Such is the utility of fear that it has been the driving force in government, probably since the dawn of time. Sane, intelligent men, gripped by fear, will do – or allow in their name – things which in a rational state they would neither accept not permit. Not for nothing did Edmund Burke observe that: "No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear."
So consistent and reliable is that observation that it becomes the driver in any number of issues, not least "climate change", where the warmists are now becoming brutally frank about their tactics.
Thus do we have prof Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at the Australian National University. He is claiming that the majority of the population is still in denial about the risks of climate change. Scientists, he says, now have a duty to inform the public about the risks of climate change so action is taken and people are ready to adapt their lifestyles.
"There is a view we should not scare people because it makes them go down their burrows and close the door but I think the situation is so serious that although people are afraid they are not fearful enough given the science," he adds. "Personally I cannot see any alternative to ramping up the fear factor."
Hamilton quite deliberately compares the situation to the psychology of the British and German populations before the Second World War and said the only way to make people change their behaviour was to adopt that strategy.
Of course, one of the "experts" of that period was a character called Hermann Goering, and one would expect Hamilton to be familiar with his pronouncements. One of them, in the context of going to war, was this:
Why, of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.Take away the "war" aspect and this could so easily be converted into warmist theology. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to give up his SUV, his comfortable lifestyle, his holiday abroad – and pay more taxes – when the best he can get out of it is ... precisely nothing, except a poorer existence.
But it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along ... All you have to do is tell them they are being "attacked" by an invisible terror – carbon dioxide or, worse still, by "pollution", and denounce the
It was actually Herbert Hoover who put his finger on it. Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of 'emergency'," he wrote. "It was the tactic of Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In the collectivist sweep over a dozen minor countries of Europe, it was the cry of men striving to get on horseback." "And," he told us, "'emergency' became the justification of the subsequent steps. This technique of creating emergency is the greatest achievement that demagoguery attains."
This is the credo of the "beneficial crisis", deployed equally by the warmists and the European Union, experts in demagoguery both - and you don't get more "collective". Said the president of the EU parliament, Jerzy Buzek, in response to the Irish vote: "Now we must start to work to overcome the difficulties. Our citizens are afraid of the energy issue, the unemployment rate, about immigration, demography and we can do that together, as it was before, also in the future, in solidarity."
"Our citizens are afraid ...". And Mother Europe will come to the aid of her children, having regaled them with stories of endless terrors.
There you have it. "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary," said H L Mencken. But there is more.
Sceptics cannot be tolerated - everybody must buy into the fear. Robert Lindner had it: "Authority has every reason to fear the sceptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt." Thomas Jefferson added to it: "Fear can only prevail when victims are ignorant of the facts."
General Douglas MacArthur, an unlikely source, then put it all together. "The powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear," he wrote. They "keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency."
"Always," he added, "there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real."
By then, of course, it is too late. The "powers in charge" have got what they wanted. Yesterday, the "colleagues" got their way. The "warmists" are getting their way. They have one tool in common - fear. But, as Roosevelt told us, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But still the timorous wee beasties fall for it.