Hypnotized En Masse
On the issue of Hitler as a charismatic leader, it is often difficult to fathom how even the most charismatic of individuals would be able to influence, persuade, or justify some of the atrocities that the Nazi regime is responsible for. Hitler’s rise to power was greatly attributed to his skills as a public speaker, yet, he shied away from more personalized media outside of crowded public forum. Hitler was able to reproduce in others much of the charismatic skill that he possessed. The focus on speakers was so intense and scientific in nature that an NSDAP speaker-training school was formed(Sax and Kunz 1992, p. 99). In fact much of the propaganda that fueled the Nazi party in terms of cash flow and party participants centered around public speakers.
A sociological study of the phenomenon that the events associated with this charismatic effect, have been carefully documented and examined under the term “mass hysteria.” Basically, the “situation” contributes to the influence of the speaker as much as the tactics and gestures of the speaker himself. A strange phenomenon occurs specifically with large groups of people concentrating and behaving in unison that has an intoxicating and hypnotic effect all of its own. In Shivelbusch(2006) it was noted that “He played the crowd like a gigantic organ, Pulling out all the stops, permitting the listeners to rave and roar, laugh and cry.”(p. 63) This description could also be likened to a type of hypnotic technique, relying on the phenomenon of “mass hysteria.” This phenomenon may also be compared to other charismatic speakers such as those from religious communities, or even rock stars such as Elvis Presley. A video introduced by Professor Austin in Freedom and Social Control(https://youtu.be/JJfaaPdP0kI; (Starting at about 45:00))
provides and interesting perspective on the psychological effect that takes place in these type of mass rally situations regardless of the message. It is often described as a religious experience, and causes the release of endorphins and opioids as well. The association between stimulation of the pleasure center in the brain with the speaker and the message may have been another secret to seducing a nation into terror.
Schivelbusch, Wolfgang. Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939. New York: Picador, 2006
Sax, Benjamin C,.and Kuntz, Dieter. Inside Hitler’s Germany: A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich. Lexington: Heath and Company, 1992.
“A Question of Miracles.” YouTube.com. Published Jan 2014. https://youtu.be/JJfaaPdP0kI