Image: Open Democracy, 2020

[He] could not have succeeded against his many rivals if it had not been for the attraction of his own personality, which one can feel even in the clumsy writing of [his tweets], and which is no doubt overwhelming when one hears his speeches.

Ever since he came to power – till then, like everyone, I had been deceived into thinking he did not matter – I have reflected that ….I could feel no personal animosity. The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him.  In some photographs he has…. a pathetic, doglike face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a more manly way [they] reproduce the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that this is how [he] sees himself. The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is there. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handedly against impossible odds. If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon. One feels, as with Napoleon, that he can’t win, and yet that he somehow deserves to. The attraction of such a pose is of course enormous; half the [newsclips] that one sees turn upon such theme.

Also he has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all progressive thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and the avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. ….Because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, [he] knows that human beings don’t always want comfort, safety, short working hours, hygiene, birth control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades….. [He] has said to them, ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death’, and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet….’Greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is a good slogan, but at this moment ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end’ is a winner. Now we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.

This, however, was written 80 years ago, about Adolf Hitler, in George Orwell’s review (for the New English Weekly) of the unabridged translation of Mein Kampf. How well it fits.

Image: Mein Kampf


  1. How well it fits, you say. I say that it does not fit at all. I am an American woman who is Jewish and the descendant of a Holocaust survivor. I am horrified that you would even suggest that Orwell’s description of Hitler is apposite for former U.S. president Donald Trump.

    There was nothing attractive about Trump’s demeanor or his appearance. He wasn’t endearing. He is essentially a commercial construction project manager. His legacy includes significant foreign policy achievements, many of which were US goals for 50 years. His perception of China as a mercantilist and critical supplier to whom the US is highly vulnerable has been taken up by many of the EU countries as well as your nation of Canada. Trump’s energy policy toward your Keystone Pipeline has been reversed by our new president, which is a matter of great economic concern to your Prime Minister Trudeau. Finally, under Trump’s unorthodox administration, levels of minority and protected group unemployment (Black, Latino, and women) reached historical lows since the USA has kept records. Trump did not put American citizens in death camps, in stark contrast to Adolph Hitler! Also, Trump has consistently worked with the AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor organization of all US unions.

    I have read your blog particularly your assessments of MOOCs with great pleasure for many years. This post is atypical of your prior excellent content.


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