Soldiers, civilians, propaganda poster
Propaganda poster shows soldiers and civilians marching into the distance. Photo credit: Parliamentary Recruiting Committee / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This is the first installment in a series of quotes, videos and articles addressing perhaps the central issue of our time: the power of the unscrupulous few over the apathetic many, and our unwillingness or perceived inability to do something about it.

Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.  (Joseph P. Kennedy)

Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.  (E.H. Gombrich)

Even the best-intentioned of great men need a few scoundrels around them; there are some things you cannot ask an honest man to do.  (La Bruyere)

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.  (Carl Sagan)

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.  (Arthur Conan Doyle)

I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means—except by getting off his back.  (Leo Tolstoy)

Kill a man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror.  Kill everyone, and you are a god.  (Jean Rostand)

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are stupider. (Plato)

In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.  (Napoleon)

Revolutionary movements attract those who are not good enough for established institutions as well as those who are too good for them.  (Bernard Shaw)

Religion: a sixteenth-century term for nationalism.  (Sir Lewis Namier)

Now we are suffering all the evils of long-continued peace. Luxury, more ruthless than war, broods over Rome, and exacts vengeance for a conquered world.  (Juvenal)

Frank and explicit—this is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and to confuse the mind of others.  (Benjamin Disraeli)

No one who has not sat in prison knows what the State is like.   (Leo Tolstoy)

All truths that are kept silent become poisonous.   (Nietzsche)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.  (Pericles)

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.   (Eric Hoffer)

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.  (Aung San Suu Kyi)

Poverty, bitter though it be, has no sharper pang than this, that it makes men ridiculous.   (Juvenal)

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.  (George Orwell)

We become slaves the moment we hand the keys to the definition of reality entirely over to someone else, whether it is a business, an economic theory, a political party, the White House, Newsworld or CNN.  (B.W. Powe)

It is even more damaging for a minister to say foolish things than to do them.  (Cardinal de Retz)

Oddly, submission to powerful, frightening, even terrible persons, like tyrants and generals, is not experienced as nearly so painful as is submission to unknown and uninteresting persons, which is what all luminaries of industry are.  (Nietzsche)

In the affairs of this world men are saved, not by faith, but by the want of it.   (Benjamin Franklin)

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, provided they have satisfactorily filled out forms 3584-A through 3597-Q.   (Dwight Macdonald)

Everyone has observed how much more dogs are animated when they hunt in a pack, than when they pursue their game apart. We might, perhaps, be at a loss to explain this phenomenon, if we had not experience of a similar in ourselves.   (David Hume)

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.  (David Hume)

Power worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.  (George Orwell)

There has never been a perfect government, because men have passions; and if they did not have passions, there would be no need for government.   (Voltaire)

When smashing monuments, save the pedestals—they always come in handy.   (Stanislaw Lec)


  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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