Ponerology 101: Psychopathy at Nuremberg – Part IV

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In short, Göring exploited the ideology and structure of Nazism for his own personal ambition, greed, and sadistic need for power. And yet, he still gave seemingly blind support to Hitler. Why? This is a question that puzzles many psychopathy researchers and even causes them to doubt the possibility that psychopaths could ever maintain a stable position in any political or corporate system. After all, psychopaths are notoriously self-serving and impulsive. They are loyal to no one and quick to turn on their so-called “associates” and “friends”. But for intelligent psychopaths like Göring, subservience to superiors is not loyalty per se. It is mere lip service that allows them to reap the benefits of their environment. Think of Karl Rove and George Bush – Rove played his part of cunning underling because that’s where he gained the most benefits. Just as psychopaths will often abide by prison rules to secure parole or lighter sentences, even feigning religious conversion, they will work within a political structure like Nazism because they have an interest in doing so. Whereas in a normal society psychopaths are persecuted by non-psychopaths because of their antisocial attitudes and behaviors, in a system like the Nazi dictatorship, the rules change. In a society with no higher authority than themselves, they have an interest in maintaining it, even if that means sucking up to a delusional fanatic.

However, while alliances are created and maintained in such a system, there is another motivation at work. Self-promotion and the resulting backstabbing is just as much a part of the game. And Göring was an expert. At Nuremburg, he repeatedly showed a typical ease of yarn spinning and shirking of responsibility to others, demonstrating the real nature of his so-called “loyalties”. He was caught in several obvious contradictions and lies during his testimony and was quick to denounce his fellow Nazis, shouting frequent outbursts such as the following:

“Roehm! Don’t talk to me about that dirty homosexual swine! That was the real clique of perverted bloody revolutionists! They are the ones who made the Party look like a pack of hoodlums, with their wild orgies and beating up Jews on the street and smashing windows! … What a gang of perverted bandits that SA was! It is a damn good thing I wiped them out or they would have wiped us out!”

As Gilbert points out, however, “These were, of course, the very same hoodlums whom Göring had trained in street-fighting”.19 Sounds a bit like the American pundits who lambaste the very “Islamic terrorists” they funded and trained in the ’70s and ’80s, doesn’t it? Alliances are only alliances when they’re convenient. As soon as they’re not, all bets are off. Gilbert was able to observe Göring’s manipulative “divide and conquer” modus operandi in operation:

It was interesting to compare notes with some of the other officers who were seeing him at this time, to see how he was maligning the psychologist to the psychiatrist, and vice versa, both chaplains to the psychologist and psychiatrist, and vice versa, while fawning on each in turn. In the prisoners’ dock, which was the only place he could meet the others now, he repeated the same process with militarists against civilians, Prussians against Bavarians, Protestants against Catholics, and always vice versa, smiling to each in turn, but soliciting sympathy by scorning him behind his back to members of opposed groups. … Finally, when Speer made his spectacular denunciation of Hitler and Göring, Göring reacted in typical gangster fashion, threatening to have Speer murdered if he ever got out of the jail alive.20

After seeing film evidence of the atrocities of the regime, many of the defendants broke down crying in shame, but Göring had a different reaction.

“It was such a good afternoon too, until they showed that film. They were reading my telephone conversations on the Austrian affair, and everybody was laughing with me. And then they showed that awful film, and it just spoiled everything.”21

On April 18, 1946, Göring offered his infamous glimpse behind the psychopathic mask of fascism to Gilbert, quoted in the last installment of this series. (“All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”) And on an another occasion, he said:

“What do you mean, morality… word-of-honor?” Göring snorted. “Sure, you can talk about word-of-honor when you promise to deliver goods in business. – But when it is the question of the interests of the nation!? – Phooey! Then morality stops. That is what England has done for centuries; America has done it; and Russia is still doing it! … When a state has a chance to improve its position because of the weakness of a neighbor, do you think it will stop at any squeamish consideration of keeping a promise? It is a statesman’s duty to take advantage of such a situation for the good of his country!”22

Göring wholly embraced the psychopathic “dog-eat-dog” worldview. For him, as for the psychopaths dictating “war on terror”-inspired foreign policy today, “preventive war, aggressive war, politics, and peace were all just different aspects of the same struggle for supremacy which was in the very nature of things, with the rewards going to the strongest nation and the cleverest leaders.”23 This is the stark reality behind the political propaganda of “national interests” dished out for public consumption in the world. Gilbert’s most dangerous conclusion was equally blunt:

“Psychopathic personalities undoubtedly play an important part in major manifestations of social pathology, particularly when they achieve positions of leadership in social groups and movements. It is all too clear that they played a decisive role in the revolutionary nucleus of the Nazi movement, and thus determined the complexion of the government of Nazi Germany.”24

That’s what he concluded and he wrote it in his book. That is why no one has heard of him, why none of his research or conclusions have been implemented in the practice of politics the world over, and why the Nuremberg defendants had to die. It’s why political psychologists are still focused on testing for “political biases among voters” and other interesting tidbits that miss the mark when it comes to the truly important issues. And it’s why the only thing anyone remembers about the Nazis at Nuremburg were their Rorschach protocols!

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Pretty much every current pet theory that attempts to explain the source of evil – the “enemy” in our midst – is wrong. There is no singular “Nazi mind”, just as there isn’t an “Islamic mind” or even a “Western or American mind” that is the source of all evil. Fighting “Islam” or even “American imperialism” will get us nowhere. The fact is, psychopaths exist in all human groups and they play an essential role in the politics of corruption, gaining support from individuals – normal and disordered. In short, the very qualities we often identify as those of a typical politician are those of a psychopath. They are present in all governments, and, given the right conditions, they create and maintain systems of oppression that know many labels: fascism, dictatorship, authoritarianism, communism, theocracy, and even democracy. As long as we focus on the name, we ignore the cause, and we play right into their hands.

  1. Ibid., 96.
  2. Ibid., 115.
  3. Ibid., 110.
  4. Ibid., 116.
  5. Ibid., 116.
  6. Ibid., 286.