Angry, Emotionally Weak People Fanatically Follow Strong Leaders

David Grace (

Some People’s Fanatical Allegiance To Leaders

You could fill volumes with examples of peoples’ unquestioning, fanatical allegiance to a Leader beyond all reason, logic, decency, self interest or even their instinct for self preservation.

During the Watergate hearings I recall someone saying, “If Dick Nixon strangled Pat to death on live TV, some of his supporters would say that Pat had fainted and that Dick was just holding her up by her throat.”

In January of 2016 Donald Trump said, “The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”

It is reported (The Demographics of Jonestown) that there were 1,040 people living in Jonestown, and when Jim Jones told them to kill themselves, 918 did. More accurately, over 600 adults first killed about 300 of their own children and then they killed themselves.

What Kind Of A Person Does That?

In the human population there is a continuum from leaders to followers.

What is it about some followers that drives them to pathologically ignore reality in the service of their fanatical devotion to a Leader?

What psychological quirk infects the fanatical followers’ brains to the point that their dedication to their Leader overpowers reality, their instinct for self preservation, and even their innate drive to protect their own children?

Yes, humans are tribe animals. To some degree the urge to follow the orders of the pack Leader is instinctual. But many humans are also notoriously contrary, opportunistic, individualistic and selfish.

What Qualities Define A Suicide Bomber?

What is different about the suicide bomber that causes him/her to surrender his life in service to his group?

As a person, he is nobody. He has nothing. He’s done nothing. He knows he will never do or be anything. But he believes that putting on that vest and pressing that button will elevate him from a nobody to a somebody, even though the price is becoming a dead somebody.

He is a person who blames others for the quality of his life and wants to punish those people.

Long and short — He does it to pump up his self worth. He does it in service to his ego and punish those he sees as his enemies.

Yes, that’s an extreme example. Most followers are unwilling to kill themselves at the snap of the Leader’s fingers, but I think that the same emotional forces are at work in other followers, though at a lesser intensity.

Who Doesn’t Become A Fanatical Follower?

Someone who has a strong self image, a strong ego, has a strong belief in his/her own self worth and who doesn’t need to further inflate their own ego by emotionally attaching themselves to a Leader, and who doesn’t blame others for any failures in his/her life does not become a fanatical follower.

But people with weak egos and who may blame others for not getting the kind of life they think they deserve do.

The Curse Of The Weak Ego

“As a man alone, in my heart of hearts, I know that I am ordinary, a nobody, but as a member of the Fuhrer’s SS, I am a man to be reckoned with.”

“As a man alone, in my heart of hearts, I know that I am ordinary, a nobody, but as devoted supporter of The Leader some of his power will become my power, and I will become someone more important than I was as a man alone.”

What are the emotional/psychological qualities that separate the fanatical follower from the rest of us?

Emotional Qualities Of The Fanatical Follower

I think fanatical followers are people

  • Who believe that they are powerless
  • Who, in the wider scheme of things, feel that they live unimportant lives,
  • Who believe that some group has unfairly caused their lives to be less successful than they deserve
  • Who believe that the Leader will punish the group that is to blame for their lives being less successful than they deserve

At it’s very heart, extreme devotion to the Leader is driven by ego.


  • The craving of someone who sees himself as ordinary to become special by emotionally attaching himself to a powerful or charismatic Leader.
  • The self-perceived nobody’s drive to become more powerful, to elevate their perceived ordinary status by climbing on the shoulders of someone (or some cause) far larger than themselves.
  • The belief that by attaching himself to the Leader, by becoming a member of the Leader’s group or movement, the follower’s pedestrian life will be infused with some of the Leader’s importance, that some fragment of the Leader’s power will trickle through that connection into the empty sack of his existence and inflate it with the Leader’s celebrity and power.
  • The belief that the Leader will punish those who are to blame for the follower’s life not turning out the way he thinks he deserves

The fanatical follower is parasite who seeks to inflate his ego by attaching himself to the Leader in the belief that some quotient of the Leader’s importance will flow into him and enhance the follower’s own power and self worth.

The stronger and more powerful the Leader, by proxy, the stronger and more powerful the follower believes he will become.

The stronger and more powerful the Leader, the more likely the Leader will be successful in punishing those whom the follower believes are to blame for his not getting the sort of life he thinks he deserves.


The fanatical follower is often angry, feeling that he has not gotten the life that he deserves. He sees the Leader as a tool to right the wrongs that have been done to him.

The fanatical follower often believes that a certain racial, economic, or ethnic group has taken the power, respect, job, sexual partners, or wealth that ought to be his.

He/she becomes devoted to a Leader who promises to right the wrongs the follower believes have been done to him by that group.

The follower sees his support for the Leader as the best way to fight against and punish the Jews, illegal immigrants, Muslims, criminals, politicians, elitists, etc. who he is sure are responsible for his not successful enough life.

Two Things That Bind The Follower To The Leader

The two forces that weld the follower to the Leader are:

  • The belief that allegiance to the Leader will make the follower more important, and
  • The belief that the Leader will punish the follower’s enemies

Why The Leader Can’t Be Allowed To Fail

If the Leader should fail, if the follower is forced to admit that the Leader is a fraud or corrupt or evil, then the Leader’s contamination will infect the follower as well.

The Leader’s failure will become the follower’s failure. To admit that the Leader is dirt would mean that the follower is again just as unimportant as he was in the beginning.

If his devotion to the Leader has raised the follower up, if the follower has become more important by sucking up part of the Leader’s celebrity, then, to the same degree, he will be demeaned and cast down by the Leader’s fall.

And if the Leader is allowed to fail, if the Leader is admitted to be a lying, corrupt, charlatan, then those evil people who have cheated the follower out of his rightful success in life will get away with it, and the follower cannot allow that to happen.

If The Leader Fails, The Follower Fails

For the follower to be more important, the Leader has to remain a hero.

If your attachment to Nixon, Trump or whomever has made you, at least in your own eyes, more important, then their admitted infamy will taint and diminish you to the same degree.

If you are forced to admit that the Leader is, in fact, a villain, then your devotion to him will turn you from a winner into a fool, and the people who have tainted your life and kept you down will get away Scott free.

For those who have wronged you to be punished, the Leader must remain in power.

The Leader’s Kryptonite

The only thing would make the follower turn away from the Leader is the perception that the Leader has made peace with the group that the Leader has promised to bring down.

If that group, for example, were illegal aliens and the Leader supported enacting a path for them to gain citizenship, the follower would abandon the Leader in a flash.

On the other hand, if the Leader remained true to stated the goal of destroying that hated group, the Leader could be filmed slapping the Pope in the face, having sex with a thirteen-year-old boy, and peeing on the American flag and his fanatical followers wouldn’t even blink.

Fanatical Loyalty Explained

And that’s why the fanatical supporters of a powerful Leader can never, ever admit to anyone, especially to themselves, that the object of their devotion is a liar, a coward, a monster or a crook.

Because their hero’s failure signals their own, what else could a person with a weak ego and little or no belief in their own, independent self worth and a burning desire that those whom they blame for their lowly position in the world be punished do but hold fast to the lie no matter how strong the evidence of the Leader’s sins?

So, Now You Know

So, now you know why Nixon could strangle Pat on live TV or Trump could shoot an innocent pedestrian on 5th Avenue and their fanatical supporters* would nevertheless remain steadfast up to and beyond the bitter end.

— David Grace (

*Obviously those people represent only a portion of those who classify themselves as Nixon or Trump supporters.

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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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David Grace

David Grace

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 16 novels and over 400 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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