M., & Fletcher, G. J. O. (1985). Attribution and social perception. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (Vol. II: Special fields and applications, pp. 73-122). New York: Random House.
Shrock, J. (1997). Desperate deeds, desperate men: Gender, race, and rape in silent feature films, 1915-1927. Journal of Men's Studies, 6, 69-89.
Sternberg, R. J. (1998). Cupid's arrow: The course of love through time. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Townsend, J. M. (1998). What women want - what men want: why the sexes still see love and commitment so differently. New York: Oxford University Press.