Posts Tagged ‘The League of Anti-Semites’

Aristotle on Using Paranoia and Conspiracy Theories To Counter Domestic Discontent

February 21, 2015

One of the other pertinent passages in Brady’s book The Structure of German Fascism is in the chapter on Nazi pseudo-scientific racism and anti-Semitism. Brady argued that Nazi anti-Semitism was an ‘invented terror’, deliberately created to make the Jews scapegoats for the general problems of German society. This view of the origins of the Nazi persecution of the Jews has also been rejected. Historians now point out that the Nazis were genuinely anti-Semitic, and did not simply persecute the Jews from simple political opportunism. They trace the origins of Nazi anti-Semitism to organizations such as the League of Anti-Semites in the late 19th century, and specifically to the emergence of the ‘Stab in the Back’ conspiracy theory. This blamed the Jews for Germany’s defeat in the First World War.

Brady cites Aristotle’s advice to rulers to use paranoid fears of conspiracies in order to distract citizens from domestic crises and unrest. Brady states

The ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, offers this advice to the sovereign who is faced with unrest and the threat of revolution from his subjects: if all other means have failed to settle the trouble, divert attention by “inventing terrors”. Find some insidious plot against the state; whisper that the wells are being poisoned, the food destroyed, the daughters secretly ravished, high official about to be assassinated, the banks subtly undermined, the farmers gouged, military secrets being given away. Find anything that will arouse the people to a pitch of excitement against some common malefactor; then invent a terror against this destroyer of the common weal.

This reminds me of some of the scare stories about immigrants from the right-wing press. I also wonder how far the current rhetoric and tension between NATO and Putin’s Russia has been ramped up on both sides to distract the citizens of both sides from the economic and political failures of their governments.

And it also raises the question of how far reasonable fears about the real dangers posed by Islamist terrorism are also being exaggerated and manipulated as a distraction from the domestic hardships inflicted by the Coalition.