“If You Are Scared, [the Terrorists] Win. If You Refuse To Be Scared, They Lose”
January 21, 2014
Northwestern professor Peter Ludlow writes in the New York Times:
Philosophers have long noted the utility of fear to the state. Machiavelli notoriously argued that a good leader should induce fear in the populace in order to control the rabble.
Hobbes in “The Leviathan” argued that fear effectively motivates the creation of a social contract in which citizens cede their freedoms to the sovereign. The people understandably want to be safe from harm. The ruler imposes security and order in exchange for the surrender of certain public freedoms. As Hobbes saw it, there was no other way: Humans, left without a strong sovereign leader controlling their actions, would degenerate into mob rule. It is the fear of this state of nature — not of the sovereign per se, but of a world without the order the sovereign can impose — that leads us to form the social contract and surrender at least part of our freedom.
In addition to Machiavelli and Hobbes, University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss and German philosopher Carl Schmitt espoused the same views:
Leo Strauss is the father of the Neo-Conservative movement, including many leaders of recent American administrations. Indeed, many of the main neocon players – including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Stephen Cambone, Elliot Abrams, and Adam Shulsky – were students of Strauss at the University of Chicago, where he taught for many years.
What did Strauss teach?
Strauss, born in Germany, was an admirer of Nazi philosophers such as Carl Schmitt and of Machiavelli (more on Schmitt later).
Strauss believed that a stable political order required an external threat and that if an external threat did not exist, one should be manufactured. Specifically, Strauss thought that:
A political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat . . . . Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured.
(the quote is by one of Strauss’ main biographers).
Indeed, Stauss used the analogy of Gulliver’s Travels to show what a Neocon-run society would look like:
“When Lilliput [the town] was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect.” (this quote also from the same biographer)
Moreover, Strauss said:
Only a great fool would call the new political science diabolic . . . Nevertheless one may say of it that it fiddles while Rome burns. It is excused by two facts: it does not know that it fiddles, and it does not know that Rome burns.
So Strauss seems to have advocated governments letting terrorizing catastrophes happen on one’s own soil to one’s own people — of “pissing” on one’s own people, to use his Gulliver’s travel analogy. And he advocated that government’s should pretend that they did not know about such acts of mayhem: to intentionally “not know” that Rome is burning. He advocated messing with one’s own people in order to save them from some artificial “catastrophe”. In other words, he proposed using deceit in order to demonize an adversary and artificially turn him into a dangerous enemy.