The Clare Spark Blog

March 27, 2011

Progressive mind-managers, ca. 1941-42


The following is an excerpt from Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, chapter two (slightly revised). I did not know when I wrote it how active Harvard University and other elite schools were in promoting interest in, and/or “tolerance” of the New Germany during the 1930s (see Stephen Norwood’s The Third Reich and the Ivory Tower)

Had Norwood’s book appeared earlier, I might have been less shocked by the formulations of Harvard- associated social psychologists and their “progressive” colleagues. For the continued relevance of Bateson’s communications theory, see

Staatsnation to Kulturnation. The official New Lights were formulated partly in opposition to the irreligious motions of radical psychologists in the late 1930s. For example, The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues was founded in 1936 as a pro-labor Progressive caucus of the American Psychological Association, vowing to disseminate the findings of social psychology to a broad public. Its First Yearbook was published in 1939, bearing the title Industrial Conflict: A Psychological Interpretation and included articles by Marxists, left-liberals, and conservatives in related disciplines who were sympathetic to the labor movement; one article helped workers and their allies to decode anti-labor propaganda disseminated by the Hearst newspapers. When the Second Yearbook, Civilian Morale appeared in 1942, there was little continuity with the more materialist group of authorities. One new presence was the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, originator of double bind theory, a diagnosis of structurally-induced schizophrenia. Bateson was not looking at the mixed-messages dispensed by corporatist liberals; rather, he held cold, rejecting-but-seductive mothers responsible for tying up and gagging their sons. Absent fathers were ordered home to block that Gorgon stare, redirecting the Libido away from red-hot, ice-cold mommas. In 1976, schizophrenia was still thought by Bateson followers to be caused by “the absence of anyone in the family, such as a strong and insightful father, who can intervene in the relationship between the mother and child and support the child in the face of the contradictions involved.”[i] (The Gorgon Face had already appeared in Weaver’s Melville biography of 1921.)

Bateson had been a member of the Committee for National Morale created in the summer of 1940 by art historian Arthur Upham Pope in the hope of founding a “federal morale service”; Bateson’s essay “Morale and National Character” pondered the tasks of Americans managing other societies.[ii] The concerns of anthropologist Bateson rhymed with those of the Texas populist three years earlier, especially in the matter of what Martin Dies more vulgarly called “class hatred.” Defending the beleaguered notion of national character, Bateson urged that his concept of bipolarity (“dominance-submission, succoring-dependence, and exhibitionism-spectatorship”) refine (or replace) the “simple bipolar differentiation” typical of “western cultures”:”…take for instance, Republican-Democrat, political Right-Left, sex differentiation, God and the devil, and so on. These peoples even try to impose a binary pattern upon phenomena which are not dual in nature–youth vs. age, labor vs. capital, mind vs. matter.” (my emph. Classical liberals and revolutionary socialists are in sharp disagreement over whether or not capital and labor are structurally at odds with one another. When I wrote my book, I was still writing from the left.)[iii]

Bateson, the hip pagan materialist, has rejected passé formulations like the mind-body dualism; thus we may give credence to his non-dualisms between labor and capital or youth and age. Like the rest of Civilian Morale, Bateson’s essay carried the same progressive “holistic” message as the Nation of 1919. (See Jeffersonian comrades were spun from neo-Hamiltonian Federalists to unify the “national psyche,” abjuring caste and standing with “labor” by regulating rapacious capitalists, yet guaranteeing the sanctity of property; gently substituting “social science research” for “punitive attitudes.”[iv] Gardner Murphy contributed “Essentials For A Civilian Morale Program in American Democracy” to the collection, deploying a simile from geology to nudge his materialist colleagues off the margins: classes, only apparently at odds, he argued, were really like stalactites and stalagmites, each growing toward each other to “coalesce” in mid-air to form one big pillar (407-408). Murphy, a reader of Vernon Parrington, knew he had to reconcile thrusting “Jeffersonians,” the grass-roots, Bill of Rights-oriented folk, with stubborn Hamiltonian gentry types hanging from the ceiling. But Murphy was pulling a fast one: stalagmites do not emerge from the earth, thrusting upward toward coalescence; rather, stalagmites are very slowly layered with tiny limey drips over thousands of years; the same drips from on high produce the stalactite. When stalagmite and stalactite finally meet, they have not performed like groping bodies in the dark, finding each other at the moderate center to form a more perfect union.

Not to worry; as Murphy implied, inequality was actually natural and earthy because ethnic and religious minority groups have different and diverse “taste or aptitudes or aims” but could shake hands “within the common framework of a reachable goal” (419-420). “Dissidents” must be fed accurate facts to modify their habitual, misinformed (“skeptical,” 410) name-calling, and taken into the Big Barn of civilian morale-planners, trailing clouds of hydrogen sulfide behind them:”The minority-group member can be shown the specific contribution which he can make. His contribution may add to the more placid and bovine contribution of the co-working group. Not only in Congress and in the press, but in the planning of local morale work itself, there should be some acrid critics, not just to buy off the critics as a group, but to introduce some sulphur into the planning process (420, my emph.).”

Not that the minority-group member was demonic. As Bateson had explained, the natural dualism between God and the devil was an outmoded crotchet of Western culture. Ethical distinctions between good and evil had been transcended. The new dispensation juxtaposed different roles: some folks were led into dominance, succorance, and exhibitionism; others into submission, dependence, and spectatorship. The progressive psychologist of 1942, as Gardner Murphy explained it, would lead his newly-inclusive, newly-fertilized, newly-inspirited crew of planners into the open-ended quest to discover “a workable amount and form of private property and of private initiative.” (424, Murphy’s italics). Oddly, the newly-minted Jeffersonian was not flustered by the given fact that “the press, necessarily under our system [is] an organ of business….” (428); moreover Murphy regretted that Dr. Henry A. Murray’s proposal for a “federal department of social science” had met closed doors in Washington (429).

But what of acrid Ahab and his tic douloureux; where would they fit in? Murphy explained that [isolatoes] were happier in groups lauding interdependence and “group thinking”: it could be shown through “existing data and fresh experiments” that authoritarian controls within democratic structures would be appropriate because “leaderless groups, formless democracies, are ineffective or even frustrating” (422-424). But the plan was not “totalitarian, laissez-faire or Marxist” because of its “respect for individual differences and the welcoming of criticism.” The individual (leader) finds “resolution” in the context of “mutual interindividual trust” and in the process of “trying to mold the group to his will under conditions permitting the other members of the group to accept or reject such leadership.” In other words, you could take a plan or leave it, but if you were led to reject the leader’s vision, you might be returned to the toiling masses, which would make it easier, perhaps, for the others to find “resolution” of difference.

The socially responsible alchemists were joined by the Frankfurt School German-Jewish refugees in the early 1940s. Like other progressive productions in social psychology, the massive and numerous studies of the “authoritarian personality” by Adorno, Horkheimer et al, have transmuted objective conflicts of interest and rational responses to economic crises into symptoms of personal irresponsibility. The refugee philosophers, Marxist-Freudians to a man, explained that the character structure of the middle-class with its falsely feeling mass culture and yen for agitators produced mass death in the twentieth century.[v] The overall project of their critical theory was to discredit excessively liberal values while subtly accrediting the discourse and world-view of organic conservativism–re-baptised by T.W. Adorno as genuine liberalism, like Wordworth’s “genuine liberty”(The Prelude, XIV, 132 [vi]), antidote to the protofascist “authoritarian personality.”[vii]

I speak in recollection of a time
When the bodily eye, every stage of life
The most despotic of our senses, gained
Such strength in me as often held my mind
In absolute dominion. Gladly here,
Entering upon abstruser argument,
Could I endeavour to unfold the means
Which Nature studiously employs to thwart
This tyranny, summons all the senses each
To counteract the other, and themselves,
And makes them all, and the objects with which all
Are conversant, subservient in their turn
To the great ends of Liberty and Power. (XIV, 127-139)
…I remember well
That in life’s every-day appearances
I seemed about this time to gain clear sight
Of a new world–a world, too, that was fit
To be transmitted, and to other eyes
Made visible; as ruled by those fixed laws
Whence spiritual dignity originates,
Which do both give it being and maintain
A balance, an ennobling interchange
Of action from without and from within;
The excellence, pure function, and best power
Both of the objects seen, and eye that sees. ( William Wordsworth, “The Prelude,” XIV, 367-378)

According to the Kleinian psychoanalytic theory of “projective identification” the self projects forbidden aggression into an external object which must be controlled. In the case of the upwardly mobile middle class, their (contemptible essentially Jewish or female) will to power is supposedly projected upon the (useful) Jews. Stubborn adherence to non-dualisms was identified with scapegoating, obviously a bad thing for mental health. Social psychologist Gordon Allport denounced group prejudice in his frequently reprinted Freedom Pamphlet of 1948, The ABC’s of Scapegoating. [viii] Allport advised Americans to adjust to pluralism by looking inside to check their “moral cancer” (7). Whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business’ ” (like Allport?), and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating FDR (26). Allport’s pamphlet is illuminated by comparison with the worksheets he earlier devised with Dr. Henry A. Murray for the Harvard seminar Psychological Problems in Morale (1941), meant to be disseminated to “private organizations” throughout the nation. As part of the Harvard Defense Council, the seminar was to be “an important component in a general program of coordinated research.”[ix] The materials for the course consisted of one short red-bound typescript, and numerous stapled worksheets, each methodically dealing with some aspect of propaganda, including a summary of Hitler’s personality and psychodynamics that would inform counter-propaganda. Hitler’s duplicity, irrationality and contempt for the masses was constantly compared with American rationality, which oddly enough, was derived from the protofascist and irrationalist social theorist, Vilfredo Pareto.[x]

In worksheet #4, “Determinants of Good and Bad Morale,” the authors outlined “aggressive needs in group coherence.”

First, there must be “outlets for grievances”: “Provision for the free expression of opinion improves morale.” Second, “scapegoat outlets” were another aid to good morale:”The direction of aggression against a subversive minority group may reduce tensions, and will be least disruptive if the scapegoat group is one which is in conflict with the total group in respect of major immediate aims. Aggression had better be directed against the external enemy, but if this is frustrated, or the group becomes apathetic, the subversive minority group may improve morale by either (1) reducing frustrated tensions of aggression or (2) reawakening aggression, or (3) displacing aggression away from intra-group aggression, or (4) displacing aggression away from the leaders of the group, if and when reversed [sic] are suffered (p.8).” [might the scapegoated group be “Jews”?]

I am suggesting that the ahistoric, irrationalist concept of “scapegoating” or “negative identity” cannot explain “prejudice”; rather, the pluralists are admitting there is no basis for unity in class societies whose politics are organized around national or ethnic “peaceful competition.” If the only unity is found in differing groups worshipping one “ideal self” (or artwork, which will, in practice, be designated by the elite), then the bad individualist like Melville will be attacked. Thou shalt not question the good parent’s benevolence or the possibility of “group adjustment” by reconfiguring the social structure along materialist, i.e., “Jacobin” lines. As Sartre noted in his wartime essay Anti-Semite and Jew, German unity was forged solely in the common project to remove the social irritant that prevented natural harmony. This “prejudice” against the Jewish intellect and its sulking reverence, so corrosive to “natural” family bonds, was specific to a pluralist society whose objective divisions could not be overcome without some measure of institutional transformation. The rooted cosmopolitanism of the moderate men, by definition masking class and gender conflicts with the bizarre notion of competing, yet peacefully co-existing, mutually adapting ethnic groups, is thus deceptive and discredits all science: its “pluralism” and “tolerance” attack the moral individual seeking common ground by straying outside the boundaries set by elites.

In the case of the Murray-Allport worksheets, those limits were scientistically delineated; the Jeffersonian tradition was co-opted and redefined in the indispensable “Values of the Past”: “The more awareness there is of the group’s heroic past the better the morale. (Freedom from Old World Oppression, Jeffersonian Democracy, etc.) The more awareness of a national tradition of which the group is ashamed or guilty, the worse the morale…The slogan “Make The World Safe For Democracy” was anchored neither in the historical past or future. A durable morale must be historically anchored in the past and in the future, as well as in the present (Worksheet #4, 4, 5).” So much for the messianic republican mission and Wilsonian Progressivism. The ever-questioning, self-critical temper of the Enlightenment, the very Head and Heart of the libertarian eighteenth century, could only lead to bad morale. Although the authors had discarded the Wilsonian project, they went on to say that racial or economic discrimination were bad for morale, that there could be no doubt about the prospects for a better postwar world. A hodge-podge of factors: “communism, fascism, economic chaos, depression, or uncertainty,” all would impair morale (6). Peace aims were suggested: an International Police Force would ensure that “There will be a better distribution of the goods of the earth; all classes will be benefited” (Red-bound typescript, 13).” But war aims must remain vague, for we were a “pluralist society,” not a “unified society”; there were different strokes for different folks: “Disparities of statements shouldn’t be too obvious or made visible” (#4, 7).Properly guided we would be historically anchored in promises of abundance and an illusion of unity, yet we were not fascists.

The section “General Attitudes Toward Leaders” anticipated the criticism that American propaganda duplicated Nazi methods. First the authors warned “the less the faith in sources of information, the worse the morale.” The next item suggested “Linking of Present Leader to the Idealized Leaders of the Past”:”The more the present leader is seen as continuing in the footsteps of the great idealized leaders of the past, the better the morale. (Picture of Roosevelt between Washington and Lincoln would encourage this identification.) The more the present leader is seen as falling short of the stature of the great idealized leaders of the past, the worse the identification (11).  By effective leadership the group’s latent communality may emerge through identification with the leader. If this smacks of the Führer-Prinzip, we would insist that
identification is a process common to all societies, and that what distinguishes the democratic leadership from the Nazi leadership is not the process of identification but the content of what is identified with. It is the function of the democratic leader to inspire confidence in the democratic way of life, in its value for the individual or the society and not mere identification with his person, or the mythical Volk (16).” (my emph.)

For the tolerant materialists Murray and Allport, as with David Hume before them, there is no foreordained clash between individuals and institutions, no economic relationships to undermine altruism and benevolence: man is naturally communal and “society” as a coherent entity, a collective subject, actually exists. The good leader is neither autocratic nor corrupt,“does not waver, is not self-seeking, is impartial, accepts good criticism” (#4, 10). As we have seen, tolerance, i.e., criticism of leadership, had its limits.[xi] Jefferson’s legacy had to be reinterpreted because critical support of political institutions in the Lockean-Jeffersonian-Freudian mode is not identical with “identification,” an unconscious process whereby primitive emotions of early childhood are transferred to all authority, coloring our ‘rational’ choices and judgments. Only the most rigorous and ongoing demystification and precise structural analysis (with few or no government secrets) could maintain institutional legitimacy for political theorists in the libertarian tradition, but, for the moderates, such claims to accurate readings as a prelude to reform were the sticky residue of the regicides. And where is the boundary between good and bad criticism? Alas, just as Martin Dies had suggested that the poor should tolerate the rich, Murray and Allport advised Americans to tolerate (or forget) “Failure in the Nation’s Past.” We must do better, of course.

The worksheet continues, recommending that traditional American evangelicalism embrace the disaffected, for there may be moderate enthusiasts in the new dispensation:”The submerging of the individual in enthusiastic team work is not altogether foreign to the American temper. This means Jews, the “lower” classes, the draftees, labor unions, and so on. It cannot be done by fiat, but the inequalities might be mitigated if not removed, so that otherwise apathetic groups would feel a stake in the defense of the country, and the middle and upper classes more aware of the meaning of democracy (16).” These latter remarks were intended to answer the question Murray and Allport had posed at the beginning of their book: “Certain themes in Axis propaganda are continually stressed, notably the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the democracies in general and of the U.S. (and President Roosevelt) in particular. What’s to be done about it?” (4).

Virtually the entire postwar program of conservative reform was foreshadowed in these pages. As formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist and working-class demands for universal education, equal rights, and enforcement of the Constitution would be redirected into the quotas of affirmative action or multiculturalism. In worksheet #17, “Long Term Aspects of Democratic Morale Building,” a program of integration and deferential politeness would rearrange the American people’s community: “…far from ignoring or suppressing diversities of intelligence, the objective of democratic morale-building should be their conscious integration into an improving collective opinion. The techniques of such integration exist. They are inherent in the democratic tradition of tolerance and the democratic custom of free discussion. They exist, however, in outline rather than in any ultimate or perhaps even very high state of development (4).

[Quoting Gordon Allport:]…Our pressure groups [the Jews complaining about Nazis?] are loud, their protests vehement and our method of electioneering bitter and sometimes vicious. In the process of becoming self-reliant Americans have lost respect, docility, and trust in relation to their leaders. Our habit of unbridled criticism, though defended as a basic right, brings only a scant sense of security to ourselves in an emergency, and actively benefits the enemies of the nation (5).” (Murray’s and Allport’s emph.)

And one such source of insecurity (i.e., subversion) was anti-war education and pacifism: “insofar as the disapproval of war was based on a rejection of imperialist patriotism, it engendered war-cynicism” (Red-bound typescript, 4). In other words, Murray and Allport were admitting that involvement in the war could not be legitimated as an anti-imperialist intervention, nor could there be any other appeal to reason. Leaders, past and present, would have to be idealized; all criticism bridled in the interest of “integration.” The disaffected should moderate their demands, settling for mitigation, not relief. And if, despite the neo-Progressive prescriptions, the road to national unity remained rocky, scapegoating, properly guided by social scientific principles, would certainly deflect aggression away from ruling groups.

[i] 87. See Carlos E. Sluzki and Donald C. Ransom, ed. Double Bind: The Foundation of The Communicational Approach to the Family (New York: Grune & Stratton, 1976), 11.

[ii] 88. The preface by Goodwin Watson reviewed the history of the Committee in the passive voice and with vagueness as to the politics of their group: “Concern with American morale in the face of a developing world crisis was evidenced at the meeting of the S.P.S.S.I. in September 1940. At that time a Committee on Morale was appointed, under the chairmanship of Professor Gardner Murphy. During the year 1940-41 interest in morale grew, and at the 1941 meetings several programs of the American Psychological Association and of the American Association for Applied Psychology were devoted to discussions of morale. In
accord with its purpose to communicate psychological findings on public questions, the S.P.S.S.I. decided in September 1941, to postpone some other yearbooks, and to concentrate immediate effort on a volume dealing with civilian morale. Professor Goodwin Watson of Teacher’s College Columbia University was appointed editor, and the book was planned in coordination with the president of the S.P.S.S.I., Professor Kurt Lewin, University of Iowa, and the Society’s secretary, Professor Theodore Newcomb, University of Michigan” (vi).

[iii]89.  Gregory Bateson, “Morale and National Character,” Civilian Morale: Second Yearbook of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, ed. Goodwin Watson (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1942), 71-91.

[iv] 90. See Goodwin Watson, “Five Factors in Morale,” Civilian Morale, 30-47, and Gardner Murphy, “Essentials for a Civilian Morale Program in American Democracy,” 405-436. According to Murphy, the federal morale service (designed for both temporary and permanent morale) fell through because it evoked the Creel Committee of WWI; Americans would have rejected “active propaganda,” preferring “patient discovery by Americans of what they really thought about the world predicament.” See Murphy, 426-427, 429.

[v]  91. See T.W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Paul W. Massing, “Anti-Semitism and Fascist Propaganda,” Anti-Semitism, A Social Disease, ed. Ernst Simmel (New York.: International Universities Press, 1946): 125-138; Nathan W. Ackerman and Marie Jahoda, Anti-Semitism and Emotional Disorder (New York: Harper, 1950) and the other publications in the series “Studies in Prejudice” edited by Max Horkheimer and Samuel H. Flowerman, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.  See below for the links of their identity politics (usually attributed to Erik Erikson) to the Harvard/Chicago pragmatists:  Parsons and Lasswell. Cf. Hugh Seton-Watson, “The Age of Fascism and its Legacy,” International Fascism, ed. George L. Mosse (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1979), 365. Hitler was only slightly indebted to the capitalists (who did not extensively fund him, or put him in power), and he soon brought them to heel. The irrationalist interpretation of Nazism as an outpouring of bad middle-class taste was followed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, defending modernism in its reconstruction of the Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937.

[vi] 92. Melville owned (and took with him on his 1860 Meteor voyage) The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth Together With A Description of the Country of the Lakes in the North of England, Now First Published with His Works, ed. Henry Reed (Phila.,1839). Some of his (surviving) annotations were discussed in Thomas F. Heffernan, “Melville and Wordsworth,” American Literature (Nov. 1977): 338-351. There is no mention of “The Prelude.” Hershel Parker states that Duyckinck brought the Appleton proof sheets of the poem to the Berkshires in 1850, and even reviewed it, but that neither he nor Melville read the poem at that time; see Parker, “Melville & The Berkshires,” American Literature: The New England Heritage , eds. James Nagel and Richard Astro (New York: Garland Publishing, 1981), 68. Parker suggests that Melville’s sympathies for the suffering poor were inspired by Wordsworth’s cottagers and his own professional or personal traumas of the early 1850s (78-79), while Heffernan noted the importance of  “The Excursion” to Clarel (351), a work displaying “the similarity of moral and religious concerns.”

[vii]  93. See T.W. Adorno et al, The Authoritarian Personality (New York: Harper, 1950), 71, 781-783. The “Genuine Liberal” type is anti-totalitarian and free of narcissism; in Adorno’s appropriation of Freud, the genuine liberal possesses “that balance between superego, ego, and id which Freud deemed ideal” (71). Adorno’s example of the type is a politically naive, but frank and independent twenty-one year old  woman, not given to ultra-femininity/feminine wiles; she is the daughter of a hiring manager at a railroad; in the family sexual division of labor, her loving mother represents emotions, her father, facts. She is religious (“Perhaps we will all be saved”) and reads Plato for Utopian inspiration. When asked how she felt about Negroes and Jews, she was “guided by the idea of the individual,” but she wouldn’t want to marry a Negro with dark skin or a man with a big nose. However, as a nurse’s aid, she did not object to caring for Negro patients. Adorno quotes her “joke” [what would Freud have said?]: “Maybe if the Jews get in power they would liquidate the majority! That’s not smart. Because we would fight back.” Admirably free of bigotry, she is also free of “repression with regard to her feelings toward her father: ‘I want to marry someone just like my father’ ” (783).  Distinguishing themselves from “manipulative” fascists, the authors, in their concluding sentence, prescribe an antithetical appeal to the emotions: “…we need not suppose that appeal to emotion belongs to those who strive in the direction of fascism, while democratic propaganda must limit itself to reason and restraint. If fear and destructiveness are the major emotional sources of fascism, eros belongs mainly to democracy” (976).  Henry A. Murray’s Thematic Apperception Test was used by Adorno’s colleagues creating “the F-scale” (the potential for fascist behavior);  Murray’s and Lasswell’s books are recommended in the bibliography.

[viii] 94. Gordon Allport, ABC’s of Scapegoating (New York: Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, 1983, ninth rev.ed., first publ. 1948).

[ix] 95. Gardner Murphy, Civilian Morale, 427.

[x] 96. Murray-Allport worksheet #16, “Psychology of Influence (Education Persuasion) Applied to Morale Building in America,” 13.

[xi]   97. David Hume had confidently asserted that unpredictability enters politics when factions are infiltrated by radical religion; by triumphalist hypermoralistic, hyper-rationalist puritan extremists: the link between cause and effect would no longer be obvious. See History of England, Vol. 6, year 1617. The Hume entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1971, presents Hume as a philosopher whose major contribution was his demonstration that there could be no theory of reality, no verification for our assertions of causality. Faced with the necessity of action we rely upon our habit of association and (subjective) beliefs. And yet Hume is described as a thinker who saw philosophy as “the inductive science of human nature.” He is not  described as a moderate or a Tory.

April 18, 2010

Links to Nazi sykewar, American style


This series reveals the astounding opinons derived from German and Nazi war propaganda that were adopted by leaders of the progressive movement on the threshold of America’s entrance into World War Two. It is deeply shocking to those who see an unbridgeable chasm between Roosevelt and Hitler. It also underlines the theme of this website: the growing literacy and numeracy of ordinary people since the invention of the printing press terrified aristocrats in Europe, and their opinions were easily transmitted to American progressives whose social democratic aspirations created a new aristocracy in America, similar to the idea of the Platonic Guardians. For a related blog with more evidence see On the power of Jeffersonian agrarianism among progressives, see (Don’t miss this one: it expresses the progressive fear of the rationality of ordinary people. who may see through propaganda.)

February 18, 2010

Nazi sykewar, American style, part four

“Opossum” by Godeleine de Rosamel

Today, the image of the Nazi has become a boring cliché, moreover the label is thrown around to the point of satiety.  Some appealing to “the right” believe that statist progressives are Nazis or Fascists, while the New Left, and the democratic left alike, pin the label on “fascist Republicans,” “the military-industrial complex,” “Wall Street,” various narcissists, and most recently, “tea-baggers.”

This is a terrible development, because we may be so bored by the subject of propaganda and its deployment by rival ideologies that we jeopardize our own sense of reality, and it is that firm grip on the real that constitutes a healthy identity in the individual (I am rejecting “identity” as constituted by ethnicity or by some indeterminate, fluid, interaction with the environment–both definitions dominate the academy today). The point of this series on undeservedly obscure book German Psychological Warfare, now concluding, is to alert my readers to the centrality of military psychiatry for the presumably protofascist masses (“the little man”) from the first world war on through to the present. My research into this subject was a direct result of Major Nidal Hasan’s jihad in Texas. I realized that although I had been studying various types of mental health therapies and their usually invisible ideologies for decades, I knew almost nothing about the U.S. military and its preferred treatment of troubled and traumatized soldiers, sailors, and marines.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the leadership role of Dr. Roy R. Grinker, Sr. (See for some of psychiatrist Grinker’s chief ideas.)

Grinker, a “functionalist” to the core, was a follower of the literature professors, sociologists and social psychologists who were major figures in transforming Melville’s character Captain Ahab from a romantic artist or tragic hero into a hyper-individualist, a demagogue, a symbol of Amerika, and an “anticipation” of Hitler and Stalin. And this shift in Melville readings from creative individualism to group-thinking, mind-deadening “adjustment” (the latter seen by such as Grinker as the favorable outcome of vanguard “general systems theory” or “interdisciplinary” studies) happened exactly at the same time that leading “progressive” capitalists were adopting Keynesian economics and supporting the mushrooming state of the New Deal. Which is to say, with great dismay, that the dread “right-wing” neoliberals are more plausible than the various factions of “the left” when they call their rivals “fascists” or “Nazis.” (I personally find the comparison ahistoric and damaging to a rational political discourse. I would rather call these particular progressives and their followers in mental health services and education as authoritarian liberals or scientistic conservative enlighteners, which is both accurate and less incendiary.)

The purpose of this particular series was not to write tiresomely on Hitler, Goebbels, and their all too familiar abuse of language in the new mass media (as one Facebook friend assumed), but to demonstrate that the “progressive” American defensive posture as world war once again loomed in the late 1930s was disgracefully contemptuous of ordinary citizens. In its zeal to combat midwestern isolationism or potentially subversive ethnics of German Italian, or Japanese ancestry (as one sociologist has advised me), this cohort was in some ways indistinguishable from mind-managing  Nazis. The idea that Harvard professors could appropriate Nazi methods and defuse their content to make it adaptable to democratic practice was hubris of a kind that has not been widely publicized, though I spelled it out in my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, and also in an article posted here:  My published study of the humanities curriculum as managed by “progressives” from the Civil War on (and in their organicism, a.k.a. ‘moderation’, reminiscent of the antebellum South) got many wonderful notices, but no reviewer reported the disturbing content I have just laid out.

I have also made clear in prior blogs that I am not against appropriate regulatory or stimulatory functions of the federal government because of an ideological commitment to root-and-branch “local control” and “laissez-faire economics.” So I am not attacking all forms of statism in this series, just the ones that are crazy-making and authoritarian while pretending to be sane and emancipating from illegitimate authority. Parts one, two, and three should have made the relinquishing of independent critical thought obvious to the reader, for instance in Kimball Young’s concluding remarks (see part three).

In this final blog on the content of German Psychological Warfare, edited by Ladislas Farago, and published in several editions by the prestigious Committee For National Morale in 1940, I will quote a sampling of the bibliography that suggests convergence between the statism of the Nazis in inculcating the “organic” society and the brand of “democratic traditions” perpetrated by leading social scientists who continue to dominate the mental health profession (though there may be resistance of which I am not aware). As advised by a German author (quoted below), their common aim was to tame the overly curious, overly skeptical, modern urban masses, who had sufficient education to question policies over which they had had no oversight or input.  Just as Grinker stigmatized as deviant the pushy and childish flier who criticized the suicide missions ordered by his superior officer (see, the social scientists associated with the Committee For National Morale quietly erased the dissenting individual and called such practices appropriate adaptation to democracy in the interest of national defense. But we were definitely not fascists.

The remainder of this blog lists some of the prominent members of the Committee For National Morale, and copies some of the bibliographic entries that support my argument as laid out above, but mostly in my book:  the little men would be merged emotionally with their comrades and “stable” leaders, leaders who were protecting them from their boastfulness in thinking Everyman should know the truth, and stuffing cotton in their collective (upper-class) ears to shut out her/his hypercritical kibbitzing.



The book was edited by Ladislas Farago “with the cooperation of” Harvard professors Gordon W. Allport and Edwin G. Boring, along with other figures associated with Harvard University: Dr. John G. Beebe-Center and Dr.  Stanley S. Stevens;  also Dr. Floyd L. Ruch of USC. “Interpretative Summary” by Prof. Kimball Young of Queens College.  Others prominent in the Committee and quoted in my book Hunting Captain Ahab are Arthur Upham Pope, Gregory Bateson, Gardner Murphy, Henry A. Murray, Goodwin B. Watson, Geoffrey Gorer, and Horace Kallen. Members either of the executive- or of sub-committees whose names will be familiar to many students of the period include Gifford Pinchot, Dr. Frank Kingdon, Herbert Bayard Swope, Dr. David M. Levy, George Gallup, Frank M. Stanton, Walter Wanger, Louis Adamic, Eliot Janeway, Margaret Mead, Elmer Davis, Owen Lattimore, Edgar A. Mowrer, and A. Philip Randolph.  The page that lists their membership also lays out the purpose of the Committee: (besides research and “the formulation of controlling principles of Morale)…3. The planning and promotion of practical measures to protect and enhance the country’s Morale in all groups and in every typical activity.”



“43. Spengler, O.  Preussentum und Sozialismus. Muenchen: Beck, 1920.

PRUSSIANISM  AND SOCIALISM. Spengler, a philosopher turned political prophet, ‘discovered’ during the war years the close identity of Prussianism to Socialism. Prussianism and “genuine Socialism”—not of Marx, but of Friedrich Wilhelm I, which was authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-revolutionary—are consolidated in the old Prussian spirit and are equal to each other because both mean power. This thesis was taken up by the Nazis in what was called ‘Socialism of action.’ Socialism meaning comradeship, service, and duty, not class struggle.” [And what “moderate” would not find this appealing? CS]

“85. Vershofen, W.  Fuerung im Arbeitsleben. Ber. Kongr.dtsch.Ges. Psychol., 1935.

LEADERSHIP IN INDUSTRY AND LABOR: Moral and mental qualities are considered more indispensable for factory management than technical skill. The author deals with his subject from the Nazi leader-principle angle. An extreme interpretation of this principle, as presented in this paper, leads Vershofen to describe the producer as a leader and the consumer as a follower. All conflicts of leadership in industry and labor must be settled by the state.” [So the Americans will find a moderate statism to harmonize conflicts? CS]

“192. Hesse, K. Wandlung des Soldaten. Berlin: Mittler, 1930.

TRANSFORMATION OF THE SOLDIER: Hesse considers the officer a pedagogue as well as a leader. His relationship with his subordinates should be that of a teacher to his students. He must set himself up as a model soldier and awaken military virtues, spirit of comradeship and a consciousness of ‘military socialism’ in his charges. The training of the professional ‘leader-soldier’ should include motor mechanics, electricity, photography, architecture, gliding, stenography, military geography, a knowledge of foreign languages (French, English, Polish, and Russian), theatrical arts, and singing.”

“249. Bircher, E.  Militaerpsychologie. Schweiz.Milit.Blaetter, 1919….

MILITARY PSYCHOLOGY: Dr. Bircher is a prominent Swiss physician, now serving as a military commander in Switzerland’s citizen army. …He maintains that, regardless of new weapons in the technological sense, the balance between victory and defeat depends on the solution of individual and mass morale problems.”

“329. Pinschovius, K. Die seelische Widerstandskraft im modernen Krieg. Oldenburg: Stalling, 1936.

THE POWER OF MENTAL RESISTANCE IN MODERN WAR: The author, an army psychologist of great reputation and a poet in his own right, states that mechanized wars present new and dangerous psychological problems which “superficial remedies like propaganda” are unable to solve. His book, a courageous and original critique of the mass-psychological approach to these problems, demands the recognition of the ‘rational qualities of modern man whom life in the city and technological skill have accustomed to asking questions before making up his mind.’ The book is a veritable mine of interesting conclusions especially valuable for a democracy where a rational approach to problems raised by mechanized war is still permissible.” [Cf. part one of this series. So did the Committee believe that their approach to Morale was not irrational and propagandistic? What would their psychologists mean by “balance” and “adjustment” and how would that be achieved in the patient/client?]

“446. Schoenemann, F.  Die Kunst der Massenbeeinflussung in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanst, 1924.

THE ART OF INFLUENCING THE MASSES IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The author, a prominent professor at the Berlin University and the Propaganda Ministry’s own Hochschule fuer Politik, is recognized as the Nazi’s foremost expert on the United States. In this book he analyzes the factors and forces influencing public opinion in the United States. In another lecture, he distinctly warned against the prevalent German tendency of underestimating America as a potential world power when he said: ‘America is much more important for us and it has much greater influence on the development of European politics than most of us realize. It would be wrong either to underrate and slight or fail to study the United States just as thoroughly and systematically as other great powers in the world. Such past short-sightedness caused us to make a serious blunder and we simply cannot afford to repeat it.’”

[Schoenemann directed the first German Melville dissertation, by one Karl Sundermann, filed in 1937. Did he think that Herman Melville had revealed the essential (“fissured”) American character? National character was a preoccupation of many of the Germans or Nazis cited. CS]

February 17, 2010

Nazi sykewar, American style, part three

The Business Behind Art knows the Art of Good Business, Hans Haacke, 1985

[Here the authors of German Psychological Warfare, ed. Ladislas Farago, explain why Americans should not be alarmed by the appropriation/adaptation of Nazi sykewar techniques to American democratic traditions. I am copying the last two pages of their text, wherein you will discover that they continue to use scientific-sounding language, while never specifying how such adaptations would not threaten the democratic value of questioning authority. Could it be because they viewed themselves as Platonic Guardians protecting the [skeptical] masses from their insatiable curiosity? The remainder of this blog is typed verbatim from pages 58-59 of the text. This will be followed by Queens College professor Kimball Young’s closing remarks. Then there will be two bibliographic entries referring to Freud, as founder of the mass psychology they seek to implement, as well as a comparable entry on Clausewitz.]



   Our Survey of German Psychological Warfare is based upon the writings of German military theorists, psychologists, and Nazi “philosophers.” Their books and articles have been carefully coordinated into a composite picture of German theories. By its very nature, such a survey cannot anticipate a finished portrait of German war psychology in action. We shall have to wait to see how valid many of these theories proved in the acid test of their actual application.

    While. thus, it is appropriate to caution against accepting every single German theory at face value, many of the German suggestions are adaptable to specific American requirements of national defense.

    Americans should have no qualms about adopting some of the best features of German military psychology. The Nazis have, on their part, expropriated the findings of many American scholars whose contribution to military psychology (particularly those of the Division of Psychology, U.S. Army 1917-18) were of the greatest interest and value when psychology was introduced as an integral part of the German war machine.


    American psychologists like Yerkes, McDougall [a famous racist, CS], Thorndike, Terman, Allport, Yoakum, Strong, O’Connor, Ligon, Dodge, and others have had an unmistakable influence on German military psychology, although their theories and practical suggestions were more or less distorted after going through the Nazi mill.

   American political scientists like Harold D. Lasswell and Leonard Doob have attracted Nazi attention and imagination. Lasswell’s Propaganda Technique in the World War and Doob’s Propaganda,iIts Psychology and Technique were carefully read and digested in Germany.

  Nor were the Germans the first to discover “psychological campaigns.” General Sherman Miles, present chief of our own Military Intelligence, surveyed the nature of modern warfare almost fifteen years ago in an article published in the North American Review. It is known that his article received the most careful attention of German military circles (347). [They cite an entry describing a Swiss sociologist inspired by Miles’s article, 1928. CS] Long before Hitler wrote his Kampf, Banse and Ludendorff their blueprints of Total War, or Blau his secret propaganda text-book, an American Colonel (now General) Walter Campbell Sweeney, described the changed character of modern wars in a prophetic little book entitled Military Intelligence—A New Weapon of War (New York: Stokes, 1924.)

   Written almost eighteen years ago and now all but forgotten, it was, in fact, the first warning and outline of “psychological warfare.” Colonel Sweeney wrote:

    “While espionage is still one of the recognized agencies in the collection of military information, its field of action has been extended…as to make its military phase an unimportant one…It may be called War Propaganda…and it is not a military weapon but a national one. It is not operated by military personnel but by civilians.  Even in war the attack chiefly is directed against the civilian population in the homeland and only partially against the military forces. Its main object in war is to weaken the enemy by destroying the faith of his people in their government. Its main object in peace is to select and prepare agencies which will be of value to it for the purposes when the time for the use of military force arrives.”

   The Fifth Column was clearly foreseen by Colonel Sweeney:

   “A possible method of acquiring information of value under such conditions but one whose use would not even be considered by the United States [!]  lies in establishing within the enemy country a system whereby local inhabitants act as spies and agents and make their reports to representatives who pass through at regular intervals. Such a system to be effective must be one that has been built up years before the commencement of the war.”

   And the warning:

   “It appears to be evident that a new agency with a new method of attack has come into existence. It was born out of the modern industrial necessities of the armies and the need for having full support of the public in prosecuting a war.

    New methods of attack require new methods of defense. The new weapon, war propaganda, as described, has developed the new method of attack and has brought us to the point where we must create a new agency and method of defense.”  [end pages 58-59. So the U.S. disavows Fifth Columns in Occupied Europe? CS]


[Kimball Young’s reassuring interpretive essay (pp.60-62), closing remarks:]

 …   It is quite possible that a study of our survey of German psychological warfare may lead to a conviction that we are up against something which cannot be successfully combated. Those who come around to this thinking neglect the fact that American culture has nurtured a strength which is vastly superior to the Nazi totalitarian spirit. We have had 150 years experience with a democratic form of government and we should be loath to let it slip away from us.

    Our superiority is backed up by tremendous technical skill and industrial capacity which in themselves constitute a powerful support for our psychological strength. Further, our individual initiative and strong sense of independence of action, if tempered and developed, are essential components of stable leadership. Our sense of team-play, co-ordination of tasks and esprit de corps, witnessed all through our everyday living, are also virtues of high importance. Our consciousness of mass strength, although it tends to be over-boastful at times, provides us with self-assurance and self-appreciation. Although our democratic ideology cannot be said to match the “attack attitude” stressed by Nazi military psychologists, we have a sticking quality that can be aroused to a genuine “fighting spirit” if our basic values are threatened.

   Finally, the crucial American faith in the common man, in his integrity, in his capacity to join his fellows in policy-making and execution of plans, and in his ability to combine individual responsibility with personal rights and liberties constitutes the foundation upon which a strong national morale may be built and sustained. [end, Kimball Young excerpt. The last two paragraphs were the democratic part: ordinary individuals, merged with stable leaders and not asking too many (“boastful”?) questions, should be part of a single well-oiled machine, cf. Woodrow Wilson, The Clausewitz and Freud factors follow in the Bibliography:]

“254. Freud, S. Zeitgemaesses ueber Krieg und Tod. Wien: Internatl. Psychoanalyt. Verlag, 1924.

CONTEMPORARY THOUGHTS ON WAR AND DEATH: Freud’s book is still widely read and anonymously quoted among German army psychologists.

374. Freud, S. Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse. Wien: Internationl. Psychoanalyt. Verlag, 1923.

MASS PSYCHOLOGY AND THE ANALYSIS OF THE EGO: This fundamental work is the raw material upon which the Nazis base a major part of their psychological offensives.”

But see this earlier entry on Clausewitz:

“7. Clausewitz, K. v. Vom Kriege. Berlin: Behr’s 1916

WAR: A Prussian general of the early 19th Century and founder of the unique German “war philosophy”, Clausewitz believed that war is part and parcel of the state and society. His famous dictum, “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, has been resuscitated by the Nazis as the kernel of their whole political philosophy and has become the theoretical basis of their “political warfare”. Clausewitz was the first of modern military writers whose conception of the “strategy of inner defense” has been realized in total war. By “strategy of inner defense” he meant psychological preparedness and a proper estimation of morale as decisive factors in war. [end Clausewitz entry]

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

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