The origins of epistemic closure

Julian Sanchez has a good piece about how the conservative misinformation loop got started in the first place:

The output may have varying degrees of liberal slant, but The New York Times is not fundamentally trying to be liberal; they’re trying to get it right. Their conservative counterparts—your Fox News and your Washington Times—always seem to be trying, first and foremost, to be the conservative alternative. And that has implications for how each of them connects to the whole ecosystem of media: Getting an accurate portrait is institutionally secondary to promoting the accounts and interpretations that support the worldview and undermine the liberal media narrative. Perhaps ironically, the trouble is that the novel conservative institutions that have emerged as an effect of technological innovation lack that Burkean reservoir of evolved, time-tested local traditions.

There’s another explanation that’s related to the rise of what I’ve called the politics of ressentiment, maybe best illustrated with the help of an example in the news lately. Constance McMillen, as you may have read, is a teenage lesbian in Fulton, Mississippi…..

But then gay-friendly sites—including traffic behemoth Perez Hilton—began linking the group, bringing a tsunami of comments from people all over the world, in numbers vastly dwarfing the original membership. Almost all condemned the actions of the school and parents, and supported Constance. Not a few doled out their own hateful stereotypes, heaping scorn not just on the school, but on southerners or Christians on the whole, as inbred rednecks. Photos were posted, and much speculation ensued about which rack at Walmart various prom dresses had come off.

Contemplate how vertigo-inducing this must be…

So here’s a hypothesis: Epistemic closure is (in part) an attempt to compensate for the collapse of geographic closure.

This is sort of right. American conservatism is essentially southern; more precisely, its foundations are southern resentment about the Civil War and civil rights. But I don’t think the lack of “geographic closure”, per se, plays such a big role — they’re not *that* mad about northern comments about a lesbian at a prom, relatively speaking, they’re mad about larger events that took place long ago. Also too I don’t know how much of contemporary American conservatism has anything to do with what is described as conservatism elsewhere in the world.

After a Democratic Congress and president passed civil rights legislation, it was a logical move for Republicans to exploit white anger over it. The rest, as they say, is history.

38 replies
  1. 1
    Shygetz says:

    I’m sorry, DougJ, are you gonna blame Prop 8 in California on Southern racism, too? The teabaggers exploit Southern ressentiment, but to imply that they are interchangable is foolish to the extreme. Teabagging and reactionary “conservatism” is by no means limited to Southern racists (or Southerners in general). Unless you want me to believe that “Southerners” include Alaskans now, I beg you to remember who exactly elected Sarah Palin in the first place.

  2. 2
    Rick Massimo says:

    The output may have varying degrees of liberal slant, but The New York Times is not fundamentally trying to be liberal; they’re trying to get it right. Their conservative counterparts—your Fox News and your Washington Times—always seem to be trying, first and foremost, to be the conservative alternative.

    This goes to something I’ve been saying: Fox News calls themselves conservative. The New York Times doesn’t call themselves liberal; the conservatives call them liberal. That’s a big difference.

  3. 3
    Redshirt says:

    While this may all be true, the answer seems very basic: Get over it.

    Alas, that is unlikely to happen.

    I was reflecting the other day on how disastrous the assassination of Lincoln was; assume he lives, and implements Reconstruction more thoroughly, such that the achievements of the Civil War were not swiftly rolled back in the South;

    No Jim Crow, no KKK, no Southern Strategy, no current Wingnuts….

    Possibly.

  4. 4
    Cerberus says:

    I think that’s part of it.

    More I think the “geographic closure” problem is that it assaults a key pillar of conservative ideology. That assault is that the rest of the world exists. So much of modern conservatism is about careful attempts of cultural isolation, especially white flight. Running away from integration, the idea that they might have to share this world with “those people” and the rapidly evolving culture with time.

    With the internet being as prevalent as it is, these recluses can no longer hide from knowing about the wider world and being directly rebuked and shamed by them. Suddenly they aren’t policing their small towns keeping the darkies and fags out. They’re being looked down upon by everyone else and suddenly all their former friends are gone.

    In this new world a woman is in charge of the House, there’s a black man in the Senate and the world is visibly leaving them behind. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the world without literally breaking away from reality.

    The resentment is based on that. The world is refusing to go away and there’s nowhere left to run and hide anymore.

  5. 5
    cleek says:

    don’t necessarily disagree. but really, this sounds more like Nixon’s Orthogonians v Franklins:

    “The Orthogonians” was a made-up name that might well have meant, “the squares.” Orthogonians weren’t working-class, exactly, but nevertheless there was a real authenticity to their revolt against the glamorous ones – the “Franklins” – who lorded it over them. Recruiting like-minded Orthogonians and fueling their grievances, Mr. Perlstein writes, became the signature maneuver of Nixon’s career, from the days of Alger Hiss all the way to the White House. (Mr. Perlstein is a friend who has said kind things about my work in the past.)

    “There were new currents to surf in the soaring sixties, based in the same kind of old resentments,” Mr. Perlstein writes, “new kinds of common people being put upon by new kinds of insolent and condescending Franklins – the new kind of liberal who seemed to be saying that . . . college kids who spat on the flag were oh-so-much more with-it than you.”

    Yet the strange class war that defined Nixonland renews itself endlessly, with different leaders and different symbols, but always with the same dynamic: the striving squares revenging themselves upon the hip and the snooty.

    Nixon discovered that there was profit in telling all the people who considered themselves to be “normal” that the ultimate causes of their problems were the smarty-pants, east-coast, elites who looked down upon “normal” people like them.

    maybe that was ultimately based in the resentment the south felt against the north after the civil rights act, but Nixon generalized the concept and made it work everywhere, in all situations – even if it meant he had to manufacture targets of resentment where there weren’t any.

    and the GOP is still running that con. they’ve had to manufacture a pretty big framework of lies to keep it going, but nevertheless, it’s working for them.

  6. 6
    Shygetz says:

    @Cerberus: I think Cerberus is right; I think part of the root of the problem is the fact that the world exists, that it doesn’t exist for us, and that the rest of the world effects our lives is too much for insular communities to stand. It sends them running for a paternalistic figure willing to blame problems on the “other”.

  7. 7
    Brett says:

    Their conservative counterparts—your Fox News and your Washington Times—always seem to be trying, first and foremost, to be the conservative alternative. And that has implications for how each of them connects to the whole ecosystem of media: Getting an accurate portrait is institutionally secondary to promoting the accounts and interpretations that support the worldview and undermine the liberal media narrative.

    I think that’s over-complicating it. While I’m not sure on the Washington Times (being owned by a cult leader makes the incentive structure strange), Fox News is first and foremost about making money for the company. There’s a large, conservative audience out there that can be further stoked into anger and perpetual follower-ship, and that’s the source of your feedback: Fox appeals to angry, conservative viewers, viewers respond to conservative programming with more viewership, causing Fox to move further to the incendiary Right to win more viewers.

    It’s part of a general trend of “narrowing” media, where people are more and more capable of limiting the news they get to sources that confirm our own biases.

  8. 8
    Chuck says:

    I read that quote from Sanchez 3 times, I have an advanced degree and read complusively … and I have not the first goddamn clue what the fuck he was talking about. None whatsoever.

    You want to talk about liberal problems? How about our favorite polemicists sounding like they’re three feet up someone’s post-modern ass. That’s a problem.

  9. 9
    freelancer says:

    @DougJ:

    Was your cover blown recently? Did you do something to piss off Karl Rove?

  10. 10
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Shygetz:

    I’m sorry, DougJ, are you gonna blame Prop 8 in California on Southern racism, too?

    Haven’t visited the 909 recently, have you?

  11. 11
    jrg says:

    Epistemic closure is (in part) an attempt to compensate for the collapse of geographic closure.

    Epistemic closure existed prior to the “collapse” of geographic closure (not that geographic closure has fully collapsed). It is a symptom of geographic closure.

    I think we’re seeing media exploiting the geographic closure (and epistemic closure) that already existed, but now it’s happening in a much more transparent way. Jim Bakker made a truckload exploiting small-town hicks well before the rise of Facebook by giving them another reality in Heaven. Rupert Murdoch now makes a truckload by giving them another reality on Earth.

    It’s the same old story. There is nothing new under the sun.

  12. 12

    I think that “epistemic closure” started a very long time ago, long before the civil rights activities in the middle of the 20th century.

    Culturally, there is a long-standing component of seeing and hearing only what you want to see and hear. According to my memories and the stories I heard from my mother and grandmother, this epistemic closure was well established by the year 1900 and so must have started a long time before that. How long ago? I don’t know.

    It was evident just before the start of the Civil War when the folks in the southern regions actually thought they could win a war against the Union. People who pointed out the material advantages that the Union had were labeled treasonous and shunned. The society in general did not want to even consider whether manufacturing capacity and transportation facilities would make a significant difference in an all-out war.

    I am not sure that the roots of denial lie entirely in racism or even in class struggles. But I really cannot tell you where this rather dangerous attitude came from. So perhaps I am of no help in explaining the henomenon.

  13. 13
    "Fair and Balanced" Dave says:

    @cleek:

    Nixon discovered that there was profit in telling all the people who considered themselves to be “normal” that the ultimate causes of their problems were the smarty-pants, east-coast, elites who looked down upon “normal” people like them. maybe that was ultimately based in the resentment the south felt against the north after the civil rights act, but Nixon generalized the concept and made it work everywhere, in all situations – even if it meant he had to manufacture targets of resentment where there weren’t any.

    Certainly a good part of what passes for conservatism these days has its roots in the 1960’s.

    IMO, the so-called “conservative movement” came about in reaction to the civil rights movement–particularly in the South–and the “culture wars” of the late 60’s. The wingnuts were obsessed with the Vietnam war for decades after the last US soldier came home–recall they made a big deal out of Bill Clinton’s lack of military experience in both the ’92 and ’96 elections. It wasn’t until they put two draft-dodging chickenhawks on the Presidential ticket in 2000 that they decided Vietnam wasn’t that big a deal after all (and of course, they went out of their way in 2004 to smear John Kerry–a man who served with courage and honor in Vietnam).

  14. 14
    MattF says:

    This all seems to me to be overthinking the situation. The Republicans (and, for that matter, the Democrats) have always been a coalition of several smaller groups– For the Republicans, one has, e.g., “conservatives”, “crazy people”, “very crazy people”, “very, very crazy people”, etc. The big recent change is the infusion of “very crazy” from the South, which, over time, has upset the balance of forces among the various groups. But all the old crazy is still there, still providing money and energy. The big question is whether the old crazy will decide that it has had its fill of the new crazy. My guess is ‘no’, but we shall see…

  15. 15
    SGEW says:

    Yglesias and Noah Millman have good responses as well. It’s a really fascinating discussion.

    Again, there are many (many!) issues at play here: “epistemic,” cultural, socio-economic, and/or geographic closure; the South’s peculiar history; the unprecedented supranational media phenomenon (see, e.g., Fox); the Nixonland theory; the specific political context of our time-period (Iraq, the economy, employment, etc.); the social context (equality movements, religious fervor, the rise of the secular non-religious); technological changes (e.g., teh internets); blunt demographics (brown babies bitchez!); etc., etc., ad nauseam. So I am leery of trying to pin down any totalizing theory of the phenomenon; tho’ I am fascinated by the explication of each division within the holistic Wingnut Event Horizon.

    As to “there is nothing new under the sun,” I say: nonsense. The tea party movement, as it is currently materializing (older, majority female, nonsectarian, dispersed, and bug-fuck crazy) is kinda new. Fox News (international, unaccountable, and explicitly fraudulent) is kinda new. Barack Hussein Obama is, uh, kinda new. If history tells us anything (besides the basic lesson of “people die a lot”), it’s that surprisingly new shit happens sometimes. Of course, every generation says this . . . but every generation is right, in a way!

  16. 16
    El Cid says:

    I think we’re getting the timeline wrong, with the wrong interpretation.

    Southern reactionaries weren’t fueling nationalist rightwingism because of resentment over having lost the Civil War.

    People seem to forget that Southern rightwing white supremist wealthy elites defeated Reconstruction and the democratic and civil and political gains of blacks and white populists, in a reconquest called “Redemption” and involving terrorist violence against Black Republican politicians and black voters and White Populists — including the only recognized coup d’etat against an elected government in the United States, known as the 1898 Wilmington “Race Riots” in which elite-backed white armed mobs destroyed neighborhoods and forced the elected city government, a mixed group of black & white politicians presiding over NC’s then largest and most economically significant city.

    They won the final 20 years of the 19th century, and that victory continued right up until the Civil Rights and Voting Acts, prompting the great white flight of Southern Democrats into the Republican Party (slowed primarily by a mix of familial party loyalty and electoral manipulation rules dating from Jim Crow era Southern party laws) and then there was a decade and a half interregnum until the Reagan Revolution brought them into power.

    FDR depended on Southern Democrat segregationists for his New Deal coalition, and their political significance in both number and seniority made sure that the South was developed out of utterly shitty 3rd world status (into a much less shitty status with lots of 3rd world areas, particularly poor black areas).

    People keep talking about how white Supremist white Southern elites were “defeated”, and certainly in many key ways they were — militarily primarily, and losing slavery — but they soon adapted to their re-integrated status.

    Sure, they always view themselves as some poor, benighted mistreated group ever being looked down upon by those snotty uppity Eastern establishment Yankee elites, even when they were the most powerful part of the Bush Jr. administration’s absolute power over all branches of the Federal government.

    But it’s not without reason that they scream they “want their country back”, because they’ve been, if not in, then pretty influential to the driver’s seat.

  17. 17
    EconWatcher says:

    Let me try to channel wingnut thinking a little here (I’m qualified to do so, because I’m from a family of wingnuts):

    “You know, every time Dan Quayle’s name comes up in the mainstream press, they have to mention that he misspelled ‘potato’ in a meeting with schoolkids. But when they bring up Ted Kennedy’s name, how often do they see fit to mention that he left a young woman to drown in his car, while he went back to his hotel to sleep–and then got his family to fix it so he faced no consequences? You see, the standards they apply are a little different for our side.”

    At least from my substantial experience with older wingnuts, the Quappaquidick story is absolutely central to their world view. It’s a big part of their rationale for writing off the mainstream press, liberals, and the whole world outside of Fox and Rush.

    To me, part of their distorted view comes from over-learning the lessons of Quappaquidick. That incident and its aftermath are in fact NOT all you need to know to understand how the world works.

    But I will add too, if you go back and read the specific facts of the incident in detail (as I did after Ted passed away), it really is incredible that he avoided prison and continued as a U.S. Senator. This kernel of truth helped contribute to a massively distorted worldview for many.

  18. 18
    someguy says:

    Conservatives have a closed world view because they are dumb. If you had an IQ of 70 and an emotional age of a 5 year old, you’d have trouble coping with the world too. Probably more, actually, than a 5 year old with an IQ of 70.

  19. 19
    EconWatcher says:

    I agree that emotional immaturity is a big part of it. But simple stupidity is not a good explanation. There are wingnuts spread across the entire range of IQs.

  20. 20
    cincyanon says:

    When I was a carpenter down in Georgia it always amazed me how often the Civil War was brought up. I was a Northerner so maybe that provoked it but it seemed almost daily there was a mention in one way or another. In Cincinnati, where I was from, the Civil War only seemed to be mentioned in a class room setting.
    I think it’s a wound they keep scratching so it never heals.

  21. 21
    Dollared says:

    Yeah, I don’t really buy Doug’s story either (I really preferred Arkon, BTW).

    I do think that Pearlstein has it more accurately framed.

    Plus, you simply can’t avoid the white male business class element in all this. Where it isn’t resentful, it’s the self-identification as a traditional male who works hard and makes tough decisions and the personal sacrifices.

    The self-reinforcing effects of that social group: within the frat house, at the country club, at the water cooler, going hunting together, at at best only tangential to racial issues.

    Dems should be actively, busily, aggressively wooing business white males – legitimating Democratic themes in male conversation.

  22. 22
    mclaren says:

    @DougJ:

    This is sort of right. American conservatism is essentially southern; more precisely, its foundations are southern resentment about the Civil War and civil rights.

    Hm. Maybe you mean “recent American conservatism since 1964,” but it’s arguable whether this recent irruption even fits the definition of “conservatism.”

    Early American conservatism, c.f. Alexander Hamilton, seems to have been aimed at strengthening a central government perceived as weak. We still see this brand of conservatism in America in the pro-military pro-war blocs.

    Another brand of American conservatism which also long predates modern Southern-based right-wing radicalism (which really isn’t conservative in any meaningful sense) is the work of Americans who wanted to slow down what they perceived as a headlong rush toward social transformation. The opponents of Jacksonian democracy are an example of this other kind of old-time conservatism. Northern opponents of gay marriage and “square states” in the center of the country that oppose unfunded federal mandates are a modern example.

    Yet another brand of American conservatism stems from simple fiscal prudence. These kinds of conservatives suffered a seemingly permanent rout when Andrew Mellon’s policies were overruled in 1930 and we don’t see much fiscal conservatism on either side of the aisle anymore, what with Laffer curve dementia on the right and Keynesian economics on the left.

    Modern far-right radicalism is a version of the Jacobin movement in Revolutionary France or the Trotskyite faction in post-1917 Russia. They refuse to accept the legitimacy of their political opponents and decline to follow accepted rules of behavior, including prohibitions against violence. That makes today’s far-right radicals just about the farthest thing from “conservatism” you could imagine.

  23. 23
    RSR says:

    That long post a few days back from the motorcycle forum touched on part of the geographic discussion too. Boston got a serious black-eye during the school integration movement back in the 70’s.

  24. 24
    Redshirt says:

    How odd that a reformulated Confederacy – which the Republican party is in many ways today – gets to take over their former conqueror from time to time.

    This goes a long way to explaining their reaction whenever a Democrat gains the White House – they’ve lost a battle in a Civil War they’ve never stopped fighting.

    Again and again with contemporary American issues, it seems more and more clear that one side is fully aware they are in a war, and the other side has no clue, and thus keeps losing ground.

  25. 25
    different church-lady says:

    “politics of ressentiment” is the key concept to the entire thing: a feeling of powerlessness, which finds a justification in external causes, even if it’s irrational. You feel powerless, so you find an “other” to blame for that feeling.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @El Cid:

    Sure, they always view themselves as some poor, benighted mistreated group ever being looked down upon by those snotty uppity Eastern establishment Yankee elites, even when they were the most powerful part of the Bush Jr. administration’s absolute power over all branches of the Federal government.

    This is a really good point. I think people vastly underestimate how much the Southern political way of thinking has permeated the Republican Party. Even Republicans who were born and raised in, say, Pennsylvania have adopted all of the resentments of post-civil rights Southerners, right down to the Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. The whiny self-pity is a feature, not a bug.

    The Southern political attitude towards work has permeated the Republicans as well, IMO. The South’s economy was built on free (ie slave) labor and they’ve never really transitioned beyond the mindset that employees should work for free and be grateful for any crumbs they get from their bosses. Hence the anti-union and “right to work” laws that keep mere workers from infringing on the rights of the aristocracy to exploit their labor as much as they please.

  27. 27
    Shygetz says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Haven’t visited the 909 recently, have you?

    Actually, I have. My point is, you can’t blame the 909 on Mississippi or Alabama. It’s not “southern” resentment, it’s race/class based resentment, and trying to paint it as a southern phenomenon is both understating and misclassifying the problem.

  28. 28
    catclub says:

    @different church-lady: #25

    The resentment was best characterized to me as the Serbs crying they weren’t being treated fairly, while they were wiping out Muslims. ( I can’t think of the name of the province now.)

  29. 29
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Larison has a couple of interesting posts on the same subject but focusing on conservative intellectuals and movement conservatism: the triumph of ideology, and a slightly older post mind control.

    I lean towards the Nixonland interpretation, but also think that Kevin Phillips has the right idea that there are cultural factions (which are partly regional and partly ethnic and sectarian in character) in the US which can be traced all the way back to 17th Cen Britain. You have only to look at how the Scots-Irish have a distinctive political culture even today, and one that often cuts across partisan political lines (c.f. Jim Webb for example) to see how deep the roots go.

    Epistemic closure is a symptom of tribalism, and letting it go is a luxury the dominant tribe can afford, the others not so much. Also I think it is likely that the near-Leninist levels on internal party disciple in the GOP are related to the long periods of time (including the founding decades of the party) when they were in the minority, or were clinging to a paper-thin majority. The GOP has never been the party of the broad and overwhelming majority of the country, and that has bred a siege mentality into their political DNA.

  30. 30
    SGEW says:

    Larison responds to Millman’s response to Sanchez’s question. Key lines:

    [W]hat I think we have seen in recent years is not much the closing of such a mind as its replacement by an ideological mentality that is basically hostile to a conservative mind. To say that the conservative mind has closed leaves open the possibility that it might open someday. Perhaps I am wrong, but once such a mind is obliterated by ideology I’m not sure that it can recover.

    Worth the read (like most of what Larison writes).

    [ETA: Ha! I knew that TLTiAlbq and I have similar reading habits, but this is ridiculous.]

  31. 31
    georgia pig says:

    @Mnemosyne: There’s some truth there, but also some reductionism based on historical inaccuracy. For example, most southerners before and after the Civil War were very poor small farmers, not plantation owners, so one could argue that their attitudes toward work arise from that context. I think the appeal of southerness to Republicans is that the South became romanticized as the only place in America where traditional relationships were not destroyed by industrialization and modernity. The traditional base of the Republican Party, midwestern and northeastern small merchants and farmers, used to operate off a somewhat similar mythology of agrarian and small town values sans racism (you still hear echoes of it), but that was largely killed off by industrialization and corporatization. Southerness offered a replacement, one that came along with a self-protecting operative myth of the loss of paradise, i.e., the meddling politicians making us mix with all those other tribes that aren’t like us. This made “southerness” particularly seductive to people looking to escape the reality of the absence of community. When Republicans were looking to find a new organizing mythology to overcome the Democratic dominance that arose from the shrinking of the traditional Republican base after WWII, it was an obvious choice.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Shygetz:

    My point is, you can’t blame the 909 on Mississippi or Alabama. It’s not “southern” resentment, it’s race/class based resentment, and trying to paint it as a southern phenomenon is both understating and misclassifying the problem.

    I disagree, but I wasn’t specific enough. I do think that the problem is based in the particular culture of the South that was formed before the Civil War, but that that culture has spread to other parts of the country thanks to the Southern Strategy — that’s why, as I said, you have people in Northern states with no connection to the South running around with confederate flags. When Nixon decided to go all-in on getting angry white voters for the Republicans, he didn’t just get the racial attitudes. He also got the anti-government, anti-tax and union-busting attitudes that came from the South.

  33. 33
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Hence the anti-union and “right to work” laws that keep mere workers from infringing on the rights of the aristocracy to exploit their labor as much as they please.

    The southeastern US was disproportionately settled by folks from the parts of Britain which backed Charles I in the English Civil War, and they brought their notions of an ideal society founded on a rural aristocracy bound in loyalty to a monarch with them. The parliamentarians from the more urban and mercantile parts of England settled further north, mostly in New England. The quarrel between these two groups came with them across the Atlantic. We’ve been having this argument on one side or the other of the pond for over 400 years, which suggests to me that it isn’t going away anytime soon.

  34. 34
    Mnemosyne says:

    @georgia pig:

    I think the appeal of southerness to Republicans is that the South became romanticized as the only place in America where traditional relationships were not destroyed by industrialization and modernity. The traditional base of the Republican Party, midwestern and northeastern small merchants and farmers, used to operate off a somewhat similar mythology of agrarian and small town values sans racism (you still hear echoes of it), but that was largely killed off by industrialization and corporatization. Southerness offered a replacement, one that came along with an operative myth of the loss of paradise, i.e., the meddling politicians making us mix with all those other tribes that aren’t like us. This made “southerness” particularly seductive to people looking to escape the reality of the absence of community.

    I think you’re on to something there, especially when it comes to the “Lost Eden” thinking of the fundamentalists who are also trying to reverse advances in science. When it looks like the only thing that the Democrats are offering is a life of isolation pushing buttons on a machine for a corporation, people are going to turn to the party that offers not only the opposite, but claims they can take them back to that idealized time when everyone lived in small towns and knew their neighbors and we didn’t have drugs or crime.

    Of course, all of that is nostalgic BS since those idealized small towns had plenty of problems with drugs and crime — especially when opiates were still legal — but nostalgia can be a powerful thing. Longing for the “good old days” isn’t just an American phenomenon, it’s a human one. You can find ancient Greek philosophers complaining about “kids these days.”

  35. 35
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @georgia pig:

    &nbsp:

    I think the appeal of southerness to Republicans is that the South became romanticized as the only place in America where traditional relationships were not destroyed by industrialization and modernity.

    This also applies in spades to the frontier mythos of the American West, which could not have been settled without massive support (both military and terms of built infrastructure) from the federal govt., but good luck telling anybody that, with the exception of the Native American and Hispanic dominated parts of the southwest where alternative foundational myths are held with sufficient force (and sufficient demographic numbers) to dilute the dominant narrative.
     

    Southerness offered a replacement, one that came along with an operative myth of the loss of paradise

    This is a key point. One of the most powerful metaphors in US culture is the intrusion of the Machine into the Garden. Each subculture has its own version, from the KKK to the Monkeywrench gang, but they all tell a story of a loss of primordial innocence and ongoing resistance against the forces from outside of exploitation and pollution (whether material or spiritual or both). Combine that with American Exceptionalism and you have a recipe for our homegrown American version of State Shinto.

    ETA: I’m trying to fix my blockquote fail above, wish me luck.

  36. 36
    Shygetz says:

    @Mnemosyne: Bah, feh, and other dismissive noises. Virulent racism existed in the North prior to the Civil War; virulent racism existed in the North during the Civil War; but after the Civil War, Northern (and, apparently, Western and Midwestern) racism becomes the fault of the Reconstruction-era South? And not just racism, but overall reactionary resentment of change throughout the country? Shall we blame South African apartheid on Georgia rednecks while we’re at it?

    Did you ever think part of the reason why this disease is spreading is that non-Southerners are not accepting reactionary racism as their problem too, instead looking to blame it on an external “other” that poisoned their precious bodily fluids with their racist disease?

    Nice scapegoat you got there…

  37. 37
    georgia pig says:

    @Shygetz: It’s not blaming it on Georgia Rednecks, it’s just that nativists elsewhere are adopting the trappings of Georgia rednecks because they find them particularly emotionally appealing or powerful. Their own nativist narratives have lost power.

  38. 38
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Shygetz:

    Virulent racism existed in the North prior to the Civil War; virulent racism existed in the North during the Civil War; but after the Civil War, Northern (and, apparently, Western and Midwestern) racism becomes the fault of the Reconstruction-era South?

    I’m not talking about racism, unless you think that union-busting and laissez-faire capitalism are somehow automatically racist.

    Go back and read what I actually said, not what you think I said. I said that in addition to adopting the racist attitudes of the Dixiecrats, the Republicans picked up the anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-union memes from the South. That’s the stuff that I’m saying has become so widespread.

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