Dorothy Thompson, Hitler, Mussolini discussed on History Unplugged Podcast
That you draw as exactly right. These are the big guts of their time. And in part, the reason why these interviews are so significant in this analogy with Putin brings this is that there's a sense that these are the figures who are determining history. So history is being made by them and also through them. So actually getting to sit down with them allows a reporter a kind of privileged access into the psychology and to the intellectual thought process, you know, it's not the same, you know, you could sit down with my career or Ramsay MacDonald or any number of kind of normal political leaders. And you've got, you know, some of their spend, you got maybe a little bit of a glimpse, but fundamentally you didn't think that their personality was making history. On the other hand, once you're dealing with a Trotsky or a Mussolini or a Hitler or Stalin or a Putin, it's certainly the case that they are outsized figures who is Jimmy shin puts in our managing to channel the tide of history, quite literally. So how important these are and what you get from them really does depend upon who you're talking to. So the reporters are all really keen to see Hitler, but when you see Hitler, what you realize, and he gives very, very few interviews to the foreign press. He doesn't like talking to foreign reporters, actually, or to reporters. He likes addressing stadiums. And so if you come in as the reporter, what you find is that he's going to treat you like a crowd of 30,000 people. So Dorothy Thompson interviews him in 1931. She's been trying to get an interview with him since 1923. After the beer hall put and he has to submit her questions that she's got a little set of questions that she's allowed to ask. She starts in with the first question. But he doesn't answer anything. He just starts surmounting and raving. As if she's sitting through his usual stadium speech and then she tries to interrupt him, but good luck with that. You really can't get anywhere. So Hitler Hitler is interview that really is not very yielding. And when people actually try to fathom and based upon the interview, they oftentimes underestimate him as Dorothy Thompson herself does in 1931 when she finally sees Hitler and then writes a piece saying with headline. I saw Hitler and the result is that she says, well, he's an utter insignificance. You know, such a man could never become the leader of Germany. Which to Dorothy Thompson, who has extensive experience in Germany, has a number of very intellectual and politically significant Friends. It seems impossible to imagine how could Hitler. Who is to her mind utterly insignificant become the leader of a country of culture and serious politics, serious people, serious intellectuals. If you seem Muslim, you might also underestimate him or not take seriously enough his ferocity for his aggression. Knickerbocker sees Mussolini four times from 1931 to 1934, set four separate interviews. And knickerbocker who has been a adamant foe of the Nazis and very prescient as well about stalinism. He meets Mussolini and he thinks, well, you know, he's not, he was expecting a little Prussian dictator type. You all formality and starched collar and that sort of thing. And in fact, Mussolini is quite an affable person and they're trading gossip. What knickerbockers bringing him is his own impressions from all of the chancellors of Europe. But knickerbocker is pretty self conscious that he's hoping that no one is going to interpret his rather sympathetic portrayal of Mussolini as an argument for fascism in general. So he does suspect maybe Mussolini is exactly what's needed. In the early 1930s to knock Italy into shape. This guy here, we're going to take a very short break for word from our sponsors. First I want to give a shout out to all the great podcasts on the Parthenon podcast network, including this American president, which you can find if you go to Parthenon podcast dot com. With any particular world leaders that you would describe as being very adept at knowing how to play the press. Maybe it's by charm or guile or this isn't the time period in your book, but jumping to the 1970s EDI mean of Uganda. Lends it into his outside buffoonish caricature of himself, which sort of charmed the press and deflected them from the terrible things that were happening right under and then eventually bubbling over onto the surface. Which world leaders do you think managed press the best? I think loosely in the famously, you know, was a very appealing interview. He liked, as I said, the gossip, he was very well informed himself. Knickerbocker was one of the journalists that mostly read very carefully and admired, all of them are trying to charm other than Hitler. When you interview someone like goebbels, for instance, or Trotsky, there are trying to term you and the reporters understand that. And there's a kind of funny dynamic as well, which is so many of these authoritarian leaders and their hangers on, the henchmen are themselves, of course, pressman. Journalists, herbals, Trotsky, Muslim, Muslims, foreign secretary, count giano, and on and on. And there's a way in which these encounters are both quite cagey and then psychologically revealing on both sides. Because you could say that these men are in a sense kind of alter egos. The reporter is a kind of alter ego for the dictator, which is that they too, the reporters also want to make history. They don't just want to be witnesses. They want to be participants in this period. And I had said before that becomes completely obsessed with knickerbocker. So in his writing about knickerbocker, quite frequently in his private diaries goebbels. And in 1942, when the Germans have other problems other than HR knickerbocker, they're essentially the Red Army's collaring. The German Army, the Wehrmacht, in the Soviet Union, is writing in his diary. He's reading knickerbocker's new book and he's writing in his diary about it. And he says something so revealing, which is, he says, you know, knickerbocker, this is a piece of trash complete propaganda. The only place for it is the waste paper basket. And then he says, what knickerbocker doesn't understand is that journalists do not make history. Only military men and leaders in politicians make history. And so I think that that sense of the real struggle between the journalists and these authoritarian leaders comes through very well. And I should add, actually, it's not just the authoritarians because anti colonial nationalists like Gandhi and nehru are also very savvy in their courtship. Especially the American press, whom they view with good cause as being much more sympathetic to their struggles against the British Empire. Than other reporters, certainly than the British or the French reporters. And so they're very.