Monday, January 11, 2021

Personality Cults and True Believers

Rebels without causes are easily attracted to personality cults. They slip easily into the comfort of a kindred mob's nonspecific fury, claiming no lofty ideals beyond a vague notion of an empty image of an aloof figure upon whom they project their hazily bilious aspirations.

If you've never read "The True Believer", it's a beautifully-written short book that (along with Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly") is required reading for our era.

Everyone knows the term coined by its title, and the book was once considered an essential classic, but its decline into obscurity paralleled our own critical decline. We should never have lost touch with the key principles therein.


PZ said...

To me, your recommendation of the Hoffer book fits like a good suit, not that I have a good suit. The longshoreman-philosopher had a column in the Cleveland Press when I was a teenager in the sixties, and before the liberal crowd turned their back on him. Rereading, and thanks for the reminder.

James Leff said...

The fact that he was a superb (and completely self-taught) writer was overshadowed by the breathtaking originality of his insights, which, in turn, was overshadowed, as you note, by his failure to hew to political proprieties. It’s devilishly hard - if not impossible - to be both original *and* polite.

All in all, a great treasure of his age has been nearly forgotten.

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