Great writers are more like scientists than humanists. They write what they observe, sparing no one’s feelings.
I believe I have it in me to be a great writer, however, I need to improve in at least one area: holding people accountable for their actions. I’m too willing to cut them a break.
I’ll show you what I mean with the following example.
Nazi Germany. Hitler’s Germany had become obsessed with anti- Semitism.
Not only was there virulent anti-Semitism in Germany, but many non-German European elites were convinced of a Jewish intellectual conspiracy which they believed caused WW1, Marxist revolts, the Great Depression, etc. Even Prime Minister Winston Churchill was one of those who believed in a Jewish intellectual conspiracy.
Jews were not only despised in Germany, but in all Anglo-European culture. The Jews had no friends in Europe, and probably few in America.
I dated a bright Jewish girl in high school, who supported and helped me achieve every success I ever had there. Yet in my mid-thirties when I started writing and airing radio commentaries in Los Angeles, I wrote a commentary which suggested that Jews controlled the financial system in America. (Where in the hell did that come from? I probably grew up thinking that.)
The Anti-Defamation League called the radio station in protest.
I don’t know if I became defensive because I was caught or because I was guilty. You would think I would have known better after having been helped so greatly by my Jewish girlfriend, but I didn’t.
Can you see how crazy my reasoning is?
Rather than sticking with Nazi atrocities, I start talking about everyone else’s anti-Semitic flaws, including my own experience.
It’s as if I’m trying to reduce German Nazi evil by saying everyone to some degree has the same problem. It’s like I’m saying, “let him without sin cast the first stone.”
Great writers don’t explain away events that influence history in so tragic a way. They tackle them head on.
Try It Again
Fifteen men sat around a table at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 in Berlin, Germany. They were party leaders and cabinet ministers of the Third Reich, and voted on a coordinated plan to destroy the Jews.
The Fifteen powerful German men were, Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich, Dr. Josef Buhler, Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, Dr. Roland Freisler, Major General Otto Hoffmann, Senior Colonel Dr. Kerhard Klopfer, Friedrick Whilhelm Kritzinger, Major Dr. Rudolf Lange, Dr. Georg Leibbrant, Martin Luther, Dr. Alfred Meyer, Major General Heinrich Muller, Erich Neumann, Senior Colonel Dr. Karl Eberharth, Dr. Whilhelm Stuckhart.
That’s how a great cold blooded writer should start out – straight forward, no philosophizing, no hiding. Show the facts without compromise.
Make no excuses for what these men did.
Go into each man’s character, dig deep to find what makes them click. Write about it in clear detail. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to explain away what happened.
Let’s look at Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich. At 38, he was assigned to organize and preside over the Wannsee Conference.
He invited fourteen other men to attend. They were all high Nazi Party officials and cabinet ministers. At this meeting the extermination plan for killing million of Jews was presented. Heydrich spelled out the plan in detail, a plan that had already been decided upon before the meeting.
More than anyone else in government, Heydrich was the architect and administrator of the plan of mass extermination. He over road every law created before that time to handle Jews, and also over road every conversation that any of the ministers had had with Hitler up to that point. He was the central figure in the organized approach to kill six million Jews. Not even Hitler would take so much direct responsibility for organizing and carrying out the Final Solution as did Heydrich.
What drove him? Purely and simply – ambition. Hitler described him as the man with the iron heart. He was anti- Semitic. But, he was far more personally ambitious than anti- Semitic. To reach the height of his ambition, he was willing to do anything the leader above him wanted him to do. Eventually he loaded up on power and used it to the full extent possible with no exceptions allowed.
Heydrich was extremely athletic, blonde, blue eyed and tall. Even so, he was known for being somewhat insecure. His father was a composer.
Reinhard was washed out of the navy officer corps because of sexual exploits.
Depressed over the wash out, he secured the engagement of the woman with whom he had the sexual liaison by joining the Nazi Party in which she was a strong and fervent believer. She introduced him to high officials within the party, and that was the start of a political and military career that skyrocketed within the SS.
He was assassinated shortly after the Wannsee Conference. Insisting on riding in a Mercedes with the top down and no guard protecting him, he became an easy target. Besides being extraordinarily ambitious, he was above all else vain and spectacularly foolish.
He was directly responsible for sending millions of innocent Jews to the gas chambers and then to the ovens. He did that because he was asked to do it. He was asked because those above him knew he would do it.
Reinhard “the Hangman” Heydrich was an acutely narcissistic sociopath who was rewarded with power to kill people. He did not rationalize his actions by blaming Jews for causing war, communism, or depression. He did not necessarily even do it for the greater Aryan race. He did it primarily for himself, to prove himself and to ascend to the top.
Now, if you want to write about other types of anti-Semitic behavior, do so, but do it in another article. Don’t compromise the knowledge of evil and those possessed of evil by subtly explaining it away.
That’s what it takes to be a great cold blooded writer. Focus, no compromise, no excusing.