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The impression that I got from the Harry Potter films was that if Lord Voldemort was successful, most of the world was going to suffer greatly. Basically everyone would serve Voldemort as slaves or die.

So what's the point of serving someone who's probably going to ultimately end up betraying and/or enslaving you?

I know the Death Eaters hated Muggles, but is that really enough to justify tearing down Wizard society?

Why exactly do the Death Eaters serve Lord Voldemort? Fear?

Is the post-Voldemort world not that bad?

(I for one welcome our new Death Eater overlords)

  • 6
    Just to provide some additional context: everyone should watch "The Wave" – Ivo Flipse Mar 23 '11 at 10:08
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    Voldemort was a VERY charismatic and persuasive person. Also, you're assuming that people knew that V was "probably going to ultimately end up betraying and/or enslaving you". Most DE's thought they were it (Voldemort's favourite), so why would they suspect that they were going to be betrayed? – Möoz Apr 1 '14 at 21:27
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Same reason people followed every charismatic and/or powerful evil monster - from Hitler to Stalin to Saddam, to name just a few recent examples.

Most of which reasons boil down to basic game theory and human nature.

The main possible reasons (or their combinations) being:

  • They lust for real power. Being "enslaved" by Voldie while lording it over pretty much everyone else doesn't sound like a bad deal to a LOT of people. The kinds that make the best lieutenants. See Malfoys.

  • They are just generally evil, and will gladly follow someone who enables their evil inclinations to be expressed. See Crabb/Goyle types for small-time kind of example, or Dolores Umbridge for larger. Or Malfoys again (or better yet the psychopath/sociopath Lestrange).

  • They agree with Dark Helmet's axiom that "Evil will always triumph because Good is… DUMB". And they want to be on the winning side.

  • They (despite never having seen Spaceballs) make a rational assumption that Voldemort will win based on his power/history. And they want to be on the winning side.

  • They agree with Death Eaters/Voldemort's politics (wizards should rule over Muggles, stronger wizards should rule over weaker ones). See Malfoys. But MANY MANY would agree (think how many people bought into Hitler's Master Race idea, both within and outside of Germany, and that was given a TOTAL absence of a proof, as opposed to having magical powers vs. not). Blood purity was a big thing in Wizarding world, both in the past (elaborated a lot on Pottermore) and in the present (Fudge, Umbridge etc...)

  • They are weak personalities easily swayed by a crowd or a strong charismatic leader (which Tom Riddle most certainly was). See Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail.

  • The Enemy of my Enemy factor - someone hates a specific Muggle/wizard, and Death Eaters provide both a means of revenge AND moral support. See Snape vs. James Potter.

  • The friendship/other relationship factor. Your family belongs to Death Eaters or your best friend is, and you follow. See many Slytherins (e.g. Crabb, Goyle, Draco).

  • They are afraid of Voldemort. Same reason MANY MANY people joined Communist party or Nazis or the gangs - if you don't, you will be hurt for not doing so. Likely example is Karkaroff.

  • Most are not smart enough to realize that any possible payoff from being a Death Eater is counteracted by the problems which Mark raised. See real life example of any American/Western leftie "intellectuals" who worshipped Stalin (hint - the same kind most of which would get put up to a wall and shot if they lived in Soviet Russia); or the the dumbhead Santana who wears Che Guevara t-shirt, ignoring the fact that Che hated Rock, never mind was a mass-murdering sociopath).

  • For many, being "enslaved" by Voldemort isn't that much of a deal - in reality they are just low level followers of a faction/army and the alternative is a low paying wizard job/unemployment/unfulfilling life.

  • 14
    You pretty much resumed how totalitarian leaders get their followers. It was great having examples of each kind in the actual Death Eaters. – fabikw Mar 25 '11 at 21:47
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    Great post with great examples. I also loved the Spaceballs reference! – Martin Scharrer Jul 19 '11 at 16:06
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    The BEST, most thoughtful & rational answer i've read in SE.stackexchange so far. – KharoBangdo Jul 25 '13 at 6:01
  • Also, yes, I know that Umbridge wasn't a Death Eater. I still list her as example – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 9 '15 at 15:28
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    You may also want to add a list of US presidents, if you're going to bring politics into the discussion with examples. – Stephan Bijzitter Feb 19 '16 at 10:45
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Because not everyone saw Voldemort as "evil" just like not everyone believed Stalin or Hitler to be evil.

Hannah Arendt wrote about it in Eichmann in Jerusalem. She coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe how the members of society only needed to accept the principles of their society and "follow orders".

This is what makes all the horrible things seem perfectly normal to the "law abiding" members of that society. As President Nixon claimed: "Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."

16

It's not too much of a stretch to suppose that most of Voldemort's closest followers were Hogwart's graduates affiliated with the Slytherin house. Slytherins are described as having great ambitions, a thirst for power and influence, a need for recognition and the ability to disregard certain societal constraints (laws) should they not be entirely aligned with their ambition or interfere with their quest for power. Voldemort certainly exemplified all of the traits valued by Slytherins. Combine Voldemort's quintessential Slytheriness with his charismatic ability to influence people and you have the beginnings of a demagogue.

It would only be natural that other Slytherins would latch on to Voldemort seeing in him vehicle to promote their own ambitions. Voldemort rewarded his most loyal followers with positions of power; appointing Snape, practically Voldemort's right-hand-man, to the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts, a coveted and prestigious position, would have allowed him to have influence over generations of wizards.

There is real-world historical precedence for this type of behavior. The Potter series begs one to draw parallels to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s. Similarly, many wizards welcomed the changes promised by Voldemort, it was only after he had firmly gained control that some began to have second thoughts. The Malfoys were very pro-Voldemort, that is, until he moved into their house.

9

This is answered in HBP:

They were a motley collection; a mixture of the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty. In other words, they were the forerunners of the Death Eaters...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

5

I actually answered this on a duplicate and though much of what I said overlaps with the rightfully accepted answer to this original posting of the question, DVK did leave out one thing:

To Belong.

Kids with a less than loving home-life, on the outskirts with peers . . . kids that don't feel they fit in or belong anywhere can be desparate to "fit in." to Fit in somewhere - anywhere. Voldemort himself was one of these kids at one time. Dumbledore did try to make Hogwart's feel like home and Voldy did develop some relationships with peers - unfortunately, he became the leader of what turned out to be a pretty horrific gang and I think was far more violently inclined and angry than Dumbledore ever anticipated.

In addition to the wanting revenge factor, Snape fits into this category of kids too - doesn't really belong anywhere, so when the DE's welcome him, it is just too much to refuse - No one else had ever made him feel accepted (except perhaps, Lily - until she chose James). One could argue a little of this was going on for Pettigrew too. Although he was part of the Marauders, he was a bit of a hanger-on and even if the other three were very loving and inclusive, if Pettigrew didn't believe he was up to snuff, nothing they did would have mattered - he didn't feel he was a full member.

Some of Voldy's followers were friends with him in school when he was still more normal. Initially, they probably just had some things in common - such as being in Slytherin, wanting only pure-bloods to be at Hogwart's, etc. etc. It probalby started out a bit like Crabbe and Goyle's relationship with Draco Malfoy. They were drawn to Malfoy because of his confidence and swagger. I'd imagine Tom Riddle would have had real confidence and swagger even from day one. Some of his most beloved and original followers were probably simply drawn to him at the beginning of things. For naive boys/girl (Bellatrix?) the ultimate consequences of "bullying" others didn't really occur to them. As Riddle turned into Voldemort, they were already part of the circle and stayed (because of a crazy obsession or) despite reservations and maybe wanting to leave. Malfoy Sr. strikes me as being the type of character that would fit this role. He had some common beliefs, was drawn to the charisma Riddle/Voldemort exuded, joined up and then probably regretted it later (at least to some degree) but stayed in for fear of what would happen if he didn't (and because he still believed in the underlying ideas that made him believe in Voldemort in the first place.

4

BECAUSE THEY HAD TO HIDE FROM MUGGLES AS IF THEY WERE LESSER HUMANS

What is interesting in all of these points and relationships with actual history is that one fact is missing: wizards had to hide from muggles. I am not implying that the way the death eaters responded to this hiding from muggles is by any means legit, but if a group of humans had to hide themselves and their culture from another while living amongst them, surely a massive amount of hate would develop and ultimately evolve into a death eater-like mentality. I think someone like voldemort would evolve as long as wizards have to hide themselves from muggles. Imagine if Germans had to hide from the jewish population prior to WW2? Of course the holocaust is NOT the answer, but I am sure a lesson from that invented situation would be: NO MORE HIDING, let's integrate and live together!

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Voldemort was all about pure blood(pure blood wizards in rule). Few people agreed to his view and supported him, mainly Slytherins. Others were supporting him out of lust for power or fear for family and friends.

No one can deny that Voldemort was insanely powerful and feared.

protected by Rogue Jedi Jul 17 '16 at 17:22

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