What exactly goes on in the mind of a henchman?

I’ve been pondering this question for a while; what goes on in the mind of a person who actively supports an evil regime.

Take for example one of the labcoated-scientist or garish-suited footsoldier henchmen of your archetypal Bond movie villain - what is it that stops them from saying “This is madness, I’m getting out of here”

OK, so the bond villains and their henchmen aren’t real, but I’m sure we could pick any number of suitably despotic real archvilains, along with examples of henchmen

Is it that fear of becoming a victim and inability to escape causes them to simply put their heads down and pretend to be good little henchmen, “just following orders”.?

Or is it that they are indoctrinated/brainwashed to the extent that they perceive no evil in their actions?

(of course, there aren’t going to be any universals here, but I’m interested to know exactly what sort of things motivate the supporters of an evil regime).

Not sure where to put this thread; mods - please move it if you feel this isn’t the appropriate forum.

Well, if the pay’s good…

But I think, in general it’s the same thing generally motivating the supporters of a good regime. First, some people actually believe the leadership is right or acting correctly. Others, even if they disagree with the government, might feel that they have a duty to their country, beyond whoever might be in the government. And there are some people for whom it’s just a job. You have to work for somebody, and if the pay and benefits are good, and it keeps you fed, a roof over your head, and your family well off, what else do you want.

Remember too, even in the most evil regime you can think of, most of the people working for that regime aren’t going to be committing atrocities. Whether the country is run by God or the devil, the mail still has to get delivered. Even among those people who end up committing atrocities, most don’t commit atrocities all the times. Even if you’re gassing the Kurds or rounding up Jews for deportation to ghettos or death camps today, ninety-nine percent of the time, you’re not doing that. You’re on maneuvers, or training, or doing one of a thousand things that army units that don’t commit atrocities do.

You might want to check out, if you have the time, Christopher Browning’s “Ordinary Men”, which looks at the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, which killed an obscene amount of Jews in Poland in WWII, and tries to figure out why they did what they did.

My son once did a school assignment and the subject he chose was the recruiting methods of right wing organisations (particularly teenagers). Among things I recall from reading his work was that, whether conciously or not, the organisations made appeals to psychological needs before they even attempted to indoctrinate your thinking. So disaffected teenagers were made to feel understood and secure and important simply by association. It is these feelings and not the rhetoric of the organisation that ensures their continued loyalty.

“I had forgotten how easily corrupted most human beings are! All I had to do to own them was to wave large sums of money in front of them. I was unstoppable! Others lament the moral decline of this nation, but I REJOICE! It made me rich a SECOND time!” --Cobra Commander

Evilnees does not have an absolute definition so you have to tell us what “evil” you are considering.

To an Israeli a Palestinian terrorist is evil while to a Palestinian the Israelis are evil. To many Iraqis the USA is the most evil while to many Americans the USA is fighting evil.

What evil in particular did you have in mind?

I am not a henchman, but I have played one, multiple times, on stage. (No lie.)

I always put myself in the state of mind that I truly believed in the cause. Sometimes a little crush/lust for the mastermind helped too.

I also would play my henchmen as though they themselves were mentall unstable, often stupid, power hungry, yet without the means to accomplish evil on their own.

Does that help at all?

And let us not discriminate. What about henchwomen? What goes on in their minds? I just gotta know.

I think that herd behaviour plays a role too, strong men attract followers, like an Alpha dog; we are, after all, animals with a rational conciousness glossing.

By the way, if you need equipment for your henchmen, LOOK HERE :smiley:

Hell, rationalizing something is easy. Look around you. Every day, I hear rationalizations for everything from why Joe can’t quit smoking just today, all the way to why Sally’s going to vote for Bush next November.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time” only sounds lame AFTER you’re sitting in a jail cell.

I doubt that rationalizing what you’re doing is any different if your skin is a different color, or you don’t speak English.

I notice with satisfaction the site calls them “henchpersons” thereby accepting heanchwomen as equal, as it should be. So, any henchwoman out there who would like to get together for some henching?

Keeping henchmen in line is easy. If any of my cultist start having doubts, peer pressure/ telepathic mind control/ feeding them to the deep ones keeps them from deserting.


“Oh shit, I got sharks-with-frickin-laser-beams-on-their-heads tank security on Tuesday.”

I’m aware of that, but lets define it here as the capacity for, or desire to carry out acts of genocide and torture.

don’t ask had a good point. If I were out recruiting the perfect henchperson, I would look for someone who had these “qualities”:

  1. Low, but functioning self-esteem.
  2. Hunger for approval.
  3. Needs someone to look up to.
  4. Needs direction, a cause.
  5. Seeks revenge at the world in a general way.
  6. Physically unappealing. (makes them angrier)
  7. Financially desperate.
  8. No family.

Well, you get the idea. My henchperson would be looking for something to fill a missing part of him/herself.

I can understand how someone with that set of attributes could be recruited, what I don’t understand is how ‘ordinary’ folks get whisked up in it all.

Some people are going to find this a little too much of a stretch, but I wondered if dogmatic adherence to religious fundamentalist organisations wasn’t sometimes quite similar; I was listening to a sermon the other day that argued (grossly oversummarising)that despite the apparent horror of Old-Testament religious warfare/genocide, we should still follow God because he’s going to win in the end - essentially ‘might makes right’.

Anymore I think you either have to be indoctrinated young for the fundie type organizations or you have to fit some of the “needs” on my list to join later. I would bet that in a different setting or country some religions would be more violent. Particularly the ones that have trained you not to ask questions. I’m not sure ordinary folk really do get into this. Although, I was thinking…A few times in my life I’ve been around a person who has some sort of power, charisma, something, that you can kind of feel yourself being drawn and attracted by their power. Sort of a dazed, foggy feeling, not sexual attraction, but kind of like it. Maybe that sort of thing can kind of blind you to what’s really going on. And if no one else has ever felt that, please disregard. :eek:

No, I think that is a plausible factor (or at least I think I’ve seen it myself); some people do seem to exude charisma to the extent that nearby individuals seem intoxicated by the whole experience.

I wonder if it might also be a sort of gradual process; starting with completely reasonable enforcement of the law and gradually developing into acts of torture and murder by a series of almost imperceptibly small increments, none of which is large enough to provoke a ‘reality check’ in many of the henchpersons.

Charm seems like too small of a word for someone who can create such a compelling type feeling. For most of us, though, even feeling it; we can shake it off; because reality and responsibility are firmly entrenched. I think in human nature, if you’re around other people who are doing the wrong things, it loses it’s shock value and you are more likely to join in. Okay, that is personal experience. :o

And how is your career recruiting for the KKK going?

Apart from physical fear I think you’ve got most of it. They are generally bullied but membership of a gang makes them safe.

Well, you got it half right. I used to recruit for the Christians, until recently. Close enough? :wink: