Are Barack's Followers Mindless Fanatics?

Obama & the Eighty-One Percent True Believers

By —— Bio and Archives--July 11, 2010

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Recent polls reveal a giant gap in Obama’s approval between parties, with 81% of Democrats approving Barack’s job performance, while only 12% of Republicans concur. Despite unprecedented failure, why do liberals strongly approve Obama’s performance? Barack’s hyper-political stance and stunningly inept decisions ought to repulse every patriotic American. Hasn’t Obama been revealed as the JaMarcus Russell (failed NFL #1 pick) of American politics, losing every contest while steadfastly refusing to study the offensive play-book, or ponder team history?


What explains such self-destructive Democrat loyalty, which will destroy the party if not renounced? American philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote on zealotry, explaining why fanatics join irrational mass movements such as the Communists and Nazis. His works are seminally important for understanding crazed leftist hysteria.

I. The True Believer

Hoffer’s masterpiece, The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements investigates mass fanaticism. Published in 1951, it was immediately hailed a classic. It offers insights into the troubled psyches of those mindlessly swept into highly destructive political cults. Hoffer defines a “true believer” as “the man of fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy cause.” We see here the essential religious nature of the undertaking. And while Hoffer includes religious zealots, he mostly focuses upon the great political religions of our age—Communism and Nazism.

How could modern liberalism possibly fit this description? Well, a large portion of today’s “neo-liberals” are socialists demanding big government, tending towards atheism, and mostly indistinguishable from the generic fanatics Hoffer describes.

The True Believer mentality has certain essential characteristics:

  1. their goal is creating massive societal change.
  2. these superficially prefer action over introspection.
  3. these have a millenarian, ie “Last Days” interest in changing earth into paradise.
  4. they’re committed to self-sacrifice to achieve their fantastic goals.
  5. they desire group orientation, exchanging self for a herd identity.
  6. they possess a “sinners” guilty mentality, goading them towards the pseudo-salvation offered by the glorified group.
  7. they decry current society, claiming it outrageous, demanding epic change.
  8. they may not have a God, but always devils to attack.
  9. the movement’s spirit is hatred, excoriating all enemies. Hoffer writes “Hatred becomes a habit.”
  10. all political struggles are cast in Manichean terms of black and white, good and bad, etc.

II. Motivation For Fanatics

What is it that makes people into unthinking, fanatical believers who would torch the world to achieve unrealistic and unjust goals?

A. Change
All fanatical mass movements are essentially premised on the promise of “Change.” Hoffer writes,

It is a truism that many who join a rising revolutionary movement are attracted by the prospect of sudden and spectacular change in their conditions of life. A revolutionary movement is a conspicuous instrument of change.

But why is change so attractive? Hoffer claims empty, dissatisfied yet ambitious people are prime candidates for such zealotry. He believed most at risk are word-smiths longing for some great artistic achievement, but stymied by mediocrity—like professors, journalists, writers and scholars.

Of such destructive “Men of Words,” Hoffer wrote:

Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited…the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance…It is easy to see how the faultfinding man of words by persistent ridicule and denunciation, shakes prevailing beliefs and loyalties, and familiarizes the masses with the idea of change. What is not so obvious is the process by which the discrediting of existing beliefs and institutions makes possible the rise of a new fanatical faith.

Hoffer claims if zealots believe they have power to provoke revolution, it makes all the difference. He cites Marxism in the Russian Revolution as such doctrine acting as dynamite.

For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they…must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future. Finally, they must be wholly ignorant of the difficulties involved in their vast undertaking. Experience is a handicap.”

One notes Obama demanding positive change. Yet he’s clueless on how such happens. The biggest reason for Barack’s failures: He’s an absolute amateur.

In general, fanatical groups have certain qualities, says Hoffer:

All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance.

B. Religion
The nature of fanatical movements is religious. Zealots invariably consider themselves holy. A universal spiritual impulse drives them towards a higher cause, to sacrifice themselves to it, and also find a selfless group identity. Overall, while liberals might be atheist, agnostic, or non-heterodox believers, they still have religious impulses.

Of religious instincts, Hoffer writes:

When our individual interests and prospects do not seem worth living for, we are in desperate need of something apart from us to live for…Hence the embracing of a substitute will necessarily be passionate and extreme…the faith we have in our nation, religion, race, or holy cause has to be extravagant and uncompromising…We cannot be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to die for it…Every mass movement is in a sense a migration—a movement toward a promised land.

People can support revolution when seeking meaning for their lives. Here a person becoming “liberalized” away from religious beliefs still needs a raison d’etre. Hoffer claims mass movements offer similar elements as traditional religions.

C. Hope
Hoffer says fanatic groups always appeal to “Hope,” writing:

One of the most potent attractions of a mass movement is its offering of a substitute for individual hope…Those who would transform a nation or the world…must know how to kindle and fan an extravagant hope.

C. Flight From Freedom
Hoffer claims a driving force in fanatical psychology is escapism from the ponderous burden freedom mandates. Ultimately, fanatical movements like neo-liberalism avoiding the fear and pain associated with responsibility. He writes,

Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, “to be free from freedom.” It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?

Obama claims people shouldn’t be put under the fearsome burden of failure, even from their own bad choices. Writes Hoffer, “Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure and frustration.”

Potential Converts

Hoffer finds converts to be most often from the following categories:

(a) the poor,
(b) misfits,
(c) outcasts,
(d) minorities,
(e) adolescent youth,
(f) the ambitious (whether facing insurmountable obstacles or unlimited opportunities),
(g) those in the grip of some vice or obsession,
(h) the impotent (in body or mind),
(i) the inordinately selfish,
(j) the bored,
(k) the sinners.

Of this group, Hoffer describes misfits as aspiring to achieve something great, but for some defect, are unable. Permanent frustration drives them towards ego fulfillment some other way.

Hoffer writes,

The permanent misfits are those who because of a lack of talent or some irreparable defect in body or mind cannot do the one thing for which their whole being craves…and can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement. By renouncing individual will, judgment and ambition, and dedicating all their powers to the service of an eternal cause, they are at last lifted off the endless treadmill which can never lead them to fulfillment.

Of the inordinately selfish, Hoffer paints a somber picture, writing,

The inordinately selfish are particularly susceptible to frustration. The more selfish a person, the more poignant his disappointments. It is the inordinately selfish, therefore, who are likely to be the most persuasive champions of selflessness. The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves. They separate the excellent instrument of their selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause. And though it be a faith of love and humility they adopt, they can be neither loving nor humble.

Consider the extraordinary self-absorption and selfishness of typical liberal politicians. Of Clinton’s decision to use Monica Lewinsky as a plaything, or Hillary’s decision to sacrifice everything human upon the alter of power. Consider Al Gore’s selfish decision to defy the 2000 election. But is Obama most selfish of all? Consider—he visited his own half-brother in Kenya, living off a dollar a month in a plywood shanty-town. And the millionaire senator, while boasting in speeches of “being my brother’s keeper,” apparently offered not a cent!

Hoffer claims the bored are the largest group feeding members to fanaticism.

There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom…The consciousness of a barren, meaningless existence is the main fountainhead of boredom…Pleasure-chasing and dissipation are ineffective palliatives. Where people live autonomous lives and are not badly off, yet are without abilities or opportunities for creative work or useful action, there is no telling to what desperate and fantastic shifts they might resort in order to give meaning and purpose to their lives.

America now specializes in bored, disaffected youth. If these receive any moral instruction in public school, it’s probably Marxist (from the humanistic doctrines of Marxist John Dewey). The collapse of the church as a public institution make the surrender complete. And such indolent rubes make perfect cannon fodder for the Political Correctness wars.

Hatred & Deviltry

Is there any trait more characteristic of modern leftism than exclaiming hatred towards opponents? Opposition to George Bush was so vitriolic, it defies explanation, coming to embody right-wing devilishness. Yet, was he really that bad? Is he supposedly worse than Obama? If not (is a more leadership challenged president than Barack imaginable?) where’s the tsunami of hatred reserved for bad leaders?

Hoffer writes,

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both. Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents…Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.

Self Sacrifice

Hoffer claims the main goal of leaders of fanatic groups is to imbue in their followers the instinct for self-sacrifice, even to the point of self-annihilation. He says,

The vigor of a mass movement stems from the propensity of its followers for united action and self-sacrifice. When we ascribe the success of a movement to its faith, doctrine, propaganda, leadership, ruthlessness and so on, we are but referring to instruments of unification and to means used to inculcate a readiness for self-sacrifice.

Hoffer claims such an orientation towards deep self-sacrifice means followers are left in the dark about reality. He writes,

The readiness for self-sacrifice is contingent on an imperviousness to the realities of life. He who is free to draw conclusions from his individual experience and observation is not usually hospitable to the idea of martyrdom… All active mass movements strive to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it…It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy.


Comparisons between Hoffer’s book and the current administration should surprise no one, since neo-liberalism is simply warmed over Marxism. This being the same root fostering the poisonous plant of communism, murderer of at least 150 million Russians and Chinese last century.

The Obama administration is the closest thing to a socialist leader ever for America. Most appalling is the blind adherence to socialist dogma without any concern for the destroyed individual lives, businesses, economy, or global safety as this class war plays out.

A. Anti-Democracy
Hoffer’s fanatics preached democracy, but offered the opposite in power. The Obama administration prefers non-democratic means. The appointment of unscreened policy “Czars” is symbolic. When Barack insisted Obamacare pass despite less-than-majority support, it launched a direct attack against the Declaration’s promise to seek “consent of the governed.” That Obama’s Congressional leaders pass legislation “so we can find out what is in it” is an absurd rejection of representational government.

B. Anti-Capitalism
Hoffer’s zealots outlawed free enterprise, like the communists; or dictated its boundaries, like Nazis. Obama targets capitalism like a True Believer, regardless of costs to private citizens. Reasonmagazine’s article “The Government’s Catastrophic Response to the Oil Disaster” details astounding mismanagement of the oil spill, including the White House shutting down every possible Gulf rig, then lying about it.

C. Anti-Freedom
Hoffer’s zealots agreed private citizens were not fit bearers of freedoms. Only “the group” knew right from wrong. Obama has signaled he’d enjoy banning books, limit free speech, regulate the Internet, etc. Stalin would approve.

D. Anti-Religion
True Believers all regulated religion, or banned it. Obama is now increasingly touting Islam. The bizarre topper is turning NASA into a global Islamic evangelical unit. It’s no surprise the non-church attending and apparently anti-Christian and seemingly Marxist Obama touts a religion with shockingly intolerant views.

E. Anti-Life
In the fanatic secular religions Hoffer describes, and in Islam, is a shocking disregard to death, murder, suicide and Jihad. Obama is America’s most pro-abortion president. His shielding of Jihadists while banning the “War on Terror” is simply shocking.


Modern liberalism is a fact-allergic ideology touting long disproved doctrines. Further, it will destroy every distinctive feature of the West, including freedom, prosperity, and our political vitality. Yet, on an apparent suicide mission, liberals cannot stop until socialism destroys the economy, and the doctrines of Political Correctness dissolve the foundations of society.

Hoffer asks an important question,

What ails the frustrated? It is the consciousness of an irremediably blemished self. Their chief desire is to escape that self—and it is this desire which manifests itself in a propensity for united action and self-sacrifice…Such diverse phenomena as a deprecation of the present, a facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, a readiness to imitate, credulity, a readiness to attempt the impossible, and many others which crowd the minds of the intensely frustrated are, as we shall see, unifying agents and prompters of recklessness.

Hoffer seems to have an Obama in mind when discussing what drives certain aggrieved men to fanaticism:

However much the protesting man of words sees himself as the champion of the downtrodden and injured, the grievance which animates him is, with very few exceptions, private and personal. His pity is usually hatched out of his hatred for the powers that be.

All of America is now paying for the anger Barack felt years ago, imagined or not. Our question: Can we survive 2.5 more years until the True Believer Marxist fanatic is driven from the White House? Until then, we are all in the gravest danger imaginable.


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Kelly OConnell -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Kelly O’Connell is an author and attorney. He was born on the West Coast, raised in Las Vegas, and matriculated from the University of Oregon. After laboring for the Reformed Church in Galway, Ireland, he returned to America and attended law school in Virginia, where he earned a JD and a Master’s degree in Government. He spent a stint working as a researcher and writer of academic articles at a Miami law school, focusing on ancient law and society. He has also been employed as a university Speech & Debate professor. He then returned West and worked as an assistant district attorney. Kelly is now is a private practitioner with a small law practice in New Mexico.

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