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An Attractive Fanaticism

The following paragraph from from a 1949 British mystery novel by Edmund Crispin entitled Buried for Pleasure. In the novel Oxford Professor Gervase Fen is running for parliament, but gets sidetracked by a number of murders and other crimes in Sanford Angelorum. So instead of telling his constituents he no longer wants the job, he delivers the following speech the night before the polling. By the way, he wins.

I shall now tell you the reason why fanaticism of this sort is so attractive to humankind. A contemporary French writer—whose name I shall not mention, since you are probably too stupid either to recognize it or to remember it—has pointed out with unanswerable logic that men adopt ideas not because it seems to them that those ideas are true, or because it seems to them that those ideas are expedient, but because those ideas satisfy a basic emotional need of their nature. Now what emotion—I ask you—provides the chief motive power of the politically obsessed? You do not answer, because you have never given the matter a moment’s thought. But were you to do so, even you might dimly perceive that the reply to my question is the monosyllable hate. Never forget that political zealots are people who are over-indulging their emotional need of hatred. They have, of course, their ‘constructive’ programmes, but it is not these which supply the fuel for their squalid engines; it is the concomitant attacks, upon a class, a system, a personality; it is the lust to defame and destroy. Let no such men be trusted. That they have landed themselves, here and hereafter, in the most arid of all hells as a circumstance which I must confess does not greatly distress me, and with that spiritual aspect of the matter I do not propose to deal.