Quote of the day: DEMAGOGUERY

December 7, 2020


We must never forget that the spellbinders, the rabble-rousers, the potential Hitlers are always with us. We must never forget that it is very easy for such men to turn an innocent orgy into an instrument of destruction, into a savage, mindless force directed toward the overthrow of liberty. To prevent them from exploiting crowd intoxication for their own sinister purposes we must be perpetually on our guard. Whether a world inhabited by potential Hitlers on the one hand and potential herd-poison addicts on the other can ever be made completely safe for rationality and decency seems doubtful, but at least we can try to make it a little safer than it is at present. For example, we can give our children lessons in the elements of general semantics. We can tell them about the frightful dangers of intellectual sin. We can make their flesh creep by reciting to them the disastrous consequences to societies and to individuals of the rabble-rouser’s oversimplification, overgeneralization, and overabstraction. We can remind them to live in present time and to think concretely and realistically, in terms of observable fact. We can unveil the absurd and discreditable secrets of propaganda and illustrate our lectures with examples drawn from the history of politics, religion, and the advertising industry. Would such a training be effective? Perhaps – or perhaps not. Herd poison is a very powerful intoxicant. Once they get into a crowd, even upright and sensible men are apt to lose their reason and accept all the suggestions, however nonsensical or however immoral, that may be given them. All we can hope to accomplish is to make it more difficult for the rabble-rouser to do his nefarious work.

–Aldous Huxley, “History of Tension,” 1956

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