The Almost-Irresistibly Seductive Combination of False Information and Charismatic People – A Quintessential Leader Perspective

Posted: March 5, 2017 in Examples and Analyses of Lack of Leadership and Unquintessential Leadership
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Adolf Hitler 1930's Nazi GermanyWe the peeps are strange, as Jim Morrison and the Doors observed in one of the band’s less enigmatic songs.

On the one hand, we have a great potential and capacity for intellect, logic, reason, and critical thinking, all of which can give us the ability to be objective, to think well, and to make sound decisions.

Yet, on the other hand, we overwhelmingly have the propensity to be absolutely slaves to our emotions, all of which are subjective, biased, seldom based on anything more than the feeling of the moment, and which completely derail that other side of us that should always be engaged and also always be the leader in the final outcome of what we say and do or where we go next.

Because of this tendency we have to be enslaved to our emotions, the combination of false information (outright lies, spin, angling, omission of facts, distortion of facts, etc.) and charismatic people have an almost-irresistible seductive power that can suck us in before we even know what has happened.

Adolf Hitler is a prime example of this kind of combination. His charisma and his rhetoric appealed to a German population that had been decimated by World War I and its aftermath in the Treaty of Versailles.

Germans after World War I were starving, jobless, and impoverished. Their country was in shambles, as was their government.

A virulent national anger and resentment against the rest of the world was seething just under the surface in the collective conscience of the country.

As a result, the German people were ripe emotionally for someone who could unleash that fury and give unfettered permission to take revenge against anyone and everyone responsible for the deplorable condition of Germany in the 1930’s. 

Adolf Hitler did just that. I’ve watched and listened to many of Hitler’s speeches and I’ve read Mein Kampf (which, by the way, has enjoyed a healthy resurgence in the current populist-leaning German political climate).

And I must confess that I don’t understand Hitler’s appeal at all.

I took every German language course offered while I was an undergraduate in college (my reason for taking German initially was pragmatic: I had not taken a foreign language in high school, so I knew I’d be so far behind in French or Spanish that I’d never catch up; but no high schools offered German, so I knew it would be a level-playing field for everyone in these college-level courses).

To this southern American, German is a harsh-sounding language. It comes across, to my ears and mind, no matter whether you’re reading it or speaking it, as tinged with anger.

Even if you’re reading the great German love story, popularized by Richard Wagner’s operatic adaptation, Tristan and Isolde, it’s hard, at least from my point of view, to see the romance through the gutteral quality of the German language.

But as I’ve thought and read about Hitler’s seduction of the German people, it’s occurred to me that perhaps the very nature of the German language was a key to why.

Hitler became charismatic because he was angry and he yelled and screamed out loud what much of the German population was feeling inwardly.

He looked for enemies where there were none and he hunted down innocent people to blame. Jews and much of eastern Europe bore the brunt of that false information.

Then he spun the complete fable of Aryan superiority, telling the German people that they were the elite, the master race, and that blond hair and blue eyes were the hallmark of Aryan racial purity, which ignited a devasting state of absolute mistrust, betrayal, and racial purging among the German people themselves.

Ironically, Hitler did not have the hallmark Aryan features that he claimed made up his superior race, so this defies any rational explanation except emotional fervor and prejudicial bias that turned off logic and critical thinking, blinded most Germans to the reality right in from them.

Interesting we see much of the environment in which Adolf Hitler flourished and the almost-irresistible seductive combination of false information and charisma in the United States today.

To those of us who haven’t lost our reason, our logic, and our ability to critically think, the similarities are eerily frightening.

A significant portion of the American population – in the South, the Rust Belt, and the Midwest – has been seething with anger at the economic hardships (which are real) they’ve been steadily experiencing for almost 40 years.

In the 1980s, small farmers began to be forced out of business and competitiveness by huge corporate farms. Many farms in the Midwest were foreclosed on, their owners forced to work as hourly labor for the big corporate farms or in the huge factories that defined the Midwest for almost 90 years.

With the dawn of the new millennium, the factories, both in the Midwest and the South, began to shutter as corporations got greedy and decided to maximize their profits by sending manufacturing to countries where supplies and labor were cheap (however, the fact that the American people expected cheaper goods was also a real factor in this has largely been excluded in the current narrative).

Barely educated in the modern sense of the word, these unemployed workers had nowhere to turn and no way to reinvent themselves. And anger set in and took hold.

A few years ago an extreme political group, known as the Tea Party, began to tap into this collective anger among these Americans, disseminating the same kind of false information that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party used to tap into the collective anger of Germans during the 1930’s.

This provided fertile ground for a charismatic – and perpetually-angry – person to step in and step up the dishonest, but emotionally-charged, rhetoric and turn the fervor into a frenzy.

Like Germany in the 1930’s, many Americans been seduced by the ever-increasing glut of false information – known now as alternative facts – and the charisma of a bellicose person, Donald Trump, who appeals to the subjective side of emotions and bias to spin fables, spread blame, and seek vengeance.

Violence against ethnic and racial groups in this country have dramatically increased and worsened in the last several years as America itself has become a racial war zone, characterized by the polar extremes on all sides.

Fringe racial superiority groups – white suprematists, neo-Nazis, the KKK, etc. – have emerged and surged in the last few years.

African-Americans and Hispanics have borne the brunt of this blame game and rising anger for the last 10 or so years. Now, in just in the last few months, America’s Jewish population has also been increasingly threatened with the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats against synagogues and Jewish community centers.

There is no way a rational, objective, logical, and critically-thinking person should be able see this and shouldn’t be able to see the very dangerous similarities to what happened under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

But it seems that objectivity, logic, and critical thinking have become the exception rather than the rule among most Americans.

As quintessential leaders, however, we must be the exception rather than the rule, even if we stand – and we will, increasingly, as our entire society moves toward the emotionalism feeding and fueling our current climate, and it seeps deeper into every fabric (family, education, religion, social, etc.) of our lives – completely alone.

It is not that quintessential leaders do not have emotions and feelings. They do and they can be very strong at times.

But the difference is that quintessential leaders do not allow their emotions and feelings control them, because we realize that emotions and feelings are subjective and, even biased, at times.

We also realize that emotions and feelings rarely square exactly or remotely with the truth, with logic, and with critical thinking (which is necessary to separate fact from fiction, logic from irrationality, and emotions from reality).  

Quintessential leaders understand that when we spontaneously run with our emotions, allowing them to dictate our words, our actions, and our lives, then we run as fools rushing headlong into the almost-irresistible seduction of false information and charismatic people, a disaster from which we might never recover.

So the question remains: have you been seduced or have you resisted the seduction?

Whether your rational, logical, critical thinking side or your emotional side is running your life will determine the answer.

How are we doing?


  1. iammarchhare says:

    I fear you have bought into the propaganda that the Tea Party was an inherently racist movement. In reality, it was largely a reaction to ObamaCare, and, unfortunately, much of the fears surrounding its implementation have turned out to be all too true.

    I also should mention that both the Tea Party and Occupy movements’ concerns have gone largely ignored by mainstream politicians. If you ask me, THAT is why we have populists movements like Sanders’ and Trump’s. Both sides have turned into populists catering to the extremes, and it is unhealthy and dangerous.


    • John, I know the Tea Party was both a reaction to Obamacare and racist. That’s my point with this post. It was a sledgehammer reaction to things that were inherently wrong in a human system that went to the other extreme, as humans tend to do emotionally.

      Everything we are seeing now are extremes, fueled by emotional responses, not by logic, reason, and critical thinking. From my objective observation, which this is – and I only pointed out one aspect of the false information that people seem to be grabbing and running with – we are in deep trouble as a nation and personally, because we’ve cast off all restraints, emotionally, mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually, and we have bought the charisma and false information, in every aspect of our lives (never questioning, never validating, never critically thinking about in the cold hard light of day), hook, line, and sinker.

      You and I both know, as quintessential leaders by calling, we are required to meet the highest standard in the universe, and that means becoming like our Example in every way. None of what I see today in the world around us, and often among those who claim to follow that Example, is remotely close. That doesn’t mean it’s still not our goal and what we must be striving for continually.


  2. Martha Peeples says:

    Good article. I would add that Muslims in our country are sadly under attack, as well as the thousands of refugees struggling to find shelter and safety. I agree with your premise, and it’s a tragic, challenging time. We can’t afford to be complacent, and we must resist normalizing this administration at all cost.


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