Thinking with the Cum
Boo-ya kasha and good on Slate for hiring Ron Rosenbaum to write the biweekly culture column that made the New York Observer compulsively readable every other week for so many years. Call him the Edgy Enthusiast or the Spectator, Ron … Read More
Boo-ya kasha and good on Slate for hiring Ron Rosenbaum to write the biweekly culture column that made the New York Observer compulsively readable every other week for so many years. Call him the Edgy Enthusiast or the Spectator, Ron doesn't disappoint with his first submission on Norman Mailer and what, exactly, made Hitler such a rampaging psychopath. Burnt pot roast? Mommy issues? Not quite. Like Gandhi, "Uncle Alf" had a highly questionable relationship with his niece, Geli Raubal. Unlike Gandhi, Hitler might have killed his.
Is this fertile ground for Stormin' Norman to be tilling? Nein. For one thing, even if Hitler did have incestuous relations with his kin before offing her, such does not a gateway to genocide become.
There's also something faintly meretricious about unlocking the unified field theory of world-historical tyranny. Pedants who obsess about psychological "root causes," and isolate a single root like one molested and murdered niece, deserve to hear the one funny joke in Sarah Silverman's repertoire, about her own niece who comes home from school one day and says that 60 million* Jews died in the Holocaust. Historical accuracy is important, Auntie Sarah replies, because 60 million would have been unforgivable.
There's a reason, I think, we prefer Silence of the Lambs to Hannibal Rising, and it has more to do with mythic appeal of the incomprehensible than it does with Thomas Harris' declining prose standards. Jurassic Park was a snooze when that lab technician removed the integument of yoke from the hatchling velociraptor's eyes, and did we really care about the amberized mosquito DNA-donor? No, we sat up when that bad boy's older brothers started opening doors in the kitchen, hunting for the kids.
Likewise, Hitler needs to be whole-grown and capable of realizing his full potential for evil before we're ready to give him the time of day. One victim won't do; six million will. It's the hypothetical power he still wields over us, who might have lived in Europe in the thirties, that holds and terrifies.
Don DeLillo parodied the pathological obsession with the pathology of the Fuhrer with the Hitler Studies Department in White Noise. But however silly reductionism like this may be, it ought not to lead to its inverse: seeing the enormity of the criminal as grounds to keep our minds shut as to how he came to be, if only raw, unexamined biography is our resource. Stay away from Freud and we'll be okay:
So, here are the temptations: Will Mailer be tempted by the murder narrative or the intimations of paraphilic sexuality, or both?
Will he attribute Hitler's moral deformity to his sexual proclivities? Or will they be the promptings of a devil as such promptings are in Castle in the Forest? Will he underpin it with some Maileresque version of the Freudian interpretation of Dr. Norbert Bromberg, an NYU professor who, in the first book-length "analysis" of Hitler by a credentialed psychoanalyst, Hitler's Psychopathology, attempts to link Hitler's exterminationist anti-Semitism to his relationship with Geli Raubal and the discredited "Jewish blood" legend (the rumor that Hitler was obsessed with the possibility there was a Jew in his family tree)?
Here's Dr. Bromberg's strained link:
In 1928, "Hitler was deeply and more openly involved with … his niece Geli. About the same time he was preparing a work which became known as Hitler's Secret Book published for the first time thirty-three years later. In this book he associated his hatred of Jews with ideas about blood and race for the first time. His sexual interest in his niece must have inevitably stirred in Hitler thoughts of incest and fears of harming her and possible progeny by what he believed might result: the corruption of her blood [by the putative "Jewish blood" Hitler believed he'd been tainted with—in Bromberg's view]. All these ideas and wishes he projected onto the Jews …"
Kipling's phrase "thinking with the blood" was actually coined to account for his loathing of the "Hun" in World War I. But it also gets at the studied and codified race hatred of Nazism that was underwritten by 19th century German pseudo-scientists like Max Nordau. (Nordau, ironically, was a Jew who went on to become a vigorous Zionist after creating his theory of "decadentism." No luftmenschen, highbrows or queers.)
"Thinking with the cum" is what the repressed-loser explanation of Hitler amount to.
*Originally stated this was 600 million. Thanks for the correction below.