"Empires of Illusion and the Credibility Trap"
"I came across a nice, compact interview with Chris Hedges which illuminates his thesis of the decline of the American Empire and the illusory thinking that accompanies it. Can the shock and meltdown of Karl Rove on election night be any better contemporary illustration of the power of selective thinking to delude a group of seemingly rational people to their own downfall?
The end of empires and the accompanying sea change of social organization are always remarkable for their extremes of human behavior. The almost frenetic preoccupation and adherence to the Nazi ideology in the latter stages of the war, when it was obvious to any rational observer that they could not win, is remarkable. I had been particularly struck in my reading some time ago with the 'wolf packs' of Nazis who had raged through Berlin, rounding up old men, and even boys who had not joined the Volkssturm, and hanging them, even while the Russians were shelling the Reichstag. It never made sense to me until today.
"The radio announced that Hitler had come out of his safe bomb-proof bunker to talk with the fourteen to sixteen year old boys who had 'volunteered' for the 'honor' to be accepted into the SS and to die for their Fuhrer in the defense of Berlin. What a cruel lie! These boys did not volunteer, but had no choice, because boys who were found hiding were hanged as traitors by the SS as a warning that, 'he who was not brave enough to fight had to die. When trees were not available, people were strung up on lamp posts. They were hanging everywhere, military and civilian, men and women, ordinary citizens who had been executed by a small group of fanatics. It appeared that the Nazis did not want the people to survive because a lost war, by their rationale, was obviously the fault of all of us. We had not sacrificed enough and therefore, we had forfeited our right to live, as only the government was without guilt."
- Dorothea von Schwanenfluegel, eyewitness account, fall of Berlin 1945.
I was reminded of this phenomenon by the trial of Sophie Scholl, and her words to the judge Roland Freisler, as he ranted his virulent condemnations at them. 'Soon you will be in our place,' she said to him. He did escape the hangman's noose at Nuremburg, but only by virtue of an Allied bomb in 1945. When his body was brought to hospital an orderly remarked, 'It was God's verdict.' He was buried in an unmarked grave, without ceremony and unmourned. Much like his beloved Fuhrer.
This is an almost perfect illustration of the credibility trap. One cannot allow the illusion to falter, even a little, to the bitter end. And as the fraud fades, the force intensifies, becoming almost rabid in its deflection. Because that illusion has become the center of a hollowed people's being, their raison d'être, a mythological justification for their existence. If the ideology had been a lie, then they are not heroes and gods on earth, but monsters and criminals, and their life has been self-serving and meaningless, without significance and honor. And that is the credibility trap. It is the impulse for the leaders to keep doubling down in the hope of a win, until exhaustion and collapse. And this is the US financial system today."
"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
- John Harrington
Chris Hedges on "Empire of Illusion"