Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Movement Based on Hate

We’ve discussed what “conservative” means, in an era when meanings have gone topsy-turvy. Russ Daggatt weighs in:

"Conservatives" traditionally promote the virtue of personal responsibility. But try to find anyone in the modern conservative movement (really more radically authoritarian and militaristic than "conservative" in any traditional sense of the term) who will take personal responsibility for the consequences of his advocacy of this disastrous war. The defining trait of the radical neocon movement is the consistent exaggeration of the threats faced by the US in the world -- requiring, of course, a more authoritarian and militaristic American society.

“And there is a certain self-fulfilling prophecy at work -- as their policies are adopted, the world indeed becomes a more dangerous place for America, seeming to vindicate their warnings. It is difficult to make the case that the world is a safer and more stable place today as a result of their policies than it was on September 11, 2001 -- the event that drove the country to embrace the neocon agenda. (This is similar to putting incompetent anti-government ideologues in charge of the federal government. Their failures simply reaffirm their message -- that the government can't do anything right.)

It is an interesting appraisal, but my own diagnosis differs quite a bit. I think that deeper, psychological factors are at work.

Yes, there probably is some kind of a conspiracy at the very top, that aims to make the US government fail. The perfect consistency of this administration, never making any decisions that even tangentially or accidentally benefit the people or commonwealth of the United States, beggars any other explanation, including the “standard model” of dogmatic and corrupt ineptitude. Like Russ, I feel it is time for us all to ponder whether there is a deliberate campaign to wreck the pragmatic-modernist consensus that held America together, from the end of World War II until the end of the last century.

And yet, even positing such a focused and relentless effort, I do not think that it is driven by some nebulous philosophical drive to prove that government doesn’t work, in principle. Indeed, many of the administration’s friends (though not in on the top-layer conspiracy) want government to work. Principally for them, of course. But still, all else being equal, they would rather that the USA thrive, than that it not.

No, I believe that one thing keeps most conservatives loyal to monsters who have betrayed every old-fashioned conservative tenet. It is something much deeper and more neurotic than “distrust of government.” (Bear in mind that I once gave a keynote at a Libertarian Party National Convention, so I know about the range and variety of philosophies within the Question Authority Movement. And I can tell you that libertarianism has nothing to do with today’s neoconservatism, whatsoever.)

No. Face it. The one common theme that underlies nearly every frothing neocon rant, from Hannity and Limbaugh to Pat Robertson and your Uncle Fred, boils down to “I despise those smarty-pants liberals.” Conservatism has become a movement that defines itself by its hates.

What greater proof could there be than the incredible exhibition of sloth displayed by the last few Republican-led Congresses? With their hands on every lever of power and solid majorities in every branch of government, they broke every record for laziness and inaction. Indeed, they did not even lift more than a finger to eliminate programs that they long claimed to dislike! Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton pushed deregulation of more industries -- and more drastic reductions in federal paperwork - than all Republican administrations in history. Combined.

No, today’s conservative movement is not about wanting to DO anything or enact ideas or innovations of their own. And clearly it is not about eliminating regulations or freeing up the marketplace. Putting aside the rampant graft that - at most - involves a few thousand people... or the more lurid paranoid “manchurian” scenarios that might involve dozens, you are forced yet again to see that there is only one thing left. That boiling, searing hate.

Moreover, this kind of hatred cannot be refuted, for example, by showing that the liberal-moderate-progressive position turned out to be correct on this or that issue. Or on many issues.

That kind of proof has already happened, innumerable times! From Civil Rights to womens’ rights to dealing with urban smog and the ozone problem to Vietnam and Watergate and so on. In these and dozens of other cases, conservatives of the time were simply proved decisively wrong. Magnificently and overwhelmingly wrong...

...but alas, that does not have the logical effect of forcing a re-evaluation of processes and assumptions.

No, it is human nature to deeply resent being proved wrong.

So, as global warming is proved, and Iraq turns out to be a disaster based upon lies, and neocons start heading to jail (while not a single Clintonite was ever even indicted for malfeasance in office), and as the military is destroyed and American leadership evaporates, do not expect apologies or retractions.

Because each time this happens, it only stokes more rage.

(Or else more denial. Ever notice how many conservatives have pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls, nowadays? “Who, me? Against him? Never!”)

It is time to study this phenomenon. To understand how it resonates and feeds on a similarly tragic human flaw on the liberal side... a tendency toward holier-than-thou sanctimony that drives conservative people completely crazy! Hence, every “I told you so” is guaranteed NOT to change minds and hearts, but to spark vows of revenge.

This is the deep-down reason that “ostrich” conservatives - decent people with decent values, who genuinely believe that they believe in freedom and accountability and a sane, healthy America - will continue to rally around a movement that has betrayed everything that “conservatism” is supposed to stand for.


Anonymous said...

"No, today’s conservative movement is not about wanting to DO anything or enact ideas or innovations of their own. And clearly it is not about eliminating regulations or freeing up the marketplace. "

No, it is about power.

I need to understand more about the global economy, as I can recall several quotes from Boeing's CEO and a few others vis-a-vis "patriotism" - namely, that the multinational corp does not and should not consider itself tied to a country. This I understand, and I understand that a corporation exists to generate profits. I still have not completely assembled a theory re: BushCo's complete failure at governing, but that's a piece that fits in there somewhere.

Even just considering "who benefits?" we have the Saudis and the Iranians, but I think it goes beyond that.

Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear.

The more I read, the more I'm convinced you've found the more meaningful axes of our time (and perhaps of much of history). To progress or regress, for me, is not a hard question.

-- B. Dewhirst

TheRadicalModerate said...

Well, you're half right. But if you think the liberal problem is sanctimony and not equal amounts of hatred, you've seriously misread the mood. A much better question to ask is, "What's causing the hatred on both sides?" To ascribe different underlying causes for the hatred on each side is inelegant, to say the least.

I feel I have to ask this question yet again: Have you now officially switched over to the manchurian model? This post seems to indicate that, while you may not have gone completely 'round that particular bend, you can see it from where you sit. (Hopefully, you're not sitting in a JATO-equipped Chevy doing 300 mph with the brake linings burnt away...)

Anonymous said...

Don't be so quick to conclude that the party of entrenched power isn't intrinsically hostile to regulation. While they haven't yet been able to delegislate the regulatory state, they have been very effective at making regulations simply disappear. There's no need to remove regulation through legislation if regulations can be voided by signing statement, by executive choice not to enforce, by stacking regulatory agencies with industry lobbyists, and by stacking the courts with the kind of people who believe price fixing is good for the consumer.

You're quite right to say that the entrenched power party is strongly driven by a visceral hatred of the liberal other, but that's by no means their only driving ideology. Cronyism is central to their worldview, and from that comes a hatred of all regulations that could get in the way of profits for their cronies and themselves.

Anonymous said...

One comment about who benefits. Consistent beneficiaries are the oil industry, since the price of oil has consistently pushed up. But let's not forget another huge beneficiary of high oil prices: Russia. What happens to Russia over the next decade without all that oil revenue? I don't know, but it's very bad.

Anonymous said...


I thought all of this was blindingly obvious to everyone already? :)

For many years, televangelists and republican lawmakers alike have run on platforms of hatred, fear, and terror. They fuel this platform with ignorance and outright lies. Today, do you feel that

Rock and Roll is the devil's music? Yet once a majority did. Do you feel playing Dungeons and Dragons is devil worship that leads to mass suicide? This was also once a commonly held belief.

Bring these items up with a staunch conservative, and many of them will agree that their preachers and politicians were wrong. But they will never admit that they were lied to or misled--because, in our society, making a mistake is unforgivable. They are trapped by their own pride, and continue to believe the lies that are fed to them.

Recently Bill O'Riely did a story on lesbian street gangs that were using guns and trying to force girls as young as ten to be lesbians. Everything in it was made up. Even the camera footage he used was actually recycled from an episode of Dr. Phil about the increase in violnce among teens. What was the fight actually about? One girl had stolen another's boyfriend. Doesn't sound very lesbian to me--how about you?

If they don't have anything to generate fear, they will INVENT something. And NO ONE WILL CALL THEM ON IT. Because the Democrats in congress are weak as wate.

The cycle will continue. I don't know if it can be broken, unless there is some dramatic news-wide scandal about it. How much proof do these people need to understand they've been lied to?

I think they already know--they just can't admit it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the typos, like "wate" (meaning water). I have got to start running my posts through MS Word first.

harry potter5 said...

I like the "progression versus regression" axis too. I would like to submit another: nerds versus jocks.

Jocks: You are too odd to fit in, and we are in charge of who fits in. Accept your place or face punishment. Go team.

Nerds: You're too dumb to run things. We didn't deserve "punishment" while in school. Revenge.

It's a cliche that adult life, especially the internet, is just high school magnified.

But look at the male newsreaders on Fox. Look at Alan Colmes, the token nerdy liberal. On Fox, neck size in an indicator of virtue.

And look at the latest from Democrat Charles Rangel: stuck on a plane with Bush, and trying to talk business with him and instead getting chat about baseball. "He talked a lot about the Rangers," Rangel said. "I didn't know what the hell he was talking about."

It's possible that Rangel is expressing pride in a lack of baseball knowledge, just as many conservatives are proud to know little about science.

Interesting that proud ignorance can affect both sides.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the aluminum skull-cap crowd strikes again.

Anonymous said...

Good writing, I think you are zeroing in on it Brin. If you one more hatred over the loss of the civil war, and you may see the first cause from which all others follow. I was looking at the wikipedia on Carl Rove and found a story where Rove is gently touched by the Musician Cheryl Crow at a benefit and he spat out “Don’t touch me!” Kind of a clue about the level of hate when you cant even stand to be touched by a lovely woman. Here is the quote below:

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?


Anonymous said...

I'm vaguely left of center, but only because the country as a whole has been dragged to the right.

That said, I think that it is a bit much to say that conservatives are motivated by hate.

Fear, resentment, and an overwhelming sense of entitlement, yes. Hate towards certain people and causes, yes. But hate as the prime mover, I don't see that.

* * *

I dunno . . . do you really think the Bush administration would do something like this:

White House Is Accused of Putting Politics Over Science

WASHINGTON, July 10 — Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional committee today that top officials in the Bush administration repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

Dr. Carmona, who served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, said White House officials would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues because of political concerns. Top administration officials delayed for years and attempted to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand tobacco smoke, he said in sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one of which included Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser, he said.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to the Kennedy family.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin has arrived late at this party. His comments prove accurate, but Glenn Greenwald and James Wolcott and Bill Moyers and John Dean have long since diagnosed the same problems, in more detail, with greater psychological insight -- nearly a year and a half ago.

From February 2006:

"And the core emotions driving the Bush extremists are not hard to see. It is a driving rage and hatred – for liberals, for Muslims, for anyone who opposes George Bush. The rage and desire to destroy is palpable. (..)
"The rhetoric of Bush followers is routinely comprised of...accusations that domestic political opponents are subversives and traitors, that they ought to be imprisoned and hung, that we ought to drop nuclear bombs on countries which have committed the crime of housing large Muslim populations. These are not political sentiments, and they’re certainly not conservatives sentiments, but instead, are psychological desires finding a venting ground in a political movement.
"It’s not an accident that Ann Coulter and her ongoing calls for violence against `liberals' (meaning anyone not in line behind George Bush) are so wildly popular among conservatives. It’s not some weird coincidence that the 5,000 people in attendance at the CPAC this last week erupted in `boisterous ovation' when she urged violence against `ragheads,’ nor is it an accident that her hateful, violence-inciting screeds -- accusing `liberals' of being not wrong, but `treasonous' -- become best-sellers. Ann Coulter has been advocating violence against liberals and other domestic political opponents for years, and she is a featured speaker at the most prestigious conservative events. Why would that be? It's because she is tapping into the primal, rather deranged rage which lies in the heart of many Bush followers. If that weren't driving the movement, she wouldn’t provoke the reactions and support that she does.
"The combination here of rage and fear is potent and toxic."


One of the most famous descriptions of so-called contemporary American "conservatism" as nothing more than a tidal wave of naked hate based on the Fuehrerprinzip (Leader Principle) is the post "Cries From the Lake Of Fire" from dailykos, March 2006:

Your party has set aflame the entire political landscape, and now, once burned, you warn sternly from the branches of a burnt-out tree about "playing with fire". You used the ashes of one of the great liberal cities of America, New York City, as war paint for your own sick, racist dreams. You shudder at a burning flag, yet are willing to snip-and-cut basic tenets of the Constitution as needed or convenient.
And now, you're outraged, not by any of the rest of it, not by anything that has come before, but because a few prominent Republican faces have -- shock of shocks -- been indicted in probes that have spanned years of investigation, and interrogation, and deposition. That, you say, represents the underpinnings of a civil war.
You poor, hollow, blood-painted clowns. Cheering the trials and failures of your country with the same pennants and giant foam hands that you wave at your favorite sports teams. Willing to accept the most outrageous of lies, if they are spoken from your favorite talking heads, and soothe your own notions of America for you, and only for you.
And as for the audacity of Democrats speaking up during this process... the redfaced, flatulent fury with which you declare Republicans off-limits to that which you so gleefully hurl yourself...
Welcome to the world of the politics of personal destruction, you tubthumping, chin-jutting, Bush humping gits. Welcome to the nasty and partisan world that Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and a legion of insignificant lowest-rung toadies like yourselves nurtured into fruition daily with eager, grubby hands, and now look upon with dull-faced faux horror.


In early 2006, Orcinus documented in detail the eliminationist rhetoric of the right, which continues to ratchet up to more and more extreme levels, calling for the death and torture and genocide of their political opponents:

What, really, is eliminationism?
It's a fairly self-explanatory term: it describes a kind of politics and culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas for the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through complete suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination. (..)
But while eliminationism's most startling historical example was provided by the Nazis, it also has a long and appalling history in the annals of American democracy. It was manifest in the genocidal wars against Native Americans, when "the only good Indian was a dead Indian": in the many anti-immigrant campaigns waged by Nativists of many different stripes; in night-riding Ku Klux Klansmen, Jim Crow segregation, and the lynch mobs who murdered thousands of innocent blacks during the heyday of white supremacism; in the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II; in the continuing march of hate crimes that target various kinds of "undesirable" members of society for terrorization and exclusion; and in the lingering far-right "militias" and related hate groups who scapegoat minorities and immigrants, gays and lesbians, government officials, and liberals generally, making them the targets of both hateful rhetoric and actual violence.
Eliminationism in truth forms the really hateful, violent core of fascism, the facet that distinguishes the real item from its pseudo manifestations (though of course not all eliminationism is necessarily fascist). It glories in violence, in action over intellect, and always insists, of course, that it represents the true national identity.
Rhetorically, it takes on some distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as simply beyond the pale, and in the end the embodiment of evil itself -- unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus in need of elimination. It often depicts its designated `enemy' as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and loves to incessantly suggest that its targets are themselves disease carriers. A close corollary -- but not as nakedly eliminationist -- are claims that the opponents are traitors or criminals, or gross liabilities for our national security, and thus inherently fit for elimination.
And yes, it's often voiced as crude `jokes', the humor of which, when analyzed, is inevitably predicated on a venomous hatred.
But what we also know about this rhetoric is that, as surely as night follows day, this kind of talk eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.


Bill Moyers' "A Time For Heresy" from late last year does a fine job of summarizing the right wing abandonment of politics in favor of mindless rage and the search for scapegoats:

For a quarter of a century now a ferocious campaign has been conducted to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual, cultural, and religious frameworks that sustained America’s social contract. The corporate, political, and religious right converged in a movement that for a long time only they understood because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries.

Once the political and legal institutions of democracy have been dismantled, it follows that public discourse collapses. And when rational discussion disintegrates, what's left but screams of mindless hate and the incessant lust for ever more lurid Grand Guignol blood theater?

Al Gore pointed out as much in his 6 October 2006 speech:

It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled `marketplace of ideas' now functions.
How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered `an alternate universe'?
I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?
On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: `Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?'
The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, `The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.'
But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

The increasingly frenzied hate speech from the right has been going on for more than a decade. Here's an early article by Drew Glick from Peace Magazine in 1995 warning about the ever-increasing rise of mindless hate from the right:

The rhetoric from these right-wing groups has become increasingly heated, strident, and violent. This is most apparent on the AM radio talk show circuit where listeners are told, for example, how to shoot at agents of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms when they come knocking at your door (at the head or groin-they'll be wearing bullet proof vests). This sort of disgusting verbal pollution is vigorously defended as free speech, entirely harmless, a snappy new style of infotainment. As if words and ideas had absolutly no effect or impact on people's lives.

However, for the clearest analysis of the psychology of the current "conservative" movement (which actually has nothing to do with conservatism), see John Dean's book Conservatives Without Conscience from 2006:

"Ultimately, as [John] Dean convincingly demonstrates [in his book Conservatives Without Conscience], the characteristic which defines the Bush movement, the glue which binds it together and enables and fuels all of the abuses, is the vicious, limitless methods used to attack and demonize the `Enemy,' which encompasses anyone -- foreign or domestic -- threatening to their movement. What defines and motivates this movement are not any political ideas or strategic objectives, but instead, it is the bloodthirsty, ritualistic attacks on the Enemy de jour -- the Terrorist, the Communist, the Illegal Immigrant, the Secularist, and most of all, the `Liberal.'
"What excites, enlivens, and drives Bush followers is the identification of the Enemy followed by swarming, rabid attacks on it. It is a movement that defines itself not by identifiable ideas but by that which it is not. Its foreign policy objectives are identifiable by one overriding goal -- destroy and kill the Enemy, potential or suspected enemies, and everyone nearby."


Compare with Konrad Lorenz's description of the phylogenetic fight response of a brown rat community to a foreign rat placed in its midst:

What rats do when a member of a strange rat clan enters their territory or is put there by an experimenter is one of the most horrible and repulsive things which can be observed in animals. The strange rat may run around for minutes on end without having any idea of the terrible fate awaiting it....till finally the strange rat comes close enough to one of them for it to get wind of the intruder. The information is transmitted like an electric shock...and at once the whole colny is alarmed by a process of mood transmission which is communicated....in the House Rat by a sharp, shrill, satanic cry, which is taken up by all members of the community. [Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression, 5th edition: New York, Bantam Books, pg. 155]

James Wolcott has done yeoman work in pulling the rock off the maggot-swarming underside of the right-wing subconscious with his observation that these constant and ever-more-frenzied calls for the death and torture of their political opponents fucntion as a kind of "death porn" for right wingers:

Civilized people were appalled, disgusted, and sobered by the vicious execution of Daniel Pearl, and the beheadings that followed. But many of the warbloggers are not civilized people. It is clear that despite their sincere protestations of horror, rage, and pity, the execution of Daniel Pearl aroused them on some primitive, subconscious level. They got off on it. It functioned as death porn to their seething, frustrated psyches. (Frustrated, because the war in Iraq simply hasn't gone the way they thought it would or should. They have been denied the glorious clearcut victory they craved.) The beheading ritual tapped into their sadistic impulses, and excited their own fantasies of torturing their foes. When rightwing bloggers and posters conjure that under Islam, Democrats--which they've come to call dhimmicrats--will get what's coming to them (i.e., the business end of a butcher's blade), it's as if it's a horrible fate that couldn't possibly happen to them--because it's a death wish directed outward. The Islamic terrorists serve as proxies and stand-ins in this imaginary theater of cruelty, enacting what they (the warbloggers) would like to mete out to us (their domestic adversaries). Sometimes the punishment they seek is more Jacobean, as when Michael Fumento greeted Cindy Sheehan's threat to tie herself to the fence in Crawford, Texas to protest the 2000th military death in Iraq with the sentiment, Good, let her lash herself to the fence: "Leave her there and maybe the crows will do the world a favor and eat her tongue out."

Wolcott's entire article is worth reading if only for the bizarre level of extremity of the conservative death threats and torture fantasies he cites.

This explains why Brin's posts on www.dailykos.com have gone unnoticed. The response on both ends of the Americal political spectrum has been to ratchet up the level of hate speech, with the right wing and, more recently, the left searching ever more frantically for increasingly outlandish and ever more lurid imaginary "outrages" to stimulate their followers to ever more hysterical levels of lynch mob frenzy.

This is why I've stopped reading www.dailykos.com, frankly.

The accusations and conspiracy theories about the right on the kos site have become increasingly extreme and ever more paranoid, the better to give the righteous-indignation junkies on the left just as much of a lizard-brain-induced "fight-or-flight" high as the indignation junkies on the right, that rational discussion has gotten drowned out on www.dailykos.com.

Nowadays, only the most extreme and hysterical rants get attention on the kos website -- and this is new for the left. For quite a while, it was primarily the right that was addicted to righteous indignation and bizarre conspiracy theories, but the left has been catching up fast. Among the more deluded fantasies bruited on the kos website, we find: the White House will cancel the 2008 elections and declare martial law; nuclear war would be unleashed on Iran on June 9, 2007; Cheney would declare himself president and take over the government; Blackwater would start herding liberals into the concentration camps now being built by Halliburton on American soil; and the new conservative Supreme Court would roll back Roe v. Wade. None of these dire conspiracy-theory fantasies happened.

Of course, from the right wing in America we have the usual continuing flood of hysterical paranoid fantasies -- mostly recently, Bill O'Reilly's report of alleged "nationwide gangs of pink-pistol-packing lesbians" terrorizing suburbia:

What we are really seeing here is the R-complex (reptilian hindbrain) taking over the conservative movement and turning the republican party into a feeding frenzy of pure fight-or-flight. Konrad Lorenz has described with exquisite accuracy the phylogenetic symptoms of the militant enthusiasm that infects groups like the contemporary American "conservative" movement:

"In reality, militant enthusiasm is a specialized form of communal aggression... All obstacles in its path become unimportant; the instinctive inhibitions against hurting or killing one's fellows lose, unfortunately, much of their power. Rational considertaions, criticisms, and all reasonable argument against the behaviour dictated by militant enthusiasm are silenced by an amazing reversal of values, making them appear not only untenable but also base and dishonourable. Men may enjoy the feeling of absolute righteousness even as they commit atrocities. Conceptual thought and moral responsibility are at their lowest ebb." [Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression, fifth printing, June 1966: new York, Bantam Books, pg. 260]

Tony Fisk said...

To continue Stefan's excerpt:

"Bill Hall, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the Bush administration disagreed with Dr. Carmona’s statements about political pressure. “It has always been this administration’s position that public health policy should be rooted in sound science,” Mr. Hall said."

What sort of 'sound science' would that be? Ah, yes! The one perfected by Dr. Goebbels.


Hate and contempt for 'others' seem to be a natural consequence of being a smug bugger. I do hear that's how Lucifer got the boot in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Brin said:
Like Russ, I feel it is time for us all to ponder whether there is a deliberate campaign to wreck the pragmatic-modernist consensus that held America together, from the end of World War II until the end of the last century.

I say:
I've been following the conspiracy talk here recently. Very interesting. I think you've gone a bit too far though and I'd like to prevent a different explanation.

First of all I disagree that Bush has never done anything right for the US. I know on numerous occasions I've reminded my overzealous liberal friends that "even a stopped watch is right twice a day".

Secondly, I see the current administration as an extension of corporate culture. Or at least, the bad side of corporate culture.

It's hard to explain that without having lived through some of the boneheaded realities of Corporate America (especially when one can't post specific examples without worrying about having a superior read them -- it's happened to me). Corporate culture though, at its worth, is a very screwed up place where perception and evasion from responsibility trumps any sort of competence. Those who are really successful in the corporate shuffle know that selling an image of control and competence is far more important than the real thing. And they have all sorts of defense mechanisms and inbred croneyism to defeat anyone who comes in with a real spark of competence. The key to a success in the corporate hierarchy isn't success, it's networking, confidence and likability.

Basically what I'm saying is that the current administration is the manager from Dilbert.

Intrinsic in that culture is the need to sell alternate visions of reality and make people believe them (and ENJOY believing them). Some people gamble because they don't know math. Some people gamble because, even though they know they'll lose, they enjoy the delusion that they could win far too much to give it up. Similarly, a corporate icon who can sell an idea and make people get excited about that idea can make people more happy than one who sticks with what will actually work.

Sadly I can't quote specifics, but far too often I've seen corrupt corporate hierarchies revealed as the house of cards they were and one nearly universal truth is that the charismatic leaders that caused the problems in the first place are usually the ones who keep their jobs (or leave the company with millions, and somehow go on to find new jobs with similar responsibilities, amazingly untarnished from past failures).

Bush's pre-presidential resume is full of this stuff.

In my opinion, Rove, et al are indeed very devious and very smart. Not because they are behind some grand conspiracy but because they are masters at picking out what will sell. The war and the administrations politics haven't been about oil or conspiracies, they have been a perception (or rather misperception) that hooked into people and sold them. That engaged them. Fundamentally it's been about peddling politics that makes people feel better than the boring kind of politics that actually works. A great example was the use of gay marriage as a campaign tactic. They're full of this stuff. Later money is skimmed and handed off to all the people who helped sell the vision (which ultimately is a success of sorts) and to keep them in line.

I don't see an administration that is driven by a plan to destroy American democracy. I see an administration that is fueled by the need to sell America as much feel-good bullshit as possible.

A requirement for doing this, and a very common practice in corporate culture is a need to silence the competent, creative and skilled. That's where the culture war comes in. The culture war is just there to silence competing ideas.

Anonymous said...

Let me just say that I don't blindly hate the notion of creating large companies. It has upsides and downsides. I know that thare are large corporations that run better than others. I base my above opinion on personal opinion and personal experiences with folks from all levels of corporate success.

Anonymous said...

And two conclusions I may not have made evident enough:

Those in the coroporate culture drink more of the crazy-juice than anyone else. Pumping up the troops, pushing the party-line and supporting your superior's vision no matter how poorly conceived are all parts of the fitness equation for an exec. I have seen lots of exchanges where a boss comes in and says something offhand to an underling with no real comprehension of the problems and issues at that stake. Because of the culture in place, the underling MUST make an effort to follow the bosses orders, no matter how unuseful, simply so that they can report back that they did. The people who do this the best are very nearly always people who are really bad at seeing potential consequences (because those who can eventually get sick and tired of this craziness).

Secondly, I cultures like this, at their worst, are inherently toxic. The players involved may do just fine but the overall results are regularly disastrous. It's exactly the sort of system, ignoring accountability and results and focusing only the salability of ideas, that I'd expect to get the piss-poor results we've seen. So I'm not surprised. Ultimately what we want is a system that holds success and proven track-records to be vital, ignores emotional underpinnings and focuses on practical goals. That's a system that will succeed and it's nearly the exact opposite of what we have.

Anonymous said...

I find Stgabe's comments bringing back my memories of working in corporate America, very senior people were very "me" centred below that level people were task centred.
It was as if nobody who cared about getting the job done would ever reach the higher levels, no thats not right, nobody who's first priority was "get the job done" would move beyond a certain point

Anonymous said...

The one common theme that underlies nearly every frothing neocon rant, from Hannity and Limbaugh to Pat Robertson and your Uncle Fred, boils down to “I despise those smarty-pants liberals.” Conservatism has become a movement that defines itself by its hates.

And since no matter what you do, they are going to hate you, you might as well wade into the battle fully armed and ready to fight and maybe, just maybe, they will learn to fear you.

Impeach Gonzalez.
Impeach Cheney.
Impeach Bush.

There is no point in meeting them halfway.

Mark Brown said...

Sam Taylor:
Switch to firefox (download here)

Firefox has a built in spelling checker, plus I recommend downloading "ad-block plus" to eliminate all the ads all over!
Mark Brown

Enterik said...

Respectfully, I disagree that this self-styled 'conservative' movement, as exemplified by die-hard Bush Administration approvers, is motivated by hate. I see the hate that so many conservatives and liberals express, and stoked by their respective diatribes, as stemming from distinct and coherent worldviews that they are generally unaware exists in themselves or their antipodes.

American political thought is divided into two metaphors Strict Father and Nurturing Parent.

The hate eminating from the Regressive Right nowadays is merely the tracks of the fox that has already been to the hen house...

Most of the behavior labeled by Zorgon as Hatred can be understood as a cultivated/culturated/coulterated reaction to deviation from the entailments of the strict father type discipline where Bush is the decider and your task is to toe the line. The pundits, speech writers and campaign directors of the Right know such a dynamic exists, they know that much of the electorate is primed (by years of persistant effort) to respond emotionally to a framed arguement that reinforces their pre-thought common sense (Did you read that Stgabe? Rove et al choose from a panoply of issue they have been developing for decades, they are not just deviously clever).

However, I think one can draw a distinction between the hatreds of the left and right. Generally, it is the apparent willfull lack of empathy and community-mindedness in discourse/policy eminating from the Right that the Left hates, whereas the Right hates the weakness, indulgence and lack of discipline/obedience it perceived on the Left.

And I will say that focussing on the extreme expressions of either pode as a substitute for the larger bulk of each camp seems to be a dangerous exercise in flase moral balance.

Anonymous said...

Another Brin prediction closer to true...

New Zeppelins!

Anonymous said...


I'm glad to see that you've crossposted some to DailyKos.

Can you please, please, please, please crosspost this as well?


harry potter5 said...

Awesome post, Zorgon.

TheRadicalModerate said...

One more try on this and then I'll shut up/give up. With mounting dismay, I've been reading about 60% of you blithely agreeing with Brin that the principal political motivation for about a third of the electorate is hate.

Doesn't this strike any of you as, uh--what's the word I'm looking for--insane?

Surely most of us hold as axiomatic that the vast majority of human beings are decent and reasonable. (Please note that you can be dumber than a sack of hair and still be reasonable.) If you're willing to acknowledge this, doesn't it strike you as odd that the motivating tenet of the ideology of roughly 50 million voters revolves around hating another 50 million? Doesn't believing this assume a level of infantilization so profound that we might as well stop the debate and spend more time chipping our hand axes and picking out really nice caves?

Let me propose some alternate emotional states, ones that seem just a bit more plausible:

1) Fear. Hey, you're either scared of a whole bunch of enemies or you're not. Sounds like excellent grounds for intelligent disagreement and even sharp debate.

2) Annoyance or frustration. Yeah, sanctimonious and/or specious blithering from both sides of the political spectrum is cause for much eye-rolling, not only for those on the other side, but especially those in the center (who effectively get a double dose).

3) Caution or concern. If you're worried about what the other side might do (or is doing) if it attains (or because it has attained) power, you'll work hard to change the facts on the ground. It'd be nice if everybody worked honorably; obviously some don't.

Folks, you've got to stop assuming that people you disagree with are uniformly childish, idiotic, and evil. Until you do, you're part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

It's a very short step from fear to hate, RM. And there's plenty of people out there trying to stir up fear of liberals. Witness the last election in WV. Flyers implying the Democrats were going to take away Bibles and force people into gay marriages (or something like that) were everywhere. And look at the "debate" over torture. Quite a few Republicans and a lot of "conservative" bloggers were positively gleeful over the way liberals got upset about torture. And therefore, obviously, if it got liberals upset, it HAD to be a good thing, pay no attention to the merits or morality of the issue.

That's not caution or concern. I have seen un-ironic claims that liberals want to force people to have abortions. These aren't caution or concern about what somebody else might do when they're in power, they're crazed fantasies.

Hatred of caricature strawman "liberals" is definitely one of the strong strains running through the modern conservative movement. But I don't think it's the defining ideology of the Bush administration.

See, way back when, George W. Bush said he'd run the government like a business. Well, he is. Not just specifically like his disastrous business efforts his daddy's friends bailed him out of, either. They're running the government like a big business, which is to say they're running it for the profit of the people at the top and their investors, and the employees and customers of the business are just gonna have to suck it up.

Anonymous said...

The difference I see in the nature of the hateful shouting is that nearly all of it from the Left is directed at "Bush and Co", who the Lefty screechers want to see tried and incarcerated, while most of it from the Right is directed at "Demoncrats, Intellectuals, Hollywood".

Well, maybe a majority of "Intellectuals"(how one defines the term, I'll never know) are Democrats, but I sure don't hear many of even the most radical Lefties wishing for a NASCAR race to get bombed, or that everyone who supports Bush's Big Middle East Adventure would have their head sawed off.

Tony Fisk said...

RM said:
Surely most of us hold as axiomatic that the vast majority of human beings are decent and reasonable.

Absolutely. Everyone is capable of rational, reasoned argument.
Hitler was said to be a charming and intelligent host in person. Ditto Osama Bin Laden. (Stalin? Well, there's exceptions to every rule)
In a documentary on Richard Dawkins' recent book 'The God Delusion', Dawkins is seen shortly after speaking to a man who has championed someone who murdered a doctor for performing abortions. He was unusually subdued in his assessment ('... I liked him. He seemed calm and sincere. Not evil at all').

(While I agree with Dawkins' stand, I don't think his confrontational interview technique helped his cause. Still, his coverage of the right wing evangelical 'Hell Theatre' play is a chilling example of what David is talking about)

In the wake of the Underground bombings, New Scientist has run a couple of articles pointing out that even the most extreme of radicals (our 'others') can be, for the most part, perfectly rational.

It's when you get down to the basic assumptions from which all this deductive reasonableness flows that you start to push buttons.

And that's what all the shrill shock jocks are doing. They're rabble rousers, trying to invoke a blinding sense of feel-good outrage, usually for things as mundane as listener ratings.

It's a useful tool, though. J'accuse! This appeal to emotion and belief circumvents the in-depth defences of the standard scientific appeal to reason every time. And if the truth is inconvenient, why not go around it? Why should you have to question your most cherished beliefs if you can avoid having to do so?

Why ask why? Why even allow the wretched word to be uttered?

Actually, I see the increased frenzy as a good sign. The party whips are having to work overtime and turn the volume up to keep an increasingly skeptical and switched on audience in line.

And, as I said earlier, self-righteous contempt for humanity and a setup with a piece of fruit is when the brilliant Lucifer started 'coming to the attention of authority'.

Unknown said...

RadicalModerate suggested:

Surely most of us hold as axiomatic that the vast majority of human beings are decent and reasonable.

This summarizes the classic liberal fantasy about human nature, first stated by jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract in 1762. Not only is it not axiomatic that the vast majority of human beings are decent and reasonable, overwhelming evidence from many areas of science converges on the conclusion that this claim (actually a fantasy confected by Rousseau) is provably false.

The opposing view of human nature, originally penned by Hobbes in Leviathan in 1651, is also incorrect. Namely, that humans are innately savage and sadistic, and that even the most authoriatrian form of central government represents only a temporary brake on irrepresible human brutality.

Evidence from modern science strongly suggests that the opposing views of Hobbes and Rousseau both contain elements of the truth, but neither view offers the full picture.

Evolutionary psychology together with fMRI scans of patients sufferfing from chronic impulse control problems and a wealth of other modern scientific data, along with the record of such mass hysterias as the Seattle Windshield Pitting Panic of 1954, the 1939 War of the World scare, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon in 1944, the June Bug Scare of 1963, and many others

and more widespread mass panics induced by fears of koro in Inodesian and Malaysia and India and most recently Khartoum in 2003

together with the most extreme historical examples of mass hysteria -- namely, the with trials of the 16th and 17th century, the Satanic Child Molestation Cult Panic in America of the 1980s, the Holocaust in Germany in the 1930s, the mass murder of the kulaks in Soviet Russia in the Great Famine of the 1930s, Year Zero in Cambodia in the 1970s, and the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur -- all converge on the same conclusion.

To wit, that humans are fundamentally irrational, and, while we are capable of being decent and reasonable, humans evolved from a long line of killer primates, and as a result find themselves engaged in a constant struggle against irrational violent impulses and a genetic proclivity toward occasional mob frenzy and mass hysteria.

These conclusions have been confirmed many times by studies like Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments at Yale

and the Stanford prison experiment

as well as the extensive research of Kahneman and Tversky

about human irrationality and the ease with which people can be manipulated into making (and subsequently strongly defending) wholly irrational decisions.

With the greatest respect to RadicalModerate, I believe his post illustrates paradigmatically the problem that people in the center and the left have in dealing with the current abberrant behavior of those who call themselves "conservatives" in America.

People like RadicalModerate are simply unable to believe that most so-called "conservatives" (who arean't actually conservative) genuinely mean the things they're saying and actually intend to do the things they're doing. This belief in the innate reasonableness and decency of the human animal prevents people like RadicalModerate from recognizing what is going on. The current conservative lynch mob frenzy represents something genuinely new and alarming in recent American politics (though not something new in American history). Indeed, it's not even a political movement, but more of an infectious social pathology in which irrational hysteria gets communicated from person to person by mass rallies and social reinforcement, in the same way that the koro mass hysteria gets communicated in Indonesia and Malayasia and India.

RadicalModerate and people like him, who believe in a Rousseauian ideal of human nature, hear the conservatives constantly talking about cutting off liberals' heads with a bowie knife, but they're unable to accept it as a real expression of conservative desires...so they dismiss it as a "joke" or "an exception" or "an isolated incident." The recent "conservative" presidential debates by Republicans, however, should suffice to debunk such notions. Mitt Romeny claimed he wanted to "double Guantanamo"...two Republican Presidential candidates publicly denounced evolution...and all the Republican presidential candidates applauded torture and refused to rule out first use of nuclear weapons against Arab states, to the wild cheers of their (allegedly) "conservative" audience.

Something has changed. This is not conservatism as it is commonly defined in America. Instead, what we're witnessing is a bloodthirty lynch mob mania expressed in sadistic torture fantasies and an imaginary theater of cruelty involving "executing liberals by firing squad" (Ann Coulter) and sawing their heads off with bowie knives ("Don't worry, once you get through the jugular, it's easy going" -- comment posted on Pam Atlas' site).

Here we must hold the Enlightenment itself accountable for a failure of insight. The classical 18th Englightenment viewpoint stresses the rational faculties of the human animal and presupposes that homo sapiens is innately disposed to behave with reason and common decency. But as case studies like the Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram's obedience studies have shown, human "nature" is highly malleable. People are not rational calculating machines, but primates who evolved from ancestors with impulsively murderous instincts, and as a result humans can be manipulated into behaving with irrational cruelty toward their family, their friends, and others of their clan, with remarkable facility. The ease with which "Under Pol Pot...small children were trained to eavesdrop on their elders and report all conversations to Angka cadres" is likely to shock anyone unfamiliar with Milgram's experiments on obedience.

People can also be induced very easily to feel intense hatred and prejudice against arbitrary groups for whom no rational reason could be adduced for violent feelings:

"[A] small-town teacher, in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., [taught] her 3rd grade class a daring lesson in discrimination.
On the first day, Jane Elliott divided her class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups and expressed the superiority of the blue-eyed group as well as giving them special privileges. On the second day, she reversed the exercise and the brown-eyed group was superior.

The result?

On both days, the `superior' group oppressed the `inferior' group and the `inferior' group `exhibited negative feelings of self-loathing and fear.'"


The results of this case parallel the outcome of the Stanford Prison Experiment, which Philip Zimbardo has dubbed "the Lucifer Effect." Although it seems superficially surprising that huamsn can be so easily manipulated into hating an arbitrary subgroup of their own clan, we should bear in mind that the innate fighting response against mammals not part of the clan is a genetic trait, as Konrad Lorenz points out in his example of the House Rat. We would expect evolutionary selection for such a trait from evolutionary psychology.

By blaming those of us who have observed the rise of irrational mob hysteria in American politics (starting with the Great Hater Ronald Reagan, who proclaimed "If it takes a blood bath, let's get it over with" two months before the Kent State massacre) for being "part of the problem," RadicalModerate falls into the trap of blaming the victim for the current social pathologies which grip America.

The solution is not to blame the victim for these grotesque social dysfucntions. Instead, we need to clearly and dispasionately bring attention to the irrational lynch mob frenzy among those who currently call themselves "conservatives" (even though they have abandoned essentially all conservative principles).

History shows, and Martin Luther King and Ghandi have proven, that simply bringing attention to irrational extremist hate groups typically shames them and destroys their ability to hate and employ violence with impunity. It remains an interesting fact of primate psychology that when bad behavior is not punished, humans begin to regard it as morally acceptable; but, contrariwise, when bad behavior becomes socially condemned, even the most strident hatemongers eventually lose their appeal.

The process takes years. But history shows it does work. People are not innately decent and reasonable, but they are capable of behaving decently and reasonably, provided that there is some countervailing social pressure working against the hate speech and the violent eliminationist rhetoric.

Incidentaly, I don't believe that I or Dr. Brin or anyone else ever described the haters who misname themselves "conservatives" as `evil.' These people are behaving irrationally. That's different from being evil. American history shows us many examples of mob hysteria in which people behaved irrationally, from the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 to prejudice against Irishmen in the 1830s to the laws which made it illegal for Chinese-American citizen to vote in the 1870s and 1880s to the Palmer Red Scare of the 1920s to the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s. The best advice on how to deal with these periodic outbreaks of violent irrationality comes from Thomas Jefferson:

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and the people recovering their true sight, restoring their government to its true principles. It is true, that in the meantime, we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war, and long oppressions of enormous public debt. ... If the game runs sometimes against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost. For this is a game where principles are the stake." [Jefferson, Thomas, letter to John Taylor, 1798]

Tony Fisk said...

It seems this counter-pardon/truth and reconciliation idea is taking root. Jamais Cascio has just mentioned it, referring to someone else who toted it (and one more muffled sob from our ill-done-by unrecognised host!;-)


BTW, a nice post, Zorgon. A different emphasis on what constitutes the basis of irrationality, but I don't see anything that clashes, or can't be made to fit, with my little prattle.

Having carried on with the suppression of 'why', it occurred to me that this question is so feared because it ultimately strikes at the root of power of any would be authority. The ultimate answer is, of course, 'I don't know', which sounds a bit lame coming from a patriarch. Oh, they pack it around sometimes with noises about 'mysteries man was not meant to know' (ie: shaddup!), but still...

And David, in reference to the Libertarian movement recently commented that it covered all aspects of questioning authority.

*sound of penny dropping*
No wonder the libs cop it!

TheRadicalModerate said...

It was, indeed, a nice post, Zorgon.

But you're assuming we're dealing with feral humans. We're not. And if you really think that your fellow countrymen--I assume that you are some sort of member of the Anglosphere, given your facility wit da king's langrage--aren't mostly decent, then you really need to stop blogging and take a walk down the street from time to time.

Yup, I freely acknowledge that you can drive large groups into attitudes of amazing barbarity, using Zambardo-like techniques. This has clearly not happened to the body politic. I'll be happy to concede Abu Ghraib to you, and maybe even some of the other "enemy combatant" programs (although facts are pretty thin on the ground for the latter). And I also freely admit that there are some 4-sigma types out there that are genuniely vicious muhfuhs. But the vast majority of people don't listen to some yahoo and wander off with little spirals for eyes mumbling, "I will do Rush's bidding, Ann and Sean told me to..." I offer as proof the 2006 elections, where the center swung left quite nicely (and rationally) and the hard right was too sheepish to mobilize.

BTW, when you say that the presumption of decency is a "liberal fantasy," I assume you're referring to the classical definition of liberal, as opposed to contemporary liberalism vs. conservatism. The presumption of decency and rationality is, of course, the lynchpin of conservatism, both of the paleo- and neo- flavors, in that freedom of action requires restraint and compassion to be beneficial to society as a whole.

In any case, I sure hope you're wrong. Otherwise, we really are talking about the End of the World As We Know It, and my copy of Zorg's Complete Hand Axe Almanac is still on back-order. ("Zorg say flint good! Granite bad! Zorg say hit neighbor on head! Take cave! Steal woman! Life good with good hand axe! Zorg show!")

Anonymous said...

It's not so much hate as playing on insecurities. It's the same with with pickong on nerds in grade school. Is it "hate" that motivates the jocky/popular kids to ostracize them? Nope. It's insecurity. If they interact with these kids "as equals" they'll have to allow that there are lots of things that those kids are better at. Similarly, is it hatred that causes people to dismiss strong scientific results in the face of all of sciences successes to date? Nope. It's insecurity. Admitting that "all this science" stuff might know better is giving up control and giving it to someote else.

And so some convenient lies get told about everyone who is smart, competent or creative. And a lot of people eat them. Why? Because they are just average people, not particularly smart, competent or creative themselves.

Anonymous said...

TheRadicalModerate said...

"One more try on this and then I'll shut up/give up. With mounting dismay, I've been reading about 60% of you blithely agreeing with Brin that the principal political motivation for about a third of the electorate is hate."

I live in Texas. You do realize that down here the words "liberal" and "democrat" are used as curse words? And they're not 'nice' curse words either: using one is like calling someone a Nazi, except "liberals" and "democrats" are worse than Nazis.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Sam, I live in Texas, too. Maybe it's because I live in the Austin 'burbs, but I don't have the same experience.

I've also recently visited my friends in Boston, where the words "Bush" and "conservative" are used as, uh, expressions of profound distaste and annoyance. They do actually hate Bush, and they may think conservatives are idiots (me included). But I'm quite confident that my friends don't hate conservatives.

The distinction is crucial: One leads to interesting elections. The other leads to civil war.

Unknown said...

Andrew Sullivan just posted a relevant Orwell quote:

"The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions — racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war — which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action ... He [H.G. Wells] was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity."

Enterik said...

Zorgon asserted, "To wit, that humans are fundamentally irrational, and, while we are capable of being decent and reasonable, humans evolved from a long line of killer primates, and as a result find themselves engaged in a constant struggle against irrational violent impulses and a genetic proclivity toward occasional mob frenzy and mass hysteria."

Yes, the struggle is constant yet not a cause for the indifference of nihilism.

The notion that human irrationality is fundamentally hateful or violent as a consequence of our evolutionary past is only part of the story. Research also indicates that primates are hard wired for empathy, prediction of intention and theory of mind via mirror neurons sprinkled throughout the cortex. I say this to emphasize that the self-identified 'conservative' cohort should not be written off as lost nor should they be assailed as intrinsically sullied by extrinsically exploited common sense, that would only exascerbate the situation. Such bamboozled individuals need to have the morality of their political metaphors recast to harmonize with their irrational progressive common sense, only then will they be able to grok progressive rationality in its fullness. The regressive right has had decades to flog their dead horse agenda into an easily applied adhesive glue. The progressive left must also develop its coherent morality to countervail or remain trapped in merely reacting to cynical conservative frames. Undoubtedly, intemperate intolerant discourse should be stigmatized as lacking common decency, but the greater and more meaningful challenge is to subsume more of that herd of biconceptuals (people who apply both the discipline and nurture metaphors to issues in a more variable distribution) into the progressive karass. This is feasible because political thought is a metaphor of embodied experience even at the neurological level. Knowing this, one should avoid alienating and denigrating those who presently cleave to the opposed granfalloon and instead reformulate the issues in your favor. But what can one do with the likes of Ann Coulter? Use it or lose it, if you can't impugn such exemplars AND rustle swing voters, you've wasted an opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I keep promising myself I will stay out of this stuff....

Here's my fear. That perhaps America has evolved into an entity that neither party can govern effectively. Given a new world filled with problems that neither conservatives nor progressives really know how to solve they go into default mode. Conservatives try to keep anything from changing. Progressives propose myriad changes and secretly pray that their plans are not put into action lest they crash and burn. (Blaming obstructionist conservatives can only go so far).

The "business of government" has grown so large that trying to keep corruption out of it seems impossible.

The world is full of loonies who thanks to modern technology are not just nutters hiding in obscure lands, but fully capable of influencing the affairs of great nations by sawing off somebodies head in front of a video camera.

Before we even had a chance to come to terms with the extent to which vivid televised images influence elections and public policy we have had the media fragment into a hyper Balkanized landscape of cable channels, blogs, and who knows what next. Its Babel reborn.

Most of the "hate" being discussed here is cooked up by people with something to sell, some petty gain to be made. After work they all, conservative and progressive alike, go out for a drink and laugh about it.

I don't hate the (probably) next Democratic President. I pity him or her already.


Anonymous said...

"American political thought is divided into two metaphors: Strict Father and Nurturing Parent."

I think I agree with this person's "Inherited Obligation vs Negotiated Commitment" frames model instead of the "Strict Father vs Nurturing Parent" model.

Enterik said...

Doug offered, I think I agree with this person's "Inherited Obligation vs Negotiated Commitment" frames model instead of the "Strict Father vs Nurturing Parent" model."

And his name being Doug had nothing to do with it? :-)

Thanks for the pointer, even if your link didn't work on my end, I was able to pull up a cached version of "red Family, Blue Family"

Apparently the author your cite, don't really see the two metaphors as having an instead-type relationship. He himself acknowledges the value of Lakoff's metaphor of Nation as Family but asserts that it is contained entirely within his metaphor. I see it as an also-type offering.

My first impulse is to view the article as the authors attempt to reframe Lakoff to generate more politically neutral labels for the same dynamic (yes, I know he's a Unitarian Liberal).

I some of find his reasoning suspect especially the assertion that a parent-child metaphor alienates certain segments of the population. There are very few who have not been the child portion of that dynamic or have been completely divorced from society, therefore most understand the archetypal parents even if they aren't parent themselves.

By the Ault/Muder structural criteria, I am part of an inherited obligation clan, but we are undeniably progressive in our political opinions and parenting styles. Conversely, I have friends who have small nuclear mobile families, negotiated religious affiliations and very conservative political views. Both are obvious exceptions that run contrary to the proposed inherit-negotiate model. Perhaps, the author is really characterizing the sessile-mobile or old-modern divide as a mode of generating community. Whatever he has stumbled upon, I don't think it explains conservative-liberal better than or as well as strict father-nuturant parent. Regardless, he has some interesting insights and advice to offer about clarity of liberal intention and the log in the liberal eye.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late getting back to this party (been busy), but I would like to present another piece of evidence:

One man's disturbing vacation among the ultra conservative.

' I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. "Then things'll change." '

Radical Moderate lives in Austin -- the only city in Texas with the slogan "Keep Austin Weird." Probably the most liberal city in the state. This may explain why he has managed to avoid the rather excessive and outspoken hate.

This wasn't my own vacation. But even in Dallas, where I live, there are many people who espouse sentiments close to the one above. Dallas is pretty liberal, too, as far as the state goes. They had to work very hard to gerrymander us.

He made a rather flip comment about liberals causing a civil war, too. The liberals aren't the ones talking about gas chambers and concentration camps, I assure you. Check out Anne Coulter and her ilk sometime.