There is a clear distinction between legitimate criticism of bad behavior & ideology, leading to social problems, and a penchant of demagogues to falsely blame a broadly defined class or classes, in a particular society, for social & economic woes. The "scapegoat gambit" has been associated with the most vicious aspects of revolutionary movements--particularly those where a "Compulsion For Uniformity" (below) is married to envy. This combination produces a modern psychological cousin to the corrupting message, whispered to Eve in the Biblical account of Man's fall from Grace.
The implication in such cases, is that those being recruited to mischief are entitled to whatever a coveting awareness, being stoked, can be made to envision. Demagogues come in many varieties. What they clearly are not are benefactors to those they seek to influence. More ominous, however, than the deliberate, studied, corruption of the susceptible, may be eventual consequences to the chosen scapegoats, should the demagogues' tactic lead to power. Consider some examples.
While the Left has sought to rationalize the blame game with a laundry list of claimed abuses, there is serious doubt, both as to the genuineness of proclaimed grievances & as to any causal relationship to a specific social malady. The chosen scapegoats tend almost always to be high achievers, of reasonable intelligence. The idea that they would deliberately hold back anyone's social progress, should inspire considerable doubt. Whether those subjects were aristocratic landowners, masters of finance, successful industrialists, urban landlords, or in some otherwise enviable position; they almost all had some material interest in those, supposed to be "victims," doing well. They were almost always major employers in the society being disrupted.
This is not to suggest that there were not evil doers, as well as offensive personalities, among those targeted for blame. No definable subset of the human genus are entirely immune from the antics of those who violate accepted standards for dealing with others. Moreover, great success among high achievers can indeed distract family members from the paths of righteousness & practicality. That propensity, however serious as a personal failing, does not cause the societal problems for which the targeted classes are blamed. Our premise, here, is that the driving force behind the demagogues' gambit in casting blame upon a definable group, for societal problems, is almost always a recognition of the power of envy as a precipitant to manipulated action. Any actual misdeed by a member of the envied class, is only 'grist to a mill,' already embraced.
While not itself a manifestation of our theme, the anti-Catholic riots in London in 1780--the origins so vividly described by Charles Dickens in Barnaby Rudge--demonstrated the power of envy as a mechanism for crowd manipulation. As Dickens developed over several chapters, what started as fanatic paranoia against Roman Catholic property rights, assumed a life of its own, as poor Londoners, many themselves Roman Catholic caught up in a mob venting envy, went on a rampage, looting & destroying the property of wealthy Catholics. Similar manifestations of the envy factor in mob psychology have been seen in many places, since--including racial riots that have broken out from time to time in post "Civil Rights" era America. In such latter instances, the same apparent incongruity--as poor Catholics wreaking havoc on those whose personal conduct they would have done far better to emulate--led to the wholesale destruction of useful amenities, provided by the more affluent, in the rioters' own neighborhoods.
But these examples did not lead to power. It was otherwise with the Jacobin movement in Paris in 1789. Originally led by disguised members of the affluent classes, who blamed those in power for France's ruined economy; the mob that stormed the Bastille, to start the French Revolution, soon developed a hate-driven, self-reinventing, life of its own, that would menace France over the next seven years. The Jacobins might have shouted slogans about "Liberty, Equality & Fraternity''--a hopelessly self-contradictory triad;--but the mob that gathered, day after day, to watch & cheer aristocratic children being beheaded in the City Square, during the coming "Reign Of Terror," reflected hate-driven envy, engendered by the deliberate manipulation of class-directed resentment, not a sense of universal camaraderie.
Whatever the sins of commission or omission by some members of once great families, the competing demagogues in Jacobin mob manipulation were serving an insatiable, envy-driven, hatred among the most base element in the French population. While the issues were different from those used to stir the London riots, it must be noted that the Catholic clergy were lumped with the Aristocrats as targets for the fury of the Egalitarian mobs. Yet, because such hate, once unleashed, cannot be controlled, many of those same demagogues followed their innocent victims to the guillotine, before a more intelligent, less compulsion driven power-seeker, with a far clearer understanding of how human societies actually function, administered a very bloody dose of grapeshot.
In 1844, Karl Marx--at best a word merchant & philosophic quack--sought to provide a new rationalization for Egalitarian revolution; now targeting Europe's then rising Capitalist class--particularly wealthy, middle-class, European Jews--against whom he offered a written tirade, "On The Jewish Question," which would focus & crystallize a German Socialist demonization of Jews, leading to a partial fulfillment of Marx's hate-driven vision, a century later:
Emancipation from huckstering and from money, and therefore from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our epoch. An organization of society, which would abolish the fundamental conditions of huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would render the Jew impossible. [English translation provided, Zygmund Dobbs, The Great Deceit; Veritas Foundation, West Sayville, New York, 1964, p. 117.]
Marx's personal antics never achieved a sustainable Revolution in his lifetime. Yet his influence continued into & throughout the 20th Century, and was a major factor in the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, 1917 et seq., and in the Nazi Revolution in Germany in 1933. There is a partial analogy between the participation of poor London Catholics in the anti-Catholic riots & looting, described in Barnaby Rudge, and an irrational inclination of some Jews to embrace Marxist dogma. While mere envy does not appear the only precipitant to this phenomenon, it is clearly a factor. That this has persisted even after German Socialists turned Marx's musings, in what had been seen only as a Leftist day-dream in 1844, into a grotesque reality in 1942-1945, is truly amazing.
The Bolshevik Revolution in November, 1917, that began a seventy plus year Communist tyranny over the Russian peoples, returned to a Jacobin choice of scapegoats. While the middle-class were also assailed, the great landowners & the established Russian Orthodox Church were the clearer targets for the hate-directed policies of those manipulating the mobs to overturn an earlier, more moderate, revolution. But understand the consequences of the Bolshevik Communist Blame & Envy Cocktail! The horrors did not end with the initial butchery that Lenin & Trotsky were able to inflict during the first seven years.
More than a decade later, an equally savage Stalin, imposed death, largely by contrived starvation, on over ten million Russian & Ukrainian farmers, whose only sin was that they wanted to farm their own land, rather than accept life in a human ant hill--a "Collective Farm"--in the early 1930s. The result, statistically demonstrated after Stalin's death in 1953, was that Soviet agriculture was not yet up to where Czarist agriculture had been in 1913, despite immense gains in farming technology in the interim. Butchering those with desirable talents, in a venting of blame & envy induced hate, did not work any better in Russia than it had in Jacobin France, or would later in Nazi Germany.
The Nazi Revolution, achieved by the exploitation of an artificially contrived crisis, following an election triumph that made Hitler's Socialists with over 40%, the largest party in Germany, saw a closer return to Marx's original formula in the application of a Blame & Envy Cocktail. Marx had advocated focusing blame on a single target [Dobbs, id., p. 145], and, as indicated, had chosen the Jews. Hitler adopted the Marxist formula and, as the years passed, the consequences became ever more extreme. It not only led to the slaughter of millions, it drove key nuclear physicists out of Europe, giving America a desperately needed edge in the race to harness nuclear energy for military purpose--a benefit to us, but hardly to the misled Germans.
Why is all this important today? Because President Obama has once again embraced the Jacobin, Marxist, Bolshevik & Nazi, Blame & Envy Cocktail. In his campaign addresses, he blames identified economic classes or economic interest groups for America's problems; always playing upon envy & resentment; ever appealing to the covetousness of those most susceptible to the demagogues' cocktail. Will it all end badly? Do we have a Jacobin, Marxist, Communist or Nazi era in our future?
Mankind has seen this game before. No, the Marxist view of historic inevitability is philosophically idiotic. But the formula has worked to create horror in other nations. Already the vicious attempts by Administration demagogues, to falsely blame traditional American social institutions for the problems of racial minorities, is inciting sporadic acts of violence--with multiplying threats of more to come. This is how it starts. In the Jacobin, Bolshevik & Nazi examples, we know the consequences. They are never limited to the scapegoats.
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