Arendt on Totalitarianism …

Noteworthy quotes from this WaPo piece on Arendt’s work:

The lesson: Freedom is fragile, and when demagogues speak, and others start following them, it is wise to pay attention. …

The political party system, and parliamentary government more generally, were regarded as corrupt and oligarchic. Such an environment was fertile ground for a “mob mentality,” in which outsiders — Jews, Roma, Slavs, gays, “cosmopolitan intellectuals” — could be scapegoated and a savior could be craved: “The mob always will shout for ‘the strong man,’ the ‘great leader.’ For the mob hates the society from which it is excluded, as well as Parliament where it is not represented.” …

“What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part . . . Totalitarian propaganda thrives on this escape from reality into fiction . . . [and] can outrageously insult common sense only where common sense has lost its validity.” Cynicism. Contempt for truth. Appeal to the craving of the masses for simple stories of malevolent conspiracy. …

“Representative government itself,” she writes, “is in a crisis today, partly because it has lost . . . all institutions that permitted the citizens’ actual participation, and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party system suffers: bureaucratization and the two parties’ tendency to represent nobody but the party machines.”

 

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