Psst. C'mere. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Want to know the most powerful and awful spell of all, one that can be used to send millions of people to war like sheep going over a cliff? Oh, you do? Okay, here it is:
"All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
What? you ask. That's it? That's all there is to it? Yep, that's it. Those 27 words, that short spell is really all you need to know to know to start paroxyms of war.
That spell is from Herman Goering, Nazi Minister of Propaganda. If you want to know that whole quote, here's what he said:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Why do I call what he said a spell? That word, "spell," literally means "to talk," or "tale." I certainly don't believe in toe of dog, wing of bat, or Love Potion Number Nine for that matter, but it's not even debatable that spells exist. People can be enchanted, or better yet, ensorcelled, if they are susceptible to it, by mere words. The point is moot.
If you don't believe me, all you have to do is watch Triumph of the Will, and you'll see how Hitler, one of the most hypnotic speakers ever, walked through a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people who parted before him like the Red Sea when Charleton Heston waved his staff. He had literally ensorcelled those poor, deluded and willing fools. He had cast a spell on them, and this was in the 20th Century.
You want to know how to make people susceptible to falling for the Goering spell? You tell them they are the Good Guys, ones being attacked by slavering evil homicidal maniacs who, like the Terminator, will not stop in their attempts to wipe the Good Guys off the face of the earth. Those defined as the enemy also must always be defined as evil. That's worth repeating: they must be defined as evil. Not mistaken, not deluded, but mad-dog drooling crazy evil.
If you want to see something illuminating, just look at any fairy tale in which the village is under attack by a fire-breathing dragon. What always happens? The villagers band together to fight the dragon. If anyone was to say, "Hey, it's not a real dragon, just a paper mache' one," he'd be attacked as deluded, crazy, or traitorous. "Hey, what's wrong with you? Are you on the side of the dragon? If you don't like it here, why don't you leave the village, huh?"
People's response to this particular spell is so predictable I consider it a law of human nature. In some ways the whole thing is just too darn funny. It's also a heart-wrenching tragedy, but then, that which is a tragedy in real life is quite often funny in your imagination. Chang and Eng, that's the relationship between humor and horror. The Three Stooges are funny on the screen, but who would want to deal with their catastrophes in life? Not me.
Call me afflicted with a terminal case of daffiness, but I see no evidence the people on this big round world of ours are any different than those of, say, 10,000 BC, pace our SUVS and cellphones. We do all of the same Sodom-and-Gomorrah badness, only intensified through the Cooper's Law of high technology, and not an iota more of the same goodness in spite of the Sermon on the Mount. The latter of which we mostly give lip service, anyway.
We even believe in Hoodoo Men, only now we call them "intellectuals." They try to cast a spell on the susceptible, telling them they are under attack by dragons, ones who will eat everything in the village, men, women, old folks, children, dogs, cats, goats. And the villagers can only be saved if they listen to the Hoodoo Men and put their spells into effect with missiles and machine guns.
I can tell you the names of some modern-day Hoodoo Men: Max Boot, William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, David Frum, William Bennett, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Victor Davis Hanson. All are trying to convince us we are under attack not by people, but by horror-story monsters.
It's the old story of absolute good and absolute evil. In reality it's a continuum, but reality's no good for conning people and starting wars. The first thing Hoodoo Men have to do is say good is right here, with us, and bad is over there, with them, with those defined as the enemy.
That's how you can recognize Hoodoo Men. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they always use the concepts of an absolute good and an absolute evil, with nothing in-between. Otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to create dragons.
It's what Hoodoo Men Richard Perle and David Frum did in their book, An End to Evil, when they claimed the United States is good, and those who pose a threat, current or future, are evil and must be neutralized or destroyed. See what they're doing? They're the ones defining what is good and evil, and what is a threat. It's because they're smarter, more aware, and probably more moral than everyone else. In their minds, at least.
Easy, isn't it? If those two nitwits really believe what they wrote, then they obviously believe the whole world is a children's fairy tale, one populated by heroic wizards and people-eating monsters. And if there aren't any monsters out there, then let's create one. Or if there's anything out there sleeping that might pass for a monster, let's kick it over and over until it wakes up. Clowns like them aren't even good Hoodoo Men; it's way too easy to see through them. If they were magicians, the cards would fly out of their hands in front of the audience.
There's one other thing that Hoodoo Men believe in besides absolute good and evil: murder. They exult in it, they exalt it. In their minds, since they dealing with monsters it's okay to rub them out. They ignore the fact monsters only exist in horror stories.
Of course, they never want to get their hands bloody; that's the job of the spell-bound sheeple as they fall off the cliff into piles that get larger and larger.
The problem with people ultimately is not that they are stupid or evil. They're asleep, and don't even know it. They think they're awake. As Rousseau, for all of his insanity, once wisely said: "One is misled not by what he does not know but by what he believes he knows."
Sometimes I just can't believe it. It's the year 2005 and we still fall for spells, cast by incompetents? And monsters, too, apparently, even if we have to make them up.