I must admit that I haven’t watched the Joe Rogan/Robert Malone podcast (I’ve barely watched Rogan at all, in fact), but that hasn’t stopped me noticing one of the biggest take-homes most people seem to have gleaned from it: “mass formation psychosis” (MFP). Malone, stepping beyond his expertise remit of virology and immunology, has decided to play social psychologist and historian.

His thesis? That public behaviour during the Wuhan pandemic is an example of MFP akin to Nazi Germany. In Germany in the 20s and 30s, Malone argues, “a very intelligent, highly educated population went barking mad” and “literally became hypnotized and could be led anywhere” by Hitler.

More and more, these days, too many people are tempted to dismiss their political opposites as not just wrong, but evil or insane. Certainly, it might be argued that the four years of the Trump presidency provided more than enough evidence that the left had lost their ever-lovin’ minds. For their part, though, the left could justifiably point to dominant right-wing narratives like QAnon as evidence that their opponents had lost their ever-lovin’ minds. Maybe the Cheshire Cat was right and we’re all mad here.

Or maybe, just maybe, Malone was just wrong. Certainly his grasp of modern history is obviously deficient. Essentially, Malone repeats the simplistic narrative that, some time in the 20s, Hitler stood up in a beer hall, and shouted, “How about them Jews, eh?” and Germany immediately went mad and killed six million Jews.

Except that that’s not how it happened.

For one thing, Hitler didn’t goose-step to power on an unbroken wave of popular support and the Nazis never won an outright majority in elections. More pertinently, they made a wide-ranging pitch to German voters in the 1920s that went well beyond anti-Semitism.

By 1930, Germans had plenty of reasons to be “anxious.” Economic collapse (exacerbated by what was seen as oppressive post-WWI penalties), political corruption, rampant unemployment and poverty, Soviet expansion, and a fear of fifth columnists (inconvenient fact: Communists from within—led by Jews—had formed a short-lived dictatorship in Bavaria 1918–1919). The Nazi platform spoke to those concerns: national self-determination, old-age insurance, equal rights and guaranteed education regardless of income, the abrogation of Versailles, the end of “big-box stores” in favor of local merchants, a prohibition on media ownership by foreigners, an end to political cronyism, and the abolition of four widely despised things—unearned income, war profiteering, child labor, and land speculation.

Parts of the Nazi platform were indeed anti-Jewish […] but taking that along with the other policies outlined above, a German didn’t have to be “barking mad” to vote for the party. It doesn’t mean the Nazis were good, or that they were sincere about the things they claimed to advocate (especially that “political cronyism” thing). It just means it wasn’t a “barking mad” platform.

Notably, the extent of Nazi anti-Jewish rhetoric and persecution waxed and waned in tune with political expediency.

As historian Ian Kershaw has noted, election-era Hitler significantly downplayed the anti-Jewish angle. By 1930, he “seldom spoke explicitly of Jews.” That point is echoed by Hebrew University’s Oded Heilbronner in his essay “Where Did Nazi Anti-Semitism Disappear To?” (Yad Vashem Studies, volume XXI).

As I’ve previously noted, as per Professor William Rubinstein’s The Myth of Rescue, over 16,000 Jews who fled Germany in 1933 returned the next year.

Hitler would further relax the anti-Jewish shtick for the 1936 Olympics.

Not even all the Nazis themselves were “kill the Jews” fanatics.

In Political Violence Under the Swastika: 581 Early Nazis, Professor Peter Merkl studied the history of every foundational Nazi. He found that 33.3% of them showed no interest in anti-Semitism, 14.3% expressed “mild verbal clichés” regarding Jews, 19.1% displayed “moderate” disdain for Jewish cultural influence in Germany, while only 12.9% advocated “violent countermeasures” against Jews.

So no, Hitler didn’t bark his way to power with a bunch of mad barkers who hypnotized the masses with barking, turning them into barking mad barkers who barked at Jews.

Most importantly, the Holocaust didn’t just happen straight away.

It was a gradual process that began with a platform that contained at least a few things every damned one of you would advocate, remained fairly stable until Kristallnacht in November 1938 (when Jews started thinking, “This shit’s gettin’ out of hand”), but stayed at “Jim Crow Mississippi”-level bad until 1941 when Hitler launched a war of extermination in the East […] even then, the Nazis farmed out a lot of the Jew-killing to barkier people like Ukrainians and Estonians. The mass murder of Jews did not take place in Germany proper).

The bigger point here is not just that doctors playing at amateur historians are apt to get things woefully wrong (I’ll assume that Malone is at least sound on his actual area of expertise). It’s that the easy temptation to hand-wave away the other side as barking mad is as dangerous as it is lazy (besides, the beams in your own eyes: consider the genuine anti-vax nutters who remain convinced that Bill Gates is microchipping us all in order to enact a nefarious global genocide).

When you rely on stale clichés like “Hitler hyp-mo-tized the Germans who went mad and killed the Jews,” you miss out on understanding the actual mechanics of how these things happen. You rob yourself of the ability to comprehend.

Lucidity is all the right has […] Leftists may speak in simplistic clichés publicly, but the clever ones—the ones who have been kicking your ass at the ballot box the past few years—privately learn specifics and make use of that knowledge to their advantage.

Takimag

The left control nearly every institution of what they’d call “repressive state apparatus”. They are the Establishment. You don’t beat the establishment by being as loony as you think they are.

The Curious Case of the Germans Who <i>Didn’t</i> Bark
Avatar

Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...