The Tactics of the Clever Demagogue

“… the clever demagogue, well versed in the dangerous art of producing supra-normal stimulus situations, gets hold of young people at the susceptible age [late teens to early twenties], he finds it easy to guide their object-fixations in a direction subservient to his political aims. At the post-puberal age some human beings seem to be driven by an over-powering urge to espouse a cause, and, failing to find a worthy one, may become fixated on astonishingly inferior substitutes. The instinctive need to be a member of a closely knit group fighting for common ideals may grow so strong that it becomes inessential what those ideals are and whether they possess any intrinsic value. This, I believe, explains the formation of juvenile gangs whose social structure is very probably a rather close reconstruction of that prevailing in primitive human society”.

Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression (1963).

Lorenz grew up in Austria in the 1930s and was possibly thinking here about the Hitler Youth movement. He was reticent in mentioning Nazi subjects as he himself, like may others at the time, had felt obliged to join the Nazi party.

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