No compassion

Leafing through a review of a biography of Ayn Rand, I came across this:

She wrote of one of the protagonists of her stories that “he does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people”; and she meant this as praise.

It reminded me of something JK quoted in the comments:

“Those who have known him [Cheney] over the years remain astounded by what they describe as his almost autistic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others. ‘He has the least interest in human beings of anyone I have ever met,’ says John Perry Barlow, his former supporter. Cheney’s freshman-year roommate, Steve Billings, agrees: ‘If I could ask Dick one question, I’d ask him how he could be so unempathetic.’”

It makes me wonder if this is part of why the word “empathy” was such a red flag for wingnuts during the Sotomayor confirmation. It also makes me wonder if “RULE OF LAW!” is less about respect for the law than about lack of sympathy. Likewise, with torture: it doesn’t matter if it yields results or not, what matters is that it shows a commendably conservative lack of empathy and compassion for other human beings.

Is that, in the end, what defines modern conservativism? An almost autistic sociopathic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others?

I’m being serious here and I’d be curious to know if conservatives would object to this characterization. I’ll bet that many wouldn’t, if this were described more charitably.






221 replies
  1. 1
    Josh Huaco says:

    Was “Any Rand” a typo or intentional?

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    Was “Any Rand” a typo or intentional?

    Typo. And I fixed it.

  3. 3
    Will says:

    I like it as Any Rand, intentional or not. Everyone knows “Ayn” is a bullshit name anyway…

  4. 4
    TenguPhule says:

    It also makes me wonder if “RULE OF LAW!” is less about respect for the law than about lack of sympathy. Likewise, with torture: it doesn’t matter if it yields results or not, what matters is that it shows a complete commendably conservative lack of empathy and compassion for other human beings.

    It’s GORN for the frenzied mob.

    That Dick Cheney still breathes free air is an affront to the dignity of the human race.

  5. 5
    JK says:

    Doug,

    Once again, you’ve done a great job connecting the dots. These wingnuts send a cold chill down my spine.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Ash Can says:

    I’d bet you wouldn’t even have to describe it more charitably.

  8. 8
    KCinDC says:

    When you started writing about Rand and love of sociopaths, I thought you were going to link to this.

  9. 9
    mvr says:

    Hard to say. Also hard to figure out how this unempathetic guy is one of the few people in Republican politics with sane views on gay marriage. And his official views are saner than the official views of many Democrats. Perhaps his lack of empathy on every other issue buys him the chance not to be crazy on this one.

    OTOH, here is a guy who likes hunting what are effectively domesticated birds just for the sake of shooting them in numbers way beyond what one could consume. That’s not just a lack of empathy. That’s pathology.

  10. 10
    The Other Steve says:

    I had an interesting experience with health care today.

    Went to doctor. Doctor gives me prescription. She tells me it just went generic and is a lot cheaper now.

    Get to pharmacy. They come back and say my insurance denied a claim for generic and they were instructed to use brand name. $600!

    I had to explain to them I have an HSA, my insurance doesn’t pay for shit. Give me the generic. They come back, $450! ZOINKS!

    You know for all the talk about HSA’s and such, I have yet to meet someone at a clinic or pharmacy who understands them.

  11. 11
    Libertina says:

    You say, “if this were described more charitably.” How charitably can you define “I got mine!”?

    I have felt all my life that that’s what conservatives are all about. Of course, St Ronnie is the one that pushed it over the line, and made it socially and culturally acceptable to act that way. I’ll at least give him credit for the fact that he really DID pull himself up by the bootstraps. But his “story” led up to this idea that it is morally admirable to “succeed” and a moral failure NOT to, regardless of the circumstances. It was a bad cultural road for our country to travel down, yet conservatives (and centrists) praise him far and wide for it, and will not likely ever let it go.

  12. 12
    SIA aka ScreamingInAtlanta says:

    I can understand how a heartless, evil bastard could pass the shit-for-soul gene down to his repellent spawn, but how on earth did the Mrs. catch it too? Nature or nurture? the whole fucking family is infected.

  13. 13
    chrismealy says:

    “Is that, in the end, what defines modern conservativism? An almost autistic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others?”

    My vote’s yes.

  14. 14
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    As a parent of an autistic child, I’d certainly object. Besides, it’s not accurate to describe autistics in that way… it’s not that they don’t have interest in other people so much as they completely lack the tools to communicate effectively with them.

    To me, what you’re describing sounds like good ol’ stone-cold sociopathy. I think perhaps the main difference between Cheney and say Henry Lee Lucas is that Cheney figured out that he’d get further ahead and remain more secure by putting himself into a position where he could do it to people that his peer group would never object to… and would even applaud.

    Somewhere between ten and twenty percent of people exhibit traits of sociopathy to a greater or lesser extent. I leave lining that up to a particular political constituency as an exercise to the reader… but I’d like to recommend the writing on Authoritarian Leaders and Followers by Altermeyer http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ and a book I read a while back called “The Sociopaths Among Us”.

    As far as “autism” goes… that’s pretty much offensive. I’d suggest going with sociopathic… its definition pretty much fits what you’re describing, and autism most certainly doesn’t.

  15. 15
    Ben JB says:

    @mvr: I was going to say something very like that–empathy vs. pathology.

    Because if you’re talking about torturing someone, the wingnut response “torturing is effective” seems bad faith to me, considering how most professional interrogators are clear that it’s not. But “torturing is effective” would be the unempathic response.

    Rather I think a lot of the wingnut approach (to torture at least) is pathologic: it’s not that they don’t mind hurting another to get what they want–it’s that hurting another is what they want. They don’t really care if they’ve got the right or wrong guy here; the guy at the wrong end of the thumbscrews is, by definition, the right guy to be torturing if torture is the actual goal.

    I’m being uncharitable here, but I’m in an uncharitable mood.

  16. 16
    JK says:

    @freelancer:

    Doug saw a connection between 2 passages which I failed to detect. I’m just giving credit where credit is due.

  17. 17
    kth says:

    BTW that whole review, by even-the-liberal Jon Chait, totally shreds. Chait is the Terrell Owens of the liberal team. He talks a lot of shit about his liberal teammates in the locker room, especially if they are critical of Chait’s decidedly illiberal colleagues at TNR. But on the field, lined up against wingnuts, he can generally be counted upon, as with this article, to kick ass.

  18. 18
    Ryan says:

    Republicans hate empathy because empathy is something that women, stereotypically, have. And republicans hate women. So to make sure they’re not mistaken for women, they don’t display empathy.

  19. 19
    freelancer says:

    @JK:

    I know, consider it a friendly ribbing.

    freelancer +2

  20. 20
    magisterludi says:

    Years ago I took a wounded sparrow to a bird sanctuary for treatment of a broken wing.

    They gave a short tour of their rehab area. There was a cage full of white mice to feed the recovering hawks and owls. A sign over the cage read “Don’t get close to the food”.

    Just popped into my mind reading this post.

  21. 21
    JK says:

    @kth:

    Who’s the Troy Polamalu of the liberal team?

  22. 22
    steve s says:

    Interesting speculation, but no. conservatives would not say they are without compassion. Bush even explicitly ran as a Compassionate Conservative ™. What defines conservatism these days is a handful of southern cultural traits–racism, ignorance, dislike of Yankees, christianism…

  23. 23
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Is that, in the end, what defines modern conservativism? An almost autistic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others?

    No. they have always been that way. It’s a pseudo philosophy that intellect or pure ideas can solve the problems of men. Like the free market model governing itself and a country. Pure ideology for success, until it’s put to the test. Then all the human failings and the angst and failure and redemption take hold, and they have no antidote for that. It becomes a disease to them to be shunned and that has thwarted their well thought out designs for harmonious existence.

    That is why empathy has become the enemy. Because the day to day fumbling of human imperfect persons always beats the ideological in the end. Dick Cheney is the perfect leader for this cause because he runs on pure ideological thought of action reaction to solve every problem. And the action is always force of will, that too often simplifies itself to physical force of one kind or another.

    But all of the work to build a “conservative movement” has itself dissolved in failure, as it was destined to once put to the test. Man is not a creature of predisposition to follow set rules that don’t account for human frailty. They don’t get this simple fact and are even blind to the fact that they also belong to it.

    So now we see the aftermath of emotionally arrested people whose blueprint for governing a country that turned out to be a futile attempt to bypass the complexities of life here on planet earth. Nothing is left but resentment and bewilderment on how to proceed. And Cheney reminds them that force is always there to pick up and use one way or another. This is the tea bagging movement. A minority with no sanctioned power generates it’s own with pathetic attempts at intimidation to get their way. Cheney can’t help them, his room in purgatory has been decorated with the lost souls from which his actions turned them out early from this life.

  24. 24
    Cat Lady says:

    This is a great article on Rand that adds a lot to the discussion. Randians just need to grow the fuck up, or go Galt already in the Randian petri dishes of Sudan or Somalia or Lebanon. They can take the rapturetards and the other conservatards with them and burn their Social Security and Medicare cards for heat.

    If conservatives had empathy they would have compassion and then they’d be liberals.

  25. 25
    JK says:

    @freelancer:

    Bing bing bing bing

    Letterman just took his first shot at Jay Leno.

  26. 26
    J says:

    I think (for whatever it is worth) that you may be right. But perhaps there is another aspect to this. Maybe part of the conservative mindset is that the pie is only so big and if someone else gets a “free piece” there’s less left for yours truly.

    Additionally, that may explain why conservatives don’t give a shit about e.g. global warming. It doesn’t matter to them that the pie as a whole is shrinking as long as they get their piece: starving brown people, drowning pacific islanders (also brown) or subsequent generations be damned.

    Faithful adherence to draconian rules (as opposed to empathy) is then perhaps a nice personal justification for the spite that is spilling from their noses. After all, it sounds so much nicer to be “a law and order” person than to be selfish, spiteful brat.

  27. 27
    DougJ says:

    Bush even explicitly ran as a Compassionate Conservative™.

    Isn’t that an admission that conservatives are not normally compassionate? No one ever had to run as a compassionate liberal — it’s redundant.

  28. 28
    Kevin says:

    @TenguPhule:

    It’s GORN for the frenzied mob.

    GORN. A nice, woody sort of word.

  29. 29
    schtum says:

    Not surprised by the Ayn Rand quote. I’ve always said a libertarian is a conservative who doesn’t have any friends.

  30. 30
    Luthe says:

    @mvr:

    Cheney is only sane on gay marriage because his daughter is gay. If she weren’t, he would be another “gay marriage is destroying America!” Republican.

    Just goes to show that conservatives believe that their views apply to everyone else, but not themselves or their immediate family. (See also: Wilson, Joe and his government-run health care)

  31. 31
    Jack T. says:

    Cheney doesn’t give a fuck. This can’t be news to anyone.

  32. 32
    Elie says:

    mvr:

    The “sane” view on gay marriage is an accident of the fact that his daughter is gay and probably one of the few mammalian, mid brain attributes that he has is a little attachment to his young..

    Beyond, that he is all deep lizard brain and brainstem…

    Everytime that I see his face I just expect a big purple lizard tongue to flit out, quickly. The blinkless stare is the other attribute…

    Hmmm, he would make a nice valise, doncha think? And he would be a heck of a lot more useful that way….

  33. 33
    Wolfdaughter says:

    My father’s politics are somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun’s. However, I would not say that he completely lacks empathy. With people he knows, whose situations he is familiar with, he can be quite empathetic, and he has helped people in the past if he saw a way to do it. I won’t say that he would give the shirt off his back, but how many people do that anyway?

    HOWEVER. He does not have the capacity to imagine the plight of people whom he doesn’t know. When I mentioned the number of uninsured people recently, he blithely dismissed my concern, claiming that these people have RVs and plasma TVs and all sorts of other goodies, and that they are CHOOSING to go without insurance so they can buy frivolous goodies.

    A few years back he said that he’d gone to a Trunk and Tusk meeting, attended by a rancher visiting from the area of Douglas, Arizona. Dad lives in Prescott, AZ, about 90 mi NW of Phoenix. The rancher was complaining that illegals crossing the border (Douglas is right on the border) were breaking into his house, stealing equipment, and even occasionally slaughtering his cattle. I’m sure that this has happened to him, but to what extent, and how does he know that it’s the illegals doing it?

    Anyway, Dad was all sympathetic to the rancher, and ranted about how we should build a fence and shoot anyone illegally crossing, etc. I said that I agreed that these things shouldn’t happen to the rancher, but then I asked Dad to think about why we have an influx of people illegally crossing.

    I tried to get him to imagine walking on foot, or riding in the back of a decidedly unsafe truck, for sometimes 1000s of miles, leaving behind family in a village (family is REALLY important to Mexicans). Coming to a country with a different culture and language, not being sure of actually getting a job once here. Crossing the border. Traveling over the desert in the middle of the summer, or at night in the winter. Food and water opportunities chancy at best. Possibilty of coyotes ripping them off of the perhaps $1000 carefully amassed from the dirt-poor folks in the home village. And why do they do this? Because they’re DESPERATE. I asked Dad, didn’t he think they’d rather remain with their families if they had some way to support them?

    It was as if I was speaking to a blank wall. It just was not on his radar screen. He didn’t even acknowledge that there might be reasons why people put themselves through all of the above. Nope, this one rancher’s property rights were all that mattered, and to hell with the misery of 1000s, even millions, of people. And BTW, it’s not the brown skins. My dad isn’t a racist. But I’ve noticed time and again that he doesn’t appear to be able to put himself into others’ shoes unless he knows them very well.

    And yes, some conservatives ARE psychopaths or sociopaths. Dad is also an authoritarian, and that must go with the territory, to a certain extent.

  34. 34
    The Raven says:

    Hard-line conservatism is human relations conducted without human sympathies. (This, btw, is not autism. Psychologists might call it a personality disorder.)

  35. 35
    JK says:

    @freelancer:

    Correction about Letterman. Tonight’s Letterman show is a rerun.

    This will be a gift to Jay if Dave is on vacation all week.

  36. 36
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Kevin: Win.

    You know, it took me years before I realized that he was actually saying “gone” in that piece.

    “Oh deah. Becka has gone off.”

  37. 37
    Martin says:

    Privilege and compassion are difficult to integrate. Since the modern GOP is all about preserving their white/rich/permanent-majority privilege, they really can’t afford compassion for anyone not in the club or else they elevate them to being deserving of everything they have, and therefore the right of privilege goes away.

    Remember, the socialism charge has little to with economics and everything to do with privilege and status.

  38. 38
    Xanthippas says:

    Leafing through a review of a biography of Ayn Rand…

    There’s really no need to punish yourself in such a fashion for our sakes.

  39. 39
    steve s says:

    @DougJ: It might be a sign they aren’t *normally* compassionate, but the term wouldn’t work if conservatism was defined, in the minds of conservatives, as uncompassionate. It would be contradictory.

  40. 40
    ZIRGAR says:

    As a former conservative, I can tell you that most people that call themselves conservative lack not only the emotional ability to empathize and the honest intellectual capacity to try to see the other side’s position, but they fail to see the need for any of it. They lack an egalitarian and equitable mentality not because they don’t understand it, but because they can’t. Ayn Rand is correct in describing it, but incorrect in declaring it as some sort of cardinal virtue.

  41. 41
    Martin says:

    Hard-line conservatism is human relations conducted without human sympathies.

    Just rename them the Narcissist Party? Works for me – at least for the visible face of the party in the current form.

  42. 42
    steve s says:

    ‘course, that’s not even completely true. You could still refer to Vanilla Ice Cream, even if 90% of Ice Cream sold was Vanilla, and therefore Vanilla was the norm.

  43. 43
    SpotWeld says:

    Empathy is “feeling how others feel”.
    This isn’t what GOP is worried about. Empathy is a “squishy woman-y” thing they use as a label to get away from the real issue.

    We live in a society, this is society is bigger than any one member, or any small group (Small in a group of several million is still big number though).

    Think about the prisoner’s dilemma in game theory. Often the action that results in the overall largest net game for the whole system requires an individual action that is less than optimal for that individual.

    Or more simply, short term games for a small group are often done at a sacrifice for gains for the entire population. It’s been argued a huge amount of human psychology has developed to guides towards those group-gain decision.

    Ayn Rand, and those who disdain empathy are actively trying to get around those instincts so they can have those large individual gains at the overall cost of the population as a whole.

    And when you look at the multi-generational view, they often picking the choice that screws over the next generation… and all this noise is basically the GOP shrieking “why won’t anyone think of the children” when that’s exactly who they *don’t* want you thinking about!!!

  44. 44
    mclaren says:

    Mere indifference is not enough for the conservative. Sadism and brutality is what the conservative craves.

    But it’s not just conservatives who adore torture and cruelty; American society is in love with savage brutality, and always has been. Americans dote on torture, and practiced wateboarding enthusiastically on Filipino insurectos as well as on Viet Cong in Vietnam.

    George Washington was known among the Iroquois as “burner of villages,” and Americans have eagerly tortured and murdered the native population since the founding of the republic. When American ran out of native American indians to slaughter and torture, they turned with even greater sadism and savagery on themselves, organizing lynch mobs against blacks and Jews and Catholics in the early 20th century, including “spectacle lynchings” announced in advance, with people taking chartered trains to watch the victims get murdered, and then took gruesome “souvenirs” (ears, fingers, internal organs) of these atrocities as keepsakes.

    During the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan rose in prominence and torchlight lynching where human beings got burned alive like pieces of meat became a commonplace occurrence in America.

    In the 1940s, Americans got a chance to exercise their sadism and brutality by burning to death more than 100,000 Japanese women and children and old men in a single night with repeated firebombing raids. As General Curtis LeMay remarked in 1945, “If we had had lost this war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.”

    Americans dote on torture and adore agony and torment. The quintessential American motto remains “No pain, no gain.”

    America is a sick twisted brutal country full of sociopaths who love pain and salivate at the prospect of tormenting helpless human beings. 90% of the world’s serial killers are American. The vast majority of the world’s handgun deaths occur in America. The U.S. leads the world in prison rape and excels every other country on the planet in its ability to create new and ever more fiendish torture technology — most recently, the microwave pain ray.

    America is a sinkhole of sadistic depravity inhabited by a population of Leatherfaces. Conservatives are merely the public face of that sadism.

  45. 45
    JK says:

    Reason magazine responds to Chait’s column on Ayn Rand
    http://reason.com/blog/show/136075.html

  46. 46
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Leafing through a review of a biography of Ayn Rand…

    Dammit. I guess since the wingnuts seem to be grasping at this wretched persons scratchings, I am going to have to subject myself to reading it. Just to learn their new plan for inflicting cruelty on others.

  47. 47
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    It would be contradictory.

    When has that ever stopped them? We’re talking about people who want to keep the government out of Medicare.

  48. 48
    wasabi gasp says:

    I’d like to wrap Dick’s nuts in bacon and drop him into the middle of a hungry wolf pack.

    Does that make me as coldblooded as Dick? As bloodthirsty as the wolf? What if I feel bad for the bacon?

  49. 49

    Without a doubt, at the heart of contemporary conservatism is a fantasy of pure resolve, where the strong conservative antagonist is faced with a difficult decision, where the correct and good outcome comes at the cost of offending certain sensibilities, but the strong conservative mind can perform the calculations and see that the best decision is the one that requires that someone suffers pain, loss, injury or death, someone besides the conservative in question, and the conservative resolve will take that decision, the powerful conservative conscience will bravely bare the burden of that decision, the keen conservative intellect will dispatch of the petty emotional appeals to humanity, and history will judge the conservative courageous for having made the right decision where others would have been a servant to their notions or morality. If a decision does not have a human equation, then it is not a decision worth taking, because it doesn’t feed the fantasy, history will have nothing to judge.

    When a conservative weighs in a question or morality, someone’s got to get got.

  50. 50
    slag says:

    @polyorchnid octopunch:

    As far as “autism” goes… that’s pretty much offensive. I’d suggest going with sociopathic… its definition pretty much fits what you’re describing, and autism most certainly doesn’t.

    I’m inclined to agree with this assessment. I can see why autism was brought up because experiments have been done with autistic individuals that indicate that, sometimes, they truly can’t see things from another person’s perspective. But from what I understand of sociopaths and what I understand of conservatives, it seems that sociopath is a more appropriate descriptor for a conservative.

    Personally, I think the conservatives’ almost sociopathic reliance on “self” as a means of filtering the world also explains their lack of appreciation for statistics and other types of factual information. If a particular statistic or piece of information is at odds with their own individual experience, it is de facto WRONG. No further investigation required. And yes, we all have varying degrees of willingness to accept facts that don’t fit our preconceived models of the world, but in the conservatives I’ve grown up with, the tendency borders on pathological. It’s a neurosis that borders on fingers-in-the-ears “Lalalala” childishness in many cases. It fits quite nicely with their disdain for education as well.

    It may seem like stereotyping (and some of it is), but as we all know, some psychological differences between self-described liberals and self-described conservatives have been observed in clinical studies. Of course, it’s all mutable as we see people move across the spectrum, but it starts somewhere. For instance, as a younger person, I was much more conservative and much less empathetic than I am today. And my transition to liberalism didn’t come from any real hardship on my own part but rather my greater understanding of that of others. Much of which came from education, which, as they keep making clear, is anathema to conservatives, in general. But, for me, liberalism and empathy were definitely intertwined. Beyond which, intellectualism–understanding and appreciating cause and effect–also plays a significant factor in my current liberal ideology while I was unappreciative of it when I was more conservative.

  51. 51
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    Here’s some wingnut empathy:

    We picked the cat up from the wingnut vet today. I pointed out the ‘road warrior’ shiny new black pickup equipped with huge off road tires that in all probability will never go off road, bling rims, lift kit, chrome brushguard & winch, topped off with a rear window screen that has the flag and an eagle, with the words:

    UNITED WE STAND
      JOHN MCCAIN

    The icing on the cake is the bumper sticker on back that says I (heart) Water Boarding

    I wonder if he thinks it would ever be ok to waterboard pets? If not, then how can he justify doing it to people?

  52. 52

    s/conservative in question,/conservative in question, of course,/
    s/question or morality/question of morality/

  53. 53
    slag says:

    @General Winfield Stuck: Agreed. Their lack of empathy explains why conservatives are so bad at governing, in general. If you really think you’re going to be welcomed as liberators after invading a foreign nation, you have a mental illness. It’s that simple. Luckily for us, John Cole was cured of his illness before it got worse.

  54. 54
    Martin says:

    And let’s not be too simplistic about this, either – compassion requires work. It’s easier for some people than others, but no matter how easily it comes to you, there are always times that it requires genuine effort, self-reflection, throwing old attitudes out the window, accepting that you got it wrong in the past, etc.

    Entropy favors the conservative attitude.

  55. 55
    gopher2b says:

    Gawd, you are dumb.

  56. 56
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Gawd, you are dumb.

    Whose dumb Gopher? Don’t throw that out without more detail. Just makes you look dumb. And that don;’t take much.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Stooleo says:

    I doubt most conservatives could give a decent definition of the difference between sympathy and empathy. I truly feel that being able to experience empathy is one of those higher human emotions that a lot of folks just don’t get.

  59. 59
    wasabi gasp says:

    Empathy is like a fixation on the kerning, amirite?

  60. 60
    Martin says:

    Gawd, you are dumb.

    ZOMG! You’re right! Your powers of debate and reasoning have convinced us all!

    Gopher/Palin 2012! Someone, quick, get me a misspelled sign comparing Obama to the Borg queen!

  61. 61

    I’m almost afraid to comment in this thread, given that my handle gives the locals the vapors in threads like these, but I think that maybe this social autism and “sociopathy” is going to far when it comes to the individuals. Sure, as a “movement” or an ideal, it’s sociopathic and crazy through and through. On the other hand, not everyone who might subscribe to one or more wingnut ideals is quite so far gone as Cheney or as passionate about a particular philosophy as Rand was. For the same reason we might have been offended at the notion that Obama was a cult of personality, I think it’s unfair to blanket all conservatives as sociopathic wingnuts (not that they don’t have the reigns at the moment).

  62. 62
    gopher2b says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    I don’t want to make it too complicated for you so I will reduce it to basic arithmetic:

    Ayn Rand + Dick Cheney = Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  63. 63
    stickler says:

    Modern USA conservatism is a toxic combination of pre-1789 peasant thinking (as per Taibbi), with a big dose of Puritan “I Got Mine” Xtianity, and a nice dollop of Manchester Liberalism. You know, the stuff Dickens held up to savage ridicule with phrases like, “Are there no workhouses?”

    The modern “conservative” movement is at an interesting crossroads: Goldwaterites and Neoconfederates and Neocons are scrabbling for the leftovers, since they’re out of power and only enjoy the scrutiny of CNN.

    Who will emerge? Hard to say. Certain is: the Mainstream Conservamedia will feature the craziest motherfucker, and his two hundred best friends.

  64. 64
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @TheFountainHead:

    For the same reason we might have been offended at the notion that Obama was a cult of personality, I think it’s unfair to blanket all conservatives as sociopathic wingnuts (not that they don’t have the reigns at the moment).

    But no one is doing that here, are they? You would be hard-pressed to argue that a good portion of wingnuts these days seem to have sociopathic tendencies when it comes to their fellow countryperson, as well as human beings in general.

  65. 65
    Midnight Marauder says:

    “don’t seem to have.”

    Edit function. I want one. Etc.

  66. 66
    stickler says:

    Mr. The Fountainhead Person:

    Call me when Obama rams through his health care/concentration camps program. Until then, paranoid rantings about our President have to prove themselves before they emerge from the “McVeigh Crazy Nutjob Box”.

    Sorry, just H1N1 Best Practices.

  67. 67
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @TheFountainHead:

    I think it’s unfair to blanket all conservatives as sociopathic wingnuts (not that they don’t have the reigns at the moment).

    Point taken. I know plenty of conservatives who employ conservative ideology in their personal lives and are not sociopaths.

    We deal mostly with the crazies here and they seem to be running the GOP these days. My comments on this thread were directed at the movement in general, though the inmates are obviously running the asylum and as someone else noted, it is, a by and large saturated with southern resentment and rebellion. The tertiary stage of the “southern strategy” begun by Nixon.

    My own personal life could be described as conservative these days, at least in some ways/ The point is that conservatism is a failed governing philosophy for a country that claims to be moral, and is separate from individual lifestyle.

  68. 68
    Sean says:

    If conservatives were truly empathetic or “compassionate”, it would never even occur to them to use a term like “Compassionate Conservatism.”

    Its like a used-car salesman trying to clinch a sale by referring to his clunker as “non-exploding.”

    -Sean

  69. 69
    gopher2b says:

    @TheFountainHead:

    Don’t bother. The food has been thrown out.

    Though, one might ask Scooter Libby if Cheney has “empathy” (as “empathy” is defined on this post and not it actual meaning). Or, ask Cheney’s daughters if Cheney has “empathy” (again, incorrectly used) for his grandkids.

    The OBVIOUS answer is that of course Cheney has the capactiy for empathy; he probably lacks a tremendous amount of sympathy for the people the balloon-juice bitchitry cares about. Ascribing Cheney’s (perceived) lack of empathy onto an entire political party (especially one that fights for the rights of fetuses) is just stupid.

    Everything else is about maintaining acquired power. Nothing more, nothing less.

  70. 70

    @Midnight Marauder: All I’m saying is that there’s a tendency to paint with a broad brush sometimes, and I don’t think that you’re average conservative these days has the same level of hardcore crazy that it takes to get to Cheney or Randian levels.

  71. 71
    Martin says:

    But no one is doing that here, are they?

    Nope. I don’t pretend that the tea partiers, neocons, and the like represent the rank and file of the GOP. They’re generally exceptional. But group attitudes can easily outgrow the individuals participating. I doubt many of the people eagerly calling for torture have the stones to do it themselves, and taken out range of the wurlitzer I doubt most of them ever would have called for it. But none of them bother taking the time while they’re piling on to consider that in order for their master plan to work, someone really *would* have to do it.

  72. 72
    Cain says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal):

    We picked the cat up from the wingnut vet today. I pointed out the ‘road warrior’ shiny new black pickup equipped with huge off road tires that in all probability will never go off road, bling rims, lift kit, chrome brushguard & winch, topped off with a rear window screen that has the flag and an eagle, with the words:

    Perhaps a midnight waterboarding visit is in order? :-) Keep waterboarding until he takes the sticker off! On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t his but his kid or something? You never know. Hard to believe that someone who takes care of animals of all types (other than dogs) would not have empathy.

    cain

    ps kidding on the waterboarding, nobody should be waterboarded. However, I do hope tha by random chance, a thousand fleas decide to harass his face.

  73. 73
    Kineslaw says:

    @SpotWeld:
    I wonder if this explains Repubs disdain for military personnel. Sending the military to war requires a lack of empathy for everyone that will be effected by the decision, including soldiers and their families. However, the military can’t function without personal sacrifice for the good of the group.

    You also see this in the torture debate. Even if torture works, I’m willing to face the small increase in risk so military personnel don’t face a medium increase in risk. Conservatives don’t seem willing to compromise their safety at all.

    I hypothesize this creates some cognitive dissonance that conservatives get over by putting yellow ribbons on their car.

  74. 74
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Ayn Rand + Dick Cheney = Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    I have no idea what this means.

  75. 75

    I’m pretty sure there are two versions of conservatives who frequently get linked and even mistaken as one. There are people who follow the natural human resistance to change farther than many and then there are the sociopaths this thread seems to concentrate on.

    My County voted in favor of a definition of marriage as between a man and woman – since the OR Constitution didn’t specify. Some were quite happy with the idea that the vote would hurt homosexuals, I think this is the group being discussed. A large number were concerned that something they understood at a near organic level – marriage – was in danger of becoming something different or more than their understanding. This is a different thing.

    I don’t apologize for either group, nor do I approve of that vote but the process of getting to it was different in each case. This is an important consideration in political approaches, the sociopaths are unreachable but a proper approach can defuse much of the other’s resistance. It is politically and socially stupid and counter-productive to confuse and conflate the realities of opponents – you set yourself up for a loss. (see CA)

  76. 76
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @TheFountainHead:

    All I’m saying is that there’s a tendency to paint with a broad brush sometimes, and I don’t think that you’re average conservative these days has the same level of hardcore crazy that it takes to get to Cheney or Randian levels.

    Point taken, and it is a valid one. However, I think you and I differ on just how crazy the average “conservative” is these days. Sure, most can’t get to the plane of Cheney or Rand, but that’s a pretty elite level.

    There’s still a whole lot of high-grade crazy in the void between the base and Cheney/Rand.

  77. 77
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JK:

    Damn, that was funny. I kept expecting Doherty to break into a chorus of this song.

  78. 78
    psycholinguist says:

    You’ve stumbled upon, I think, something called the “just-world fallacy”. Basically, it is the rigid belief that good things happen to good people, and that the world is orderly and just, so people get what’s coming to them.

    Your observations about Dick’s lack of empathy fit right in line with this – why should he empathize with people? Hell, they got what was coming to them.

    Also explains why some of these assholes believe that no innocent person was ever tortured or executed, why they don’t need to support programs for the unemployed, uninsured, or anything else that helps people down on their luck – why should they? Those people obviously had it coming.

    And when something bad happens to them? Blame it on the “bad” people, you know the poor, the immigrants, the helpless groups in our society, because obviously the rich executives must be rich because of their righteousness, and the poor because of their badness.

    Psychologists have studied this about conservatives/right wingers for quite a long time. The conclusion, in layman’s terms, is that these people are fat nasty assholes.

  79. 79
    Cain says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    My County voted in favor of a definition of marriage as between a man and woman – since the OR Constitution didn’t specify. Some were quite happy with the idea that the vote would hurt homosexuals, I think this is the group being discussed. A large number were concerned that something they understood at a near organic level – marriage – was in danger of becoming something different or more than their understanding. This is a different thing.

    Well said, Chuck. We do need to make that difference. There is a third group who cares about neither one, but is willing to exploit both for personal gain.

    cain

  80. 80
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Or, ask Cheney’s daughters if Cheney has “empathy” (again, incorrectly used) for his grandkids.

    Even a mother Crocodile has this kind of empathy. Maybe we should ask the kids and grandkids of the 100 plus thousand innocent Iraqi dead about DicK Cheney’s empathy level.

  81. 81
    slag says:

    @TheFountainHead: I agree that it’s a broad brush. But you also don’t have to be as severe as Cheney or Rand to have sociopathic tendencies. All you have to do is be unable to understand and appreciate someone else’s experience. Some people are more capable of doing this than others. It may be safe to say that those who are more capable are more liberal. And it’s not like the “unempathetic” label is one that we’re forcing on conservatives; it’s a label that they actively covet in many circumstances.

  82. 82
    Sly says:

    For the same reason we might have been offended at the notion that Obama was a cult of personality, I think it’s unfair to blanket all conservatives as sociopathic wingnuts (not that they don’t have the reigns at the moment).

    Even the most blatantly idiotic crap the left came out with in the past decade, Trutherism, was utterly scorned by virtually every Democrat who had a microphone stuck in his or her face. Whether they held elected office or were retired from politics. Bill Maher kicked them out of his audience, for chrissakes.

    You will scarcely find a sitting Republican who is doing likewise vis-a-vis the current batshit craziness the rump of the right is tossing about. Republican members of congress were triumphantly addressing a crowd that where holding up signs of the President of the United States dressed up as an African Witch-Doctor. Where people were holding up signs that read “Bury ObamaCare with Ted Kennedy”.

    Saying nothing in the face of wanton douchebaggery is tacit approval of it.

  83. 83
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gopher2b:

    Though, one might ask Scooter Libby if Cheney has “empathy” (as “empathy” is defined on this post and not it actual meaning).

    You think Cheney wanted Libby to get a pardon because he felt sorry for him and not out of completely rational self-interest to prevent Libby from potentially testifying against him?

    Dude, you owe me a keyboard.

  84. 84
    wasabi gasp says:

    That broad brush ain’t wastin’ much paint.

  85. 85

    @Cain:

    willing to exploit both for personal gain.

    Agreed, I was thinking in terms of voters rather than their manipulators who I’m fairly sure don’t actually have an ideology, other than power.

  86. 86
    slag says:

    @psycholinguist: Interesting. The paradox in the wingers’ belief in the just-world fallacy is that so many of them see themselves as victims. You’d think that, if they truly believed the world were just, they’d stop whining for like 2 seconds.

  87. 87
    Martin says:

    There’s still a whole lot of high-grade crazy in the void between the base and Cheney/Rand.

    At issue is who is given the stage to speak on behalf of the party.

    We’ve heard repeatedly now that a large number of conservatives are worried about Rush/Beck/Palin owning the party’s message, yet they seem to be doing nothing about it. Hint: If you allow your spokespeople to put forward a sociopathic message, the public will assume you’re a sociopathic party.

  88. 88
    Mnemosyne says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    Even a mother Crocodile has this kind of empathy.

    Hell, a mother crocodile has more empathy than that — if a juvenile crocodile makes a distress call, any adult in the vicinity will respond, not just the actual parents.

    The stuff on pack behavior in crocodiles is pretty interesting, too. Who knew they had more compassion for their own species than Republicans do?

  89. 89
    gopher2b says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Wow.

    Most people fold BEFORE their criminal trials but I guess things are different in your world.

  90. 90
    Eric U. says:

    somewhere I saw it reported that Dick Cheney thought Ford’s big mistake was not to have a war because of the political power it brought. For a man with multiple deferments, this is particularly sociopathic.

  91. 91

    @slag:

    paradox in the wingers’ belief in the just-world fallacy is

    that there really are victims and everybody including them knows it.

    “I earned it and you didn’t,” is a bit different and this is one reason for the stress on the idea that homosexuality is a voluntary condition or that poverty is the result of laziness or that … well the list is pretty long. Put into religious terms, “God rewards those who…”

    I read quite a bit of Rand in the late 60s because it was supposed to say something. I thought, “pretty fair stories populated by unlikable characters.” Harlan Ellison did that much better…

  92. 92
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gopher2b:

    Most people fold BEFORE their criminal trials but I guess things are different in your world.

    Tell it to George Ryan. If only people who hadn’t been convicted yet had testified against him, he’d be a free man today.

    “Law & Order” isn’t actually how the courts work, you know. Out here in the real world, people who’ve been convicted cut deals with prosecutors all the time. What, you thought jailhouse snitches cut deals with prosecutors to inform on their fellow prisoners out of a disinterested love for humanity and not for reduced time or more privileges?

  93. 93
    RandyH says:

    More and more I am coming to believe that the Cheney/Rand/Neo-Con syndrome is an actual neurological disorder, where the Limbic brain (empathy, emotion, happiness, shame, behavior) is somehow underdeveloped or defective and the Reptile brain (basic body functions, self-preservation, hoarding, fear, fight/flight and other instincts) is left to run the store with very little assistance from the neo-cortex (long-term memory, logic, reason.)

    It would explain alot. Maybe we should push for some NIH money to study this tragic affliction. Or maybe not. If we were to prove it a disability, they would have an excuse for their asshole-ism and accuse us of hate crimes for calling them out on it. Oh the victimhood they could enjoy.

  94. 94
    gopher2b says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Presumably, you are talking about Fawell? He testified because the feds were going to put his fiance (and mother of two kids) in jail. There was a rather lenghty article about it in the Suntimes last weekend.

    My understanding of Scooter’s case is that Mrs. Scooter was in the clear…but maybe you know something I don’t. Though, under your theory, perhaps Scooter was going to trade Cheney’s head for fifteen and not thirty days in the slammer.

    -Yours Truly,
    A Chicago Lawyer

  95. 95
    ninerdave says:

    On a somewhat related note, I’ve been following Charles Johnson’s spat with teh wingnuts over at LGF.

    Might he be the next John Cole?

    He’s already in the process of being ostracized from the fold. Can illumination be next?

    Personally, even if he doesn’t become the liberal that Cole is now, I welcome anyone…him, Frum, fighting back against the insanity that is the Wingnuts. Someone with whom, I may disagree, but at least has his feet soundly planted in reality.

  96. 96
    ninerdave says:

    Following my last post I point you to this LFG post:

    http://littlegreenfootballs.co....._Fail_Mode

    I’d quote it in full, but he deserves the clicks. Trust me, it’s worth it.

  97. 97
    Juicifer says:

    I’ve long been of the opinion that a congenital lack of empathy explains the vast majority of conservatives. But one thing I’ve never been able to understand is why Christianity appeals to so many of these same people. I’m pretty sure the answer to the question “What Would Jesus Do?” is not “Torture the motherfucking assholes” or “Shoot the fuckers crossing the border.” Christianity presents empathy as one of its core principles: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Yet you’d never know it from the behavior or beliefs espoused by your typical fundamentalist Christian.

  98. 98

    @gopher2b:

    I guess things are different in your world.

    Aren’t you up past your bed time? Like way past?

    Prosecutors have two real levers with criminals, one is fear of a conviction and the other is fear of a sentence, they aren’t the same and don’t necessarily occur at the same time.

    Criminals who have some confidence that they’ll get off aren’t too subject to the one but once convicted start to have real doubts. Libby was powerful and had very powerful friends, he was pretty sure of himself until… He also got essentially a slap on the wrist despite some’s hopes he faced financial ruin. Not happening in his world and with his “concerned friends.” There’ll be no blockbuster tell-all book needed to retrieve his fortunes.

  99. 99
    Mnemosyne says:

    My understanding of Scooter’s case is that Mrs. Scooter was in the clear…but maybe you know something I don’t. Though, under your theory, perhaps Scooter was going to trade Cheney’s head for fifteen and not thirty days in the slammer.

    People will do a lot to avoid even one day in the slammer. I’m sure that having the person you could potentially testify against assure you that you would totally get a full pardon if you did happen to be convicted might also have been a factor in Libby’s case.

    But, whatever. Yes, yes, you must be right, Cheney was motivated by a pure love of I. Lewis Libby and not by any instinct to cover his own ass. Foolish mortals we are to impugn such a compassionate man when he does everything in his power (which, as it turned out, wasn’t much) to get his friend a pardon that just happens to directly benefit himself. I’m sure the reason Bush commuted Libby’s sentence was out of pure compassion for Libby, too. Such altruists.

  100. 100
    Jimmy Jazz says:

    Yeah, this is the closest description to reality. These folks really believe themselves to be good people, willing to lend a hand, “good family man”, etc. but are utterly incapable of recognizing the essential humanity of anyone outside their little campfire. Unevolved above basic hunter gatherers, and stuck with a zero sum world view.

  101. 101
    Mnemosyne says:

    Remember when Harry Whittington was forced to apologize for being so clumsy as to get himself shot in the face by ol’ Dick? What a sweet guy Cheney is, standing up for his friend in public and taking full responsibility for his own actions. I’m surprised a Nobel Peace Prize hasn’t come his way yet.

  102. 102
    gopher2b says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s frustrating when facts get in the way of the narrative. I know. I’m empathetic.

  103. 103
    eyelessgame says:

    What little I know of Ayn Rand suggests that she had Asperger’s or HFA (I’m the father of an Aspie, but my son thankfully picked up on the idea of compassion very early, and these days is a lot more like a paladin than a randroid.)

    In my view Objectivism is in essence an autistic philosophy, but with a sociopathic component: it is a philosophy that appeals especially to those with HFA or Aspergers (those of us with the tools to communicate effectively and empathize instinctively know better than to take it at all seriously), but its true evil is that it takes these vulnerable people and — in the guise of celebrating them for who they are — tempts them into sociopathy.

  104. 104
    Fulcanelli says:

    So?

  105. 105
    Fulcanelli says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal): I’d find a new vet, and I don’t give a fuck how far away he was.

  106. 106
    pants says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    “I earned it and you didn’t,” is a bit different and this is one reason for the stress on the idea that homosexuality is a voluntary condition

    Sex is a voluntary choice, or else it’s rape. I have yet meet a woman who would sleep with a man unless she gave permission. In fact we have laws against this.

    For a man to lay down with another man is a choice, if this wasn’t the case we’d have a law against it. This is what the Constitution dictates: we are free to choose.

  107. 107
    Martin says:

    if this wasn’t the case we’d have a law against it.

    Um, we do have laws against it.

  108. 108
    pants says:

    @Martin:

    Um, we do have laws against it.

    We do?

    In what state is it illegal to have sex with someone of the same sex?

  109. 109
    Fulcanelli says:

    @Martin: “We’ve heard repeatedly now that a large number of conservatives are worried about Rush/Beck/Palin owning the party’s message, yet they seem to be doing nothing about it.”

    That’s because they know first hand how twisted this bunch is. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  110. 110
    de stijl says:

    # 77 Mnemosyne,

    Thanks for the Tracy Ullman linkage, I haven’t heard that song in so long and I’d forgotten just how powerful that little “Bay-bee!” in the middle bridge is.

    I’m not to proud to admit that you got me chair dancing; a kind of sitting-down twist.

    Thanks!

  111. 111
    Martin says:

    In what state is it illegal to have sex get married with someone of the same sex?

    Lots. Why does the state have a greater interest in one rather than the other when in all other cases that I can think of they don’t distinguish? Choices work both ways, you know.

    And lots of states still have sodomy laws on the books, though they aren’t enforceable any longer.

  112. 112

    @ninerdave: By the time I ran across LGF he’d gone full bonkers warblogger (post 9/11), but as I understand it up till that day Johnson had been a pretty inconsequential tech blogger, right?

    If that’s the case, maybe he’s finally started to get his brains back.

  113. 113
    pants says:

    @Martin:

    Lots:

    Name one.

    And lots of states still have sodomy laws on the books, though they aren’t enforceable any longer.

    Thank you. You’ve made my point.

  114. 114
    Drive By Wisdom says:

    Some would say the sociopaths are those who did not give a hoot about the 50 millions that are now free.

    They filled the airways with their faux tears and outrage for those who died, and as soon as The One took office, their protest signs littered the street. Only the proprietors most hated lefty wanders alone with her protest sign at Martha’s Vineyard and Dallas.

    At least there is one lefty who is not a hypocrite.

  115. 115

    @pants:

    Sex is a voluntary choice, or else it’s rape.

    Dumbass, who are you arguing with? You quote me and then argue something completely different to tell me I’m wrong? I know using the faculties your god gave you is difficult at best but the word “condition” is not the same as “sex” and you’ve therefor written nothing applicable.

    If you must troll, try doing a better job of it.

  116. 116

    @mclaren

    America is a sick twisted brutal country full of sociopaths who love pain and salivate at the prospect of tormenting helpless human beings. 90% of the world’s serial killers are American. The vast majority of the world’s handgun deaths occur in America. The U.S. leads the world in prison rape and excels every other country on the planet in its ability to create new and ever more fiendish torture technology—most recently, the microwave pain ray.
    America is a sinkhole of sadistic depravity inhabited by a population of Leatherfaces. Conservatives are merely the public face of that sadism.

    I guess that means that your dream of massive non-violent resistance against the powers that be where we storm the White House, drag Obama out and make him listen to us is so much self-righteous left-wing wanking then.

  117. 117
    wasabi gasp says:

    @Drive By Wisdom: That’s the shittiest poem I ever read, daddy-o.

  118. 118
    pants says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Dumbass, who are you arguing with?

    Wow, I thought one of the halmarks of this blog was that John let all views be shared. No need to be vulgar.

    You quote me and then argue something completely different to tell me I’m wrong?

    How am I arguing something completely different? You say (again even below) that homosexuality is a “condition”, which implies that it is above someone will. This is not true as I’ve demonstrated.

    I know using the faculties your god gave you is difficult at best but the word “condition” is not the same as “sex” and you’ve therefor written nothing applicable.

    I never said condition was the same as sex. There are plenty of homos and heteros that don’t have sex. It’s a choice and that is my point.

  119. 119
    pants says:

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    How do you make that quote by @mclaren appear in a grey box?

  120. 120
    ninerdave says:

    Holy shit, Charles Johnson is going full Cole:

    http://littlegreenfootballs.co.....ectric_Car

    His overnight thread features a TMBG:

    Here’s your traditional overnight open thread, with another excellent video from the new kids’ album by They Might Be Giants, Here Comes Science.

    He not only is making fun of the beck wingnuts…he endorses science!! Next thing you know he’ll be linked by Kos.

  121. 121

    @pants: appear in a grey box?

    Like that? In this example replace the parenthesis with the less than sign and the bracket with the greater than sign:

    (blockquote] copy and paste quote (/blockquote]

  122. 122

    @pants:

    appear in a grey box?

    damn, like that?

  123. 123
    BruceK says:

    I think Dorothy Parker had the value of Ayn Rand’s writing pegged:

    “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly.

    It should be thrown with great force.”

    Can’t remember whether she was referring to The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.

  124. 124

    @pants

    @Wile E. Quixote:
    How do you make that quote by @mclaren appear in a grey box?

    With my mighty Jedi powers!
    I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you, which would just be further proof of mclaren’s hypothesis that America is a sadistic brutal and savage nation composed of leatherfaces.
    Foolish mortals, to think your ape brains could comprehend the mastery of the Krell!
    I used the blockquote tag, which may or may not work on any given day on WordPress. You put the word “blockquote” in front of the text you want to quote and surround it with a left alligator bracket (or less than sign) and a right alligator bracket (or greater than sign) At the end of the text you’re quoting you put the word “/blockquote” surrounded with a left alligator bracket (or less than sign) and a right alligator bracket (or greater than sign. Personally I like alligator brackets, although no one knows what the Hell I’m talking about when I use the phrase.)

  125. 125

    I can also tell you how to use naughty, spanky no-no words such as soⅽⅰaⅼⅰsm, Ⅽⅰaⅼⅰs, pharⅿaⅽy, Ⅴⅰagra, Ⅼeⅴⅰtra, Aⅾⅾeraⅼⅼ and Oⅹyⅽontⅰn without ending up in moderation limbo. Oh, and there was supposed to be an ordered list in the last post, which would have made it somewhat more coherent and amusing (well at least in my mind) but I guess that’s not one of the HTML tags that WordPress will let us use.

  126. 126
    Xenos says:

    The willful choice of villains to refuse to feel empathy is an old trope. Examples include Lady Macbeth and the Nazi prisoner in Borges’ Deutsches Requiem. Whether or not this willful choice is psychologically true rather than a useful literary signal is analysis above my pay grade.

    What is remarkable here is that Rand puts this dramatic moment-where-someone-decides-to-be-evil in the character of her protagonist. Maybe it is supposed to be brave and heroic of her protagonist to be so plainly amoral. Why this is supposed to work, and does work with many readers, is beyond me. Is there a moment like this in Mein Kampf?

  127. 127
    Anne Laurie says:

    And let’s not be too simplistic about this, either – compassion requires work. It’s easier for some people than others, but no matter how easily it comes to you, there are always times that it requires genuine effort, self-reflection, throwing old attitudes out the window, accepting that you got it wrong in the past, etc.

    Very small children are almost universally conservative. That’s why there are so many jokes, for instance, about beleagured parents forced to re-read some ‘beloved’ kiddy-book for the hundredth time (and goddess forbid you try and change one word or worst still, attempt to skip ahead). Most of us, even the non-neurotypical, eventually develop some concept that we are surrounded by different minds whose tastes may be valid even when they are not identical to ours. The sociopath, and his minion the authoritarian, never makes this intellectual leap.

  128. 128
    aimai says:

    Lack of empathy? Just world fantasies? Weird religious beliefs? Mere bigotry? Failure of Imagination? Why not all of the above?

    aimai

  129. 129

    Gads zooks having a preview feature was pretty nice…once upon a time.

    Pants:

    John let all views be shared

    My name is not John and if you reply to him with such stupidity you’ll likely get hided, also. You’ve replied with an argument with yourself and I’m still unimpressed. What is it about choices that you are so enamored of? Every action or inaction is a choice, like your decision to be a dumbass in response to my statement. Since my statement regarded people who see the condition of homosexuality as a choice I have no idea why you take that personally enough to debate it with me when you aren’t debating that.

    I could give less than a rat’s ass about your religious leanings or homophobia or whatever it is that’s driving you to plop yourself into a discussion of something else. You’re managing to make yourself the poster child of much of this thread regarding a lack of empathy and sociopathy. It is actually pretty funny how the concept of homosexual sex stops up some of your brains leading to drivel dribbling from your keyboard.

    Maybe you’d like to explain about the choices that make the most emphatically Christianist states of the Confederacy the leaders in divorce, teen pregnancies, and incest? I should want some of that crap for my nicely blue state? Thanks, no.

  130. 130

    How the hell did I just end up in moderation???? I never mentioned footwear, soshulism, or anything close. Don’t tell me homosecksual secks is it?

  131. 131
  132. 132
  133. 133
    ds says:

    pants, having homosexual sex is a choice, being homosexual isn’t.

    A heterosexual doesn’t have sex doesn’t stop being a heterosexual. A homosexual who doesn’t have sex doesn’t stop being a homosexual.

    Conservatives support anti-gay discrimination regardless of whether said gays are celibate or not.

    They justify this on the basis that homosexuality is just a choice and that gays could be straight if they wanted to.

  134. 134
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Chuck Butcher: Homosexual sex in moderation is fine, just like anything in moderation.

    It’s the excessive stuff that gets you.

  135. 135
    A Mom Anon says:

    @mclaren:

    I’d love to know why it is that America seems to be an incubator for so many seriously dysfunctional people. For awhile I thought it was just our”news”and their focus on missing white women and children(who nearly always end up dead). But it really does seem like we have more compassionless and empty souls than other places.

    Why? Is it that we’ve never truly reconciled that our nation is founded in part on slavery and genocide? I sometimes wonder if we had dealt with this if it would make bloodsport and gun fetishes less common. The nation as a whole seems very heartless to me.

    Of course I live in the South,in a really red county outside Atlanta and I have an autistic child. We have not been treated well by this community. People are not teaching their kids to care for each other,in fact,it seems like an awful lot of folks are going out of their way to teach a mean and hateful spirit.

    Has anyone here read The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen? Not many people have read this guy’s work,it’s astounding. He explains alot of this cultural pathology pretty well I think,but not alot of people like delving as deep as he goes.

  136. 136
    Ann B. Nonymous says:

    I’ve seen a number of high functioning people on the autistic spectrum adopt Randian libertarianism. But I think it’s for the same reason other people do: it provides a simple and powerful validation for the embittered and set-apart that tells them, if only they were left alone, they would do better than following the rules of society, the same reason Rand appeals to boys in their teens so much.

    (For some of them, it does seem the lack of a strong “theory of mind” predisposes them to Rand’s politics. But consider: if that’s the case, why are they interested in politics at all? It must be more complex than that.)

    For many Randians, I think it’s the transgressive nature of Rand’s ideas that appeals. Spite, a little thrill of wickedness, épater le bourgeois. It gives them a tingle when they can be assholes and get away with it. Rand, as a vulgar Nietzschean, certainly understood that motivation.

    I wouldn’t call it sociopathic.

  137. 137
    Scott says:

    I haven’t heard anything about Charles Johnson renouncing his beliefs about how awesome it is to kill brown people. Until he does, he still fits in a lot better on the right than on the left.

  138. 138
    W. Kiernan says:

    gopher2b: Though, one might ask Scooter Libby if Cheney has “empathy” (as “empathy” is defined on this post and not it actual meaning). Or, ask Cheney’s daughters if Cheney has “empathy” (again, incorrectly used) for his grandkids.

    The OBVIOUS answer is that of course Cheney has the capactiy for empathy; he probably lacks a tremendous amount of sympathy for the people the balloon-juice bitchitry cares about…

    You must have skimmed past the big quote sitting right in the middle of the article:

    “Those who have known him [Cheney] over the years remain astounded by what they describe as his almost autistic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others. ‘He has the least interest in human beings of anyone I have ever met,’ says John Perry Barlow, his former supporter. Cheney’s freshman-year roommate, Steve Billings, agrees: ‘If I could ask Dick one question, I’d ask him how he could be so unempathetic.’”

    The point is not that Cheney is indifferent to far-away people he dislikes anyway. Everyone not a saint is. The point is that all his life, Cheney has been inappropriately indifferent to people like the person who lives in the same room with him, to the extent that that guy remembers it decades later as the most striking attribute of Cheney’s personality.

    Ascribing Cheney’s (perceived) lack of empathy onto an entire political party (especially one that fights for the rights of fetuses) is just stupid.

    Cheney ran the Republican party for a decade. and surrounded himself with like-thinking sociopaths. Overt humanity was a firing offense in his inner circle. Name me one empathetic character he ever appointed.

  139. 139
    Jim Pharo says:

    McLaren – I think the historical view is important. I don’t think there’s anything “congenital” about it, it’s purely social.

    From its founding, America has had a sort of “chip on its shoulder.” From the first ostracized religious fanatics (who were neither tolerated nor tolerant), to the 2d, 3d and 4th sons of the wealthy who were denied wealth and prestige by the oldest sons, America has always had people who were pissed at being 2d class citizens.

    This has been the source of hatred that has been brutally taken out on others. What we’re seeing now, I think, is the first time where there is no ready outlet — no Indians, no heretics, no Masons, no blacks — why, even hating Mexicans is wearing out, somehow.

    There is deeply ingrained culture in this country that has long relied on hating others as a way to feel better about the 2d class status of the haters. And oddly, never aimed at the rich and powerful. In fact, many of the rich and powerful are leaders of the hate movement. (How many Confederate soldiers fought and died to protect the right of a small minority of rich people to continue to exploit slave labor to (further) enrich themselves?)

    The conservatives now represent that part of the nation. Soon, it will either sink them or they will foresake it, as the far better nature of the vast majority (helped by the constant inflow of immigrants!) soon asserts itself.

  140. 140
    de stijl says:

    Name me one empathetic character he ever appointed.

    John Yoo.

    Oops! Sorry, wrong answer.

  141. 141
    de stijl says:

    (Stepping on my own joke..)

    Cheney ran the Republican party for a decade. and surrounded himself with like-thinking sociopaths. Overt humanity was a firing offense in his inner circle. Name me one empathetic character he ever appointed.

    Bush got kind of wobbly in the last part of his second term. Post Rumsfeld he was arguably humanesque.

  142. 142
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    The equation that correlates petroleum production with world human carrying capacity is 4.5 new barrels of oil per year equals one additional person on earth. We are at or near peak oil.

    Catabolysis is the process by which the body starts to eat itself when not fed from outside food sources. It is reportedly very painful. Eventually fungi grows in the esophagus, making it difficult to eat, even in the presence of food.

    Manure is a renewable fertilizer, but the fertilizer which feeds the growing African biomass is generated with natural gas, a petroleum product.

    Compared with Mother Theresa, Ayn Rand is a Saint. Mother Theresa, and those like her who feed dependent populations without insisting on sterilization, will cause human suffering this century, which will make Hilter’s 80 million insignificant. And they still walk around smiling. They don’t seem to care. It gives them self-satisfaction. It gives them a purpose in life.

    They treat men like pets for their own self-stimulation. This is the true greed.

  143. 143
    kay says:

    I think it has to be personal for some people. Cheney’s actually a good example of that, regarding his daughter.

    On a personal level, conservatives can be helpful and compassionate. I have experienced this.

    I used to run a mail route. My official job was “city carrier”, but it was in a tiny town. The average income in that place was probably 15,000 a year. On snowy days or rainy days, people were so generous and sympathetic I was embarrassed. I made more than any of them. I’d be standing on this wreck of a porch with plywood in the windows dropping off that day’s flyer and they’d be all worried that my hat was soaked through. I would collect all this stuff around Christmas. Cookies, popcorn balls, coffee cups with mail-related slogans on them. They were rabid, rural conservatives.

  144. 144
    WereBear says:

    @J: I agree.

    Maybe part of the conservative mindset is that the pie is only so big and if someone else gets a “free piece” there’s less left for yours truly.

    I’m convinced they do think this way. I have a friend who bounces off wingnut rantings on me; I know she doesn’t think this way, but doesn’t know how to counter them when she’s in a group where they appear.

    One notable point was the Stimulus: I explained that when you are out of a job you do need to watch your spending, but if the car breaks down, which is more sensible: fix the car so you can get to interviews, and eventually work, or not fix the car under the guise of “saving?”

    Over and over these wingnut tropes assume a fixed state. There’s seemingly no perception of growing anything. It must be part of the conservative mindset.

    But if you read Altemeyer, you come to understand their thinking as not part of an integrated whole; but watertight compartments where thoughts are kept from connecting. It explains why they hold so many contradictory thoughts, and why they can’t follow any line of thought to its logical conclusion.

    It might also explain why some of them will take in a stray who begs at their own door, but won’t stir a step for some hypothetical stray who is somewhere else. Only what is right in front of them is part of their world.

  145. 145

    @TenguPhule:

    GORN?

    Please explain. I am only an egg.

  146. 146
    bago says:

    If you believe in intelligent design then you believe all of the exception cases are handled by your current framework, and there can be no such thing as an oversight in the operational instructions.

  147. 147
    kay says:

    The Democratic National Committee says in a TV ad that “Republicans voted to abolish Medicare.” Not true.

    The ad refers to a proposal endorsed by most House Republicans as part of the alternative budget they presented earlier this year. In fact, the GOP plan actually called for:

    * Preserving the current Medicare program for anyone now receiving it, or within 10 years of qualifying for it.
    * For those now under age 55, converting Medicare to a system of private, government-approved health insurance plans purchased mostly with government payments.

    Andrew Sullivan is having a nervous breakdown over this “lie”. But, it’s not a lie. They voted to abolish Medicare (as we know it) for those now 55 and under.

  148. 148
    Steaming Pile says:

    You just inspired a lol at Pundit Kitchen. You don’t have to browse long before finding a snarling Dick Cheney pic to use. I made it into a “motivational” poster titled “SOCIOPATHY” with the caption “kind of the opposite of Socialism, right?”. It’ll probably get favorited dozens of times; it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  149. 149
    kay says:

    And, WHY do they want to extend Medicare Advantage to the whole Medicare system?

    It costs taxpayers more than Medicare. It’s a huge failure.

    Why do Republicans want to expand the failure of Medicare Advantage?

  150. 150
    BruceK says:

    @J.D. Rhoades:

    “Gorn” is a portmanteau of “gore” and “porn”. Probably the ur-examples would be the “Saw” films and stuff of that ilk.

  151. 151
    Surly Duff says:

    Leafing through a review of a biography of Ayn Rand…
    I fell asleep because the woman’s life was even less interesting than her books. I’m sure the bio was shorter than The Fountainhead.

  152. 152
    Morbo says:

    @J.D. Rhoades: Star Trek reference, don’t sweat it. (At least that’s my first association with the word)

    While laughing at ridiculous tea party photos I discovered that an acquaintance of mine was an attendee and was promptly accused of being predictable, brainwashed and unthinking. Said acquaintance then turned around and said there were 2 million people at the DC event. And I’m the predictable one…

  153. 153
    zoe kentucky says:

    Individually I’ve known plenty of nice, kind conservatives, however, that is undermined by the fact that they want groups that they consider to be “them” to be treated differently– immigrants, gays, non-Christians, democrats– not so nice. For some reason they seem blind to the weight of historical, institutional and societal discrimination and think that people should just be able to “get over it” by the force of pure will and determination. Therefore the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough and it has nothing to do with economic disadvantages, etc.

    It actually boils down to a simplemindedness that has uncompassionate and alarmingly hypocritical features. They are all Christians who profess of deep and abiding love of Jesus, yet they are openly indifferent to the suffering of the downtrodden, so the whole thing makes very little sense if you’re trying to look at it rationally.

  154. 154
    Morbo says:

    @BruceK: And now I feel like a nerd. Probably because I am.

  155. 155
    Fulcanelli says:

    Most of the conservative right doesn’t realize that their ideology is an ideology. They believe it to be the irrefutable truth. Like that big, thick old book of ancient tall tales so many are fond of. This is imprinted and continuously reinforced during participation in community events that make up the social aspects of tribal, rural life.

    It’s implanted at a young age and becomes hardwired within the psyche. Evidential analysis of it’s failures and shortcomings of “The Way” is for sissies, commies and outsiders. Face front and mind the preacher or you’ll get the switch when we get home, boy.

    The amoral urban rich and the rural priestly class know there’s good money and power to be had in it. The rural poor and middle class swallowed the hook, swore allegiance to the tribe and that’s that. Tell me who to hate.

    Same as it ever was.

  156. 156
    Brian J says:

    I don’t know if that’s the case, at least most of the time. Take someone like Dick Cheney and the topic of torture, or anyone else involved with the last administration, who supported it. I highly doubt their actions were motivated purely by a desire to see people brutalized “just because.” Rightly or wrongly (wrongly, very wrongly in my opinion), they felt that such actions were the best plan for protecting the nation.

    But there’s really nothing to back up that opinion. Unless there’s a body of knowledge that describes how effective these techniques are that nobody except those who have worked very high up in the government know about, it’s clear that this stuff doesn’t work. In fact, it’s probably harmful, since in addition to being ineffective at accomplishing its objectives, it destroys our reputation and breeds enormous hostility towards our nation.

    Why, then, do guys like Dick Cheney refuse to acknowledge reality? Is it because they are sick bastards, or is it because they are too stubborn to admit they could be wrong and too intellectually immature to consider conflicting evidence? My guess is it’s the latter. You can see the approach to the world that requires them to bury their heads in the hand in not just this area, but a lot of areas, especially relating to science.

  157. 157
    KCinDC says:

    @kay, don’t you see? After 60 years, all the 116-year-olds will still be on Medicare, so it will live on.

  158. 158
    Uloborus says:

    I really don’t think it’s the ‘sociopathic’ thing, per se. Mind you, I am looking solely at the current conservative movement, as it has evolved and strengthened and flown off the rails since Clinton’s time. I’m not really old enough to judge earlier.

    I’ve said this before, but really I think the unifying theme is tribalism – ‘us vs. them’. This is absolute human instinct, but we try to overcome it. Conservatism has gone from it being a heavy thread to being the sole, absolute focus. Every bit of Wingnut crazy lines up to it in my view. So, Cheney does, honestly, want to pardon Libbey. Libbey is one of His People. His daughter is gay, so the choice was to redefine her as Them or think homosexuality is fine. Torture? Torturing Them is not just okay, it’s GOOD, because They are evil and deserve it. However, anyone who is Us cannot commit a crime, they’re being oppressed by someone else. Victimization complex? Check. 90% of these people had no problem with health care reform until a Liberal proposed it. This one’s particularly fascinating, but shows their view on taxes, too. They have to reject the idea that they’ll be helped directly by this policy. It’s the policy of Evil people, and thus CAN’T be right.

    These people may or may not be nice – that is, they may or may not lean to accomodating the feelings or needs of others around them. Classically, they’re very generous and friendly within their community, but when you are consumed by this philosophy, it does tend to discourage learning empathy. But if you are somehow Other? They have no REASON to restrain any hate or anger they may feel.

  159. 159
    pharniel says:

    the appeal of christiannnity comes from Calvanism. I’ll wait for some to look it up.

    but it combines the awesomeness of the Just World Fallacy, absolute salvation (once you are saved, you are saved, and god won’t let you do anything he won’t forgive you for. the elect etc) and of course fanatical devotion to purge all deviance.

    let us remember that the puritan parliment cancelled christmass. there’s a reason that the pilgrams got kicked out of the netherlands.

    there’s a book on the ‘real events’ that inspired mobey dick and it goes quite a bit into the precise sort of people who dick chaney emulates.

  160. 160
    Fulcanelli says:

    @Uloborus: Your homework reading assignment:

    The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout and…
    The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckly (free download on the intertubez)

    Cheney is a textbook sociopath. Not all are like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, my friend. Look how many died in Iraq and I don’t believe Cheney lost a wink of sleep. Could you sleep with well over 100,000 deaths on YOUR head? I couldn’t. Not for my next 20 lifetimes.

  161. 161
    lushboi says:

    Feelings are for pussies!

  162. 162
    MikeN says:

    In the mind of a conservative, empathy is something the other party has to earn or deserve, whether the criterion is conformity, obedience, or wealth (the quantifiable evidence of work in all instances).

    This is a fully closed loop for the conservative though, because the moment anyone that wouldnt otherwise be deserving slips up, that automatically precludes them from deserving any.

    Sickness is a consequence of lifestyle choices, pregnancy is a moral issue, bankruptcy is work/education failure.

  163. 163
    Ash Can says:

    @gopher2b:

    Ascribing Cheney’s (perceived) lack of empathy onto an entire political party (especially one that fights for the rights of fetuses) is just stupid.

    COMPLETE AND UTTER HORSESHIT. Come back and talk about it when the entire political party in question starts lifting one goddamned finger to “fight for the rights” of all those precious fetuses ONCE THEY’RE BORN.

    But then, fighting for the rights of post-birth fetuses doesn’t involve directly fucking with the rights of the women involved in carrying said fetuses, so what fun would that be, right?

  164. 164
    EdTheRed says:

    Thank god John Perry Barlow is a *former* Cheney supporter…I can now listen to “Estimated Prophet” and “Cassidy” again without feeling sullied by torturestink.

  165. 165
    Persia says:

    @mvr: That one’s simple. Cheney doesn’t give a fuck about religion, or getting re-elected. It’s one of his few admirable traits.

  166. 166
    Wilson Heath says:

    The premise on conservatism rings true. But charitably the circle of what matters to conservatives does (SOMETIMES) include the narrowest bonds of kinship or group identity. Estate tax repeal makes sense if your interest includes looking after your idiot non-productive issue when you’re gone, for example. Looking out for mine rather than for everyone. (An unsatisfying answer if you get the Rawls view of justice or have ever really understood the phrase “there but for the grace of God go I.”)

  167. 167

    I’m sorry, but the idea that modern conservatism is based on Randian thought, outside of the elites anyway, just strikes me as absurd.

  168. 168
    pika says:

    Anyone read Tim Wise’s latest on the Randian right (posted on GOS this a.m.–he’s been hanging out there lately):
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyo.....ve-Cultism
    Almost seems like something Sullivan might benefit from reading, per Zifnab’s comment yesterday.

  169. 169
    Comrade Darkness says:

    This is an old schtick. The *bleeding heart* liberals were the ones pointing out that innocent women and children were being killed in indiscriminate bombing in Vietnam. (If it was used before this era it was before my time) Caring about human carnage is a weakness, definitely. The other answer from the right was, oh there are no innocents. (They still pull this in the form of demonizing a entire classes of people.)

    @Ash Can: Bingo. The you will only get jesus quoted at you if it increases the speaker’s personal power over someone. Same reason they are all for torture and don’t give a crap that Blackwater/Xe kept child sex slaves.

  170. 170
    woodrowfan says:

    I wonder if that’s backwards. They hate empathy so they hate woman because they can publicly show empathy

  171. 171
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @Brick Oven Bill: I still think we can solve this “problem” with cannibalism. Imagine. If once a week, every ten people roast one neighbor…

    Eh, you know, I was going to give it a good go here, but I’ve lost the spirit of the thing. Well, anyway, the punch line was BoB likes long pig…

    But, snark aside. Ongoing carrying capacity is an alarming thing to think about. Even at a high 2 billion estimate, stable-state, that’s a lot of capacity shed (i.e. death on an unprecedented scale to the non-Randians). The chaos of the shed itself will push it down farther. Things like the phosphorus shortage are going to end up being well-needed wake-up calls. Can we mobilize properly for the smaller peak Xs and so manage the larger ones?

  172. 172
    gopher2b says:

    @Ash Can:

    Yes, you are correct. Every single Republican — to the last man — does not care about children. Absolutely true. Irrefutable. (I was persuaded by your all caps).

  173. 173
    daveX99 says:

    I’ve always felt that the main difference between liberals and conservatives is an almost willful lack of imagination on the part of conservatives.

    A liberal can look at a homeless person and think of a hundred ways that might have happened and reserve judgement, since many of those possibilities could happen to anyone (get sick and lose all your money?). Conservatives would rather just see a loser who fucked up and doesn’t deserve any help – they got what they deserve.

    This is a gross oversimplification, but I’ve always felt that that kind of conservative thinking is lazy thinking – it’s easier. If I had to choose (and I do), I’d rather be a bleeding heart than someone whose refusal to use their imagination leads pretty quickly to cruelty (torture, Katrina, ‘death panels’). I’d rather spend way too much on welfare than prisons, any day.

    -dave.

  174. 174
    gopher2b says:

    @W. Kiernan:

    “The point is that all his life, Cheney has been inappropriately indifferent to people”

    Obviously the best example of someone’s lifelong indifference to fellow man is his freshman roommate.

  175. 175
    Xenos says:

    @gopher2b: Best example? Maybe not, but it is evidence that the manifest character flaw has been long-established. I always leaned toward the explanation that Cheney’s madness was an example of ‘pump-head’, brain damage cause by his heart bypass surgeries. So it is notable in any case.

    What is your excuse?

  176. 176
    kay says:

    @KCinDC:

    “don’t you see? After 60 years, all the 116-year-olds will still be on Medicare, so it will live on.”

    Andrew Sullivan should stop writing about health care. It’s specific. It’s difficult. It’s dull. It takes work, and preparation. You have to spend weeks in the policy and statutory weeds to tell truth from fiction.

    He’s adding nothing but confusion. He can tell his personal anecdotes, and natter on about Basic Tenets of Conservatism, but he has no specific knowledge, and seems intent on keeping it that way.

    You can’t write about Medicare if you don’t know that Medicare Advantage exists, or that it was vastly expanded in 2003, by conservatives, or that expansion is bleeding the program. It’s privatization. It’s a way to so fundamentally change that program that it will no longer exist.

  177. 177
    gopher2b says:

    @Xenos:

    I am shocked to learn that Cheney had his first heart attack before he even went to college. Does anyone else know? Its kind of amazing.

  178. 178
    Lihtox says:

    Isn’t it somewhat hypocritical to have a whole thread criticizing all Conservatives for lacking empathy? Conservatives are human beings, and have the same range of motivations as any of us. Sure, some of them may be sociopaths (as some Liberals probably are too), and I don’t trust their national leaders any farther than I can throw them, but a typical Republican voter is motivated by distrust of government intrusion, fear of tyranny, fear of attack, a desire for good to prevail, an attachment to their way of life– these are quite reasonable human motivations. Where we differ is in our priorities, our experiences, and our ideas about how to fix a country which everyone seems to agree is broken. Remember too that Rush and Glenn and FoxNews and the large corporations and the rest are VERY GOOD at what they do: convincing people to toe their party line. Is it any surprise that many people get taken in? Do they deserve any less sympathy than the victims of Bernie Madoff?

  179. 179
    Xenos says:

    @gopher2b: Buddy, learn to read more closely. Don’t make me hold your hand through a four-line blog comment.

  180. 180
    lovethebomb says:

    @mclaren:

    Don’t sugarcoat it man, tell us how you really feel!

  181. 181

    Bob Altemeyer’s work on authoritarianism is very important, but you need to read Alice Miller to understand why people become authoritarian. Authoritarians demand that their children repress their own feelings (thereby preventing them from developing empathy) and accept their parents’ authority. The child’s needs and feelings don’t matter, only obedience and satisfying the parents’ needs and feelings matter. The child grows up as rigid as the parents, yet also resentful and angry that his needs were ignored and he’s forced to give up what he wants for what his parents want.

    The result is a person who never grows up, an eternal adolescent who feels neglected, mistreated, repressed, thwarted—and very angry. The only way he can express these emotions is through culturally acceptable methods, which is why they want wars, movies that echo their pathologies, torture, repression of gays and women, and why they can’t tolerate (or even acknowledge) dissent. The sight of anyone who is free enough to be whom they want to be is a personal affront–how dare this woman make her own reproductive choices, this man have sex with the man he loves, this hippy protest war–when they have never been allowed to be who they really are.

    They adore Rand because she tells them what they already feel–if it weren’t for Those People (in reality their parents), they would be happy and successful and their good qualities would be celebrated, not repressed. It would be sad if they weren’t so dangerous, and so freaking annoying.

  182. 182
    gopher2b says:

    @Xenos:

    Friend, learn how to write.

  183. 183
    gopher2b says:

    @Xenos:

    Oh, and you meant learn to read more “critically.” Reading more closely just makes the words bigger.

    If you want to separate two thoughts – its called a “paragraph.” Otherwise the points you are attempting to make kind of get mashed together and you get slapped around like you did above. (Just a tip).

    P.S. To start a new “paragraph”, just hit the “ENTER” button on your keyboard.

  184. 184
    Xenos says:

    Slapped around? First you misread Kiernan (who never argued the roommate was the ‘best’ witness), then you misread my comment, which while a bit vague did not imply what you read it to say. You are shadow boxing, you dolt.

    Are you really going to law school at Wisconsin? Here is a hint – don’t borrow any money to do it.

  185. 185
    gopher2b says:

    @Xenos:

    Wisconsin = Badgers. You can’t even get that correct.

  186. 186
    RememberNovember says:

    There’s a condition for that, it’s called being a sociopath.

  187. 187
    eyelessgame says:

    @167 Brien:

    the idea that modern conservatism is based on Randian thought, outside of the elites anyway, just strikes me as absurd.

    Hm, I’m seeing more than a few “Gone Galt” T-shirts at the beck/birf/bagger rallies on people who, to put it charitably, don’t strike me as “elites”.

    I agree that Randian thought is not preeminent. But objectivism is libertarianism-squared, and there’s more than a little influence of libertarianism in the Republicans.

    (How libertarians, militarists, racists, and Christians all come together to make one party without exploding violently is still a matter of fascination and shock to me. But there it is — all the four have in common is xenophobia.)

  188. 188
    r€nato says:

    I’m coming late to this thread, but Jonah Goldberg is one of the champions of ‘uncompassionate conservatism’.

    Looks like he is getting his wish – a more cruel conservatism. Stand on your own two feet, let the devil take the hindmost.

    Yeah, that’s a real appealing message. Good luck with getting politicians elected with that.

  189. 189
    r€nato says:

    …i should have called it, “compassionless conservatism”.

    When are we going to get the edit function back???

  190. 190
    Ash Can says:

    @gopher2b: They love children so much that they voted against extending S-CHIP just to save all those poor kids from the evils of coming in contact with a program supported by Democrats. Their compassion is overwhelming.

    And this is just one isolated example. After watching child advocates fight against Republicans for generations on behalf of policies and programs that actually benefit children, to say that the Republicans as a political party are empathetic is simply ludicrous. And I’m not even touching on all the tremendous fucking empathy expressed in Republican policies vis-a-vis adults.

    Republican empathy went out the window when Reagan took over the party, and it hasn’t been seen since.

  191. 191
    Chad N Freude says:

    @gopher2b:

    Ascribing Cheney’s (perceived) lack of empathy onto an entire political party (especially one that fights for the rights of fetuses) is just stupid.

    The fighters for the rights of fetuses are not empathetic to fetuses. Their motivation is morality, usually religious, and has nothing to do with

    understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another . . .[Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary]

  192. 192
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Chad N Freude: I should add that they don’t exhibit much empathy for the children that fetuses become.

  193. 193
    Chad N Freude says:

    @eyelessgame: How many of those T-shirt wearers do you suppose know what “Galt” means? How many of them have heard of Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, or John Galt?

  194. 194
    LD50 says:

    @Drive By Wisdom: Wait, is dumbass here claiming that we invaded Iraq to “free” the Iraqis? Are there still wingnuts foolish enough to make this claim in public?

  195. 195
    Keenanjay says:

    Gopher something somewhere else; you’re making my head hurt.
    There’ve been a lot of great posts here. I work with many retired senior officers who are now contractors. Thus they have two salaries and are doing quite well, with excellent health insurance under TRICARE (paid by the government). Almost uniformly, they are Christians, many fundamentalist. Upwards of 95% are very conservative and quite a few listen slavishly to Rush and Fox News.
    With this group I’ve experienced friendship and camaraderie but when I make passionate statements about the need to show concern for the other, I am rejected and vilified as a lefty crank. They definitely follow the just-world theory; defending the rich as being deserved of their wealth and the poor receiving their just due because of their sloth or ignorance.
    Sacrifice for a greater good beyond their church or kin carries not weight with them. They live in a bubble of self-reinforcing clichés and deny any facts that threaten their comfortable paradigm. I’ve heard the statement that “they” don’t deserve anything because they’re lazy and we live in a land of infinite opportunity for self-improvement. “If they wanted it badly enough they could get rich in America.”
    One of the saddest things I’ve heard (twice recently) is the old standby, “My wife saw a woman buying a t-bone steak with food stamps and then driving away in a Cadillac.” When I asked them if they would like to trade lives with them, they invariable respond, “That’s not the point!” I sadly reply, “Yes, it is the point, but you will never understand.”

  196. 196
    mclaren says:

    A Mom Anon asked

    I’d love to know why it is that America seems to be an incubator for so many seriously dysfunctional people. For awhile I thought it was just our”news”and their focus on missing white women and children(who nearly always end up dead). But it really does seem like we have more compassionless and empty souls than other places.

    Why? Is it that we’ve never truly reconciled that our nation is founded in part on slavery and genocide? I sometimes wonder if we had dealt with this if it would make bloodsport and gun fetishes less common. The nation as a whole seems very heartless to me.

    Tom Pharo gave a good answer. To add to what he pointed out, we have to remember that America was founded by religious crazies with guns. These are basically the kind of people who set up the Heavens Gate cult. These are the Waco crowd, people who held beliefs so extreme that they were basically thrown out of their own countries. The puritans and Calvinists and other religious fundamentalist extremists who emigrated to America did so because they wanted to impose their sadistic and brutal beliefs on others by violence, and typically their own countries wouldn’t let them do it. So these heavily-armed religious crazies wound up setting sail for America, where they could exterminate the unrighteous and brutalize their own population without interference.

    The dark underbelly of the “city on a hill” is Calvinism. If you believe you’re one of the religious Elect who is predestined to go to heaven, it gives you a license to savagely torture and brutalize other people. American exceptionlism is really Calivnism in quasi-secular drag — torture isn’t torture if America does it, genocide isn’t really genocide as long as it’s Americans murdering native American indians instead of Stalin murdering kulaks, wars of aggression like America’s invasion of the Phillipines in 1900 or invasion of Viet Nam in the 1960 or invasion of Iraq in 2003 isn’t actually an illegal war of aggression if America does it. When Napoleon invaded Russia it was a war of aggression, but when America invaded Viet Nam it was an “effort to liberate oppressed people.”

    If you imagine the religious crazies at Waco founding a country, America is what you get. The result is bound to be sick and twisted. Of course not 100% of the American population is dysfunctional; as in cults, a few people in America manage to resist the groupthink. But by and large, Americans adore torture and slaughter and the brutalizaton of innocent victims for the same reason that religious fundamentalists adore these kinds of sadistic brutalities — it confirms their belief in their own specialness, it reinforces what they’ve been taught that they’re above the rest of the human race and different and better, and it offers a way of assuaging their self-disgust over how flawed they are. (People who hold themselves up as paragons secretly know they aren’t, and this inflames and enrages them, spurring them to torment and brutalize others who publicly show minor flaws as compensation.)

    Above all, sexual repression and fear and loathing of the human body and hatred of pleasure, all encouraged by fundamentalist religion as a means of social control, twist people and lead them to get their rocks off by torture and vicarious murder, since they feel too guilty to get their rocks off in the normal way.

    In fact, Americans are so sick and so twisted that they can’t even imagine any other solution to life’s problems other than savagery and sadistic violence, as proven by a comment by the ignorant sociopath Wile E. Coyote:

    I guess that means that your dream of massive non-violent resistance against the powers that be where we storm the White House, drag Obama out and make him listen to us is so much self-righteous left-wing wanking then.

    Notice that massive non-violent demonstrations are described, in typically dysfunctional American fashion, as “a dream” and “wanking.” As is typical for the deluded sadistically dysfunctional American mindset, Wile E. Coyote cannot conceive of massive non-violent demonstrations changing America, even though we have countless historical examples on the record, from the marches of Sufragettes to the 8-hour-working-day movement to labor movements advocating a 5 day work week to Martin Luther King’s voting rights marches.

    You can see how sick and twisted a dysfunctional personality like Wile E. Coyote is because non-violent poliical protests are like “wanking” to him, and he wants the real thing, the full monty, serious full-on killing and firebombing and mass chaos. That’s the only thing that really satisfies sick twisted kooks like Wile E. Coyote — large numbers of people killing one another. That’s what makes Wile E. Coyote’s crotch hard, that’s what gets him excited…as it does for so many other Americans.

    Like most Americans, Wile E. Coyote pours acid contempt on anyone who proposes massive non-violent protests and ridicules it as “wanking.” Notice the language Coyote uses — it’s quite significant in a Freudian sense. He wants to get his rocks off like a real macho man, and the only way he can do it, like most of the sexually repressed guilt-stricken religiously-indoctrinated sadists who make the majority of the American population, is to watch someone being tortured and killed. That’s what makes Wile E. Coyote and so many other Americans shoot their load.

  197. 197
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gopher2b:

    It’s frustrating when facts get in the way of the narrative.

    Yes, I realize that’s why you’re clinging desperately to your vision of Dick Cheney as a kind, sweet man who only helped Libby out of the kindness of his heart and not because he knew Libby could get him sent to jail. Don’t let any facts worm their way into your head or you might actually start thinking critically about things, and then where would you be?

  198. 198
    gopher2b says:

    @Keenanjay:

    “They live in a bubble of self-reinforcing clichés and deny any facts that threaten their comfortable paradigm.”

    I’ve seen this phenomena somewhere else; I just cannot put my finger on it right now. Tip of the tongue though.

    This entire post’s sole purpose is about demonizing your enemy so that you don’t have to engage him. It’s appears to be his specialty. Everything he writes is a shallow reference to Republican stupidity or callousness. It’s nearly always sloppy and without much thought. He replaces actual ideas and reason with Pavlovian code words like Ayn Rand, Cheney, libertarian and each time it effectively manages to work everyone into a froth. Well done; its right out of the Republican playbook.

    My point is that labeling an entire party as “unempathetic” is stupid, lazy, and probably counterproductive. Of course many Republicans have empathy and sympathy for other people (as demonstrated by the 9 GOP senators who voted for S-CHIP — to use the example commonly cited above). But those facts are nuisance for you guys. Or, you could look at Ted Olson’s effort (with David Boies) to overturn the gay marriage ban in California. Olson is a pretty conversative guy but its probably just easier to ignore stuff like that because it gets in the way of a good, easy thought.

    I would add most conservatives have empathy and sympathy for small business owners who feel overtaxed, or church-goers who feel like their families are under attack, or small government types who feel oppressed by government. You may disagree with them (as I often do) but you cannot deny that they have empathy for these people just because you personally don’t.

    Or I suppose you could just explain it away as a “moral” issue (like abortion) as those are never rooted in basic empathy.

  199. 199
    Mnemosyne says:

    Shorter gopher: Dick Cheney is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

    Where’s a deck of cards when you need one?

  200. 200
    gopher2b says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I tell you what: when Libby’s “Tell All” Book comes out, or when Libby testifies against Cheney in the yet to be brought federal prosecution, I’ll write you a full-throated apology.

    As for the other garbage, I never said Cheney was a “kind, sweet man.” I personally think Cheney is primarily responsible for one of the darkest marks on this country. I also believed he was so emotionally distrurbed by his personal 9/11 that he was probably unfit to be VP. I just don’t think he is a cyborg without any capacity for empathy for any human beings. Even if his freshman roommate says otherwise.

  201. 201
  202. 202
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gopher2b:

    I just don’t think he is a cyborg without any capacity for empathy for any human beings. Even if his freshman roommate says otherwise.

    Fascinating that you, who have never actually worked with or met Dick Cheney, are absolutely convinced you know him better than someone who actually lived with him. This is starting to sound like when Bush shook Putin’s hand and looked into his soul.

    It’s just funny to me that your two examples of Cheney being a warm human being were (a) a court case whose potential outcome directly affected him and (b) his own grandchildren. Even Stalin used to help his daughters with their homework, so it’s pretty weak tea to claim that someone couldn’t possibly be a sociopath who lacks empathy for others if they care for their own flesh and blood. I’m sure that Jeff Skilling was going to his kids’ Little League games while he was busy bankrupting the state of California with his financial games at Enron, but that’s not evidence that the guy isn’t a sociopath.

  203. 203
    Inncent Bystander says:

    “‘He has the least interest in human beings of anyone I have ever met,’ says John Perry Barlow, his former supporter. ”

    Barlow was a songwriter that collaborated a lot with Bob Weir and the Dead. I think he had a ranch adjacent to Cheney’s property in Wyoming. Strange to think that there’s 1 degree of separation between Cheney and the Dead. Damn shame that they didn’t get Cheney juiced on some electric kool-aid way back then….he might have changed his worldview and millions more would be alive today.

  204. 204
    wrb says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal):

    Wow. Sounds like we may share a vet. Or they are cloning themselves. I haven’t noticed the waterboarding sticker but everything else is to a T.

    He’s nice to the animals though. We take the cats and dogs to him because unlike the vet that treats the large animals he doesn’t order $300 of tests every time a cat needs a stitch.

    Your guy’s isn’t within a mile of a state line in one direction and within a half mile of the ocean in another, is it?

  205. 205
    de stijl says:

    he might have changed his worldview and millions more would be alive today.

    Inncent Bystander,

    Don’t front Cheney too much. It’s probably only in the low hundred thousands.

    He’s a sociopath, but not in the Mao / Hitler / Stalin league.

  206. 206
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    @eyelessgame: I’ve noticed working as an engineer in the midwest that there seem to be a lot of “conservatives” among them. I’ve heard Asperger’s described as the engineer’s disorder.

    It’s an interesting correlation.

  207. 207
    Mike in NC says:

    Compassionate Conservative™

    Compassionate conservative = 8 syllables; asshole = 2 syllables. This is contrary to the axiom, “Keep it simple, stupid”.

  208. 208
    Corporate Dog says:

    @mvr:

    His daughter has Teh Gay.

    That’s the corollary to the lack of empathy in the GOP: once something happens to you (or someone you love), it’s a Real Problem.

    Regards,
    Corporate Dog

  209. 209
    Nils O says:

    This dates back to at least the Puritan movement; the idea that you are shown to be blessed by your material rewards, so you don’t have to go out and do good works to be blessed (unlike those nasty old Catholics who had to work to be redeemed). So this is sociopathy but it’s always searching for a rationale; first Protestant theology, then social Darwinism, then Ayn Rand, next… who knows?

  210. 210
    Dave says:

    @The Other Steve: If you have an HSA then just shop around to find a cheaper and more intelligent pharmacist. If they can’t handle the concept of self pay, they may not be a good pharmacist anyway…

  211. 211
    eyelessgame says:

    @Ivan Ivan: Yah. And I say this as an engineer, whose father was an engineer, whose brothers are engineers, whose mother was a teacher instead of an engineer only because in those days women didn’t become engineers, whose wife was almost an engineer, and whose son has Aspergers: the correlation between Asp and engineering has to be extremely high.

    There was a long mocking column of letters to Ann Landers (or her sister, or somebody) several years ago about how engineers were simply “different” people. Many of the stories, told in a mocking, sarcastic tone, were of behaviors I’d associate very closely with this disorder (or with some manifestations of OCD).

    I have a few symptoms. My wife has a few other symptoms. My dad and mom both had/have symptoms. My son has it almost full-blown, and because of him I’ve gotten to know many other young men and a few young women who have Aspie or HFA traits. I know the disorder reasonably well. And it tracks very closely with what I know both about Rand’s personal behavior (from her bios) and with what her philosophy entails.

    Objectivism is autistic philosophy. It is completely inward-focused, treating other humans with complete discomprehension and disregard. It pretends that anyone without the disorder is weak: like blind men bombing opthamologists or the wheelchair-bound setting fire to sports arenas, objectivism (as a political movement) is out to eliminate empathy.

    And it may be successful. Ayn Rand has the potential to be to the 21st century what Karl Marx was to the 20th: her followers may bite off a third of the planet and masticate it for a century before vomiting up the detritus.

  212. 212
    eyelessgame says:

    I should emphasize that the relationship of Objectivism to autism is somewhat like the relationship of Social Darwinism to evolution, or Stalinism to social democracy, or fascism to free enterprise: a misapplication so awful it borders on conceptual rape. But I assert it was likely to be a person on the spectrum – an Aspie or HFA – to start from a place where the disorder could be perverted into this sociopathy.

  213. 213
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    “Is that, in the end, what defines modern conservativism? An almost sociopathic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others?”

    This is what defines systems of power. Many modern conservatives have wedded themselves to the most extreme practitioners of state power and I’m not prepared to compose an essay speculating on why, but what you describe is not what I grew up thinking conservatism is.

  214. 214
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Comrade Darkness:

    The bleeding heart liberals were the ones pointing out that innocent women and children were being killed in indiscriminate bombing in Vietnam. (If it was used before this era it was before my time) Caring about human carnage is a weakness, definitely. The other answer from the right was, oh there are no innocents.

    The epithet was used freely against protesters of the original proponents of America’s “overseas empire”, people like Finley Peter Dunne (Mr. Dooley) and Mark Twain, who thought that “freeing” Cuba and the Philippines by turning them into private fiefdoms for the new American industrialists was almost as bad for America as it would be for the “dusky little brown folk”. I remember some discussion as to whether the phrase was derived from pre-Civil-War constructions like “Bloody Kansas” or the sometime-literal post-CW “waving the bloody shirt”, but I don’t know whether that’s true or just guesswork after the fact.

  215. 215
    K says:

    @polyorchnid octopunch: Thank you for this. It’s nice to see someone point out this mis-use of the term which is used to describe some of our children, while still respecting the statement made in the post. I can say without a doubt, that it is the last term I would ever use to describe Cheney. “Autistic” is a very broad adjective, which when applied to my daughter, creates thoughts of a child who struggles to communicate and understand the feelings of others, while being extremely loving, playful, cheerful, and full of life. Cheney only shares one of those traits.

  216. 216
    Tim says:

    Here’s what I’ve always experienced about conservatives:

    If it ain’t happening to them, it ain’t happening.

    And if it is happening to them, they couldn’t care less about anyone else it is happening to.

  217. 217
    Bruce says:

    This father of two autistic, non-sociopathic boys thanks you.

  218. 218
    Morbo says:

    A little late, but that protagonist was apparently based on Dan Renahan. Don’t even click on that link if you don’t want to be exposed to what a sick fuck Dan Renahan was. Chait’s review just barely grazes on the surface of Rand’s sociopathy. Prescott, by the by, is pretty solidly neo-con, so the fact that he finds her repulsive is really something.

  219. 219

    The use of autism as a boogeyman term does piss me off, in an abstract sort of way ;)

    I’m autistic myself- Aspergers, not as high functioning as some people who excuse much worse behavior because they’re ‘aspiieee’- and my experience is certainly not that I’m predisposed towards sociopathy.

    I’ve often felt very poorly equipped to meet social needs, and I do seem to be frighteningly able to ignore all normal social interactions and just go about my business for days and weeks- if I do too much of this, I notice I become more mumbly and mushmouthed because I have literally not spoken for days and days.

    But I also take an interest in drug/alcohol recovery and have a couple ‘superpowers’ around that: one, I can give full and unflinching attention to someone in pain even if their situation is so horrible that regular people burn out and can’t really face it very well, and two, I am weirdly susceptible to the true emotional undercurrents of a social grouping, like a dog or something. If there’s a group of people and they’re being surface friendly but are masking serious conflicts, I’ll become upset but not know why until I find out what conflicts were present.

    I’m sure I’m capable of Cheney-grade sociopathy- but seriously I don’t think that is an autistic capacity, I think that is regrettably a human capacity. Let’s not be all ‘those horrible emotionless people rationalizing torture and evil’ when some of the most emotion-filled people not only rationalize torture and evil, but get mad at you for not agreeing and work themselves up into these states by USING the emotionalism that I don’t find as accessible…

  220. 220
    rsuleiman says:

    I would say that it is, rather, that these are people who, lacking any true toughness, courage or character themselves, look upon those qualities in others, especially as depicted in movies and TV, and ape them badly. They end up mimicking only the steel and resolve of courage, without including the essential notions of fairness, self-control and duty to those weaker than ourselves that make resolve heroic and worth mimicking in the first place.

    Or, to paraphrase A Fish Called Wanda:
    “Apes don’t watch John Wayne movies!”
    “Oh yes they do, Richard Bruce, they just don’t understand them.”

  221. 221

    […] No compassion — Is that, in the end, what defines modern conservatism? An almost sociopathic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others? That’s one way to interpret the “I’ve got mine, and you can’t have it” ethos of conservatism. The Tragedy of the Commons might as well be the GOP manifesto. […]

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  1. […] No compassion — Is that, in the end, what defines modern conservatism? An almost sociopathic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others? That’s one way to interpret the “I’ve got mine, and you can’t have it” ethos of conservatism. The Tragedy of the Commons might as well be the GOP manifesto. […]

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