This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 15 table of contents.

Demonizing the Enemy

One way to maintain strong cohesion within a group is to portray anyone outside the group as evil. Hoffer argued in The True Believer (1951) that radical movements are energized by hatred for their enemies.

What did Eric Hoffer say about belief in "devils" outside the group?

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil.

Like an ideal deity, an ideal devil is omnipotent and omnipresent. When Hitler was asked whether he was not attributing rather too much importance to the Jews, he exclaimed: "No, no, no!...It is impossible to exaggerate the formidable quality of the Jew as an enemy." Every difficulty and failure within the movement is the work of the devil, and every success is a triumph over his evil plotting. (p.87)

How did Martin Luther use hate for inspiration?

Hoffer noted that righteous hatred for the enemy can be used to support group solidarity, enthusiasm, even love and charity. Martin Luther wrote:

When my heart is cold and I cannot pray as I should I scourge myself with the thought of the impiety and ingratitude of my enemies, the Pope and his accomplices and that my heart swells with righteous indignation and hatred and I can say with warmth and vehemence: "Holy be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done!" And the hotter I grow the more ardent do my prayers become. (quoted in Hoffer, 1951, p.92)

Write to Dr. Dewey at

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.

Custom Search

Copyright © 2007-2011 Russ Dewey