The Clare Spark Blog

February 14, 2010

Nazi sykewar, American style, part one

"The Lord's Prayer," Hans Haacke, ca. 1984

For years, I have wondered why I alone seemed alarmed by the recommendation of prominent progressive social psychologists that Hitler’s methods for mind-management be adopted by the Roosevelt administration. Readers of my book, Hunting Captain  Ahab or my article Klara Hitler’s Son will know that such figures as Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, Talcott Parsons, and Walter Langer were some of the names involved in proposing such a project in the interest of “national morale” or “civilian morale.” But then, while researching the history of military psychiatry, I came across a reference to German Psychological Warfare: Survey and Bibliography, edited by Ladislas Farago, and published in two editions by the Committee for National Morale (second ed. 1941), that addressed my deep concerns, for it was not only such as Murray, Allport, Parsons, and Langer that had entertained a full-fledged program of mind-management, but almost the entire progressive elite as it existed circa 1940-41, including A. Philip Randolph! The opening page presents their rationalization, and it brims with down-to-earth confidence that appropriating Nazi methods in a democracy is not an insuperable challenge, but first they suggest the purposes of the appropriation:

“[Germany] uses defensive psychology to select the right man for the right place, to bolster the morale of the whole German “nation in arms,” to habituate its soldiers to the hazards, dangers and strains of technical warfare, to cushion the shocks of combat and increase the efficiency of military life, to regulate relations between officers and men, and to solve all the complex problems of human behavior raised by war.”

“Offensive psychology is used to break down the morale of Germany’s enemies both on the military and the home fronts, to conquer public opinion in neutral lands, to pave the invader’s way into unprepared countries by disintegrating the political, social and intellectual structure of nations singled out for future attacks.”  [Note that they constantly refer to Germans, not Nazis, perhaps to ally themselves with advanced enlightened prewar German culture, and to decrease the shock of their copying Nazi maneuvers in mind-control. C.S.] Now they explain that the Germans are not the sole source of their program of “national morale.”:

“Germany has no exclusive lease on the psychological amplification of strategy and tactics. Neither was she the first to exploit psychology for the more efficient prosecution of modern wars. When drawing up their master plan, German psychologists borrowed freely from pioneering American, French, and Russian psychologists, going even to a Hungarian school of pyrotechnicians for several patterns of tests. [Later they will pin it all on Freud, and before that Clausewitz. C.S.]

“As things stand today, however, the Germans have staked rich claims on the use of psychology in Total War.

“The primary purpose of this Survey and Bibliography is, therefore, to acquaint Americans with the background, organization, functions and development of German military psychology. Its best features, stripped of their bias, obscurity, and apparent mystery, and freed of t heir verbalism, can easily be adapted and amplified for the benefit of America’s own national defense within the framework of our traditions and democratic way of life….” [These latter quotes are from their first page to the “Survey,”  laying out the project of the book.]

Why, you may ask, do we need “Total War?” The science-minded authors are crystal clear on that point, after they quote Prof. E. Weniger, writing in 1938, who believes that “every German can be raised as a soldier….”:

[the authors:] “ Investigation showed that military psychological factors are subject to specific laws and rules which can be recognized in advance and solved accordingly. Frictions, for example, have their preliminary symptoms and are not as unpredictable as certain pre-war theorists assumed. A knowledge of these laws and symptoms [preventive politics! C.S.] are held capable of enabling leaders to cope with frictions not only when they occur, but to forestall them or reduce their effectiveness by eliminating their psychological causes.

“The solution of such problems became all-important when total war inevitably made man himself (his attitudes and sentiments) rather than arms and supplies, the focal point for determining ultimate victory or defeat. In the last forty years the organization of the masses and the enlightenment of the individual have made immense progress. Traditional influences lost much of their original value when they were countered with the rationalism of modern man whom technological training and increasing urbanization accustomed to independent and critical thinking. Instead of accepting traditional impulses at their face value, this modern man searches for causes and feels competent, and often powerful enough, to demand explanations.

“Urbanization also tended to diminish natural courage. The enlightened man rejects the idea of ‘bravery for the sake of bravery’ and weighs the ‘practicability’ and legitimate stake of his action as against its possible returns. Thus his voluntary approval (his morale) became the dominating stimulus of his will to cooperation (47-48).” [my emph.]

To be continued. I am going to quote liberally from this revealing source on the goodness of lying. It is all shocking, and justifies everything on my blog to date. For the complete series see


  1. Dr. Bogle, you might consult Cicero, especially the passage defining eloquence through the example of direct address to farmers.

    Clare, how would I best proceed to add the Survey and Bibliography to my library?

    Comment by MarkLeavenworth — September 18, 2010 @ 3:48 am | Reply

    • Mark, it is a rare book that I found, and that only because it was cited in another rare book I was studying. Still, it was probably published in large quantities, and some second-hand bookstores or sites must have it.

      Comment by clarespark — September 18, 2010 @ 4:01 am | Reply

  2. […] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Torture, American Style Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Links to Nazi sykewar, American style « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — September 18, 2010 @ 3:30 am | Reply

  3. Dear Dr. Bogle, you might want to consult my essay Lippmann liked T.R., but disliked Woodrow Wilson. Also, for more on Woodrow Wilson’s organicist Southern biases against science, see my article Margoth v. Robert E. Lee, on this website.

    Comment by clarespark — February 22, 2010 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  4. I haven’t read your book yet (but will). I am currently working on Theodore Roosevelt and his understanding of crowd psychology and how to apply that to the molding of public opinion.

    Comment by Dr. Lori Bogle — February 22, 2010 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

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