When the Bodies Are All Buried


My dad, the real historian in the family, used to say that the history of a time cannot really be told until all the bodies are buried and the forgotten memoirs come bubbling to the surface. When he first told me that, as a kid, I wasn’t really ready to understand him.

Now on ebay!

Now on ebay!

So here’s a fantastic example: it turns out that Hitler was possibly whacked on amphetamines and/or oxycontin, and large amounts of the Wehrmacht brass were wolfing down methamphetamine pills – pills that apparently do wonders to your “confidence and energy”!

This story has been getting a fair amount of play recently, because a book (natch!) is out that documents all the various drugs Hitler was on, and I guess the author is doing a book tour. Links are in the footnote section.

Apparently Pervitin is coming back into vogue in Europe. You probably don’t want to start googling for synthesis, unless you want to end up having your purchasing habits examined.

The story is that Hitler’s personal physician was giving him 2-4 shots of oxycontin (basically; an early version) every day, and he was probably taking other stuff as well. We knew already that Goering was a morphine addict; it was probably impossible to hide that because he was so far gone. At the time of his death he was taking 350mg or so of morphine a day. So you can calibrate that, 20-30mg of morphine is a typical palliative dose for a late-stage cancer patient. Goering was probably more fucked up than all the Rolling Stones plus Jimi Hendrix; it’s not hard to understand why he made some really bad decisions (“we will supply Stalingrad from the air” said Goering, who was floating at 10,000 feet himself).

Goering by Imre Goth. Goth had to flee the country after this unsparing portrait of a trank'd feldmarschall

Goering by Imre Goth. Goth had to flee the country after this unsparing portrait of a trank’d feldmarschall

The recent breaking news about Pervitin claims that Erwin Rommel was called “The Crystal Fox” before he became “The Desert Fox” because he used to consume Pervitin in massive quantities. To me, this is a perfect example of what my dad means about the bodies being buried: I grew up reading about Monty and Rommel and what great commanders they were, then a few years ago, I read some more balanced histories of what incompetent blockheads they mostly were,* and now I am reading that Rommel may have been so meth’d out that he probably was blitz krieging most of the time. It might explain some of his spotty performance.

Many pilots and soldiers on both sides of WWII went into battle high.  Speed (benzedrine) was a big deal during the Vietnam era, and today’s US military depend heavily on  “go pills” – some of the pilots implicated in friendly-fire incidents in Afghanistan were apparently thoroughly baked.** ‘Go pills’ to stay awake, titrated with Ambien so they could sleep, then up and do it all again the next day.

I used to know a guy in the information security world who I’m pretty sure was into meth. That, or he was doing so much ecstacy that he was suffering from serotonin syndrome. When I first saw him, he was pretty together, and did fanciful “vision pitches” (i.e.: bullshit) for a large software company. A year later, he looked 10 years older, had a couple weird twitchy tics and apparent mild dyskinesia, spoke in Pressured Speech*** characteristic of people with certain neurological disorders. His teeth were rotting, his eyes bugged out, and he would occasionally burst out with irrelevant laughter. A year after that, he had vanished from the industry. It was sobering to see.

These things are obvious in context, and it makes me wonder how many nazi brass knew hitler was whacked out of his brains a lot of the time. It makes me re-assess things, myself: many military historians see Hitler’s decisions as the dramatic plays of a gambling addict – but maybe some of his battlefield calls were driven by a different addiction entirely.

All of that brings me around to the thought that got me here: I wonder what Trump’s on. As I was thinking of Hitler leading his people off a cliff, I thought that Trump’s narcissism, volatility, apparent inability to remember what he said, emotional outbursts, etc.: they’d make perfect sense if Trump was coked to the eyeballs.

I wonder what we’ll learn when all the bodies are buried and the story of this time is written.

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OK, so this is weird timing: I studiously avoided the debates, and now I find out that Howard Dean was apparently ahead of me. The sniffing theory is B.S. – that’s not how you tell the drug abuser. It’s a pattern of behavior. Trump should immediately take and publish the results of a drug panel. Unless he’s amped.

I feel I should mention that the battlefield drug of choice used to be alcohol. Cavalie Mercer’s account of the Waterloo campaign and Marbot’s memoirs of the napoleonic wars make it sound like there was a great deal of pre-battle boozing. It makes sense: what sober person would want to face a line of muskets?

Norman Ohler: Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich (Amazon.com)

Hitler’s All-conquering Stormtroopers […] (The Independent)

Pilot’s Salt: The Third Reich Kept Its Soldiers Awake With Meth (The Atlantic)

Uber Weckamine – Pervitin Und Benzedrine (Ebay) – Synthesis!

About Imre Goth’s portrait of Goering (Telegraph)

(* Rick Atkinson: An Army At Dawn – The War in North Africa)

(** “Go pills: a war on drugs” NBC News)

(*** Pressured Speech, the Medical Dictionary, If you want a perfect example of what Pressured Speech sounds like, you can watch Townes VanZandt)

 

Comments

  1. kestrel says

    Interesting conjecture on Trump. I will say though that we had a family member with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and that’s pretty much all you need to behave the way that guy does.

    Read this list of traits of NPD: http://outofthefog.website/top-100-trait-blog/2015/11/4/narcissism and I think you’ll see how similar Trump’s behavior is to this list. When you’re around people like this, you just can’t help but try and turn their behavior into something that seems normal, like, actually they’re on drugs; but they are not normal. And I guess he could be on drugs but the NPD idea actually seems more likely to me after having to deal with it in my personal life.

    I have no idea if Trump is NPD and of course only a doctor etc etc. All I can say is that he is incredibly similar to this. We knew about our family member because their behavior finally caused so much trouble that a diagnosis from a doctor was ordered. The doctor figured out pretty much immediately what the problem was. I had never heard of this before and did a great deal of research. It was quite eery to see our family member, who’s behavior had stumped me for years, described so perfectly in all of the articles and books.

  2. says

    kestrel@#1:
    I do tend to seek my explanations where the problem is something an individual can control rather than something inherent in them. Maybe I’m just rationalizing a search for a way to deflect away from “person is crazy” if Hitler was drug crazed maybe humanity is not such a grab bag of shit and roses.

    We won’t know in my lifetime.

  3. kestrel says

    Marcus@#2: Actually…. Hitler is on a list of probable NPDs. Check it out: http://thenarcissisticlife.com/famous-people-with-narcissism/ Sometimes NPD has been linked with drug use. They don’t all do it of course but many do.

    Also, from my research on this: this is not seen as a mental disorder or whatever… I am not sure how they categorize it, but one thing is for sure: the person has control over it. They know very well what they are doing is not approved of; they simply don’t care. Would you care if your refrigerator was “upset” with you? Probably not… They don’t see the rest of us as human, more like a prop for a play, or a possession.

    So I guess my long meandering point is, Trump could well be both, and applehead@#3 could well be right about the substance in question.

  4. says

    kestrel@#4:
    I’d be fairly confident that amphetamines or cocaine would probably be the worst possible drug for a narcissist to take. Anything that boosts your confidence and energy is probably going to cause the insulation to bake while the engine kicks into overdrive. Definitely a recipe for disaster.

    this is not seen as a mental disorder or whatever…

    Well, that’s another whole topic. I have concerns with a lot of how psychopharmacology is done these days – there’s a lot of “diagnosis” of “syndromes” that are really not what we can say clearly are medical conditions. There are mixes of behaviors, or inventories of personality traits, but there is no underlying cause/effect. It’s the only option of psychology, of course, since they don’t know what “sociopathy” or “NPD” is they are just going from behaviors, backwards. That doesn’t mean there’s no such thing, but rather that they don’t know – which is problematic if they are diagnosing it as if it were a disorder. It seems virtually certain to me that some of these traits are behavioral and others may well be neurological, but and cause/effect relationship is buried in that confusion. It’s still early in the game and psychology appears to be getting gobbled up my neuroscience (which is actually evidence-based and is trying to match cause/effect)

    When my jaw was broken and wired shut, I was on Roxicet for about 3 weeks (until it ran out) and I have some idea what that does to your emotions and judgement. I cannot imagine what Goering (and now we know Hitler) were experiencing, but being that whacked on opiates seriously affects every aspect of your ability to function – from your eating, sleeping, bowel movements, cognition, memory, and sensory inputs. Now that he’s dead it’ll never be possible to learn enough to know how much of Hitler’s behavior was a result of the drugs, or just that he was a narcissist (or an asshole) That’s one of the questions that will remain unanswered, which puzzle-pieces fall in our lap and we now have to re-assess.

    Per applehead@#3: If the angry cheeto is taking Phentermine or a Dexedrine analog, he’s got to be severely impaired pretty much all the time. When I was an undergrad I remember some studies we talked about in abnormal pysch about the effect of stimulants on memory. It is profound. It’s possible that Trump says so many contradictory things because he has absolutely no idea what he said yesterday. Benzedrine pumps your short-term memory like crazy, then when you crash, it’s all gone. I crammed for my stats final on benzedrine and obliterated it, then went and set the high score on every Battlezone machine in the Baltimore area, because I couldn’t sleep. Interesting stuff. It does make you feel like a god. Briefly. After that I did my exams the traditional way (actually learning the material)

    I remember one of my professors joked that he could tell the students who crammed on cocaine because they’d write the answers to their essay questions all on one line, with the text overlapping and incoherent. So I was amused when one of my classmates blew an exam and his test was written exactly as described. “Interesting…”

    I gather from young people I’ve talked to that Adderall is the thing du jour for exam prep.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    I went digging for something I couldn’t find, an account of Hitler’s faith in a folk remedy popular among his fellow German frontline troops in WWI which included turpentine and boot polish. But I did find these –

    Quoting again from Ian Kershaw, Hitler – 1936-1945: Nemesis:

    Despite his mounting hypochondria, Hitler had in fact enjoyed extremely robust health during the 1930s. But his health had started to suffer notably from 1941 onwards. Even then he spent scarcely a day bedridden through illness. But the increased numbers of pills and injections provided every day by Dr Morell – ninety varieties in all during the war and twenty-eight different pills each day – could not prevent the physical deterioration. ¶ By 1944, Hitler was a sick man – at times during the year extremely unwell. Cardiograms, the first taken in 1941, had revealed a worsening heart condition. And beyond the chronic stomach and intestinal problems that had increasingly come to plague him, Hitler had since 1942 developed symptoms, becoming more pronounced in 1944, which point with some medical certainty to the onset of Parkinson’s Syndrome. Most notably, an uncontrollable trembling of the left arm, jerking in his left leg, and a shuffling gait, were unmistakable to those who saw him at close quarters. But although the strains of the last phase of the war took their toll on him, there is no convincing evidence that his mental capacity was impaired. Hitler’s rages and violent mood-swings were inbuilt features of his character…

    The injuries he [Hitler] had suffered in the bomb blast had been, as we noted, relatively superficial. But they were less trivial than Hitler himself implied. Blood was still seeping through the bandages from the skin wounds almost a fortnight after the bomb-attack. He suffered sharp pain in especially the right ear, and his hearing was impaired. …But the ruptured ear-drums, the worst injury, continued bleeding for days, and took several weeks to heal. He thought for some time that his right ear would never recover. The disturbances to his balance from the inner-ear injuries made his eyes turn to the right and gave him a tendency to lean rightwards when he walked. There was also frequent dizziness and malaise. His blood pressure was too high. He looked aged, ill, and strained. Eleven days after the attack on his life, he told those present at the daily military briefing that he was unfit to speak in public for the time being; he could not stand up for long, feared a sudden attack of dizziness, and was also worried about not walking straight. … Strangely, the trembling in Hitler’s left leg and hands practically disappeared following the blast. Morell attributed it to the nervous shock. By mid-September, however, the tremor had returned. By this time, the heavy daily doses of pills and injections could do nothing to head off the long-term deterioration in Hitler’s health. At least as serious were the [psychological] effects. ¶ His sense of distrust and betrayal now reached paranoid levels. …

    By 27 September [1944], Morell pointed out to Hitler that his skin had a yellowish appearance – something Dr Giesing had noticed a few days earlier. Hitler refused to let Morell examine him. But by now he was quite ill. The jaundice, accompanied by high temperature and severe stomach cramps, kept him in bed during the following days. It was 2 October, the day that Hitler was told of the death (following the injuries suffered in the bomb blast on 20 July) of his favourite adjutant, Rudolf Schmundt, that the yellow skin-colouring finally disappeared and Hitler felt well enough to get out of bed, dress himself, and make his way to the first situation briefing since he had fallen ill. He still seemed lifeless, however, to those in his company. It was the middle of the month before he felt himself again. By then, after eating little during his illness (when he was confined to a diet largely comprising mashed potatoes, oatmeal soup, and stewed fruit), he had lost sixteen pounds in weight. ¶ While Hitler was suffering from jaundice, Dr Giesing, the ear, nose, and throat specialist who had been brought in to treat him after Stauffenberg’s bomb had exploded, began to be suspicious about Morell’s treatment. He started to wonder whether the little black tablets that Hitler took each day on Morell’s prescription, ‘Dr Koester’s Anti-Gas Pills’, were in fact a contributory cause of the dictator’s chronic stomach complaint rather than a satisfactory medicine for it. Whatever his concern for Hitler, Giesing’s own ambitions to oust and displace Morell probably played a part in what he did next. He managed to lay hands on a number of the pills, had them analysed, and discovered that they contained strychnine. Giesing dosed himself with the pills and found they had mildly harmful effects – effects he associated with those on Hitler. Giesing made mention of his findings, and his suspicions, to Hitler’s other attendant doctors, Dr Karl Brandt and Dr Hanskarl von Hasselbach, who passed on the sentiments to others in Hitler’s entourage. When Hitler found out, he was furious. He announced his complete faith in Morell, and dismissed Brandt and Hasselbach, who had both been with him since the early years of his rule. Giesing, too, was requested to leave Hitler’s service. Their replacement was one of Himmler’s former staff doctors, SS-Obersturmbannführer Ludwig Stumpfegger. ¶ Morell’s diagnoses and methods of treatment were indeed often questionable. Many of the innumerable tablets, medicines, and injections he prescribed for Hitler – which his valet Heinz Linge provided on demand from the medical chest that was always ready at hand – were of dubious value, often useless, and in some instances even exacerbating the problem (particularly relating to the chronic intestinal disorder). But allegations that Morell was intentionally harming Hitler were misplaced. The fat, unctuously perspiring Morell was both physically unattractive and, in his privileged access to Hitler – becoming more extensive as the dictator’s ailments mounted – provoked much resentment in the ‘court circle’. … The hypochondriac Hitler was, in turn, dependent upon Morell. He needed to believe, and apparently did believe, that Morell’s treatment was the best he could get, and was beneficial. … That Hitler was poisoned by the strychnine and belladonna in the anti-gas pills or other medicaments, drugged on the opiates given him to relieve his intestinal spasms, or dependent upon the cocaine which formed 1 per cent of the ophthalmic drops prescribed by Dr Giesing for conjunctivitis, can be discounted. Whether Hitler took amphetamines to combat tiredness and sustain his energy is uncertain. That he was dependent upon them, even if he took them, cannot be proved; nor that his behaviour was affected by them. Hitler’s physical problems in autumn 1944, chronic though they were, had arisen from lifestyle, diet, lack of exercise,and excessive stress, on top of likely congenital weaknesses (which probably accounted for the cardiac problem as well as the Parkinson’s Syndrome). Mentally, he was under enormous strain, which magnified his deeply embedded extreme personality traits. His phobias, hypochondria, and hysterical reactions were probable indicators of some form of personality disorder or psychiatric abnormality. An element of paranoia underwrote his entire political ‘career’, and became even more evident towards the end. But Hitler did not suffer from any of the major psychotic disorders. He was certainly not clinically insane.

    And from Anthony Read, The Devil’s Disciples: Hitler’s Inner Circle:

    For the rest of the day [21 April 1945] Hitler’s mood swung from one extreme to the other, buoyed up by a massive amphetamine injection from Morell and a large dose of the drops that had been prescribed the previous year for a mysterious eye complaint. That day he told his valet, Heinz Linge, to increase the dose from one drop to five. Their main constituent was cocaine. In a state of high excitement, Hitler poured out streams of irrational orders, screaming furiously as his impossible demands were not implemented. … During the night, [Luftwaffe adjutant Karl] Koller managed to scrape together 12-15,000 ground staff, the equivalent numerically of a division, but untrained of course and mostly unarmed. When he reported this to Hitler, somewhat fearfully, he was surprised that there was no outburst of rage at the other end of the line. Instead, the Führer spoke encouragingly, full of optimism… The next day, Hitler had come down from his euphoria and was suffering the reaction. He may also have been suffering drug withdrawal symptoms, without his daily dose of amphetamine: he had dismissed Morell from the bunker that morning, after the doctor had offered him an injection of morphine to calm him down. In his paranoia he had suspected Morell of wanting to knock him out so that he could be removed from Berlin and flown to Berchtesgaden. … at 3 p.m…. Hitler’s face was a yellowish grey, his expression was stony. He was nervy and unable to concentrate… he was ominously silent. Then he went berserk. He leapt to his feet, and began to rant and rave. His face turned white and then purple, his limbs shook uncontrollably. The men with him had seen him angry before, but they had never seen him like this.

    Plus, from Jochen Von Lang, The Secretary: Martin Bormann: The Man Who Manipulated Hitler:

    Since Hitler with his stomach cramps and his fear of cancer felt safe only with Morell, there was nothing Bormann could do. For a while he may even have hoped to win over the fat, always slightly messy-looking medic, for he did not object when the 60,000-marks-a-year physician acquired pharmaceutical factories and used his position to increase their production. By order of the Führer, every soldier at the Russian front was compelled to carry a bag of Morell’s ‘Russla powder’ in his pocket or face severe punishment. Morell had convinced Hitler that the powder would prevent and destroy body lice, which plagued the troops and carried spotted fever. As a joke, soldiers would push their lice into the bags to prove that the creatures actually thrived on the powder.

    True masochists (look, if you’ve gone this far through all my document dump, you’re going to have to admit this about yourself), might also enjoy Tony Perrottet’s disquisition on Der Führer’s farts, Scent of a Führer.

  6. says

    Just going to point out that strychnine, atropine (belladonna) and many other poisons were a standard part of medical pharmacopoeia, going back ages. Strychnine was a very popular remedy for stomach and digestion complaints.

    I have a number of such medical poisons, I collect that kind of thing.

  7. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#6:
    But the increased numbers of pills and injections provided every day by Dr Morell – ninety varieties in all during the war and twenty-eight different pills each day – could not prevent the physical deterioration

    I wonder if they were part of what was causing the deterioration!

    I mean, losing WWII has to be pretty stressful, but, being on amphetamines and opiates together had to put some kind of monkey-wrench in his mental state.

    And beyond the chronic stomach and intestinal problems that had increasingly come to plague him

    Constipation is a characteristic of opiate abuse.

    His sense of distrust and betrayal now reached paranoid levels. …

    Paranoia is a characteristic of long-term use of amphetamines.

    He was certainly not clinically insane.

    He doesn’t seem to have been. Of course there is no diagnosis of “insanity” there are many sub-forms that one may be diagnosed with.

    Interesting about the strychnine! Holy moley, that’s not something you want to be consuming! Muscle spasms, pain, liver and kidney damage… It’s rat poison! (So was the Warfarin Stalin was poisoned with)

    Morell may have been a quack, but the amphetamines and opiates – as well as the rat poison – do have an effect, and a psychoactive effect at that.

    That’s very interesting stuff; thanks for the research!

  8. says

    Marcus:

    OooooooOOH!

    They are surprisingly easy to come by. I collect other old medical stuff too, herbs, homeopathics, that kind of thing. I have dozens of unopened vials of homeopathic pills, tiny and round, with overwhelming inserts, which open out to about 24″ x 24 inches.

    My favourites are a full bottle of Oil Henbane Infused from Fritzsche Brothers, Inc out of New York, which has great label; 1/4 pint Fluid Extract, No. 3 Aconite, from Lilly, also with a great label.

    On the non-poisonous front, my faves are two boxes of Elastic Filled Capsules of East Indian Santal Oil, 5 minims and 10 minims, both boxes were unopened and completely full. You have never smelled such intense Sandalwood as that.

    And a box with a full, unopened, one ounce bottle of Nontoxo, Local Anesthetic Without Cocain [sic]. The box is fabulous, and the full insert is inside, too. The box has info on all sides, and notes it is the formula of Dr. L.J. Smith, introduced in 1908. The Indications and Dosages on the bottle label state: The same as for cocain. The price for one ounce was one dollar. The ingredients are listed:

    Each fluid ounce contains Novocain 9.6 Grs., L-Suprarenin synthetic 1-32 Gr., Calcium chloride 1-5 Gr., Potassium chloride 1-10 Gr., Sodium chloride 2.4 Grs., Aqua Distillata, Q.S. with a trace of Thymol, Boric Acid and Duatol sufficient to form an antiseptic and permanent solution.

    Among other things, it’s recommended for removing tumors; operating for appendicitis and hernia; in amputations, trachelorrhaphy, perineoraphy and vasectomy; in varicocel and hydrocele and in the entire field of minor surgery.

    I find it both interesting and appalling what was considered to be “minor” surgery. If there’s one thing such stuff does, it makes you very grateful to have been born much, much later.

  9. says

    John Morales@#11:
    Oh, crap, I’d forgotten about that stuff. I know someone who’s tried it. It’s apparently like a cheap form of ecstacy that leaves you feeling hung over and depressed. Just the thing for soldiers.

  10. John Morales says

    A relevant aspect is the effects of drugs on habitual users as compared to their effects on naive or occasional users — the latter being far more pronounced and stereotypical, even leaving aside issues of tolerance and physical dependency.

  11. says

    John Morales@#13:
    I just did a bit of research about whether there’s any newer neuroscience support for the old studies that were hip when I was an undergrad – that increasing norepinephrine in the hippocampus increased memory retention and learning. It appears, like most of neuroscience, to be “more complicated than that.” I remembered elsewhere that PTSD appears to be an adrenaline depletion enhanced learning, or adrenalinized over-learning (depending on the situation and type) and was wondering what effect being on a maintenance dose of amphetamines might do to someone who was under extreme stress. Unfortunately, most of the peer reviewed papers are behind paywalls and/or outside of the scope of my knowledge.

    Amphetamines weren’t used very much in WWI, which was when PTSD/shell shock/battlefield shock first started to become a recognized phenomenon. So, maybe not. I’ll file that for “research some other day”

  12. John Morales says

    Yeah — combat drugs vs smart drugs vs recreational drugs vs therapeutic drugs… they’re not discrete categories.

    More to the point, an excellent post; it reveals some of the “secret history of the world”.

  13. lorn says

    Thank-you Marcus J. Ranum for this post. I’d known about some of the drug use, lots of nations used speed from time to time, obviously Germany did more than most, but I was unaware just how widespread it was in the German military. Or how they doubled-down on it in the desperation of the last years. Japan had “Shattered Jewels”, Hitler and the leadership, in a similar move disrespecting the people, gave his forces over to pharmaceutical manipulation even as they succumbed to addiction themselves.

    This reinforces a theme I’ve been pressing; that Hitler, and all the rest of them, are not monsters of outside the bounds of humanity. If we see them as beyond the pale we fail to guard against falling into the same traps. They were, and must be seen as, human beings who followed their dogma and philosophy to their logical extremes. Their problem was less about thinking the unthinkable and more about not being able to lay down a philosophy when it proves to be a false.

    Hitlers seems to have stayed rigidly committed to the idea of racial types and willful conflict as having primacy, superseding nationalism, from the mid-20s on. It reminds me of the circular, closed, and self-reinforcing, thought patterns of tweakers (and Trump supporters).

    Think a thought. Get hung up on a flawed concept. Polish the rough edges off with heavy-duty psychoactives, and never, ever, question the original assumptions. Double down when you face any resistance or have any doubts. Enjoy the ride as you circle the drain.

    I’ve seen it time and time again. On grand scales and small. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Humans are tragic heroes. If we see Hitler as a monster we miss the larger truth that any of us could end up traveling the same road. Helped along by a butt-load of meth.

  14. says

    lorn@#6:
    This reinforces a theme I’ve been pressing; that Hitler, and all the rest of them, are not monsters of outside the bounds of humanity. If we see them as beyond the pale we fail to guard against falling into the same traps. They were, and must be seen as, human beings who followed their dogma and philosophy to their logical extremes. Their problem was less about thinking the unthinkable and more about not being able to lay down a philosophy when it proves to be a false.

    I agree strongly with that. The whole “banality of evil” spiel also hides that these people were fairly ordinary humans, they may have had bad ideas and amplified them with drugs, and wound up thinking themselves into a hole. It doesn’t excuse them, at all. I don’t see one political process as inherently more evil than another. They’re all just humans doing what humans do.

    It reminds me of the circular, closed, and self-reinforcing, thought patterns of tweakers (and Trump supporters).

    I haven’t know many tweakers; I’ve mostly hung out with E-heads, shroomers, nitrous-heads, and acid trippers. But there is a definite quality to “trip think” that is bizzare in how ideas leap out and fixate, then reinforce. I don’t see it as much different from political echo-chamber thinking. I don’t see Hitler’s final solution as being qualitatively different from Bushco’s obssession with Saddam Hussein.

    If we see Hitler as a monster we miss the larger truth that any of us could end up traveling the same road. Helped along by a butt-load of meth.

    The meth sure doesn’t help.

    We now know that John F Kennedy was on opiate painkillers and a load of other things during the cuban missile crisis. What if he had been taking benzedrine, instead?

  15. John Morales says

    Some people really are monsters; evil does exist.

    (Some people really are saintly, too. Both sets are extreme outliers)

  16. lorn says

    Marcus Ranum @ 17:
    “We now know that John F Kennedy was on opiate painkillers and a load of other things during the cuban missile crisis. What if he had been taking benzedrine, instead?”

    Indeed.

    For the good of nations, and humanity in general, people in control of great power need to be clear headed and calm. Benzedrine wouldn’t help.

    I find it amazing that society keeps thinking that, despite all the evidence otherwise, the way you get the best performance in making critical decisions is to apply increasing levels of pressure.

    Case in point being the case of Vasili Arkhipov in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In a steamy and overheated submarine, with the air going bad, and being bombarded with active sonar and sounding charges, and facing the fact that surfacing would be an embarrassment to the USSR and the submarine service he singlehanded prevented a nuclear war.

    It boggles the mind to imagine how it might have worked out if Vasili Arkhipov had been cranked to the gills on speed.

    The stories of Vasili Arkhipov and Stanislav Petrov serve to show that it was the basic humanity of our enemies that have sometimes saved us from destruction and that our inability to see them as human is an impediment to the continued survival, and prosperity, of the human race. Perhaps this might suggest a blog post.

  17. says

    John Morales@#18:
    Some people really are monsters; evil does exist.

    I suspect you’re saying that in the sense of “If we define ‘evil’ as doing certain things, then there are people who do those things, and we can call them ‘evil'” – which, to me, seems a lot like a circular definition. I do think there are some things people do, for which we need a label that freights a lot of baggage into it, and “evil” and “monsters” certainly works for me, too.

    I’m not sure I could give you an objective criterion, though; it seems to me to be a vague concept. Vague concepts are quite usable, though – it appears that human civilization relies a great deal on trading in these kind of squishy things. If we reject the labels and concepts as having any value, we wind up without a civilization, either.

  18. says

    lorn@#19:
    For the good of nations, and humanity in general, people in control of great power need to be clear headed and calm.

    The anarchist, or Estienne De Boetie, would tell you that an option is to structure humanity so that there are no people in control of great power. To me, that seems obvious as well, but the implementation is very hard. The powerful want power but are the ones who are least trustworthy to hold it.

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