…For I Am Their Leader

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Not long ago I saw a sticker on a car bumper which read: “There they go.  I must hurry and catch them, for I am their leader!”  Amusing.  I’ve seen a variation of this notion in action; it happens with great regularity in politics.  I was a college student in Ohio in 1969-1970, and for a couple days after the Kent State debacle in May 1970 my friend, Royce Rumsey, and I made a point of observing the activity on the University of Cincinnati campus, which culminated in a “student” march on downtown Cincinnati.  We did not march.  We rode the bus downtown and watched the parade approach the city center.  Just as it came into our view, a pair of “students” trotted themselves into the front of the entire procession, and, on a pole they carried between them, they bore a very large Viet Cong flag, as a pair of bearers will carry a banner ahead of a marching band.  They gave the parade the appearance of being a march in support of the North Vietnamese enemy that we were fighting in Vietnam.  The peace marchers behind them had no idea; more than followers of a cause, they were a herd to be paraded.

The cute bumper sticker recently spotted seemed original enough, but I had only to go back to Nock’s 1948 A Journal of Forgotten Days to discover that he attributes the this illogical imperative to “the French revolutionist” and, furthermore, brings in the opportunism of the flag-carriers.  -DAW-

Slave-mindedness is the hateful thing, whether it follows Hitler, Stalin, Roosevelt, Mussolini — what matter?  Is not the mass-leader, too, the most slave-minded of all?  The French revolutionists saying: I must follow the mob, because I lead them, ought to be embroidered on every national flag, it strikes me.  How right Huxley was about what he called the coach-dog theory of political leadership, i.e., that a leaders duty is to look sharp for which way the social coach is going, and then run in front of it and bark.  -AJN, Journal, p. 231-232

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