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177 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1951
...though a mass movement at first turns its back on the past, it eventually develops a vivid awareness, often specious, of a distant glorious past...a vivid awareness of past and future robs the present of its reality. It makes the present a...section in a procession or parade. The followers...see themselves in a soul-stirring drama played to a vast audience- generations gone and generations yet to come.
...a mass movement, particularly in its active...phase, appeals to those not intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self...Their innermost craving is for a new life- a rebirth- or...a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. As individuals they feel themselves to be failures, but in a group they can ascribe to their lives purpose and meaning, even if it is only in "the eyes of posterity."Let your opponents patiently try to persuade with reason and logic- don't get caught up in that game. Instead, keep in mind that the seed of belief is this inner desperation to lose one's self in a holy cause. The playing field is emotion, not reason, and the vitality of the movement ultimately depends on its ability to foster cohesion, unity, the sense of being part of a tribe. Establish this, and it doesn't matter how self-evidently absurd your movement's core beliefs are (see: Scientology); perhaps their absurdity is even part of your movement's test of loyalty and faith. Those who desire this sense of communion, and taste it just once, may never again be able to live without it. Hoffer writes,
It is doubtful whether the fanatic who deserts his holy cause or is suddenly left without one can ever adjust...to an autonomous...existence. He remains a homeless hitch hiker on the highways of the world thumbing a ride on any eternal cause that rolls by...He is even ready to join...against his former...cause, but it must be a genuine crusade- uncompromising, intolerant, proclaiming the one and only truth...
Though his single-minded dedication is a holding on for dear life, he easily sees himself as the supporter and defender of the holy cause to which he clings...He cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted.
the indispensable devil of every mass movement- is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter...If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing.As Hitler said, apparently in an unguarded moment, "if the Jew did not exist, we would have had to invent him."
...mass movements strive to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the...absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth...outside it...The fanatical Communist refuses to believe any unfavorable report or evidence about Russia, nor will he be disillusioned by seeing with his own eyes the cruel misery there...The "fact-proof screen" is of course another way to instill unity and cohesion. Outside influence reminds your followers that there are (perhaps justifiable) opinions and beliefs that counter those your movement teaches; such opinions must always be characterized as dissent, heresy, samizdat, "the dishonest media", etc., lest the unity of your movement be threatened.
...each proselytizing mass movement seems to regard the zealous adherents of its antagonist as its own potential converts. Hitler looked on the German communists as potential National Socialists...On the other hand, Karl Radek looked on the Nazi Brown Shirts as a reserve for future Communist recruits.Maybe they sensed, intuitively, that psychologically they were the same, placed only by circumstance on opposing sides.
audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials); unbounded brazenness which finds expression in a disregard for consistency and fairness; a recognition that the innermost craving of a following is for communion and that there can never be too much of it; a capacity for winning and holding the utmost loyalty of a group of able lieutenants.