Skip to comments.Idols of Crowds (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 09/15/2008 9:01:06 PM PDT by jazusamo
"A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence."
Jean-François Revel was not referring to the United States when he wrote those words, nor to his own France, but to human beings in general. He was certainly not referring to Barack Obama, whom he probably never heard of, since Revel died last year.
To find anything comparable to crowds' euphoric reactions to Obama, you would have to go back to old newsreels of German crowds in the 1930s, with their adulation of their fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. With hindsight, we can look back on those people with pity, knowing now how many of them would be led to their deaths by the man they idolized.
The exultation of the moment can exact a brutal price after that moment has passed. Nowhere is that truer than when it comes to picking the leader of a nation, which means entrusting that leader with the fate of millions today and of generations yet unborn.
A leader does not have to be evil to lead a country into a catastrophe. Inexperience and incompetence can create very similar results, perhaps even faster in a nuclear age, when even "a small country"-- as Senator Obama called Iran-- can wreak havoc anywhere in the world, when they are led by suicidal fanatics and supply nuclear weapons to terrorists who are likewise suicidal fanatics.
Barack Obama is truly a phenomenon of our time-- a presidential candidate who cannot cite a single serious accomplishment in his entire career, besides advancing his own career with rhetoric.
He has a rhetorical answer for everything. Those of us who talk about the threat of Iran are just engaging in "the politics of fear" according to Obama, something to distract us from "the real issues," such as raising taxes and handing out largesse with the proceeds.
Those who have studied the years leading up to World War II have been astonished by how many people and how many countries failed to see what Adolf Hitler was getting ready to do.
Even though Hitler telegraphed his punches, few people seemed to get the message. Books about that period have had such titles as "The Gathering Storm" and "Why England Slept."
Will future generations wonder why we slept? Why we could not see the gathering storm in Iran, where one of the world's leading oil producers is building nuclear facilities-- ostensibly to generate electricity, but whose obvious purpose is to produce nuclear bombs.
This is a country whose president has already threatened to wipe a neighboring country off the map. Does anyone need to draw pictures?
When terrorists get nuclear weapons, there will be no way to deter suicide bombers. We and our children will be permanently at the mercy of the merciless.
Yet what are we talking about? Taxing and spending policies, socking it to the oil companies and rescuing people who gambled on risky mortgages and lost.
Are we serious? Are we incapable of adult foresight and adult responsibility?
Barack Obama of course has his usual answer: talk. Rhetoric seems to be his answer to everything. Obama calls for "aggressive" diplomacy and "tough" negotiations with Iran.
These colorful adjectives may impress gullible voters but they are unlikely to impress fanatics who are willing to destroy themselves if they can destroy us in the process.
Just what is Senator Obama going to say to Iran that has not been said already? That we don't want them to develop nuclear weapons? That has already been said, every way that it can possibly be said. If talk was going to do the job, it would already have done it by now.
Go to the United Nations? What will they do, except issue warnings-- and when these are ignored, issue more warnings?
But what does Obama have besides talk-- and adoring crowds?
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By the time Napoleon made himself emperor, he had won the Battles of Lodi, of Arcole, of Rivoli, of the Pyramids and of Marengo. And had promugulated the Napoleonic Code. He had yet to write a single autobiography.
Tough negotiations, sheesh. The only tough negotiation is a negotiation that is backed up by a willingness to use lethal force.
Wow! Great article.
BO isn’t capable of tough negotiation and he definitely wouldn’t use lethal force.
“Just what is Senator Obama going to say to Iran that has not been said already?
My guess is he will tell them if they don’t behave and if they develop nuclear weapons, he is going to get really, really mad.
How ironic. The Obama image will be defeated by the Palin image. A good decision for the slightly wrong reason.
Agreed, I believe it’s Dr. Sowell’s best as yet re BO.
At least many of us are awake.
Thanks for the ping Jaz.
“But what does Obama have besides talk— and adoring crowds?”
Other than him being a BSer’s BSer I cannot think of a thing.
Been tryin’ to figure that one out for awhile now.
Well said, CBB. Dr. Sowell has been warning us for months and Palin has been on scene only weeks, sometimes it makes one wonder.
I am saddened to learn from this of the death of Jean-François Revel, a brilliant, tough critic of French anti-Americanism. Imagine an academic with guts enough to run contrary to the smug predispositions of his fellow academics his entire career and smart enough to make it stick. We have one like him and his name is Thomas Sowell.
I think we have lost our sense of responsibility and citizenship.
It's now like we are competing against each other to see who can get the most while giving the least.
That’s right, RQSR. He was supposed to a great orator and we found out that’s only true with a teleprompter.
Very well said.
I believe many have and their numbers seem to be increasing.
For once, I disagree with the good Dr. Sowell. One need only look back to November '78...
This very obvious question should be the first one out of every reporter's mouth whenever this "tough talk" nonsense is spewed out by Obama, Biden and old Europe.
Thomas Sowell is a national treasure.
Sadly, I remember that only too well.
That’s a hoot, especially Olbie.
Yhanx for the ping!
A “great article Mr. Sowell” bump!
Same here...Amazing how people will sell their souls to another human who promises them hope and change.
I like this article. It has a different feel than his other work (and not to discredit any of it).
>> Even though Hitler telegraphed his punches, few people seemed to get the message
If my scratchy memory is correct, Thomas Edison had a pacifistic aversion to warfare. Had he lived to see the horrors of Hitler’s hell, would TE choose strident opposition to engagement? Not all great men are capable of tackling the greatest challenges.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
I don’t know a thing as far as Edison and pacifism but as you say, many great men lack much in some areas.
You are right on the mark, IMO.
I especially like that too, Dr. Sowell has mentioned that in one or two other columns.
>> How ironic. The Obama image will be defeated by the Palin image.
Their values are not washed by the distraction of bad looks and bad speech.
Yes, I will, in spite of the Democrat-like euphoria of Sarah Palin.
Scientists are often not very good at spotting deception. Paranormal fakers can often fool scientists, but are readily caught by magicians.
Current generations are wondering why we're fiddling whilst we burn.
Yes, I can see the logic in that, scientists deal in facts and not intuition.
You’ve got that right, many of us are.
If I may offer a Devil's advocate position here, wasn't this the very thing that many on the left said about Reagan--i.e.: that he won convincingly twice because we as an electorate bought into marketing and so forth?
Admittedly, I was on the Palin bandwagon for quite a while before she even got the VP/running mate nod, and I'd like to think I had more than mere libido in mind when I did. What does it say about the state of the two current political parties (and possibly the electorate itself) when the GOP running mate just might be more fit for office than the other three on the two respective tickets?
Don’t take that to mean I was dissing Sarah Palin, I am not. She is well qualified for the position, IMO. She has done what no one else could have done and pulled Conservatives and many I’s into supporting McCain or at least being able to vote for him..
I was making the point that Dr. Sowell has been warning us for months of the complete inadequacy of BO and few were listening. I know there were many Conservatives and I’s that flat wouldn’t vote for McCain no matter what Dr. Sowell said.
John, I am surprised and delighted.
It needs some critical editing for typos and grammatical errors, though. Even the organization is called the "Americican Civil Rights Union," and several instances of using "and" when "an" was intended. I got the impression that it may have been typed by a voice recognition system.
Works every time.
Will future generations wonder why we slept? Why we could not see the gathering storm in Iran,
What he doesn't say but seems to suggest is that Obama fans are practicing the writ of "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" BUT without ever once seeing or caring to see how their own village is being encircled by barbarians intent upon the destruction of the village and all within that village. Obama stands in the Village Square, clamoring for villagers focus upon him, to believe in him, that he will protect them.
And while they are focused upon Obama, their backsides are exposed to Barbarian spears and bullets.
At conclusion of the column, Dr. Sowell seems to wonder... Is this part and parcel of Obama's "plan" for "change" and "hope"? For whom?
I know Thomas Sowell is in his 70’s, but we would so blessed as a nation to have him serving in or advising the McCain administration.
not amazing really...to me its actually Devine Design, and the evil one is still being allowed to rule 'the world'...
'Birds of a feather' [human idolization] is the easier path, rather than the untried risks of Faith...
most people cant be quiet enough to hear the Spirit while surrounded by the steady drumbeat of the natural condition of man en masse...
we all have strengths and weaknesses...the ability to help one another is a fragile balance continually under assault by those who would do much evil...
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