The title comes from a chapter-heading of J.A.
Hobson's pamphlet The Psychology of Jingoism (1901). Some of its other
chapter-headings are Credulity, Brutality, The Eclipse of Humour, and The Abuse
of the Press.
An indictment of the Boer War and of the press campaign that made it possible,
The Psychology of Jingoism offers an impressive foreshadowing of the
Iraq war and the War on Terror. Hobson (1858-1940) had taught at the London
School of Economics before agreeing to serve as the South Africa correspondent
of the Manchester Guardian; and his analysis of Jingoism appears to have
helped the transition from his history, The War in South Africa (1900),
to the masterwork of political theory, Imperialism
(1902), for which he is chiefly known today.
Hobson wrote from a deep disgust at the work the educated classes had performed
in drawing Great Britain into an unnecessary war. The leaders of English opinion
had created the image of a barbarous and implacable enemy, and had inculcated
a pleasing delusion of the magnanimity of British war aims. Newspaper reporters,
editorial writers, and freelance promoters of the war all concurred in saying
that Britain could scarcely perform its historic duty as a worldwide sponsor
of democracy without a permanent presence in South Africa.
"Christianity in Khaki," so characteristic a feature of the Boer
War, may seem to lack a parallel in our present venture in the Middle East.
But if one recalls the saying of General Boykin, "I knew my God was bigger
than his," and reckons in the indispensable loyalty of the evangelical
Christians and the Christian Zionists among the Thirty Percenters supporting
President Bush, the echoes are distinct and admonitory.
Yellow journalism contributed more obviously to the Boer War than it has done
to Afghanistan, Iraq, or, thus far, Iran. On the other hand the "embedded
reporter" is an equivocation all our own. And the brutality of the propaganda
of 1900 finds its counterpart in the antiseptic evasiveness of the American
press and television against the showing of images of dead or wounded American
When Hobson published The Psychology of Jingoism, he was the intellectual
leader of the radicals within the Liberal Party, a group that opposed the emerging
policy of the Liberal Imperialists. The latter group conceived of war as a vehicle
for progress, and looked forward to a World War, which they believed to be inevitable.
In the decade to come, Winston Churchill would join their number, and they would
seek and find a war (and, with the help of Woodrow Wilson, a redemptive mission),
to which, in retrospect, the Boer War would seem a minor prelude.
"That inverted patriotism whereby the love of one's own nation is transformed
into the hatred of another nation, and the fierce craving to destroy individual
members of that other nation....Jingoism is the passion of the spectator, the
inciter, the backer, not of the fighter."
The abridgment of evidence:
"The theory of 'cumulative evidence' consists in a pretense that fifty
pieces of bad evidence proceeding from a common tainted source are exchangeable
for one piece of good evidence. When any one admits that his case rests on 'cumulative
evidence' it may be understood that he knows its falsity, and trusts to the
corrupted intelligence of his readers for such acceptance as it may win."
Classification of enemies as illegal combatants to excuse the murder of
"'Military opinion in the Transvaal capital urges that a Proclamation
should be issued, declaring that any Boer found with arms in his hand, and without
uniform, shall be treated as a rebel, rather than as a prisoner of war. Perhaps
the time has come for even more drastic measures.' In interpreting this infamous
suggestion, it must be borne in mind that the entire body of the Boer army is
'without uniform,' with the exception of such as have taken khaki uniform from
captured British soldiers."
The pride of the victor:
"Vainglory is a characteristic which a Jingo-ridden people exhibits in
common with the child and the savage....Closely linked with this vainglory is
a complete cancelment of all sane, normal grasp of the laws of moral causation;
as the one rests on a distortion of vision, the other rests upon a shortening
of vision. The child and the savage live in and for the present. So does the
Jingo....Such shortsight, coupled with a conviction that a reign of force will
bring peace and contentment, is not really to be dignified by the name of 'policy;'
it simply wraps up in empty phrases about 'good government' and 'equal rights'
the primitive savage lust of the victor."
How a war of choice becomes a war of necessity:
"It arises in the following way. A number of different persons, groups,
or classes...each seeking some particular end, form, by cooperation and interaction,
a complicated plan of policy, the whole of which is not visible or conscious
to any one of the participants. The historian, seeing the resultant line of
action, and the clear-cut pattern which it takes, abstracts this design, and,
knowing that it does not proceed from the full conscious agreement of the agents,
places it wholly outside their wills, and calls it 'inevitable' or 'destiny.'"
Are educated Jingoes honest?
"Dishonesty, in the sense of professing to believe what one does not
really believe, is very rare at all times; in this matter it may be safely regarded
as undeserving of consideration. Those who profess to believe the war to be
just and necessary do honestly believe this. But have they honestly come by
this belief? That is the real question. Have they used such reasonable care
in unbiassed consideration of the evidence as entitles them to claim an honest
judgment?...The editors of Jingo journals have felt quite safe in continuing
to repeat the most audacious falsehoods long after they have been exposed, simply
because they knew that their readers, though perfectly aware that journals existed
which gave another side, would not look at papers which opposed the war. Now,
this attitude of mind has been the rule, and not the exception, among the classes
which boast their education and intelligence, and it is an attitude of dishonesty."
This war and the next war:
"The most momentous lesson of the war is its revelation of the methods
by which a knot of men, financiers and politicians, can capture the mind of
a nation, arouse its passion, and impose a policy. It is now seen that freedom
of speech, public meeting, and press not merely affords no adequate protection
against this danger, but that it is itself menaced and impaired; the system
of party, which has heretofore, by providing a free, vigorous, and genuine scrutiny
of every important political proposal, been a strong safeguard against all endeavors
of a clique or a class to exploit the commonwealth, has broken down under the
strain of an attack unprecedented in its vigor and in the skill of its direction.
It is of the gravest importance to understand the methods of this manipulation
of the public mind, for the combination of industrial and political forces which
has operated in this instance will operate again, and will copy the methods
which have been successful once."