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Hitler Speaks
March 22, 2008 2:39 PM   Subscribe

Hitler Speaks

Using advanced speech recognition technology, researchers and voice-over actors have been able to put a soundtrack to long-silent video relics of Adolf Hitler: Eva Braun's infamous home movies filmed at the Berghof, private filmed meetings between Hitler and various Reich cronies, as well as the last known footage of him taped before an awkward bunch of Hitler Youth at the Reichstag in the final days of the war made famous in Downfall. Chilling stuff.

Via.
posted by auralcoral (177 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know who else benefited from advanced speech recognition technology? H ... oh, nevermind.
posted by zippy at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


This part really unnerved me:

Hitler: Mein Hund hat keine Nase.

Audience: Wie riecht er?

Hitler: Schrecklich.
posted by tkchrist at 2:53 PM on March 22, 2008 [36 favorites]


This would be so much better on Mystery Science Theatre.
posted by rokusan at 2:57 PM on March 22, 2008


Was Cheney paid for this?
posted by mecran01 at 2:57 PM on March 22, 2008


You know who else benefited from advanced speech recognition technology? H ... oh, nevermind.

Stop it. You're hurting Metafilter.
posted by item at 2:59 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think this originally aired on the History Channel or the Discovery Times channel.
posted by Poolio at 3:02 PM on March 22, 2008


I hope they don't go back and fix "The Iron Dream" the way Paramount did "The Doomsday Machine"!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:05 PM on March 22, 2008


This is interesting. Thank you.
posted by painquale at 3:05 PM on March 22, 2008


You know who else benefited from advanced speech recognition technology? H ... oh, nevermind.

Stop it. You're hurting Metafilter.


Metafilter: Stop it. You're hurting Metafilter.
posted by found missing at 3:10 PM on March 22, 2008 [10 favorites]


Just a note, I've skipped on into the 23-30 minute area where the actual process starts.
posted by odinsdream at 3:13 PM on March 22, 2008


They used this technique to prove that Herr Hitler cheated at iSketch too.
posted by Scoo at 3:14 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


What strikes me how is how reasonable Hitler comes across in private conversation; there's no salivating mania in that calm, deep voice. It's jarring to hear the devil sound so genial as he makes small talk with his officers' wives, holds forth (with no apparent sense of irony) on the virtues of vegetarianism, plays the attentive boyfriend:

"I understand you didn't like the movie last night. I know what you want. You want Gone with the Wind."
posted by Iridic at 3:19 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hitler was Time's Man of the Year, and was always known among leaders of nations as a very polite, mannered person.

He did devolve into lunacy and paranoia later on, but with all the ubermeth he was prescribed and the constant strain of the war, anybody could go nuts.

Note: I am not a Nazi. It just seems that in our rush to demonize all enemies we lose sight of the fact that they are all human beings.
posted by Sukiari at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]




Yeah. It's unfair to demonize a guy who, long before gaining power, only wrote endlessly about improving the human race....

...by killing anybody he deemed inferior.

And then, you know, he did it.
posted by tkchrist at 3:29 PM on March 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


That Time Man of the Year article condemned Hitler in no uncertain terms. When you mention that as if it was approbation, you sound like a... Nazi?
posted by found missing at 3:35 PM on March 22, 2008


Hitler was Time's Man of the Year,

This is not a moral judgment, though - 'Man of the Year' just means 'most significant person this year', not 'greatest guy'. Hitler was indeed extremely significant when he began the Second World War. Read the actual article:
Herr Hitler reaped on that day at Munich the harvest of an audacious, defiant, ruthless foreign policy he had pursued for five and a half years. He had torn the Treaty of Versailles to shreds. He had rearmed Germany to the teeth— or as close to the teeth as he was able. He had stolen Austria before the eyes of a horrified and apparently impotent world.

All these events were shocking to nations which had defeated Germany on the battlefield only 20 years before, but nothing so terrified the world as the ruthless, methodical, Nazi-directed events which during late summer and early autumn threatened a world war over Czechoslovakia. When without loss of blood he reduced Czechoslovakia to a German puppet state, forced a drastic revision of Europe's defensive alliances, and won a free hand for himself in Eastern Europe by getting a "hands-off" promise from powerful Britain (and later France), Adolf Hitler without doubt became 1938's Man of the Year.
He did devolve into lunacy and paranoia later on,

No, he wrote Mein Kampf in the early 1920s. He was sometimes good at hiding his intentions, but he did not "devolve" because of the "strain of war." Read some biographies before you make claims like this.
posted by mdn at 3:39 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It would have been cool if they'd gotten Bobcat Goldthwait and Gilbert Gottfried to do the voices.
posted by papakwanz at 3:39 PM on March 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


Have you guys actually read about Hitler? He is one of history's most fascinating individuals. There have been worse killers and greater conquerors but few who managed to so capture a nation. For an individual with such a brief career to have shaped the modern world is astounding.

If you don't realize the impact that Hitler had on the future of his whole race you'd have to be a drooling idiot. And to deny that he had a human side makes you sound like a... Nazi!
posted by Sukiari at 3:44 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


papakwanz,

All I could think of when I watched this on the History Channel a while ago was how bizarre it would be to be the reincarnated voice of Hitler. Not sure I could do it...
posted by andythebean at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2008


"some biographies"

Does Shirer count?
posted by Sukiari at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2008


Sukiari, with all due respect, you need to find new heroes.
posted by found missing at 3:49 PM on March 22, 2008


Many of the countries in Europe exist now specifically because Hitler rolled onto the scene. African countries too. And the Middle East is still a conflict zone as a direct result of Hitler's actions.

I don't have any special love for Alexander the Great or Napoleon, nor do I have any for Hitler. As I said above, however, you'd have to be half retarded to deny that he is one of the most important individuals of the past century.

You guys appear to only recognize two options here - ignorance of Hitler's importance, or being a Nazi.
posted by Sukiari at 3:55 PM on March 22, 2008


If you don't realize the impact that Hitler had on the future of his whole race

this doesn't make you sound like the most compassionate of characters.
posted by auralcoral at 3:57 PM on March 22, 2008


It's true nonetheless.

Should we ignore things that are true because people are offended by them?

I don't want to live in your world where the truth is approved or denied by how compassionate the facts are.
posted by Sukiari at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


You guys appear to only recognize two options here - ignorance of Hitler's importance, or being a Nazi.

No one is saying that Hitler was unimportant. What people seem to be responding to is a creepily apologetic tone in your comments about him.
posted by brain_drain at 4:01 PM on March 22, 2008


And how fucking dare anyone make fun of Hitler, after all he’s been through! LEAVE ADOLF HITLER ALONE! NOW, I MEAN IT!
posted by found missing at 4:02 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


After watching it, and the whole first 20 minutes of build-up of the great importance of the process and the deep insights it would supposedly provide, the depth of it seems to be that he thought Goering was a pig, and that Eva Braun wanted to see Gone With the Wind.

Future generations will benefit from these insights, I'm sure, but they're lost on me.

(Also, not sure why there is a commercial for Apple right in the middle. Or was the whole thing a commercial for Apple?)
posted by Dave Faris at 4:03 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


He was still a pretty crappy artist, though.

Sadly, had he actually been a great artist world history would've no doubt gone a bit differently.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:06 PM on March 22, 2008


It just seems that in our rush to demonize all enemies we lose sight of the fact that they are all human beings.

I think this is a very important point. Many times, we demonize figures such as Hitler, especially Hitler, to the point that many actually forget these characters were really human, as if they have somehow gone beyond being human. It's sobering and somewhat counter-intuitive to realize that these folks are made out of the same stuff as the rest of us.
posted by waitangi at 4:09 PM on March 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you want to understand history in a rational light, you have to take a somewhat dispassionate view of the facts.

Creepy or not. And again, it just surprises me that people simply assume that the Hitler we saw at Nuremberg is the same as that Hitler that has to eat breakfast, get dressed, and take a shit every day. It appears that most people think of him as being some kind of shouting, frothing maniac which betrays a mind that is totally unable to grasp the kind of intelligence and sinister depth of Hitler.

These are the kinds of world views which scare me and very similar ones shot Hitler to the top of the heap. With such an attitude one can boil down everything and everybody into solid black and white. Reminds me of nothing so much as modern day brain dead religious right rednecks with their "Derp de doo WMDs!" Brain dead Democrats are just as frightening as brain dead Republicans.
posted by Sukiari at 4:10 PM on March 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


damn. that was creepy.

btw: that british historian did speaks excellent german. that rarely happens with british people as they often struggle with producing certain sounds necessary to speak german. one can usually hear out the accent even after decades.
posted by krautland at 4:13 PM on March 22, 2008


If you don't realize the impact that Hitler had on the future of his whole race you'd have to be a drooling idiot. And to deny that he had a human side makes you sound like a... Nazi!

Interesting. What makes you think that Adolf Hitler was at all human?

Historically, I see AH as an aberration. To me, he/it was was an impersonator.

Because in hindsight I recognize a monster for what it was—rather than giving it credit for how talented a lap dog it could be—you think that makes me sound like a Nazi?
posted by humannaire at 4:15 PM on March 22, 2008


Sukiari, here is what is wrong:

Hitler was Time's Man of the Year, and was always known among leaders of nations as a very polite, mannered person.

Here you imply that Hitler's Man of the Year award was given because Time wanted to recognise Hitler as a good person. This is false.

He did devolve into lunacy and paranoia later on, but with all the ubermeth he was prescribed and the constant strain of the war, anybody could go nuts.

Here you imply that the Hitler who spoke of Jews as subhuman parasites in Mein Kampf was not a paranoid lunatic, even with our hindsight of his genocide which directly resulted from these beliefs. This is false.

If you don't realize the impact that Hitler had on the future of his whole race you'd have to be a drooling idiot.

To refer to the impact of Hitler on "his race" as being of relevance compared to his impact on the race he did his best to annihilate, you'd have to be a nazi.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:16 PM on March 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


It just seems that in our rush to demonize all enemies we lose sight of the fact that they are all human beings.

Jesus, what a trollish, assinine, naive, fucked-up comment.

Sorry, but Hitler was not like you or me. For example, I am capable of remorse. Hitler was not. Hitler had a plan, and he executed his plan with the aim of success in mind. I think it is fair to demonize him. It is important to understand psychopathic monsters for what they are.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:17 PM on March 22, 2008


If you don't realize the impact that Hitler had on the future of his whole race you'd have to be a drooling idiot.

This depends on which race to which you imagine he belongs.
posted by humannaire at 4:17 PM on March 22, 2008


you have to take a somewhat dispassionate view of the facts.


Assuming you're being serious, and not just provocative for the sake of it, what you're saying is true, Sukiari, but there are some limits.

While you speak of rationality, others are speaking of emotion. To humanize and in any compliment Hitler just can't be done. The "too soon?" joke that some people make about tragic events applies in this case, and 60 years is still too soon for the people who remember the millions of people killed as a result of Hitler's cause. Some would say that anything good the man did is completely overshadowed and made insignificant by the blight of the bad.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:17 PM on March 22, 2008


It would have been cool if they'd gotten Bobcat Goldthwait and Gilbert Gottfried to do the voices.

Even better if they'd gotten Jackie Mason and Woody Allen.
posted by PlusDistance at 4:20 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


That was quite fascinating, also that "Banning from iSketch" was quite funny - even though I haven't seen either.

For me the creepiest thing was listening to the bugged monologue from the train - there's a difference between a recreation (and agreeing with andythebean - would you put "Recreated Adolf Hitler's voice" on your CV?) and the original "source material" - the spin-doctored shouty Hilter doesn't count.
posted by bruzie at 4:21 PM on March 22, 2008


Many times, we demonize figures such as Hitler, especially Hitler, to the point that many actually forget these characters were really human, as if they have somehow gone beyond being human.

Not "gone beyond being human," but are something other than human.

If something is insane and voraciously blood-thirsty, intuitively it can be conceded that that thing is something other than human. Regardless of apparent similarities.
posted by humannaire at 4:22 PM on March 22, 2008


There is an excellent reason to keep reminding ourselves that Hitler was completely human (and not that bad an artist--the pictures I've seen by him were done when he was a teenager, and are as good as those of most teen-aged art students. Kind of stiff, but, well, he was Hitler).

If Hitler was an inhuman monster, then as soon as we identify a candidate as human, we can be sure he is no Hitler. We can be sure that when our leaders, for example, wipe out ten-to-the-whatever people, we are not following a Hitler.

But if Hitler was completely human, then, maybe not.
posted by hexatron at 4:23 PM on March 22, 2008 [10 favorites]


It is important to understand psychopathic monsters for what they are.

BINGO!
posted by humannaire at 4:24 PM on March 22, 2008


was the whole thing a commercial for Apple?

Google Adwords probably thought that a fruit was close enough, since Hitler was a vegetarian.
posted by lukemeister at 4:26 PM on March 22, 2008


Will this thread end in an anti-Godwin when somebody doesn't mention Nazis?
Quick, get a cute-kitten youtube link!
posted by hexatron at 4:26 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yipes...

By the by, has anyone actually visited Berchtesgaden? I'm hoping to go this summer.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 4:27 PM on March 22, 2008


hexatron,

Since you brought it up ...
posted by lukemeister at 4:33 PM on March 22, 2008


Sukiari seems to have some issues, but I don't think we should ignore the point about demonization of Nazis. It's really important to remember that tens of thousands of ordinary, otherwise decent people participated in some of the most unimaginable crimes in history. People who could be loving fathers at home could spend their days gassing Jews. They were humans, not monsters, and if we forget that then we can forget the potential for evil that lurks in all of us, and in every society. This is not to try to "humanize" Hitler ("aw, look, Adolf was a sensitive film buff"), but to point out that in the wrong circumstances, people can be swept into doing things that in another life they would have looked on with horror. Take a look, for instance, at the Stanford prison experiment and the Milgram experiment. Also:


All There Is to Know about Adolph Eichmann
by Leonard Cohen

EYES: .................................... Medium
HAIR: .................................... Medium
WEIGHT: .................................. Medium
HEIGHT: .................................. Medium
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: ................ None
NUMBER OF FINGERS: ...................... Ten
NUMBER OF TOES: ........................ Ten
INTELLIGENCE: ............................ Medium

What did you expect?


Talons?


Oversize incisors?


Green saliva?


Madness?
posted by Dasein at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2008 [13 favorites]


Sukiari could be articulating himself a whole lot better, but many of you are missing an important point. To deny the humanity of Hitler, or Stalin, or the Khmer Rouge, or the Hutu extremists in Rwanda, or the Bosnian Serb army - need I go on? - is to expose ourselves to the possibility of this happening again, because we can't recognize the patterns. We are a bloodthirsty and often insane species, and we need to learn why we can be that way, and cut it out.
posted by bettafish at 4:35 PM on March 22, 2008 [15 favorites]


Sorry, but this is just sick shit. Why would anyone post stuff like this? Ugggh.
posted by caddis at 4:36 PM on March 22, 2008


OK, I understand the intellectual curiosity of examining evil, still, I'm just reeling from cleaning the puke off my keyboard. Perhaps I am too sensitive.
posted by caddis at 4:41 PM on March 22, 2008


This footage must pre-date the purchase of the Xbox?
posted by fire&wings at 4:44 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not "gone beyond being human," but are something other than human.

I understand your, and the point that many others are making. Perhaps things could have phrased better. But it just seems to me that, this person started off as being human, and morphed into some obscene caricature of what the worst of humanity can be. That is still not to deny that that person is human.

I just think it's a little dangerous to deny it, as bettafish pointed out.
posted by waitangi at 4:49 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I found this pretty unrevealing... Hitler flirting (?) with Eva Braun and chatting with little kids - how is that different from well known photographs of him stroking a random kid's head, smiling?

It is important to understand psychopathic monsters for what they are.

Interestingly the Spiegel issue from 2 weeks ago pointed out that he was likley not a psychopath, he was fully aware of what he was doing. It was a really interesting article underlining that he was indeed "only human".

The general tendency of turning him into a "monster" is really just a way of denying him membership of the human race. "Oh no this can't be one of us" - yes he was, and so were all the people who followed him, the ones that joined the NSDAP in the early days, the ones that just got dragged along and didn't object, the ones that happily bludgeoned people to death and so on.

There was an interview within that report with a historian (I believe - sorry, I've lent the issue to a friend) who was asked (and I am wildly paraphrasing) "so do all of these latest discoveries absolve the Germans of the atrocities they committed?" and she replied "no, they just illustrate the monstrosity of the human race in general."

Rang true to me. In my extreme cynicism.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 4:52 PM on March 22, 2008 [7 favorites]


Sorry, but Hitler was not like you or me. For example, I am capable of remorse. Hitler was not.

History rhymes a lot. Lots of true believers have started with a statement about this or that group being other than human and end someplace like the conservatory with the lead pipe or Dachau with zyklon B. What's there to be remorseful about. They were other than human, not like you and me.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:55 PM on March 22, 2008


As usual, Sukiary, your message isn't the problem, though I find you to be wrong about a great many things. The problem is that you always frame the argument in a bullheaded, you-vs-the-internet way. You really need a visit to your local touchy feely committee.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:58 PM on March 22, 2008


The general tendency of turning him into a "monster" is really just a way of denying him membership of the human race. "Oh no this can't be one of us" - yes he was, and so were all the people who followed him, the ones that joined the NSDAP in the early days, the ones that just got dragged along and didn't object, the ones that happily bludgeoned people to death and so on.

ClarissaWAM hits the nail on the head here. Getting obsessed over Hitler's 'humanity' is really just a way of absolving oneself of any association with him. Unfortunately, Hitler was human and we must consider the culpability of the millions who followed him. It's touchy and complex issue, but it is far more important than whether or not Hitler was a monster or psychopath.
posted by boubelium at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


You guys appear to only recognize two options here - ignorance of Hitler's importance, or being a Nazi.

It's already been addressed, but: obviously Hitler had massive importance - that's why he was Man of the Year. But he was a psychopath from the start as evidenced by his own writing, as well as the company he kept. And if you really have read Rise & Fall... none of this should be news to you.
posted by mdn at 5:05 PM on March 22, 2008


I hope they don't go back and fix "The Iron Dream" the way Paramount did "The Doomsday Machine"!

You mean this The Iron Dream?


Being a Nazi - that's where he was a literal Viking!



posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:07 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Bob Saget voiceover totally telegraphed the nut shot.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:07 PM on March 22, 2008


Folks tend to forget that Hitler had to go to the bathroom just like anyone else. The difference being that he peed the blood of innocents and pooped the hopes of millions. Other than that, just like you or me.
posted by socratic at 5:30 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


MISTERRRR ROOOOOOGERRRRRRSSSSSS!!!!!

There, is this thread done yet? Now I'll look at the links.
posted by not_on_display at 5:33 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sara: You're an animal!
Manny: No, worse! Human! Human!
posted by bwg at 5:36 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: Sorry, but Hitler was not like you or me.

Funny, because that's EXACTLY what Hitler said about the Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals.

I applaud you on taking the incredibly brave stance that Hitler was a bad guy who is 100% evil incarnate, and thank you for making this world a better place.
posted by dhammond at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


When Der Fuehrer says, "We ist der master race"
We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuehrer's face
Not to love Der Fuehrer is a great disgrace
So we HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuehrer's face
When Herr Gobbels says, "We own der world und space"
We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Herr Goring's face
When Herr Goring says they'll never bomb this place
We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Herr Goring's face

Are we not the supermen
Aryan pure supermen
Ja we ist der supermen
Super-duper supermen
Ist this Nutzi land not good?
Would you leave it if you could?
Ja this Nutzi land is good!
Vee would leave it if we could

We bring the world to order
Heil Hitler's world New Order
Everyone of foreign race will love Der Fuehrer's face
When we bring to der world disorder

When Der Fuehrer says, "We ist der master race"
We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuehrer's face
When Der Fuehrer says, "We ist der master race"
We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuhrer's face
posted by bwg at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


The world and history will pass some judgements on the 300 million Americans who failed to stop years of pointless aggression in Iraq. You may want to keep that in mind.
posted by srboisvert at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


The technology is fascinating.

Mindboggling how this man who in so many ways seemed the typical human could at the same time be such an architect of such evil... a good reminder that evil does not generally show itself with pitchfork and bifurcated tail-evil can and does walk among us disguised as an ordinary man.
posted by konolia at 5:40 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


"...... a good reminder that evil does not generally show itself with pitchfork and bifurcated tail-evil can and does walk among us disguised as an ordinary man."

An ordinary man ... with a tell-tale mustache!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:45 PM on March 22, 2008


Hi, Hitler!

LEAVE ADOLF HITLER ALONE! NOW, I MEAN IT!

Anybody want a peanut?

History rhymes a lot.

Hitler, Hitler
Bo-Bitler
Bo-nanna fanna fo-Fitler
Fi mi mo Mitler
Hitler!

An ordinary man ... with a tell-tale mustache!

Like this dude?

Hitler was Time's Man of the Year

Stalin was too, a couple times maybe. But that was back when they had the stones to identify the most significant person of the year instead of bitching out with a politically correct choice (like Giuliani over Osama bin Laden in 2001). They should either rename it "Newsmaker of the Year" or explicitly make it a positive award since that's how they treat it now.

posted by kirkaracha at 5:53 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mindboggling how this man who in so many ways seemed the typical human could at the same time be such an architect of such evil... a good reminder that evil does not generally show itself with pitchfork and bifurcated tail-evil can and does walk among us disguised as an ordinary man.

I'm not fascinated by, afraid of, or hateful toward the architects of such evil, whether they seem all too human or froth at the mouth. I'm fascinated by, afraid of, and hateful toward the millions upon millions of people throughout history - and even today - who look to such men and say, "There now. That's a blueprint I can get behind!"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:02 PM on March 22, 2008


What ClarissaWAM said.

We're so quick to write Hitler off as some kind of monster because it's frightening to imagine that humans might be capable of such things. It's especially disturbing for any kind of humanist. But it's true, and denying it makes it that much more likely to happen again.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who would know, wrote that the line between good and evil runs down the middle of every human heart. We forget that at our peril.
posted by wtdoor at 6:20 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu: Sorry, but Hitler was not like you or me.

Funny, because that's EXACTLY what Hitler said about the Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals.

I applaud you on taking the incredibly brave stance that Hitler was a bad guy who is 100% evil incarnate, and thank you for making this world a better place.

ーdhammond


I applaud you, dhammond, for making a sarcastic, snarky comment rather than trying to articulate an actual response or refutation to my point.

Anyway, the way that Hitler is different than me and, I would assume, you, is because of a difference in basic values, a fundamental lack of compassion (except for animals). So it is not EXACTLY what Hitler said about Jews etc. He said they were different because of genetics, cranium shape, etc.

I have no idea if Hitler and the other Nazis were "psychopaths", but they were most certainly criminals who had no reservations about forcing or coercing others to carry out their evil aims.

What you, dhammond, may be trying to do is to articulate that human behaviour exists in a continuum, which makes it possible for ordinary people to do extraordinary evil acts, kind of like the American prison guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

But the folks who occupied the upper ranks of the Nazi Party were most certainly not like you and me. They were criminals who worked extremely hard to subvert the state and to destroy civil society, as well as liquidate an entire ethnic group.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:20 PM on March 22, 2008


Sukiari: "African countries too. And the Middle East is still a conflict zone as a direct result of Hitler's actions."

No, that was the British Empire.

Dave Faris: "(Also, not sure why there is a commercial for Apple right in the middle. Or was the whole thing a commercial for Apple?)"

Was it this one?
posted by meehawl at 6:31 PM on March 22, 2008


Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
posted by First Post at 6:47 PM on March 22, 2008


Nice post -- I almost never watch lengthy videos online, but I watched this one. Thanks!
posted by digaman at 7:02 PM on March 22, 2008


Hmmm... 45 comments in this Hitler thread before somebody mentioned Godwin.

Sorry, but Hitler was not like you or me.
Funny, because that's EXACTLY what Hitler said about the Jews, Gypsies and Homosexuals.

And equating ONE MAN to any identifiable group of people is one of the worst analogies I've seen in nine years of MetaFilter comments.

Was Hitler a human being? Sure. Was he "like other people"? Not much. Were the masses who followed him "like other people"? Very much so. (And those in the "upper ranks of the Nazi Party" earned their way there by being more like their leader.)

The range of psychological illness that is more "sociopath" than "psychopath" is especially dangerous to others because it does not hinder one's ability to succeed in society, but instead helps it. In fact, I personally believe you can't "do what it takes" to achieve great success and power without having more than a little in common with der Fuhrer.

Fortunately, most successful sociopaths dream of accomplishing things that do not include genocide and a few may actually have goals that would actually make the world better, but IMO, on balance, the bad outweighs the good.

The sociopathic personality takes advantage of common human nature (the people who ARE more like everybody else) to gain power and the all-too-common "respect for strong leadership" has led millions of people into obeying Hitler, Stalin and their like and signing onto acts of inhumanity beyond anything they would have been capable of on their own.

So to me, "understanding" Hitler is not about seeing what he has in common with "normal people" but seeing what those who aspire to success and power have in common with him, and rejecting them. Because it is easier to deal with Hitler-like leaders than millions of followers.
posted by wendell at 7:04 PM on March 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


KokuRyu: I applaud you, dhammond, for making a sarcastic, snarky comment rather than trying to articulate an actual response or refutation to my point.

I certainly did not make my point as saliently as it could have been, but to put it more clearly, I am not even certain what your argument is here. To refer to a comment stating that Hitler was not an inhuman monster (but a human being that did monstrous things) as "trollish, assinine, naive [and] fucked-up" does little except to advance the already agreed upon viewpoint that Hitler was a fucked up guy who orchestrated incredibly messed up and (for lack of a better term) downright evil things.

I think we've gotten to the point where we can all agree that Hitler was a horrible person without having to couch our arguments with disclaimers about how we're "not a Nazi" if our comment is anything less than "Hitler is fucked up and there was nothing remotely human about what he did." Hitler's specific actions, though incredibly out of the norm and not typical of humans individually, are incredibly human in that human beings strive for power within the confines of what's acceptable within their society. It's worth remembering that anti-Semitism was not the least bit uncommon in post WWI-era Germany, and that Hitler is not a man who invented hatred of the Jews, but simply capitalized on it.

That someone cannot speak of Hitler in human terms is intellectually dishonest because it treats human (yes, HUMAN) brutality as something that is inhuman, in spite of the evidence that the entire history of humanity is chock full of brutality, genocide and racism.
posted by dhammond at 7:40 PM on March 22, 2008 [9 favorites]


Not to toot my own horn, but About Psychopaths.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:45 PM on March 22, 2008


I applaud you on taking the incredibly brave stance that Hitler was a bad guy who is 100% evil incarnate, and thank you for making this world a better place.

Nah, that's missing the point. Adolf Hitler was not "100% evil." In fact, he didn't know the difference between good and evil. That's my position.

Evil? Phttt. I have friends who are evil. They know it that they are, I know they are, and that's that.

The problem—and difference—is the people who are completely incognizant of what is good and what is evil.

It's like empty vessels, messing it up for the rest of who see one way or another but knowingly see the glass half empty or half full.
posted by humannaire at 8:02 PM on March 22, 2008


the human race

BTW? This term has absolutely no commonly understood definition or meaning.
posted by humannaire at 8:04 PM on March 22, 2008


That's cute, but you're just splitting hairs with semantics, humannaire.
posted by dhammond at 8:17 PM on March 22, 2008


I'm not sure anything has been argued in this thread besides semantics.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:21 PM on March 22, 2008


What's a Hitler thread without a little anti-semanticism?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:26 PM on March 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


I see what you did there.
posted by found missing at 8:29 PM on March 22, 2008


What particularly caught my interest in psychopaths this past hour or so is that there are identifiable brain structure differences.

Hare's claim that they can be considered a new taxon of homo sapiens could be correct. This doesn't make them inhuman, of course, but it certainly distinguishes them as biologically difference from "the rest of us."

And it is on that basis I have to wonder if we shouldn't perhaps be a little smart about such things, and see if we can't start identifying these people when they come into contact with the law or assume positions of great power...
[link]

In fact, five fresh fish, has at least read the material. Particularly Hare. And while he and I disagree about what management of the kind (that is, psychopaths), we are at least in [philosophical] agreement that psychopaths represent another kind of humans.

My view is that this kind represents an unrecognized threat to compassionate humans. My view is that Adolf Hitler was one of the kind. My view is there is a number of [potential] different kinds....of human. My view is the idea of one human race is untrue, but one human kind is true.

Human is a bad word. It is used to mean something exceptional, as if "mankind" [sic] is better than all the other humankinds. Human meaning aware.

I say cetacean are aware like us. I say that species with which we are in contact are human. And that is regardless of whether these kinds are hairless monkeys like us.

Once I accepted that, that some that look like us but are not, the idea that creatures which look human are not was natural.
posted by humannaire at 8:34 PM on March 22, 2008


That's cute, but you're just splitting hairs with semantics, humannaire.


Hopefully, dhammond, you see now that I am not writing negatively, but that I am speaking interpretively, and clarifying.
posted by humannaire at 8:39 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The video alluded to a possible diagnosis of Parkinson's and then in the last clip, ten days before he shot himself, they show him greeting Hitler youth. There is a shot of his hand behind his back and it looks like a five legged octopus being electrocuted and there's nary a mention.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:56 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The video alluded to a possible diagnosis of Parkinson's and then in the last clip, ten days before he shot himself, they show him greeting Hitler youth. There is a shot of his hand behind his back and it looks like a five legged octopus being electrocuted and there's nary a mention.

That clip was a recreation of the event; the film from the actual event was shown in black and white (as opposed to the blue/green tint of the recreation)
posted by stefanie at 9:18 PM on March 22, 2008


I say cetacean are aware like us. I say that species with which we are in contact are human.

the word you are looking for is sentient
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 PM on March 22, 2008


So to me, "understanding" Hitler is not about seeing what he has in common with "normal people" but seeing what those who aspire to success and power have in common with him, and rejecting them. Because it is easier to deal with Hitler-like leaders than millions of followers.

Sadly, it seems to me that this is not the message here at all. In fact, that sort of analysis is, I think, what tends to lead us down the road of analyzing the characteristics of a leader rather than the policies they advocate, which seems like precisely the wrong sort of conclusion to draw. Those characteristics alone aren't what make Hitler unique. Which of those characteristics would you have drawn attention to in 1939? What exactly was it that you think the world missed?

This entire line of argument strikes me as overly simplistic -- though I agree that it's better than the apologetics -- because it seems to lead to the conclusion that all "charismatic" leaders are inherently fascistic, which is not just incorrect, but misleading. Just as Hitler's flaws don't absolve him, his strengths aren't what condemns him -- what condemns him are his actions. Had Hitler been a miserable speaker, Mein Kampf would be just another book, but that wouldn't make its message less repugnant. All of these attributes are important parts of the picture, and demagogueing "Hitler-like leaders" is, frankly, nonsense.

That film is bone-chilling. But if there's any takeaway, it's not that Hitler was human and that his human inadequacies somehow absolve him, but that his humanity was hidden from his followers, and that's a crucial point. The films were hidden for a reason -- to preserve a carefully-crafted myth. If people spent more time thinking about what they do rather than looking for patterns and narratives in history and politics, the world would be a much different place.

If there's any lesson to be drawn from the two World Wars, it's the necessity of both wisdom and vigilance -- that there's no magic formula for rooting out evil.
posted by spiderwire at 9:45 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Human is a bad word. It is used to mean something exceptional, as if "mankind" [sic] is better than all the other humankinds. Human meaning aware.

I say cetacean are aware like us. I say that species with which we are in contact are human. And that is regardless of whether these kinds are hairless monkeys like us.

Once I accepted that, that some that look like us but are not, the idea that creatures which look human are not was natural.


You have a Humpty-Dumpty approach to the word. That's not very useful, since everyone else has a different, and fairly clear, meaning for it. And, like it or not, you and I and everyone else meeting the common definition of "human" have far more in common with Hitler than with a cetacean. I'd argue that you're a little closer to Adolf than most here - you're always willing to decide who is not human and treat them accordingly.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:57 PM on March 22, 2008


We're so quick to write Hitler off as some kind of monster because it's frightening to imagine that humans might be capable of such things.

I think the fear is just as much the other way, that we don't like to recognize that some human beings are truly fucked up. Neville Chamberlain really didn't want to believe that this guy was as bad as others said he might be. We say things like "we all eat and poop" as if this is some kind of intrinsic bond, as if that makes us The Same in some deeply important way. It doesn't. The actions we choose in life are what make us who we are, and Hitler chose from early on certain actions that expressed a severely warped and hate-filled internal world.

I'm not saying he was evil or we're good - and I do think everyone is capable of change - but Hitler expressed long before the beginning of the war the path that he was headed on. The quote above that suggested he only 'turned' after the war made life hard on him, that he was fundamentally 'good' when Time named him MOTY, was simply completely and unconscionably wrong. Any biography or history reveals this, including Shirer. He may have been a complex character in certain respects, but not in this one. He believed Aryans were better than other races and should rule over them, he believed they should do so through military might, and he believed the Jews were vermin & did not deserve to live. THis is clearly documented in his early writings.

As others say, call that a "monster" or a "psychopath" or just a certain kind of human, doesn't matter to me. The point is just that it was a mission he was committed to, not a random tangent of life he got swept onto, and he was fervently invested in it, not unhappily going along with the flow.

Is that monstrous or human? Obviously he was a homo sapien; was he just like you or me? The very question is flawed. none of us is 'just like' anyone else, nor do we truly know exactly how much we differ... The fact that he got Germany to go along for the ride shows that there were many more willing to think along those lines, but whether it would have happened anyway if Hitler himself had never existed is another question.
posted by mdn at 10:11 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eva:
Du leibst mir,
Du leibst mir nicht,
Du leibst mir,
Du leibst mir nicht…

Du leibst mir nicht!

Hitler:
I lieb ya, baby, I lieb ya, I lieb ya! Now lieb me alone!
posted by mazola at 10:26 PM on March 22, 2008


A quick scan of the thread seems to indicate no one has pointed out that the "high tech automated lip reading software" with Uncanny Valley Lad on the left of the screen is Apple's DVD player app. Not that I think this is fake or anything, but I wish they'd showed us the actual process instead of a DVD of some bogus eye candy whipped up by the production department.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:55 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Because it is easier to deal with Hitler-like leaders than millions of followers.
posted by not_on_display at 11:05 PM on March 22, 2008


To sum up: we are all monsters.
posted by blessedlyndie at 11:25 PM on March 22, 2008


To sum up: we are all monsters.

MetaFilters: we are all monsters.
posted by bwg at 11:57 PM on March 22, 2008


Oops, how did that "s" get in there?
posted by bwg at 11:57 PM on March 22, 2008


Thanks for posting this.
posted by roombythelake at 1:44 AM on March 23, 2008


DecemberBoy: It's the DVD Player with amber-coloured crosshairs, don't sell them short.

Seriously, though, I wish that apps worked like they do in the movies (and now, apparently, documentaries.) Occasionally I consider trying to make MovieOS, where all the fonts are huge, the sounds are awesome, the monitor is actually a projector, and passwords are always crackable by typing on your keyboard as though it were a piano.

Hitler was human, intelligent, efficient, and wrong.
posted by blacklite at 2:07 AM on March 23, 2008


Thank you very much for making it clear that it is compassion that makes us human. One is able to be completely off the charts in any of the other dimensions that can be used to describe a human mind, and still be human. But not compassion, compassion is special.

I liked these videos for the complete opposite reason, I had always wondered where the evidence of Hiter's (And Genghis Khan, the Conquistadores, the slave merchants, etc...) domestic side was.
posted by Dr. Curare at 2:12 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


"To refer to the impact of Hitler on "his race" as being of relevance compared to his impact on the race he did his best to annihilate, you'd have to be a nazi."

You're right. How could I forget about the Gypsies?
posted by Sukiari at 2:20 AM on March 23, 2008


Meehawl: "No, that was the British Empire."

The Zionist Jews were quite unsuccessful at securing their homeland, even though violent terrorism aimed at the Brits. Hitler made it come about that way. Plus they didn't want Madagascar, which was the best they were offered before WWII.
posted by Sukiari at 2:23 AM on March 23, 2008


Plus they didn't want Madagascar...

*imagines Hava Nagila played on the valiha.*
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:58 AM on March 23, 2008


Which, of course, would've had to be renamed "Valihava Nagila". Which would've seriously fucked with the rhythmic phrasing of the line. So much so, in fact, that they would've had to essentially rewrite the song. I mean, talk about a big impact on the race...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:30 AM on March 23, 2008


My dog has no nose

How does he smell?
posted by Trochanter at 4:39 AM on March 23, 2008


Which, of course, would've had to be renamed "Valihava Nagila".

And rhymes with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida ...
posted by bwg at 6:25 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


awful, especially when you get him wet and his hair gets tied up in little nazis
posted by pyramid termite at 6:27 AM on March 23, 2008


The Zionist Jews were quite unsuccessful at securing their homeland

The current phase of the fucking up of the Middle East predates the political wrangling over a Jewish Homeland. You could argue that it began with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, and the subsequent struggle between the imperial European Powers (most especially between the British Empire and the French state) to establish a new balance of power out of the disintegrating Ottoman provinces. Storrs's infamous "little loyal Jewish Ulster" remark reflects merely the last, desperate phase of a colonial strategy that was already being supplanted by modern, post-colonial methods. If Israel did not exist, it would be necessary to create it, or something similar. Perhaps a Druze Homeland would have been equally successful?
posted by meehawl at 10:49 AM on March 23, 2008


blacklite writes "Hitler was human, intelligent, efficient, and wrong."

You forgot to add horribly flatulent!
posted by mullingitover at 1:15 PM on March 23, 2008


Without reading this thread too closely, I see little evidence that Hitler or Nazi leadership were sociopathic/psychopathic in the clinical sense. They just had wrong and xenophobic beliefs, a public that shared these beliefs, and the means and historical context to enact them.

Daniel Goldhagen's 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' is convincing enough to me in its generalities. Killing is nothing special to human beings. If human beings have the wrong information about a person or group, suggesting threat, in a context where they feel it is feasible and good to do something about it, they will not only kill, but do so with feelings of extreme pride and righteousness.

To spell it out more clearly: Millions of ordinary Germans killed Jews, because they wanted to, and thought it was good. Whether or not something was "wrong with" Hitler is immaterial. Thousands upon thousands of normal, competent, civilized, moral people carried out the Holocaust. Not because they were "forced to", not because they were conformist, unthinking, or afraid not to. They wanted to.

Moreover I probably would do so too, right now, if the information available to me suggested a threat. Thus is the nature of information asymmetry. I too can easily be a killer for any side and against my own self-interest depending on the information that is channeled to my brain.
posted by dgaicun at 4:03 PM on March 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Golly. Homicidal racist psychopaths are just people to you guys. Yes. It is true they are. Awful people.

Moreover I probably would do so too, right now, if the information available to me suggested a threat. Thus is the nature of information asymmetry. I too can easily be a killer for any side and against my own self-interest depending on the information that is channeled to my brain.

So I guess I'm not eating dinner at your house.

And. BTW. No matter WHAT information floated my way i wouldn't put eight year old girls in ovens or force mothers to fuck their sons at gun point. Nor would I conduct experiments to see how long it took children to die of starvations... just to see. NO MATTER WHAT INFORMATION FLOATED MY WAY.

But I guess that's just me. I must not be human.
posted by tkchrist at 5:36 PM on March 23, 2008


Good post, and thanks, but as usual with this sort of doco, too much time spent in background and filler and not enough on the goods (so to speak). Anyone knowwhere we can find the full rendering of all the film so far done up? Or where they might appear in future? I mean to say, there are about five hours of Eva's director's cut, plenty of stuff to dub.

More here (yes, I know, David Irving, boo hiss) on Finnish tape, plus audio of the entire thing, which was, for those more attuned to voice than video, even more interesting than the lip synched home movies.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:44 PM on March 23, 2008


(Of course, there's always the possibility that that was it, really, nothing more to show. Pity if so.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:11 PM on March 23, 2008


the word you are looking for is sentient

No. Sapient. But the two are often confused.
posted by humannaire at 6:59 PM on March 23, 2008


But I guess that's just me. I must not be human.

Judging by your irritating status-whoring jackass comment at my expense, you're pretty goddamn human alright.

High five!
posted by dgaicun at 7:08 PM on March 23, 2008


But I guess that's just me. I must not be human.

BINGO! If someone is an "Adolf Hitler" or "Charles Manson" or "Ted Bundy" or the like, and such are considered to be human, than I (like tkchrist) am quite obviously something other than human.

And that very well may be the case. But as it stands, for the time being, I say those of us who do not relate to mass-murders, killers and rapists are the humans.

If people relate with individual creatures [such as the aforementioned] at a level of consciousness—precisely where I assert the difference is manifest—then my claim is that I am different than those people.

Admittedly, perhaps there are variances of human. If so, so be it. But for certain, the variances of human that are "Adolf Hitlers" or "Charles Mansons" or "Ted Bundys" are unlike the variance of which I myself am a representative member.

How do I know? Aside from the simple act of disclaiming to be so?

Because I have met the type of being/creatures/human variances that are such creatures. And I am empathic, and compassionate, and loving. And they? Are not.

A human variance/person such as one like myself upon encountering one of that other kind experiences something akin to revulsion. There is no mystery or confusion. Even if the meeting of such a kind is perchance, an insight of incompatibility is often to be gleaned immediately.

The reason for this is that the gulf that exists between the two, they and us, is as tangible as that which exists physiologically) between Mammalia and Cephalopoda. Only it is not classes but specieal variances of homo sapien—or human and other than human—that exist here. These are specieal differences which I say are going mostly unrecognized, much less acknowledged to exist in the first place.

Which is fine for some. The idea being that the individuals who would be pointed out to be different than the rest of us—in the bad way—prefer to remain unidentified.

Yet when an animal behaves in a manner which is mortally anti-social and consistently so, and in a pre-concieved manner, than regardless of its sentience it is clearly less than sapient, and I say that is one obvious way in which such of that kind can be identified: By raping, murdering, killing, and related lying.

Less than sapient is not a crime. Discompassionately hurting others who are is. And sapient kinds, of whatever species or kind, have been getting the worst of it by being grouped in with those quite unlike us for some time. Regardless if someone chooses to believe that or acknowledge that is irrelevant. It is as perfectly obvious as evolution. Denying it does not make it less so.
posted by humannaire at 7:45 PM on March 23, 2008


This is really interesting, but I was hoping to see more of the home videos with Hitler's deciphered speech. Is there a link for the rest of Braun's footage (with Hitler's lips read using ALR technology)? The 46:24 minute program just doesn't feature enough of the original films and is more of a teaser than anything. There are only a couple of dozen deciphered sentences by Hitler, if that.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:32 PM on March 23, 2008


Because I have met the type of being/creatures/human variances that are such creatures. And I am empathic, and compassionate, and loving. And they? Are not.

Look, Hitler didn't run outside in his underwear, like Christian Bale in American Psycho, and kill 6 million Jews with a chainsaw. Thousands upon thousands of ordinary Germans killed Jews willingly with state approval.

This undermines any idea that only sociopathic/psychopathic, empathy incapable, unusual, defective or otherwise abnormal people are capable of murdering. (much less the participatory actors who are far removed from the sites/sights of actual violence; e.g. voters and leaders who plan and authorize violence) People well within the normal range of human (biological and environmental) variation can do this. People who otherwise exhibit above average empathy, self-sacrifice, and charity towards other human beings. But this is something we already know is true for a number of reasons.

Those paragons of humanity here, so humbly using themselves as examples of "real humans" who are innately incapable of violence or cruelty are not at all impressing me as virtuous people. They do strike me as conceited and exhibitionist Internet solipsists.
posted by dgaicun at 9:35 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]



... But as it stands, for the time being, I say those of us who do not relate to [X] are the humans.

If people relate with individual creatures [such as the aforementioned] at a level of consciousness—precisely where I assert the difference is manifest—then my claim is that I am different than those people.

Admittedly, perhaps there are variances of human. If so, so be it. But for certain, the variances of human that are [X] are unlike the variance of which I myself am a representative member.
...
A human variance/person such as one like myself upon encountering one of that other kind experiences something akin to revulsion. There is no mystery or confusion. Even if the meeting of such a kind is perchance, an insight of incompatibility is often to be gleaned immediately.
...
And sapient kinds, of whatever species or kind, have been getting the worst of it by being grouped in with those quite unlike us for some time. Regardless if someone chooses to believe that or acknowledge that is irrelevant. It is as perfectly obvious as evolution. Denying it does not make it less so.


Humannaire, are you pulling our leg? Or is this seriously the kind of argument you're putting forward in a thread about Hitler?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:10 PM on March 23, 2008


Because I have met the type of being/creatures/human variances that are such creatures. And I am empathic, and compassionate, and loving. And they? Are not.

And if "empathic, and compassionate, and loving" were the definition of human, then you'd have a killer point. But it isn't, so you don't.

Hitler wasn't born wanting to kill the jews.
posted by spaltavian at 10:23 PM on March 23, 2008


Isn't it grand to humanize and excuse and ameliorate and otherwise forgive Hitler for being Hitler?

I'm embarassed for us.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:00 PM on March 23, 2008


Don't be ridiculous. I can't find a single post that seeks to "excuse" "ameliorate" or "forgive: Hitler. But he, and his nation of followers, were human. That's not forgiving him, that's acknowledging that people are capable of terrible things and we shouldn't treat Hitler and his minions has almost supernaturally evil- not only is this incorrect, it prevents us from learning anything from it.

I really can't believe how this simple statement is being colored as Hitler-sympathizing; it's low and in bad faith. I've certainly never called anyone "human" as a compliment.
posted by spaltavian at 11:40 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mefijugend: think about what you're doing. You're wasting your lives in this thread! Obviously Hitler was a fucking human, and HEY WHALES has nothing to do with anything, you 'exhibitionist internet solipsists'! This is a relentless pingpong between 'i am not like hitler *plugs ears* lalalalala' and 'i think that in a dark and alternate timeline i could have had that moustache (and possibly find this exciting)'. There is no winning this one - have a drink and go to bed. (or you know, discuss the film in the post instead of taking the opp to pontificate on how not-nazi you are)
posted by thedaniel at 1:59 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If someone is an "Adolf Hitler" or "Charles Manson" or "Ted Bundy" or the like, and such are considered to be human, than I (like tkchrist) am quite obviously something other than human.

THis is just silly. You have a poor understanding of categories and how large or small they can be. Clearly we all belong to the same species. And you can belong to the same category as something else without being identified with it (you and a snail are both "animals"; you and a cactus are both "living things"). So we can all be human beings without that meaning that we are all ted bundy on the inside, or that ted bundy was really a good guy after all. All it means is that we're all featherless bipeds, or however you want to define it.

To go further, to claim that we are all potentially Hitler, and/or that Hitler was potentially a decent guy - and I think the question over when, where, how, that potentiality could have been realized has to be thought about, not just assumed - means making some claims about genetics, free will, social influence, historical fatalism etc. So, if Hitler had never been born, was the "zeitgeist" such that someone else would have risen to take on the same role he did, and lead germany to the same basic end? Or was his individual person a driving force, without which everything would have gone differently? If the former, is that because the germans altogether were more aggressive and dominating, or because they were in a particular situation, that pushed a certain response?

If you don't want to be judgemental, you can try using descriptives that don't carry connotations of whether you approve, but just explain the characteristics of people. But it seems not only dumb but really unfair to everyone to say "we're all the same in the end". I don't even think Hitler or Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would want that. They were not trying to be like "regular people". They thought their way was better. We tend to judge it as worse. But certainly it was not the same.
posted by mdn at 7:24 AM on March 24, 2008


humannaire, I think defining "human" as a being that shares a certain empathy, feelings toward acts (violent or otherwise), and a take on morality is short-sighted in that it changes the term from one that's a simple word meaning a human being, a member of homo sapiens, a person.

I think you're conflating it with the idea of "losing (one's) humanity," or referring to the characteristics you mention as "human." I think one of the points of this thread is that it's generally recognized on mefi that Hitler obviously was a human being, but that seeing him do day-to-day activities we see as normal are out of the norm -- and it's good to see them, because it reminds us that he was a human being like all of us.

That isn't to say that anyone here is capable of ordering the mass killing of a group of people. I'd say that few are in the world, and I'd like to think it goes back to nature and nurture. Some people are born with a different mental chemistry, while others may have their own bad impulses encouraged, either by others or by their own choices. These things play off of each other, and a different psychology might contribute to the long process of choosing the wrong forks in the path until you wake up one day and have your hand on the big red button, and actually want to push it.

If you were hit by a car tomorrow, suffered a concussion, and later in the week attacked someone, seemingly at random, I wouldn't say that you were no longer human. That could be a medical or social issue, one that can be resolved with treatment. But you're still one of us, still human, just unable or unwilling to make the choices that make you work well with the rest of society.
posted by mikeh at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2008


This undermines any idea that only sociopathic/psychopathic, empathy incapable, unusual, defective or otherwise abnormal people are capable of murdering.

Man can you obscure shit to make a stupid fucking point.
Murdering people isn't the issue.

Yes ordinary people are capable of both crimes of passion and the occasional acts of horror. The are capable of crimes of ignorance and crimes of complicity.

But it takes out of the ordinary people to do what I said; IE: put eight year old girls in ovens. This is not something ORDINARY people do. I'm sorry. It's not.

You stated that given certain information you — all of humanity — were capable of heinous acts comparable to the atrocities of the Nazis. That's not just murder, pal.

Well. Guess what? The REAL Nazis put little girls in ovens. The REAL Nazis conducted horrific experiments.

The German People, not all of whom were REAL Nazis, may have been complicit and true they were deliberately supplied cognitive dissonance by a propaganda machine. But they didn't pull the levers nor did they fully comprehend who was and how. They only suspected. Which is bad enough.

But the people who ACTUALLY pulled the levers, pulled the triggers, and tortured the children were NOT ordinary. They were selected for these duties meticulously. They were overt sadists. the only thing startling is there were allot more of them than people thought. And there are more now than people think.

These sadists were allowed by a convenient and corrupt power hierarchy and enabled by information asymmetry but they were not MOTIVED by information asymmetry. Being Nazis was just an excuse.



Those paragons of humanity here, so humbly using themselves as examples of "real humans" who are innately incapable of violence or cruelty are not at all impressing me as virtuous people.


Talk about being an asshole. Listen to yourself here. Everyone is capable of serial killing and torture? Everyone? Right now. Sitting at their computers? I'd say to my fellow Mefites this is an egregious insult.

Who said I am innately incapable of violence or cruelty? I never said that. What I am incapable of is committing the degree of cruelty exhibited in concentration camps and torture facilities. Are you clearly stating that you are capable of this? Because that is what you are arguing.

Again I think that most people are not capable of putting eight year old girls in ovens. I know I am not cpable of that. I suspect most people are. That makes me not a paragon of virtue, but rather NORMAL.

Where as for you it's all just a matter of getting a telegram or something?

So in order to avoid "demonizing" a select group of few extreme fringe cases you would rather demonize ALL of humanity. Including yourself?

No. People are not born wanting to kill and torture Jewish children. That is right. And that is my point.
posted by tkchrist at 10:12 AM on March 24, 2008


tk, I agree with your point, but as far as I know Jews (yes, including 8 year old Jewish girls) were gassed to death (before the Nazis discovered gassing was more "efficient" and easier on the executioners "nerves" than shooting their victims), and their bodies were then cremated in ovens. They weren't burned alive.
posted by Devils Slide at 10:33 AM on March 24, 2008


oops: I suspect most people are " not capable."
posted by tkchrist at 10:57 AM on March 24, 2008


People are not born wanting to kill and torture Jewish children.

Sorry, I'm not going to argue with these kinds of bad faith statements.


...wouldn't put eight year old girls in ovens or force mothers to fuck their sons at gun point.

You make it easy to question your knowledge of WWII.

Read the book I linked above. Yes, most of the people involved were ordinary Germans, not just some large bureaucracy of psychopaths selected by a coup of psychopathic leaders. I'm sure this is a more comforting scenario for some to digest, but it ain't true.
posted by dgaicun at 10:59 AM on March 24, 2008


They weren't burned alive.

Not always true. In January I went to the Shoah Museum in Paris. There were stories of children being burned alive because the SS was afraid they would get busted by the invading allies.

I suppose I bit sensitive to this issue after going to the Shoah Museum and talking to Holocaust survivors for a few hours.
posted by tkchrist at 11:00 AM on March 24, 2008


yeah, tk, just to get technical on ya here, it was actually usually other prisoners who were forced to do the actual dirty work of putting the Jews into the gas chambers. If you want to read a truly heart wrenching book, check out Filip Muller's Eyewitness Auschwitz, the story of a man who survived because he was part of the Sonderkommando, the portion of the prisoners in charge of gassing the other prisoners. So it is definitely more complicated than you're making it out to be (and yes, he tried to commit suicide at least once, but some of those dying begged that he live so their story could be told...)
posted by mdn at 11:03 AM on March 24, 2008



You make it easy to question your knowledge of WWII.

Oh. Quit being an asshole.
posted by tkchrist at 11:09 AM on March 24, 2008


Almost 60% of Americans still approve of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which put a whole lot of "8 year old girls" in a big nuclear oven. I count myself among these Americans.

60% of Americans are not clinical psychopaths, sociopaths, or anything close.
posted by dgaicun at 11:10 AM on March 24, 2008


it was actually usually other prisoners who were forced to do the actual dirty work of putting the Jews into the gas chambers

At pain of death. Not "information asymmetry" as dga-whats-his-face keeps suggesting. Which is a world of difference.
posted by tkchrist at 11:11 AM on March 24, 2008


Almost 60% of Americans still approve of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which put a whole lot of "8 year old girls" in a big nuclear oven. I count myself among these Americans.

Can you obfuscate anymore? Being in favor of something is a world of difference than actually doing it... up close and personal and one at a time.

Again the people running Josef Mengele's horror show were professional sadists. We are not talking about remote control bombing and killing. We are talking about one on one torture. Not just shooting people. Not just gassing them.

It's the cold calculated systematization of murder and torture. "Ordinary" people did not create that shit. It was people who been brought up to believe in pure racist ideology and trained in dehumanization. It wasn't just "a one day I think I'll kill and torture children" thing based on "information." It was life time of being twisted.

The Nazis hid the death camps and tried to deliberately hide the evidence - they KNEW what they were doing was not "ordinary."

BTW. The SS ran the death camps. They were meticulously selected to create systems so that "ordinary" Germans would be as exposed to the horror as little as possible. Not excuse "ordinary" Germans. But the intensity of the horror was carefully managed and hidden.

I suggest you spend some time at the Shoah museum.

And starving terrified concentration camp prisoners being forced at frigg'n gun point to aid in killing their fellow humans is hardly the same as it being some sort of innate human impulse just waiting to spring out. Again that is not a sample of information asymmetry.
posted by tkchrist at 11:23 AM on March 24, 2008


Quick fyi, but I just got off the phone with Godwin and man he is losing his fucking mind right now.
posted by cortex at 11:39 AM on March 24, 2008


Quick fyi, but I just got off the phone with Godwin and man he is losing his fucking mind right now.

Well. He is only human.
posted by tkchrist at 11:47 AM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


In my opinion, the truth about the people who carried out the atrocities in Nazi concentration camps falls somewhere between what tk and dgaicun are asserting.

I do know that the kapos who committed some of the horrors against their fellow Jews were usually selected precisely because they were psychopaths and/or common criminals who would carry out those inhuman (or human, depending on your view of the psychological make up of the perpetrators) acts sometimes with minimal rewards and incentives, and in some cases in order to save their own hides. Here's a short Wikipedia entry on kapos:

Kapo was a term used for certain prisoners who worked inside the Nazi concentration camps during World War II in various lower administrative positions.

The German word also means "foreman" and "non-commissioned officer", and is derived from French for "Corporal" (fr:Caporal) or the Italian word capo[1][2]'. Kapos received more privileges than normal prisoners, towards whom they were often brutal. They were often convicts who were offered this work in exchange for a reduced sentence or parole. In the Nazi Death camps they were usually murdered and replaced with a new batch of prisoners at regular intervals.

This role has been described in many books, among them Primo Levi's If This is a Man and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, the latter treating it from a psychiatrist's standpoint. It is also mentioned in Elie Wiesel's autobiography Night, and is featured in the Gillo Pontecorvo movie Kapò.

From Oliver Lustig's Dictionary of the Camp:

Vicenzo and Luigi Pappalettera wrote in their book The Brutes Have the Floor [3] that, every time a new transport of detainees arrived at Mauthausen, Kapo August Adam picked out the professors, lawyers, priests and magistrates and cynically asked them: "Are you a lawyer? A professor? Good! Do you see this green triangle? This means I am a killer. I have five convictions on my record: one for manslaughter and four for robbery. Well, here I am in command. The world has turned upside down, did you get that? Do you need a Dolmetscher, an interpreter? Here it is!" And he was pointing to his bat, after which he striked
[sic]. When he was satisfied, he formed a Scheisskompanie with those selected and sent them to clean the latrines. [4]
posted by Devils Slide at 11:50 AM on March 24, 2008


I am disappointed in your lack of imagination, tkchrist and the others claiming these were not "ordinary" people. It is their acts that make them extraordinary.

It was people who been brought up to believe in pure racist ideology and trained in dehumanization.

Can you really not imagine any kind of training or experience that would make you a monster? Could you have told these others apart when they were 8 years old? 12?

being forced at frigg'n gun point to aid in killing ... is hardly the same as it being some sort of innate human impulse just waiting to spring out

No one is claiming that killing 8 year olds just because is an innate impulse just waiting to spring out in the same way that no one is arguing that building Paris or running 100 meters in 9 seconds is an impulse just waiting to spring out. It takes some effort.
posted by Dr. Curare at 12:07 PM on March 24, 2008


Can you really not imagine any kind of training or experience that would make you a monster? Could you have told these others apart when they were 8 years old? 12?

But I am not 8 years old. And dga-whats-his-face seemed to be clearly stating that we are all capable of committing Nazi atrocities NOW, due to "information asymmetry." Which is what I am refuting.

What ever the sources of psychopathology, nature or nurture - or both - to me there is a clear demarcation as to when and how people are capable, or MADE capable, of being "inhuman" and when they are not. It is not an inherent state.

I take extreme exception that I, and everybody I know, are only a phone call, a propaganda poster or FOX News broadcast away from putting children in ovens. I think that is idiotically over simplified and essentially cynically denigrates humanity over all.

No one is claiming that killing 8 year olds just because is an innate impulse


Oh REALLY.

Here is what dgacuin said:

Moreover I probably would do so (Commit Nazi atrocities )too, right now, if the information available to me suggested a threat.

These are his words. Not Mine. I put forth to you that he is saying EXACTLY that there is some spontaneous inherant murderous impulse laying dormant awaiting "information" to activate him.

And this state is one I don not share with him if he indeed has it. Not with out going back in time to my birth and being raised by a fucked up culture or psychopaths.

And my point is that the level and degree of Nazi atrocities was above an beyond the ordinary human propensity for violence and it took the few extreme fringe elements, possibly and likely psychotic and sadistic, to harness, direct, and motive that propensity and do things beyond the pale. And he is saying. No.

He would have you believe it's my lack of "information." See? He claims I don't know enough about WWII. Or I havn't read the right books.

No. We have a widely divergent view and philosophy of human nature.

----

And BTW Godwin really shouldn't be perusing a thread about Hitler in the first place.
posted by tkchrist at 12:35 PM on March 24, 2008


I wonder if some of this argument isn't simply over semantics.

tkchrist: let's agree that both of us, and most normal people, would be incapable of putting children in ovens. But we could be changed: drugs or brainwashing or hypnotism or whatever might turn us into very unordinary people. So now the question is this: were the exigencies and political brainwashing of the Third Reich enough to change ordinary Germans into monsters?

If we reform the question this way, then there's no tacit condemnation of everyone on Metafilter as being potential baby-killers. (Unless you consider anyone a potential baby-killer if they could be drugged into doing it.)

It seems like an incredibly important question to me, and it's really not that we can speculate about from the armchair. Maybe those in charge really were neurological psychopaths and would have been psychopaths in any society. But maybe not. Social scientists have repeatedly found that people grossly underestimate the influence of situation on what they consider some of their most individuating personal characteristics; participants who underwent the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments were shocked (pun) at how they behaved. Certain situations put the subject under such constrain or duress that, for all intents and purposes, they are the equivalent of taking a drug or doing a little neurological rewiring. In order to maintain that living in the Third Reich wouldn't change good, ordinary people, you either have to deny that drugs can change a person, or that living in the Third Reich would hammer on your brain in a similar way that drugs do. And I don't think either of those are expressly deniable, given our current state of knowledge about character traits or situational dependencies. We simply don't know how moral heroes are made or broken.
posted by painquale at 1:18 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with most everything tkchrist has been writing, and exceedingly little with what dgaciun has written. The people who conceived and orchestrated the atrocities of German purification were not ordinary people in unusual circumstances: they were sociopathic ringleaders.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:20 PM on March 24, 2008


were the exigencies and political brainwashing of the Third Reich enough to change ordinary Germans into monsters?

Maybe. But it's a perfect storm, right? All those historical and cultural factors dgciun outlined are true. Yet still the glue that held it all together and MADE it happen was a select few of highly motivated and truly repugnant human beings.

I suppose it used to be much more acceptable to dehumanize "the other". This may be an evolutionary socialization "follow the alpha" hold over of some sort. I don't know. I do think the industrialization of the Nazi killing got people more removed from the results of their actions and thus could involve more people... could make more people complicit.

But the actual actors who could, day and day out, fully conceive, systematize, orchestrate, and intimately torture, rape, and do unspeakable things were by and large not "normal" people. They were made not normal through extreme situations or made not normal by a really fucked up social order.

And some of them, the SS in particular, were just really fucked up people who got off on doing that shit. And the SS were in charge.

You see the same patter repeat through out history. A small cabal of hateful sociopaths — in Serbia, in Rwanda, in Darfur — they establish a hierarchy of dysfunctional sociopaths at the top who reign through fear, intimidation and by control of the economic engines and they get the people under them to do terrible things.
posted by tkchrist at 1:47 PM on March 24, 2008


they were sociopathic ringleaders.

I'm perfectly willing to believe this, but I don't have too have too much historical background here and I really wish there was some evidence other than the fact that they perpetrated the deeds. I should probably learn more about this. I think this is such an important question....

By the way, this might be the appropriate place to ask: last year or so, at a bookstore, I was flipping through the first book in a trilogy of books about the Third Reich; the first chronicling the rise of the Reich, the second, the beginning of the war, and the third, which was yet to be written, the final stages of the war. The theme of the first book was how Hitler's government was able to garner such support. I read a bit and thought it was great, but forgot the title and author and would like to find it again. Can anyone help? (It wasn't the aforementioned Hitler's Executioners.) They looked fairly recent but were both in softcover.
posted by painquale at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2008


People (other than Hitler) sat at Wannsee Conference and discussed the “final solution to the Jewish question.”
(Funly enough, they didn’t consider the Jews human, but rather monsters.)
A group of people - Chancellors, ministers, secretaries, Generals, police chiefs, and so on, sat discussing the annihalation of a certain ethnicity - over dinner. Later, over drinks and cigars, they discussed in plain terms - methods.

To cast them from humanity renders their crimes beyond human responsibility. They are ours and they are subject to our human judgment and a reminder of our duty to our fellow man. Not to let it happen again. Not to be part of it ourselves. To fight it where we can and speak out where we’re able. We have to be vigilant in terms of maintaining laws and safeguards against tyrrany and most especially of being seduced ourselves - whether we agree with the general idea, or like the political party or the ideological label or whatever.

Without the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling act Hitler’s a footnote in troubled history of the Weimar Republic.
Without his followers willingness to cede power and rights and the government bureaucracy’s willingness to ignore or change laws Hitler’s just some racist asshole starving artist.
But there’s nothing to say the same thing wouldn’t have happened. Plenty of anti-semitism around. Plenty of passion, hatred, anger. Always has been.
I think the debate isn’t so much about Hitler’s humanity, but whether something like the rise of the Nazi party can happen here (wherever ‘here’ is). And it can. Unless you make sure it doesn’t.

“What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing...he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen.” - Aaron (Broadcast News)

I think humans can be conditioned to tolerate horror, if not participate in it themselves.
Noticing that horrific evil is perpetrated, agumented, followed, by people just like yourself prevents and safeguards you from following the same path.
And people can make monsters. Hitler was beaten and abused as a child.
I can have compassion for that child and for the twisted man Hitler became, and still insist he be punished for his crimes without mercy or forgiveness.
Hell, I’d’ve killed him myself if I were around back then. I’m sure plenty of folks felt that way.
But I wouldn’t round up everyone I considered to be inhuman like Hitler and kill them, because then I’d be - like Hitler.
You don’t get forgiveness or absolution because you’re human. If anything, the opposite.
Y’know, I’ve seen bodies of children dug up that were systematically raped and photographed by their parents. Normal? No. Human? Yeah.
It’s people that do these things.
I myself was considered one of those specialist cold blooded killers.
Now, would I ever have put a kid in an oven? No, never.
But I could never be convinced anyone is subhuman either. If someone needs killing I have to be convinced, of my own accord, to kill them. There’s never going to be anyone able to convince me. (And in fact, I’ve been tested and proven by that particular fire). So ok, I’m a ‘killer’ but I didn’t kill anyone today. I’m not going to tomorrow either. Or the next day. In fact I’ll probably choose not to the rest of my life.
But many people can be convinced that entire groups of people are ‘evil’ or whatnot. That a person or an entire ethnic group ‘are something’ - evil, dirty, killers, drinkers of children’s blood, unbelievers, heretics, whatever - whether they choose to live quiet simple lives or not.
Genocides happen all the time and they wouldn’t happen without complicity and that kind of intellectual suborning.

All this well apart from whether the folks putting the kids in the oven deserve moral condemnation or not.
They do. And all the more for being human.
(What, you didn’t know better? You were following orders? Hey, pal *I* didn’t do it and I’m just like you, so don’t give me any excuses.)

(I had the same kind of beef with some marines a bit ago over the puppy video. I thought that it got way too much attention (as they did), and might be phony (undet. - Snopes says) but I said either way the behavior was inexcusable (pretending to and filming it or actually doing it). Well, what would I know? (they said) I outlined my past and explained I know exactly what being under extreme stress and in combat is like and I didn’t pull any crap like that.)
Same deal. There’s nothing special about being a marine or being leader, or being in charge or being a zealot that imparts any special circumstances.
Same bullshit people try to pull with “it’s wartime” or “they’re evil” and so forth. Always something different about “this time” or “these people” or themselves.

I think that’s part of the vibe tkchrist (not defending dgacuin’s point about human maleability) but I think that’s the gist. You don’t get to play to anything special at all - following the orders of superiors who were crazy, all that.
You did the crime? It’s your neck. And again on the other side - but I’m just like you! - All the more reason I have the right to punish you buddy.

I mean, it seems to me, either way, there’s an out. I don’t think there should be (I know no one’s arguing for one, but someone could play that from those premises). The act is the act whether you’re a psychopath, a monster, or an ordinary joe. And you take responsibility for it and punishment.

Hitler shouldn’t have been beaten as a child. It’s sad he was. Doesn’t mitigate thing one that he did though. Being human and commiting horrific acts aren’t mutually exclusive, but it is the choices we make that define us.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just got off the phone with Godwin and man he is losing his fucking mind right now.

I'm surprised you're not screening for his calls, like I am. I got sick and tired of every conversation, Hitler this and Nazis that. What a bore.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:16 PM on March 24, 2008


Yeah, but if you can get past all that, you have to admit that he's got some good ideas.
posted by cortex at 4:25 PM on March 24, 2008


Probably useful book: Eichmann in Jerusalem
posted by Smedleyman at 4:27 PM on March 24, 2008


I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.

~Adolf Hitler

If we could hear Hitler now, he'd be pulling a McNulty: "what the fuck did I do?"
posted by bwg at 5:27 PM on March 24, 2008


I have never said Hitler was supra or super-human. Or anything but human. I have maintained through out that psychopaths, sociopaths, murders are indeed human. But I strongly disagree that every human is capable of these extreme acts. Being 'human" is wide spectrum. Not every human is capable of being Einstein. Not every human is capable of being Tiger Woods. Yet both of them are human. Humans can be sublime. Humans can be monsters. Potential is not equally distributed in either category.
posted by tkchrist at 5:42 PM on March 24, 2008


tkchrist, I have been to various Holocaust museums. I have spoken to Holocaust survivors. I have studied the Holocaust as part of my undergraduate degree. And I still think a lot of what you are spouting here is absolute rubbish. So please do try and claim some moral superiority or superior knowledge just because you 'felt their pain' or some such. You can have empathy and still be wrong you know.
posted by Megami at 6:25 PM on March 24, 2008


tkchrist, I have been to various Holocaust museums. I have spoken to Holocaust survivors. I have studied the Holocaust as part of my undergraduate degree. And I still think a lot of what you are spouting here is absolute rubbish. So please do try and claim some moral superiority or superior knowledge just because you 'felt their pain' or some such.

Since when I have I claimed superior knowledge or moral superiority? I merely stated I went to the Shoah and it informed my view. I never claimed it was MORE informed. I suggested that dgaciun go and look for himself.

AND I never said I felt their pain, either. I said I spent a few hours. A few hours listening to a couple of ladies tell me about their experiences in Auschwitz. The experience left me rather sensitive to the issue. Not MORE sensitive than anybody else. More sensitive than I had been. And it was recent. THAT is all claimed.

And I don't give a good god damned what you think is, or is not, rubbish.

Any other words you wanna put in my mouth?

You can have empathy and still be wrong you know.

Yes. I do know.
posted by tkchrist at 6:41 PM on March 24, 2008


People well within the normal range of human (biological and environmental) variation can do this.

Examples?
posted by humannaire at 8:34 PM on March 24, 2008


Clearly we all belong to the same species.

And this is clear why? Not to be contentious, but this is the same argument used throughout time when an idea goes against the common thought.

"Clearly, the earth is the center of the universe"

"Clearly, a higher being created man."

"Clearly, the earth is flat."


Clearly, what is clear is often incorrect.
posted by humannaire at 8:42 PM on March 24, 2008


That isn't to say that anyone here is capable of ordering the mass killing of a group of people. I'd say that few are in the world, and I'd like to think it goes back to nature and nurture. Some people are born with a different mental chemistry, while others may have their own bad impulses encouraged, either by others or by their own choices. These things play off of each other, and a different psychology might contribute to the long process of choosing the wrong forks in the path until you wake up one day and have your hand on the big red button, and actually want to push it.

This is interesting, mikeh, in that it is generally conceded that 1% of the planet's "human" population is sociopathic (Hare) although the numbers go as high as 4% (Stout). The idea is also that some people are born that way, and others are made or as a consequence of choice become that way.

In the scenario you describe, as a consequence of accident, a person becomes sociopathic. If that is the scenario, than yes that person indeed does become an individual unlike their previous self. This is true.

If a person has no control over their actions or choices any longer to the point that they are no longer themselves and mortally anti-social, then it is agreeable that they have become someone or something else. Is it wrong that who they were would prefer that who they became be put to death rather than go around creating misery?

I think not. I would not care for an instant to be someone I am not. In fact, though it may be in a form of posthumous wish, I would prefer that I be killed immediately in that case. For in fact, I am already dead! (Incidentally, I have actually been witness to this as it happened to a sufferer of a grand mal seizure. Went in one person, came out another, very similar to how you describe.)
posted by humannaire at 9:05 PM on March 24, 2008


After visiting these two places you can easily see how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country, which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.


The Post-War diary of John F. Kennedy, as quoted in Prelude to Leadership (pages 73-74, last two paragraphs).
posted by yoyo_nyc at 9:21 PM on March 24, 2008


But the actual actors who could, day and day out, fully conceive, systematize, orchestrate, and intimately torture, rape, and do unspeakable things were by and large not "normal" people. They were made not normal through extreme situations or made not normal by a really fucked up social order.

And some of them, the SS in particular, were just really fucked up people who got off on doing that shit. And the SS were in charge.


And I would further assert that sociopaths are capable of recognizing one another, of perpetuation their own kind through trauma and injury, and of being exponentially more dangerous when conditions prevail which allow for their gathering and working together in collusion or collaboration.
posted by humannaire at 9:22 PM on March 24, 2008


Clearly we all belong to the same species.

And this is clear why?

because if a fertile male and a fertile female fuck each other they'll have kids? - you know like little adolf's parents did?

this is biology 101 - "human" has a meaning - "species" has a meaning

i'm getting more than a little tired of people who have their own special meanings for words that they think everyone else has to adjust to
posted by pyramid termite at 9:23 PM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Fuehrer Bunker (1935-1942) vr reconstruction video
posted by Dave Faris at 9:37 PM on March 24, 2008


[Funnily] enough, they didn’t consider the Jews human, but rather monsters.

As in funnily that the term monster s being applied to the monsters who were actually monsters rather than the people the monsters monsterously said were monsters but who were in fact people? Go figure. A monster calls someone who is not a monster a monster in order to perpetuate monsterous acts.

If the term monster is anathema, than use the term sociopath. Regardless, what remains true is that some who are similar in a fashion to all of us who are non-killers are nonetheless strikingly dissimilar enough as to be comparatively another kind besides non-killer, or human. Or if the aware and preferably [mortally anti-social] ("sociopaths/psychopaths") are human, than those of us who are aware and preferably not [mortally anti-social] are something other than human. Quid pro quo, because what we are saying is if it is is the one, then by virtue of that than it is the other.

To cast them from humanity renders their crimes beyond human responsibility. They are ours and they are subject to our human judgment and a reminder of our duty to our fellow man.


These are romantic notions, more prose than proposition. This is not "casting from humanity," this is identification of another kind of human, another species or sub-species. In any case, crimes human or otherwise are well within the realm of human responsibility. Are the acts of killer bears or such creatures not subject to our discerning nature? Is not this discernment also a duty to our fellow kind?

This is followed by more of the same, but then....

I think that’s part of the vibe tkchrist (not defending dgacuin’s point about human maleability) but I think that’s the gist. You don’t get to play to anything special at all - following the orders of superiors who were crazy, all that.
You did the crime? It’s your neck. And again on the other side - but I’m just like you! - All the more reason I have the right to punish you buddy.


This is incorrect. It is precisely the difference that gives one the moral/ethical/societal advantage or upper-hand. Being the same either makes a world intolerable or unstable, the opposite of the idea of progress and the consequences of social evolution.

The interesting thing here is that in the footage Adolf Hitler comes across as no more or less than what most imaginably attribute to him. In regards to this portrayal, I pointed out that such behavior while intelligent is not necessarily human. It can easily be contrived.

As that is the case, and as people continue to discount the idea—the very possibility!—that some of us are so significantly different from one another as to be another kind, individuals such as Adolf Hitler, and Ted Bundy, and even Charles Manson continue to pop-up and to damage the fabric of society.

Daily, and oft-times almost hourly, I hear people pose the query, "What is wrong with the world?" I have propose a possible answer, and one with enough solid scientific backing that it at least bears further consideration.

Consider: If at least 1% of the world's population is sociopath, then imagine the consequence. Now imagine that same portion of the population doing this harm with conscious awareness of their consistently going unidentified. Then it is like wolves living invisibly amongst sheep. And if our biggest challenge to redressing the situation is self-delusion, then the only conspiracy is the perpetuated by us on us.

Rather than extraterrestrials or secret societies, creatures live and trouble and even hunt amongst us without fear of reprisal or recognition. How? Humaness.

Fiddlesticks, I say. Evolution has continued. The only difference between this time and the time before is the consciousness of evolution. Which in retrospect may be the defining characteristic of what we previously were and what—some of us—now are.

It's the old saw about the two monkeys who lived in the tree. One decided to move to the ground, while the other decided to stay in the tree. And while it may have been left unsaid at the time, undoubtedly one of the them chose to refuse to the idea that "some monkeys were not monkeys," too.
posted by humannaire at 10:38 PM on March 24, 2008


humannaire, I've yet to see an argument from you, or a clarification of what you mean by 'human' or 'species'. So let me ask: what exactly do you mean by 'species'?

Everyone in this thread agrees that there are profound biological and moral differences between psychopaths and ordinary folk. What do you add to this picture? What do we disagree about that is not just a disagreement about the meaning of a word? If your response is that you think that psychopaths are a different species, you need to tell me what you mean by the word 'species'. I understand the word to mean "a group of organisms capable of interbreeding". That's obviously not what you mean. So what do you mean?
posted by painquale at 11:53 PM on March 24, 2008


"Isn't it grand to humanize and excuse and ameliorate and otherwise forgive Hitler for being Hitler?

I'm embarassed for us."

What do you have planned for us instead? Blind rage and disinterest in the facts (as they tend to get in the way of blind rage)?

Hitler was as human as anybody else is. That's what makes Hitler so interesting. All the sophisticated word games in the world doesn't change the fact that we are all here the exact same species.
posted by Sukiari at 12:34 AM on March 25, 2008


"i'm getting more than a little tired of people who have their own special meanings for words that they think everyone else has to adjust to"

Get used to it. Hitler is doubleplus ungood and you just have to learn to like it.
posted by Sukiari at 12:38 AM on March 25, 2008


Try this...Hitler and his ilk were evil.

Evil lurks in all of us...how do people get to the levels that the Nazis did?

One small step at a time. And then another. And then another...THAT is how it happens. Very rarely someone is spectacularly evil in one fell swoop, but for most humans it simply takes time and an inclination to keep taking those small steps.
posted by konolia at 4:39 AM on March 25, 2008


i'm getting more than a little tired of people who have their own special meanings for words that they think everyone else has to adjust

humannaire, I've yet to see an argument from you, or a clarification of what you mean by 'human' or 'species'. So let me ask: what exactly do you mean by 'species'?

My own definition of the word species parallels the definition outlayed and generally conceded my most who are concerned with such things is that of David L. Hull's as outlayed in The Ontological Status of Species as Evolutionary Units. This is a popular view, as well as one I find to be in agreement with a number if not all of Stephen Jay Gould's propositions in The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. YMMV however if so it will be not by much or else most radically. Here is a summarization of Hull's definition of species (found at the very excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):

"The Evolutionary Unit Argument: Since Darwin, species have been considered units of evolution. When Hull and others assert that species are units of evolution, they do not simply mean that the gene frequencies of a species change from one generation to the next. They have a more significant form of evolution in mind, namely a trait going from being rare to being prominent in a species. A classic example of such evolution is the change in frequencies of different colored peppered moths in Nineteenth Century England. Prior to the industrial revolution, most peppered moths were light gray and few were coal black. During the industrial revolution, selection caused the frequency of coal black peppered moths to dramatically increase.

"A number of processes can cause a trait to become prominent in a species. Hull highlights selection. Selection causes a trait to become prominent in a species only if that trait is passed down from one generation to the next. If a trait is not heritable, the frequency of that trait will not increase cumulatively. Hereditary relations, genetic or otherwise, require the generations of a species to be causally connected. Reproduction requires the generations of a species to be causally and hence spatiotemporally connected. So, if species are to evolve in non trivial ways by natural selection, they must be spatiotemporally continuous entities. Given that species are units of evolution, species are individuals and not classes.

"The conclusion that species are individuals has a number of interesting implications. For one, the relationship between an organism and its species is not a member/class relation but a part/whole relation. An organism belongs to a particular species only if it is appropriately causally connected to the other organisms in that species. The organisms of a species must be parts of a single evolving lineage. If belonging to a species turns on an organism's insertion in a lineage, then qualitative similarity can be misleading. Two organisms may be very similar morphologically, genetically, and behaviorally, but unless they belong to the same spatiotemporally continuous lineage they cannot belong to the same species. Think of an analogy. Being part of my immediate family turns on my wife, my children and I having certain biological relations to one another, not our having similar features. It does not matter that my son's best friend looks just like him. That friend is not part of our family. Similarly, organisms belong to a particular species because they are appropriately causally connected, not because they look similar (if they indeed do)."


As I mentioned, this definition is notable to myself in that it runs concurrent to Gould's notable reconsideration of modern evolutional theory; Gould paraphrased, "Selection may act not just on individuals or their genes, but on entire species or groups of species, and in ways we've only begun to understand."
posted by humannaire at 5:24 AM on March 25, 2008


Try this...Hitler and his ilk were evil.

In action, yes, but to "be evil" one must be conscious of the difference between good and evil, as defined by a large set of tacit (internal) understandings, to be sure.

This is the difference between those who are evil, and those who are sociopaths. People who are specifically evil are so by intent, conscious or otherwise, but definitely conscientiously so. Sociopaths are not. This is a common misunderstanding.

Many evil individuals flourished and prospered during the rise and reign of Nazism, but this was predicated on a core group of individuals who were sociopaths centered around a single individual who was most definitely.
posted by humannaire at 5:33 AM on March 25, 2008


Many evil individuals flourished and prospered during the rise and reign of Nazism, but this was predicated on a core group of individuals who were sociopaths centered around a single individual who was most definitely.

the real problem with this whole argument is that you forget that it wasn't just hitler who killed all those people in concentration camps and ruined europe in the course of world war 2, it was the german people

period

now can we breed with germans or can't we? why we can - therefore they are human, just like us

Similarly, organisms belong to a particular species because they are appropriately causally connected, not because they look similar (if they indeed do)."

causually connected means that if two members of a species reproduce that their offspring is a member of that species, as long as it can also reproduce with others of that species

you need to produce evidence that adolf hilter was so genetically different than other humans that he could not reproduce with other human beings

and then you need to explain why the millions who acted with him are human and adolf wasn't - (enough of the offspring of these germans have interbred with people from other nations to define them as human)
posted by pyramid termite at 7:16 AM on March 25, 2008


now can we breed with germans or can't we?

[haha]....

....[ahem] ah, well, yes, you see whether one creature is capable of reproducing with another is not the definition of breed, you see, so....

you need to produce evidence that adolf hilter was so genetically different than other humans that he could not reproduce with other human beings

....[hahaha]...is moot, but as to the other point...

and then you need to explain why the millions who acted with him are human and adolf wasn't - (enough of the offspring of these germans have interbred with people from other nations to define them as human)

....[LOL [sorry]] ah, I would say that people were misled. I don't hold that all individuals who do bad or wrong things to be sociopathic, particularly if they are being mis-led. Many people live their lives by relying on leaders, and if the leaders are self-interested liars or delusional (see recent Bush administration) then these people will be misled into doing wrong. Inevitably, it comes back around that these people en mass come around to the other way of thinking—and oft-times as the result of the influence of correct-minded thinking.

When the US went to war upon Iraq, it was wrong then as it is now. The only difference is that now cooler heads have prevailed.

Likewise, people German were emotionally manipulated and intentionally misled into wrong-minded acts, only to later have that mistake realized and owned. Again, this is happening now with the US and it's invasion of Iraq.

Of course, it has been argued that Dick Cheney is not a sociopath. But I would beg to differ. George Bush, on the other hand, is more than likely evil. Regardless, the mob mentality of the past eight years in the United States is similar in spirit to what occurred in Germany, 1933 to 1945, for exactly the same reasons.
posted by humannaire at 9:44 AM on March 25, 2008


“I have never said Hitler was supra or super-human”

If you’re speaking to my point, my bad for looking like I insinuated that. I’m just trying to trace out the two concepts that seem to be at loggerheads rather than refute any point.
If anything I’m championing Arendt’s point that Eichmann, whom one might presume to be evil, abnormal, etc. etc. wasn’t any such thing, he merely didn’t think much for himself (LOTs of people I can think of fit that bill. None of them close friends) - at least according to the (six) psychologists that examined him. So he was a “normal” guy. Arendt’s point is that most people, like Eichmann who aren’t markedly different from the way we seem to be, will comply with force if they’re intimidated, but not everyone will - e.g. it could happen anywhere, but it didn’t (as you point out) happen everywhere.

Furthermore there does seem to be an overmind or zeitgeist in action, group mind if you will, not sure of my psychological sounding here. But it’s on the order of the Emperor’s new clothes. That is - again using Arendt - folks in Denmark said “hey, this is bullshit” and they refused - unlike many other European countries, to comply with the Final Solution and turn over their Jews. So the folks - members of the Third Reich - in Denmark caught that ‘bug’ and said “hey...yeah, this *is* bullshit” and dropped their tools and didn’t comply.

“These are romantic notions, more prose than proposition.”

Much like “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”?
No, the duty to “our fellow kind” is to consider all men “our fellow kind.” If you’re arguing a genetic/mental/etc. point that is completely neuter in terms of legal, moral, etc. impact - then you can call anyone else anything you like. They’re robots. Zombies. Sociopaths. Psychopaths. Whatever. But in all practical terms they cannot be treated differently than we treat our fellow men. The only method of dealing with them, or anyone else “sub human” is to hold them responsible for their acts. Like anyone else.

“this is identification of another kind of human, another species or sub-species...It is precisely the difference that gives one the moral/ethical/societal advantage or upper-hand”

Again, exactly what the Nazis said about the Jews. Tautology about “them” being different from “us” because we’re not them doesn’t hold up.
Even accounting for your logic - the only possible way to determine if someone is “subhuman” is through their actions. That, I’m saying, is all that matters. Whether someone is a sociopath or evil or whatever the case, doesn’t matter in the slightest if they are benign. Hitler mowing his lawn is the same as anyone else mowing their lawn.
Perhaps he is different internally - I resist such a quantification for determination of legal or moral standing particularly a priori, but ok, I’ll bend for sake of argument to your definition. He’s an alien.

Still - he does nothing but mow his lawn, be nice to kids, work his job or paint or whatever and never raises a hand to anyone, then there is no determination by which we can say he is any different from anyone else who lives a simple life either and no basis upon which to treat him any differently.
Only the acts matter.
(Again, it is implicit in your argument that these folks be treated differently. Whether you intend that or not, that’s what is derivable from that position - and again, it’s not at all dissimilar from the position - in form - the Nazis held. You don’t seem to be asserting that, but just to clarify what it is I’m arguing against and the position I’m holding.)

And, as pyramid termite says, it wasn’t just Hitler, it wasn’t just a small core group of individuals, it was a large scale operation - wherein even other countries not directly under the Nazi heel capitulated and rounded up Jews and sent them off to be murdered.
Some people who are “human” must have participated. And indeed, what if some of the Jews were everything the Third Reich said they were - lying in wait to destroy and blah blah blah, and were a sub species or subhuman, in much the same terms you cast Hitler and his ilk? They would then be morally right in destroying a threat to their specific race and humanity in general.
Internally the logic holds. But again, they start from the false premise of dichotomizing humanity by traits rather than assigning responsibility for acts.


This is the same kind of argument Orwell poses when O’Brian takes Smith to task - Smith is the “last human” because he resists Big Brother (evil) and yet, among his methods in resistance is the willingness to throw acid in a child’s face.

The ends, no matter how noble, don’t matter as they are comprised of the means.
You want to argue a biological point - ok. I can’t confirm or refute a position on that basis. But the question must arise - what is to be done with those we consider differently evolved than “us”? How do we judge them?
And I say, by their acts alone, not by assignation of labels - whether they are valid or not. An impotent Hitler is harmless. The Danes revealed that drama for what it was and it drew the teeth from the entire system.
And it was a system that drove the holocaust, whether the people behind it were sociopaths or not. There had to be time tables, schedules, organization, a bureaucracy - and that is where the protection from evil rests, within the system. Maintain vigilance, uphold the rights and responsibilities of the citizenry, keep as broad a participatory base as possible and that kind of marginalization won’t be possible under any label.
And that’s where our duty to ourselves and humanity lay, in maintaining those protections for everyone, not in assignation of characteristics of what constitutes “human.” Hitler came to power “legally” (albeit with extralegal intimidation).

And some folks think Bush is a sociopath (all that stuff about him butchering frogs). Whether he is or not the reason he has not done more damage (and he’s done a bunch) is because people are fighting to protect the rights that protect us all, not because they point him out as a different category of human.

I suspect we’re arguing perspective rather than terms. Those points don’t refute your argument within your terms (and indeed, I’m not well read enough on the topic to pose a strong counter argument) but within the sphere of my focus - legal, practical response, social, my argument is that species, subspecies, whatever, of “human” is a moot point.
And hell, even animals have some rights.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:02 AM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Regardless, the mob mentality of the past eight years in the United States is similar in spirit to what occurred in Germany, 1933 to 1945, for exactly the same reasons.

And those same reasons being: False conclusions, arrived at through the recombination of emotionally persuasive untruth and truth, being intentionally disseminated, propagated and then encouraged by dishonest leaders.

My point is that the dishonesty is integral to the process due to unacknowledged nature. That hoi polloi are to be manipulated by hoi oligoi is allowed to go without saying. Yet that which I felt noteworthy—and which is being argued—is the nature of the controlling few in question is contrary to the one being (in the footage above) accepted ie that humaness equates human. Vis a vis my point, the unacknowledged possibility is that it does not.
posted by humannaire at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2008


“...the nature of the controlling few in question is contrary to the one being (in the footage above) accepted ie that humaness equates human.”

Ah, so quacks like a duck does not necessarially equal duck. Fair enough. And if I’m reading you correctly the assumption that one’s fitness to lead often rests on just that - an assumption (being, by your terms, human) and not provable.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:35 AM on March 25, 2008


Whether someone is a sociopath or evil or whatever the case, doesn’t matter in the slightest if they are benign. Hitler mowing his lawn is the same as anyone else mowing their lawn.
Perhaps he is different internally - I resist such a quantification for determination of legal or moral standing particularly a priori, but ok, I’ll bend for sake of argument to your definition. He’s an alien.


Agreed.

Again, it is implicit in your argument that these folks be treated differently.

Also agreed, as long as "being treated differently" is understood to mean acknowledged 1) to be unique, 2) to be other than one other type/kind/class (Hull's term to delineate species) of human, 3) to exist.

The leading point is significant. Sociopaths are fine as long as no harm is done. Considering the number of sociopaths in the world today, it is more than likely a number of sociopaths are good people. Emotional compassion and empathy are what they are: Attributes. Lack or presence of attributes (or abilities) can be a qualification of many things, but only actions define a person (not type/kind/class). Lightly put, no blood no foul, but an individual who is mortally anti-social is a problem.

My contention—and I do have one—is by disavowing the distinction, an opportunity to learn from and communicate to sociopaths—essential to our understanding of this species(/whatever) we call human—is prevented.

It is this prevention that I am challenging by my assertions.
posted by humannaire at 11:05 AM on March 25, 2008


ah, well, yes, you see whether one creature is capable of reproducing with another is not the definition of breed

you're being evasive

I would say that people were misled

no, a good portion of the german people of that time WANTED a leader who would do such things
posted by pyramid termite at 11:11 AM on March 25, 2008


Ah, so quacks like a duck does not necessarially equal duck. Fair enough. And if I’m reading you correctly the assumption that one’s fitness to lead often rests on just that - an assumption (being, by your terms, human) and not provable.

No. As I said, "the nature of the controlling few in question is contrary to the one being (in the footage above) accepted."

So, for someone (or someones) to be mortally anti-social and sociopathic and a leader—and this situation goes unacknowledged—the consequences have historically proven to be devastating.
posted by humannaire at 11:21 AM on March 25, 2008


ah, well, yes, you see whether one creature is capable of reproducing with another is not the definition of breed

you're being evasive


No, (as requested) I presented the definition of species I adhere to above. Species inter-breed. The ability to breed is not the defining characteristic of human (or species).

[On the other hand, with regards to your original query, I thought you were being flippant in order to clarify how you personally define of the term species ie that which is able to breed with one another. So if in fact you were asking me if you can breed with Germans, the answer is, hypothetically, yes. The correct answer will depend on the specific Germans in question, yourself, and the relationship between the two. Pardon me if I misunderstood.]

Also,....

a good portion of the german people of that time WANTED a leader who would do such things

....regardless of a constituency's individual base instincts or desires—of which it is the obligation of leaders to responsibly manage and dissuade or redirect—leaders (sociopathic or human or other than either) who utilize and amass and direct said instincts for destructive and anti-social ends are held more accountable than any single individual who also accountable but who is being led.

While the dynamics of leaders and followers is another subject entirely, I feel factored accountability is a tacit understanding of authoritative power, and it can be intuited throughout the entirety of my contributions to this thread. This is not to say individuals who do harmful things are not unaccountable, rather that leaders who promote said individuals to whom they are responsible to do bad things are to be held more accountable.
posted by humannaire at 11:59 AM on March 25, 2008


No, (as requested) I presented the definition of species I adhere to above.

pity you don't actually understand it

bye
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 PM on March 25, 2008


This thread has engendered some of the most retarded commentary I've yet read on MeFi. Especially you dipshits arguing about whether Hitler was (genetically) human or (psychologically) human.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 PM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


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