Eric Hoffer is a former immigrant farm worker who achieved much acclaim and fame during the 1950s and 1960s as a writer and philosopher.
Hoffer’s first of many books, “True Believers: Thinking About the Nature of Mass Movement,” was published in 1951, when he was a seafarer in San Francisco. He continued to work on the dock and continued to write for another 13 years, before becoming an assistant professor at UC-Berkeley, but “True Believer” remains his most concentrated work.
Hoffer applied the term “mass movement” to “revolutionary parties, nationalist movements, and religious movements” and added, “A movement pioneered by linguists, realized by fanatics and reinforced by doers.”
As summarized in Wikipedia, “Hoffer argues that fanatical and radical cultural movements, whether religious, social or national, arise when large numbers of people, frustrated, believe that life Their individual is worthless or corrupt, joining a movement demanding radical change. But the real appeal to this population is escapism from the ego, not the realization of personal hopes.” Thus, a mass movement attracts followers “not because it can satisfy the desire for self-promotion, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-denial”.
Importantly, Hoffer concludes that the phenomenon is not limited to any religious or ideological belief, noting that in post-World War I Germany, communists and Nazis competed against each other. loyalty among frustrated, marginalized and angry citizens.
Although published seven decades ago, Hoffer’s observations continue to surface today in a country that could more accurately be called the Lost States of America. True believers are numerous and they consider those with divergent views to be an evil scourge that must be eradicated.
The most obvious example occurred 13 months ago, when hundreds of Donald Trump’s followers, believing – without a shred of evidence – that his re-election bid had been stolen, infiltrated the Capitol. to prevent confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential election.
However, that is not an isolated example of mindless movements, nor are they confined to the right side of the political ledger. On the left, some members of the so-called “anti-fascist” movement have engaged in street violence against anyone and anything its followers choose to target. consumption, sometimes rendering some major neighborhoods nearly uninhabitable.
The “if-you-not-with-we-you-are our enemy” syndrome is also evident in nonviolent political situations, as two current events in California are highlighted.
The left of the California Democratic Party has declared war on members who do not adhere to 100% of the party’s agenda. It was demonstrated 4 years ago when progressive activists denied long-serving US Senator Dianne Feinstein confirmation of running for re-election because she was seen as too moderate and too willing to work on her behalf. partisan line.
Now, the same activists are raving about the law that declared California’s intention to create a single-payer health care system that would have stalled without a vote in state Congress. state. The coalition in favor of the bill threatens to block party endorsement of any legislator who voted against the bill and now promises to drop support for anyone who does not publicly endorse it. make it, although this measure is best half way.
North of Sacramento, in Shasta County, the ideological cousins of last year’s U.S. Capitol invaders launched a recall campaign against a county supervisor, the former Sheriff. Redding, Leonard Moty, who they deemed not right-wing enough, and it could have worked. . Initial gains last week indicated that Moty, by any reasonable standard, a conservative Republican, would lose his seat, giving control of right-wing ideologies on the board.
Hoffer warns us about heartless true believers who are undermining the stability of citizens and democracy.
CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, visit normalatters.org/commentary.
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/02/06/eric-hoffer-warned-us-about-true-believers/ Eric Hoffer warns us about ‘true believers’ – San Bernardino Sun