A projected book on “Paranoid Fantasy and Enemy Creation”

Statement of Purpose:   This book will explore the hypothesis that there is a common dynamic underlying enemy  creation. While cultural contexts and historical situations differ (and are often complex), warfare may arise out of a fundamental template revolving  around the identification  of an enemy perceived to be a threat to one’s nation or ideology. To defend or rescue the sacred ideal, the class of persons designated as enemy must be defeated,  eliminated or destroyed.

The theory we shall interrogate grows out of “The Nazi Paradigm” (as some call it).  Nazism provides an invaluable case study insofar as the Jewish enemy constituted no actual threat to Germany. Nevertheless, the idea of “the Jew” as mortal enemy of the German people (as Geoffrey Herf has established) generated both the Holocaust and the Second World War. Is it possible that other cases of warfare (and genocide) grow out of a similar  paranoid construction?

Warfare revolves around a binary consisting of the “good nation” on the one hand, and the “evil enemy” on the other. Societies wage war seeking to protect, defend or rescue the nation or ideology—by destroying or defeating an enemy.

Hitler declared, “We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany we have performed the  greatest deed in the world.” Leaders take their nations to war based on an idea  not unlike this: “We may cause death and destruction, but if we rescue our  nation or ideology, we have performed a just and heroic deed.”

War is performed with a sense of virtue, because acts are undertaken in the name of protecting and defending one’s nation and its sacred ideology. Killing one’s enemy (and sacrificing one’s own citizens) is not conceived to be immoral—because such acts are deemed necessary to destroy the enemy.

The nature of the nation, group or class of people identified as a mortal threat or destructive enemy varies from society to society. The enemy may be called a Jew, or America, or Iran, or a terrorist, or a Zionist, or a Palestinian, or a capitalist or an infidel. Groups differ according to how they define the evil enemy: what must be killed or destroyed if the sacred ideal is to survive.

Perhaps these categories are fungible. War is a force that gives us meaning (Chris  Hedges). The meaning of war is to defeat the enemy in order to defend and preserve the sacred object with which the self identifies.

Paranoid fantasies hold societies together. However, when members of society share the same fantasies (believe that a specific class of people is evil and wishes to  destroy one’s nation or ideology), then we no longer speak of paranoia. Politics (international “relations”) is that form of reality construction that requires, and builds upon, paranoid fantasies.

This book seeks to reveal an underlying  structure of thought—a narrative, template or shared fantasy—that supports and  sustains political violence.

Excerpts of abstracts that have been selected as esays that may be chosen for this book if they pass muster:

  • “Fanatic Anti-Semitism: The Jewish Question, Heinrich Himmler and the SS,” J. I. (Hans) Bakker, University of Guelph

The creation of an enemy is a process of social construction. Paranoid fantasies gain momentum when they are shared by a collectivity. The Nazis believed that anyone who was not racially pure “Germanic” was an enemy. Hence, Roma (“gypsies”) and homosexuals were enemies. All Slavic people were enemies—and millions of Eastern Europeans died. Six million Jews were killed to confirm the fantasy of the homogeneity and racial purity of the German Volk. This paper will examine how various “others” are used to create the nation as an imagined community.

  • “The  ‘Real’ Enemy: Fantasizing the Liberal ‘Final Solution’,” by Peter Bloom, Swansea  University

Recent psychoanalytic perspectives contend that all enemies, whether or not they constitute an actual threat, reflect an illusionary identity connected to collective fantasy. They grant individuals a secure sense of self for fending off our fragmentary psychic nature. The result is that the officially sanctioned hatred of a specific group and it members  reinforces a secure socially constructed ‘reality’ that covers over deeper  antagonisms in the name of realizing an elusive utopian fantasy promising psychic  wholeness.

  • “The  Body Politic: Hitler, Paranoia, and ‘the Jew’ in Modern Germany,” by Geoffrey Cocks, Albion College

Depiction of a mortal enemy carries with it the idea of threat as fully external and thus manageably separate and identifiable. The monolithic Nazi fantasy of “the Jew” as morbid enemy carried with it the disturbingly intimate quality of internal unmanageable weakness, and eventual destruction. Nazi discourse and imagery concerning “the Jew” as disease mobilized and capitalized on fears among many Germans about their own  physical and mental damage, collapse, and dissolution. Such “dis-ease” was projected outward onto Jews in the context of a Nazi culture dominated by fantasies of wholeness and purity.

  • “Götterdämmerung:  Suicide Music and the National Self as Enemy,” by Panayiotis Demopoulos, York University

Examining dialogues from the bunker in the expiring days of the Reich, one finds oneself in the rhetoric of Wagner,  Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. The leitmotif of this prolonged “heroic” exit is a wild case of “noblesse;” and some thousands obliged indeed.  What role did music play in the death-throes of the Reich? What did the orchestras of the Reich perform in the latter stages of the war? This article will illuminate the use of music as means to support the darker and more sinister ideogram of self-punishment and purification.

  • “Delusion and the Psychodynamics of Gurus,”  by J. Harold Ellens, University  of Michigan

Anthony Storr compared prophetic revelations and delusional ideation, concluding there is little difference — except that the prophet attracts followers who share his beliefs. With a devoted following he or she is a Guru. Without followers the Guru may be labeled psychotic. Gurus or prophets get their psychological reinforcement from bonding with followers. When validation fails, hospitalization may ensue because of the inability to maintain the prophetic charismatic state. Rappaport observes that “prophetic” visions, sane or insane, are “sacred knowledge”. When the Guru’s persuasion is successful, it results in a conversion into this alternate worldview.

  • “A Fantasy-Theme Analysis of ‘The Eternal Jew’: From Nazi Propaganda to  YouTube,” by William B. Hart, Norfolk State  University &  Fran Hassencahl, Old Dominion University

Within the context of  fantasy theme analysis, a fantasy is “the creative and imaginative  interpretation of events that fulfils a psychological or rhetorical need.” A symbolic  convergence process begins when a small group creates a fantasy or dramatization  in order to explain events. These fantasies may chain out to a larger rhetorical community via mass media. Fantasies serve as the grounds for  arguments: we are not so much persuaded by reason, but by story rooted in emotion.  Much of what has been thought of as persuasion can be accounted for on the basis of group and mass fantasies. The dreams embodied in fantasies drive participants toward actions and efforts to achieve them.

  • “Barbed Wire and Body Snatchers: The Manufacture of Conspiracy,” by Jon T. Oplinger, U. of Maine at Farmington & Richard Talbot, Anna Maria College

The social reality of  a threatening internal conspiracy is an important element in the generation and  maintenance of political dominance. This paper examines the political/social  process by which leaders within society manufacture a collective paranoid  delusion of an imminent internal threat to the body politic. This exercise in comparative sociology will examine the means by which the perception (constructed  reality) of an internal menace — alien, demonic and polluting — was  manufactured in several nations.

  • “Creating the  ‘November Criminals’:  A Study of the Dolchstoss Legend,” by Tracie  Provost, Middle Georgia College

In the final days of World War I, a new legend, complete with a new enemy, appeared in Germany.   The Dolchstoss legend contends that the German Army, strong, with indomitable spirit, and led by two of Germany’s  great war heroes, Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg, was stabbed in the  back by the civilian government, and this led to Germany’s defeat by the  Allies.  The army could have continued to fight and defend the Fatherland,  but the cowardly and duplicitous civilian government contracted a harsh and  unfair peace with Germany’s enemies.

  • “Enemy Construction in Nazi Propaganda: Metaphor and the  Creation of Illusionary Reality,” by Jale Tumay, Arizona State U.

In order to shed light on the production and reproduction of ideologies, this paper will examine and decode metaphors in National Socialist ideology. I shall illustrate how binary division is systematically created, creating new frameworks and forms of action through the medium of language. This study will investigate illusion as a discursive practice, and explore how  metaphors create the discourse and image of the image of the enemy.

  • “Understanding ‘The Total Enemy’ in Schmitt, Arendt,  Foucault and Agamben,” by Mikkel Thorup, University of Aarhus

This article will explore how totalitarianism introduced a new and hitherto unseen enmification process and enemy category, namely the “total enemy” whose status was derived from being rather than action. Rather than focus on totalitarian actors,  I will reconstruct how several significant thinkers have tried to grasp and  conceptualize this break in the history of enmity introduced by  totalitarianism. In racism one “exists before one acts:” making one’s qualification as an enemy something one bears as a body.

  • “Symbolic Dimensions of Torture  in the War on Terror,” by Bradley N. Young, The New School  for Social Research

Faced with global sources  of insecurity—economic collapse, climate change, international terrorism—the  nation-state struggles to maintain its legitimacy. To do so demands that it  appear to be managing threats to its citizens. In its response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration was able to restore some sense of  the state’s legitimacy by constructing the terrorist as an enemy onto which all  these other sources of insecurity could be displaced. This displacement helped substantiate an inflated conception of an enemy, which continues to be described and perceived as a threat to “the American way of life,” and to civilization as such.

  • “Counterterrorism  and the New American Exceptionalism,” by Michael Vlahos, United States Naval War College

American exceptionalism in practice has undergone a disturbing metamorphosis in the last decade. Put simply, the  once-and-future belief that this country is uniquely “set apart” for  the greater good of humanity has morphed into a self-seeking national  shibboleth, manifest most clearly in the nation’s approach to counterterrorism.  This is a radical shift from an uplifting paradigm of redeeming/transforming communities of terrorist sympathy into communities of freedom-loving democrats  — and toward a dark paradigm where purging terrorists means continually flaying  “the sea in which they swim” as the poisonous source of threat to the  pure American Body.

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