emotional contagion
March 17, 2007 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know the source of a description by a sceptic attending a nazi rally in the 30s who was unable to resist shouting along with everyone else? I'm sure I read about it somewhere.
posted by leibniz to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That happens to Jessup in Sinclair Lewis's novel It Can't Happen Here, although its with an American analog to the Nazi party.

And I'm grasping here, but do I remember something similar to this in the introduction to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?
posted by Bookhouse at 1:10 PM on March 17, 2007

It sounds like Orwell's 1984, when the protagonist can't resist shouting along during the Two Minutes Hate.
In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. Thus, at one moment Winston's hatred was not turned against Goldstein at all, but, on the contrary, against Big Brother, the Party, and the Thought Police; and at such moments his heart went out to the lonely, derided heretic on the screen, sole guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies. And yet the very next instant he was at one with the people about him, and all that was said of Goldstein seemed to him to be true.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2007

In the Tony Kushner play, Bright Room Called Day, there's a preamble that includes a description of a photograph of a Nazi rally with a lady not sieg-heiling while every body else is sieg heiling.
posted by sfz at 2:15 PM on March 17, 2007

There's a book that's supposed to be based on actual events called The Wave about a high school where a simulation of Nazi Germany in a history class got kind of out of hand in the 70s. Wikipedia mentions the historical event in "The Third Wave" article.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:05 PM on March 17, 2007

This deals with the 'emotional contagion' of your title, even though it was a 1969 experiment by a teacher: The Third Wave.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:06 PM on March 17, 2007

Dang, spaceman spiff got it while I was googling the name of the piece.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:07 PM on March 17, 2007

I've read that Wave book, and don't believe it's the answer to leibnitz' question.

Although that story begins reasonably, I found it unrealistic -- California high school kids of 1969 would've been ignorant to the similarities of their situation with actual fascism, and I found the notion of the ending's enlightenment triggered by a surprise 'Hitler = Bad' deus ex machina clumsy and preposterous.

And in a weird coincidence, I'm actually attending a class at the high school in question right now -- the Cubberly Community Center campus in Silicon Valley, which is no longer a high school.

posted by Rash at 3:29 PM on March 17, 2007

Response by poster: These are all interesting references, but none of them is the one I was thinking of I'm afraid.
posted by leibniz at 3:32 PM on March 17, 2007

When Lord Boothby visited Germany in the 30s and the Heil Hitlers started, he shouted Heil Boothby..
posted by A189Nut at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2007

Rash: I think I read that there was some controversy about how much of the book was history versus fiction, but I've learned never to assume I can intuit how groups behave. See also: Milgram Experiment, Stanford Prison Experiment, et al.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:59 PM on March 17, 2007

This is referenced in Agatha Christie's Passenger to Frankfurt (1976) and at least one of her other short stories from around that time, I think. For some reason it seems poor Ms. Christie went off the deep end and started believing that the late 60s-early 70s protests were a harbinger of social doom.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:28 AM on March 18, 2007

Response by poster: hmm... I'm just sure there was some guy (maybe a german) who was visiting friends, went to a rally and found himself seig heiling along with everybody else, probably in the mid 30s.
posted by leibniz at 2:46 AM on March 18, 2007

The Tin Drum?
posted by neustile at 5:58 AM on March 18, 2007

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