Dark Charisma 2: More Bad Guys

January 5, 2018

Hitler is the obvious example and the topic of the fist Dark Charisma post. But other examples are seemingly everywhere, including current political and business leaders plus dozens of historical examples, such as Huey Long, former governor of Louisiana and senator before he was assassinated. Long pretended to be an average Joe, born in a log cabin (which looked amazingly like a two-story mansion), really smart (he passed the bar after only one year in law school), corrupt and ruthless. He convinced the majority of voters to repeatedly vote for him, while opposing big business and the elites of South Louisiana. His claim to fame was actually doing stuff, like improving schools and vastly improving roads and other infrastructure--of course, after taking a large share for himself. Simultaneously, he assumed almost dictatorial power. As a populist, he gained national prominence and likely would have been a major challenger to FDR is he had lived. He succeeded in part because the opposition pampered big business, was also corrupt (mainly for the money), and did little for the long-suffering population. Joe McCarthy was another example of a man lying and destroying people's lives for power. He actually beat up journalist Drew Pearson for being critical of him.

 

Charisma (from the Greek kharisma, gift of grace--implying a divine connection) suggests compelling attractiveness inspiring others and has been described with various meanings by the social sciences. Sociologist Max Weber introduced "personality charisma" as part of the Protestant ethic, suggesting extraordinary power for successful capitalists. Economists, political scientists and  business academics have incorporated charisma (with somewhat different definitions) to identify leadership characteristics. In all three, self interest and confidence (read arrogance) are considered important to leadership.

 

Most current dictators around the world from Putin to dozens of third world tyrants have all (or most) characteristics of inflated egos and narcissistic personalities. Comic Trevor Noah pointed out that Donald Trump had all the presidential characteristics that he was familiar with, except from the wrong continent--he acted like a typical African despot: the "i'm a genius" and "I can do no wrong" crowd. History has innumerable examples; Henry VIII comes to mind, but most over-the-top kings and conquerors fit the bill. Lots of CEOs seem to have the arrogance/narcissistic characteristics that people seem to appreciated in leaders (apparently they see leadership).

 

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© 2016 Gary Giroux

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