Relearning old lessons

Even though Stalin killed between 8 and 20 million of his own people there are people who still think of him as a great leader:

“As a leader of the country, Stalin did much,” Gryzlov said. But “what I think to be his extremes in his domestic policy, they certainly did not do much for his image.”

Russia NTV television said a poll of 1,600 Russians taken by the respected Levada Center showed that only 31 percent consider Stalin to be a cruel tyrant, while 21 percent think he was a wise leader. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The poll also found 16 percent thought that “our people will never be able to do without a leader like Stalin.”

I could always see, via a twisted sort of logic, how present day Hitler admirers could maintain their belief system.  If they had been raised to believe they were the “superior race”, that Jews were the spawn of the devil (blah, blah, blah…), and there was some great Jewish conspiracy to rule the world then Hitler was “just solving the Jewish problem”–the Final Solution (you know about the First Solution don’t you?  Interesting story for another time).  Sick chain of “logic” and “facts”, but you can sort of see how they got from “point A” to “point B”. Then there are the faith based nut cases, “god(s) said it, I believe it, that settles it”–we must kill the infidels.  Okay.  Facts and logic are irrelevant to them.  And if you were an underling of Saddam Hussein I could see how you would either adopt his viewpoint and admire him, quit his employee, or go insane.

But what about some of the other really truly evil people such as Stalin?  Surely decades after he or his thugs could put a bullet in your head any person could see “his extremes in his domestic policy” could not be compensated for by his abilities as “a leader of the country”.  But apparently not.  I suspect there are two ways to continue to believe what is clearly wrong and one or both are at work with these people.

  1. People have an exceedingly strong tendency to believe what they want to believe.  Many of the Jews walking into Auschwitz surely knew better but yet wanted to believe “Arbeit Macht Frei“ (Work Will Set You Free).  And so they believed it rather than take at least one guard out on their way in.
  2. When Prophecy Fails again impresses me as a absolutely brilliant piece of research into the human mind.  Basically there is a psychological cost involved with changing your mind and you will be willing to pay a very heavy price in order to avoid it.

Now that I see people who lived under Stalin can admire him and think of him as a “wise leader” I now can fathom how Bill Clinton is admired by a similar percentage of our population and people in this day and age still clamor for more gun control.  It doesn’t have anything to do with rational thought, it has to do with being human.  And as I have said before, it is irrational to expect people to be rational.