He’s not a man, he’s a loving machine

Aimai has an interesting post up criticizing the notion that anti-gun people (of which I am one) don’t “get” gun culture. I understand her point, and I also get sick of get sick of “Red Staters drive a car like this `Do, do, ch. Do-be-do, do-be-do-be-do’, Blue Staters drive a car like this `Dee-da-dee, a-dee-da-dee-da-dee-da-dee'”. But at the same time…I personally don’t “get” gun culture. I understand hunting, but for me, handguns are just killing machines and I can’t see them as anything else.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to “get” conservatism more generally, because I don’t think you can understand American politics — especially the nature of Republican primaries — without having some intuitive feel for conservatism. Here’s a question for you: what single article or book helped you best understand how conservatives think and how that thinking differs from that of liberals? For me, it might be this NRO “Men We Love” Valentine card to various conservative luminaries. It’s not quite as steamy as Bobo’s mash notes to John Thune, fortunately:

Dick Cheney, the Uber Daddy: Maybe it’s the sly, knowing smile that hides a teamster’s vocabulary that makes this man so macho. To me he is the essence of cool….I was first introduced to him at a reception and, even though he didn’t know me, he leaned over and kissed me. Right then I was hooked. But, when it was suggested to him that a certain arrogant New York Times reporter was, in so many words, a fool, and he responded, “Big time!” I was cooked.

[….]

To anybody who reads my blog, my pick should be no surprise. Yes, I’ve called this fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom a “Heritage Hottie” and a “conservacutie,” but my admiration for Nile Gardiner really does extend beyond that damn adorable smile. The first time I saw him was on Neil Cavuto, telling a guy who blamed African poverty on imperialism and not corrupt governments that he was spouting nonsense–hot!

What would yours be? (Article that most helped you understand conservatives, not conservative valentine.)

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154 replies
  1. 1
    Yutsano says:

    None. I still don’t understand conservatives. Especially gay ones.

  2. 2
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    18 years of dinner table talk.

  3. 3
    Bulworth says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to “get” conservatism more generally,

    Oh no

  4. 4
    r€nato says:

    MOAR GUNS IZ THE ANSWR

    Police in Texas were looking for two people wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of a Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney on Thursday.

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Red Staters = Death Eaters.

    All you need to know about them.

  6. 6
    Dave says:

    Wasn’t an article or book. It was the interview in which George W. Bush pulled the “please don’t kill me” gag about Karla Faye Tucker.

    Making fun of people they want to execute with utter ignorance and spite: that’s the essence, man.

    Ups to aimai. Josh Marshall was practically dancing like a chorus girl around his “gun tribe” essay, and it really was unremarkable, if not outright counter-productive.

    ETA: my family is conservative, too. They really do just want to eat you for lunch. Like that Goya painting of Saturn devouring his son.

    All the nonsense arguments, conspiracy theories, delusional email forwards, RedState, etc: it’s all stories about why people without power can be disposed of.

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Dick Cheney, the Uber Daddy: Maybe it’s the sly, knowing smile that hides a teamster’s vocabulary that makes this man so macho. To me he is the essence of cool…

    If she were in 30’s Germany, Reinhard Heydrich would be the “essence of cool”.

  8. 8
    BGinCHI says:

    If you grew up in the rural Midwest in a working class family then you don’t need to read anything.

    I honestly don’t understand why anyone would have to read about what makes selfish people selfish and lacking in empathy.

    Ignorance and fear.

    And/Or,

    Money and arrogance.

  9. 9
    red dog says:

    @Comrade Javamanphil: Right with you plus every holiday and family gathering. Now I have been the patriarch for 10 years and the tone has veered sharply left with the help of my eldest son. I think we have changed a large family from Goperdumb.

  10. 10

    Here’s a question for you: what single article or book helped you best understand how conservatives think and how that thinking differs from that of liberals?

    Mein Kampf

  11. 11
    catclub says:

    That quote about Cheney is just disturbing.

    Why do we need to understand them if we can predict their behavior?
    Everyone knew they hated Romney and would still pick him as their candidate. Not Newt, not Bachmann, not Cain. They would have picked Perry if he had not shown how bad he was.

  12. 12
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Try something from the Conservative Book Club:

    “Self-Lobotomy for Dummies” (large print edition)

    I think they have a deal going where if you order during an election year they also throw in the complete works of Ann Coulter.

  13. 13
    BGinCHI says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I assume you’ve read HHhH, by Laurent Binet?

    If not, get thee to a bookstore.

  14. 14
    Mnemosyne says:

    It scares me to death that my 68-year-old mother drives around with a loaded handgun in her glove compartment. I doubt that she’s been target shooting or even looked at it recently, but apparently Fountain Hills, Arizona (where Sheriff Joe lives!) is such a hotbed of crime that she must have a gun with her at all times.

    Meanwhile, I live in metro Los Angeles where the crime rate is probably at least 10 or 20 times higher and feel no need for a gun. Why does it seem that most people’s “need” for a gun is inversely proportional to the actual daily threat level they experience?

  15. 15
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Yutsano:

    I don’t understand how a Fillipina can be a “conservative”, seeing as if the racist white guys who run the show had their way, she’d be relegated to the role of “comfort woman” for the junior enlisted.

  16. 16
    japa21 says:

    Depends on which type of conservative you are talking about. 60’s, 70’s, 80’s 90’s or now. And that is the problem with labels.

  17. 17
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @Dave: It was the interview in which George W. Bush pulled the “please don’t kill me” gag about Karla Faye Tucker.

    That’s a damn good one, the bit about “the reality-based community” was, and so on.

    But similar to what @BGinCHI says about the rural Midwest, I’ve lived in Utah since 1972 and have been soaking in John Birch bullshit all my life.

  18. 18
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Why does it seem that most people’s “need” for a gun is inversely proportional to the actual daily threat level they experience?

    Local TV news.

    “If it bleeds, it leads.”

    That’s what they experience, and that’s what drives their fear.

  19. 19
    dance around in your bones says:

    Thanks, Doug Galt – those quotes just made me throw up in my mouth a little.

    I have no interest in understanding conservative’s motivation/thoughts (I’m thinking Authoritarians here) only care about the end results of their neuroses/compulsions/authoritah!

    Gah.

  20. 20
    Doug Galt says:

    @Dave:

    Josh Marshall was practically dancing like a chorus girl around his “gun tribe” essay, and it really was unremarkable, if not outright counter-productive.

    I agree with you and aimai about that.

  21. 21
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Oh, it’s not just the local news. She spends a lot of time watching those “true crime” shows on cable about how all of your nearest and dearest are going to turn on you and murder you, unless a total stranger manages to do it first.

    ETA: An example — last year, I was in an accident on my bicycle when a teenager who wasn’t watching where he was going ran into me on his bike. Her first reaction? “It could have been a robbery attempt!” Well, I guess … if he had made any attempt to rob me instead of apologizing profusely.

  22. 22
    chopper says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to “get” conservatism more generally, because I don’t think you can understand American politics — especially the nature of Republican primaries — without having some intuitive feel for conservatism.

    you can bang your head against the wall a bunch of times. or huff a bunch of butane.

    or do like ‘intelligent homer’ did and stick a crayon up your nose until it all makes sense again.

  23. 23
    taylormattd says:

    It wasn’t an article for me.

    It is having a large number of these people as relatives and friends of the family, and listening to them speak when I was a child.

  24. 24
    Grincheuse says:

    David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed. Their ancestors 350 years ago thought that my ancestors were vile and degenerate and vice versa. They hated government, education, science, abolitionists and were violent and war like. My ancestors admittedly cut off a few ears, but were all in favor of teaching every child to read and paying taxes.

  25. 25
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Book or article? Ha! Conservatism happens at a much different brain level than that required to string words into sentences in an intelligible way.

    I did spend a few hours being guilted/love-bombed by the crazee Xtians on campus back in college before they pissed me off enough to stop speaking to them. It was then that I learned that their faith system, while carrying the same name as the religion I was raised in, was something else entirely.

    I must say “The Authoritarians” did shed light on the workings of the 27%. It also explained why trying to parse “conservative thought” is an entirely useless exercise.

  26. 26
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Anyway, thought I’d share the Gay Dog Rescued in TN story from Wonkette. Feel good kinda story. :)

    http://wonkette.com/499311/goo.....is-gay-dog

  27. 27
    Enceladus says:

    @Dave:

    Dave, I think your last sentence, if, sadly, true, is the most profound thing posted in this thread.

  28. 28
    J R in W Va says:

    I can’t understand conservatives at all. My brother was a member of the UMWA, worked underground to put himself through college.

    But then he got into working in “strategic communications” for big businesses, hung around with executives, and somehow absorbed their conservatism into his being. Life member of NRA, W 2000 and 2004 bumper stickers, likes living in TEXAS.

    Can’t seem to understand the fact that financial markets do much better with Democratic leadership than with Republican leadership, according to all the econ statistics from the real world.

    He’s a gun nut too, and I say that as a person who loves target shooting with pistols. My cousin comes out to the farm, and he has the .22 rifle our Grandma used to teach all her grandkids how to shoot in her backyard. It’s like being 12 again, that’s what he calls it, going back to being 12 again, when he comes out to shoot.

    Sometimes we use real targets, but we also like shooting plastic pop bottles. I don’t hunt anymore, although I have shot carnivores attacking livestock in the past, when we kept livestock. Mostly possums in the chicken coop – it’s terrible what they do to a hen!

    To me, a gun is a complex mechanical tool that can be used in many ways, some of which are dangerous or evil, but most of which are useful or entertaining. Shooting well is difficult and requires lots of practice and eye hand coordination.

    I know many fellow liberals don’t understand that perspective on guns and shooting, but there it is. In my case, we live nearly an hour from any law enforcement, even if they’re dressed and on duty when called for help, from 8 am til 5 pm. After that, they’ll need extra time to get dressed and fire up the Jeep.

    So rural liberals, of which there are a ton, often have guns as part of rural farm life. I would guess the that 80% of my liberal friends have at least one gun – that’s just an educated guess.

    I know urban liberals with antipathy towards guns will never be convinced that they are mostly just tools and part of farm life, but there it is. At least 99.99% of guns are never used in any crimes, and many actually deter crime.

    My Grandma was a general store keeper back in the depression, and was never robbed because everyone knew she kept a pistol in her apron pocket, and back in the 1930s there was a lot of petty crime, as bad roads meant that a sheriff was a long way off and times were much harder than we can imagine.

  29. 29
    brantl says:

    Cheney:
    Hunts at places where the game is tame (fed from the back of a truck), doesn’t have/know target aquisition skills/sufficient gun safety to not shoot his fellow hunters in the same hunting party, hunts drunk, and talked tough about wars without ever being in the armed services, and dodged it very proactively. The perfect chichenhawk.

  30. 30

    It is helpful for me to look at conservatism as a gigantic grift of the scaredy-olds. Perlstein nails is here: http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_long_con/print

  31. 31
    BrklynLibrul says:

    I grew up Southern evangelical, so I know social conservatives like the back of my hand. Much better training than reading an essay or book.

  32. 32
    Leeds man says:

    1) Lord of the Flies
    2) A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick

  33. 33
    Elly says:

    Three invaluable (to me, anyway) for understanding conservative thinking:

    1. Corey Robin – a good summary here.

    2. John Holbo – This was written a decade ago, but it’s still deadly.

    3. Fred Clark at “The Slactivist” frequently discusses tribalism and how it applies to evangelical thought. Sample here.

  34. 34
    SatanicPanic says:

    I grew up around rednecks, so long before I knew about conservative media I knew that there were racist, dumbass people who don’t understand the world and don’t care to.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    geg6 says:

    I make no claim to understanding wingnuts. However, the one book that made me think about how their minds work so differently from my own was Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind.

    People used to try to explain wingnuts to me as people who are judgmental. But that never worked for me because every MBTI I’ve ever taken pegged me as an INTJ, so I tend to be a bit judgmental, too (though what I am judgmental about differs quite a bit from what your random wingnut is judgmental about). But Robin’s book made me see them in a way that I could, at least, conceptualize.

  37. 37
    Ksmiami says:

    @Mnemosyne: too much time listening to rt wing paranoia and not enough time living

  38. 38
    Capri says:

    Living in Indiana is all you need to get a sense of the conservative mind. The one trait that links them the ones I interact with on a daily basis is their ability to believe their ears and not their eyes. More specifically, they believe everything said by a person in authority (whom they trust) completely, even if what that person said is contradicted by their own life experience all all available facts.

    They like Republicans because they are “fiscally conservative.” If you point out that, in actual fact, they behave with less fiscal constraint than Democrats – it doesn’t register. If it’s mentioned that one can hardly say there’s a war on Christmas when you see decorations for sale in August and non-stop all Christmas all the time starting in mid-September. Well, that’s besides the point.

  39. 39
    oldster says:

    @J R in W Va:

    “My Grandma was a general store keeper back in the depression, and was never robbed because everyone knew she kept a pistol in her apron pocket, and back in the 1930s there was a lot of petty crime, as bad roads meant that a sheriff was a long way off and times were much harder than we can imagine.”

    Right: bad times were bad, and called for bad measures. Back before, that, some of my ancestors used to hit each other with rocks.

    Progressives know all that, and want to avoid going back to the stone age. For some reason, conservatives think that living in a Hobbesian war of all-against-all would be just *awesome*. Probably because it’s the civil society version of being a chicken-hawk war-blogger.

  40. 40
    Tom in NOLA says:

    Steve Sailer. http://isteve.blogspot.com/
    Chateau Heartiste

    This is the dark heart of the next generation. Be warned.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    @J R in W Va:

    I’m an urban liberal now, but my dad was a hunter and I grew up around guns. He always bragged that at age 12, I got the highest score in the hunter education course he sent me to (probably because I was paying attention to all of the “how not to die in the woods” stuff while the grown men were doodling pictures of guns in the margins of their workbook). I’m not particularly afraid of guns as objects, but I really don’t have any desire to own one because, especially in an urban area, it’s a shitload of work. You can’t target shoot in your backyard — you have to pay a fee to the shooting range. Etc.

    To me, the real divide seems to be that conservatives have that Manichean worldview where there are Good People and Bad People, and you can always tell who the Bad People are. I did at one point get my dad to admit that poor Bad People became drug dealers while rich Bad People went to Harvard and ran Enron, but that was about as far as I was able to get him to go. That’s why they’re enraged whenever we point out that there are a whole lot of gun owners who seem to have been Good People right up to the point where they snapped and started killing people.

  42. 42
    Unsalted Sinner says:

    Man, men…if only Wal-Mart were a man…

    –Kathryn Jean Lopez

    Also on her looong list of dreamboats: Catholic bishops (of course), “Rushbo”, Mel Gibson (especially when he’s drunk?) and Karl Rove. I just threw up a little in my mouth.

  43. 43
    SatanicPanic says:

    Conservatives are like sociopaths- with a little time you realize how fundamentally boring they are.

  44. 44
    Mnemosyne says:

    @brantl:

    This really belongs in the thread below, but that’s one of the reasons Republicans hate Chuck Hagel now — he actually went to Vietnam, unlike 90 percent of the current Republican leadership. Someone quoted from an article that said that one of the reasons Hagel and Obama struck up a friendship was that Obama was too young to go to Vietnam, so there wasn’t that constant tension that Hagel had with his chickenhawk peers.

  45. 45
    dmbeaster says:

    John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience” which popularized the authoritarian analysis of the conservative mind. That, and they tend to be smug pricks with no empathy, and grasp at anything, even if it makes no sense, that lets them stay smug about it.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    shortstop says:

    My flag boy and your flag boy, sitting by the fire.

    Now I’m playing the spoons. Yes, I really know how.

  48. 48
    mrmcd says:

    This quote is actually from Riann Wilson about his character Dwight from The Office, but I think it also sums up the conservative mentality pretty well:

    Developing the character for “The Office,” Wilson worked closely with writer and executive producer Greg Daniels to evolve the intense persona of Dwight. Daniels even went so far as to physically outline the character for Wilson.

    “Dwight is very clannish and has an adolescent love of hierarchies,” Wilson said. “As soon as Greg said that, everything just made sense — like a rigorous 16-year-old who’s just got everything in a box and is always looking in a Machiavellian way at how the flow chart is going.”

  49. 49
    Punchy says:

    @Mnemosyne: Because peeps on bikes tend to carry a ton of cash and wear expensive jewelry….

  50. 50
    Ron Thompson says:

    “The Reactionary Mind” by Corey Robin, “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” by Thomas Frank, and “The Mind Of The South” by W. J. Cash.

  51. 51
    Hal says:

    I’ve said before that gun culture to me seems all about these Dirty Harry fantasies of blowing away the bad guys (only bad guys, no collateral) and this fear of home invasions.

    I’ve seen posts on facebook from at least one very intelligent and sane friend attributing fake Hitler quotes supporting gun control laws, and a few posts by some quite stupid people insisting that home invasions happen all the time, that gun owners are blowing away criminals left and right while protecting their families, and that the liberal media just doesn’t want the truth to come out because of course the liberal media is all about gun control.

    Tough to see how people so steeped in fantasies like that are ever going to come around to some sort of realistic attitude toward guns in this country.

  52. 52
    RedKitten says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Her first reaction? “It could have been a robbery attempt!” Well, I guess … if he had made any attempt to rob me instead of apologizing profusely.

    Sounds like my mom and sister. Fear-driven to the point of insanity. When we installed chain locks on our doors (to keep SamKitten from taking humseld for a walk), they both reminded me to keep those locks on in case someone tries to break in and rape me.

    I live in a tiny fishing village. Virtually no crime other than the odd charge of assault when two guys fight at the bar. And yet my wimmenfolk seem to think that there is a real chance that someone will invade my home and rape me. I can’t even fathom that mindset.

  53. 53
    redshirt says:

    1984/The Handmaiden’s Tale

  54. 54
    gene108 says:

    Conservatism is easy to explain and understand: IGMFY

  55. 55
    maurinsky says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird taught me a lot about conservatives – people who are stuck to a way of life in which their kind of person is privileged, and they want it to stay that way come hell or high water.

    The Old Testament also gave me a little insight into conservatives – fear of a vengeful God seems to drive a lot of their worldview. I never quite understood that dynamic of fear leading to love, because I don’t think it is true in any way.

    Admittedly, I grew up with a pretty liberal world view (despite the Catholicism). My earliest memory is my father yelling at Tricky Dick on TV, as an obsessive reader, I used to read his “Carpenter” magazine every month (union publication), two of my aunts were active in the Civil Rights movement and sent me books about MLK, Jr., I watched Sesame Street and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, I’m 1st generation American from an Irish family that was poorer than poor, so I was steeped in the idea that all work has value, that people who don’t have a lot of power should help each other and band together to improve their lot

  56. 56
    jprfrog says:

    Book, not article: The True believer, by Eric Hoffer. The author was probably using as a point of departure the blind-to-reality American Stalinists, but the mindset and style fit the TP very well (not to mention ex-Trots like the neocons and Red-diaper babies like David Horowitz. For the record, I am a red-diaper baby too). The major characteristic of the type is a virtuoso-like ability to deny evidence even when it is slugging you in the gut. Also projection like an Imax machine.

    The content is less important than the style, and these “conservatives” are not about conserving anything.

    There are a few like that on the Left too, but they hang out around FDL and the comment threads at Salon, not in the august halls of the US Senate or in statehouses in Wisconsin, Florida, Kansas ,and Ohio. We can thank them for today’s House (of lunatics), since they decided to “teach them a lesson” by staying home in 2010.

  57. 57
    Chris says:

    What would yours be? (Article that most helped you understand conservatives, not conservative valentine.)

    “To Kill A Mocking Bird.”

    The moment when Atticus explains to his kids that nobody in the entire town believes a word Bob Ewell said and had his daughter say at trial, everyone knows he’s completely full of shit, and in fact they have even more contempt for him than they did before.

    And yet, to a man the jury members still voted to convict. Because Ewell was white, and the man he was accusing was black.

    I have yet to read a better summary of the conservative mind. (Wonderful book, too, however depressing).

  58. 58
    SatanicPanic says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Steal away! I should add, like sociopaths, conservatives seem interesting at first.

  59. 59
    Corner Stone says:

    Aimai has an interesting post up criticizing the notion that anti-gun people (of which I am one) don’t “get” gun culture.

    What did you find interesting about it?

  60. 60
    handsmile says:

    To borrow aimai’s own phrase on Christianity from her “No More Mister Nice” post:

    “I don’t ‘not get’ [Conservatism], I’ve been soaking in it”, by growing up in this country’s culture and polity (and btw I had no idea that aimai was almost 2000 years old).

    A cumulative lifetime experience, beginning in central Massachusetts in the 1950s, has presented me with conservative principles, opinions, political actors and actions.

    Reading the Worcester Telegram & Gazette as a kid, listening/watching radio and television, holiday gatherings of my extended family, being raised as a Roman Catholic, the elections of Richard Nixon: these are among my most salient lessons that there are selfish, ignorant, fearful, vengeful people in the world, and far more of them than those who shared my values.

    That as an adult I read works by Burke, Maistre, Paxton, Altemeyer, and historians of international totalitarianism and the American civil rights movement may have provided me with a broader and more sophisticated theoretical framework with which to understand and evaluate Conservatism and conservatives, but I “knew” it and them for almost all my sentient life.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Punchy:

    What, you don’t think a 16-year-old boy on a mountain bike wanted to steal my three-speed Dutch-style women’s bike with a front basket and skirt guard? You wound me, sir.

  62. 62
    Trakker says:

    I grew up in a conservative, fundamentalist Baptist household in the 50s and 60s. I didn’t have to learn how conservatives think, As an adult I had to learn about logic, facts, and how to think for myself. It was like seeing in Kodachrome after a childhood in black and white.

  63. 63
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    I still don’t “get” conservatives. Especially the female, not white, not old, and gay ones.

  64. 64
    jl says:

    I shot plenty of varmints with guns growing up on farms. But I never shot an old man in the face, or in fact, anything I did not intend to shoot, while buzzed up on rum and coke.

    And I am ‘anti-gun’, while the other guy is ‘pro-gun’.

    I guess I just don’t ‘get it’, and it’s a culture thing.

    Go figure.

  65. 65
    Chris says:

    @maurinsky:

    Damn, beat me to it. Great literature. Had to read it in middle school before I really knew what it was about, but read it again senior year of college (right before the 2008 election) and really got it then.

  66. 66
    catclub says:

    @maurinsky: “I never quite understood that dynamic of fear leading to love,”

    The thing Jesus _says_ most often in the Gospels is “Fear not.”

    actually, it is ‘Verily’ in the KJVersions, but whatever.

    I suspect that ‘fear’ in “Fear of God” may be better translated as ‘awe’, but that is more my hope than something with any basis in the words.
    Better yet ‘awe and wonder’.

  67. 67
    Keith G says:

    Is there such a thing as gun culture? I am thinking that guns are ornaments, totums if you will, of larger cultural manifestations.

  68. 68
    Left Coast Tom says:

    @J R in W Va:

    I know urban liberals with antipathy towards guns will never be convinced that they are mostly just tools and part of farm life, but there it is. At least 99.99% of guns are never used in any crimes, and many actually deter crime.

    Wasn’t the “Bushmaster” advertised as a “Man Card”? It seems reasonable to assume the manufacturer (a hedge fund) knew something about their target market when they did so. An ice axe is a tool for me as I enjoy summertime off-trail travel over snow, but I’ve never seen anyone advertise an ice axe as a “man card”.

    I think there’s something about the “gun culture” apart from your view of guns as tools, whether for protection in isolated areas, for hunting, or for enjoyment of marksmanship.

  69. 69
    Mr_Gravity says:

    “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” – Al Franken

    That’s Senator Al Franken

  70. 70
    Yankee Buzzard says:

    “Born Fighting, How the Scots-Irish Shaped America’ by Jim Webb. I don’t think you can understand Conservatism, especially Southern Conservatism, without understanding the history and values that shape “Redneck” thinking. (although Webb despises the term as an ethnic pejorative.) Reading this book made me more sympathetic to this group of folks, but also pessimistic about cohabiting in this country with people who are innately anti-government, progun and military, ethnically exclusive and hyper-individualistic ‘rebels’ -at least until its time to follow an authoritarian “Great Captain” into battle in the service of some reactionary and self-defeating cause.

  71. 71
    jl says:

    @Left Coast Tom:

    ” I think there’s something about the “gun culture” apart from your view of guns as tools, whether for protection in isolated areas, for hunting, or for enjoyment of marksmanship. ”

    Something involving various paranoid and compensational (compensating for what I will not venture to guess at this time) fantasies is my guess.

    A lot of them harbor various grudges and fantasize about airing various Festivus level grievances by shooting up the place if things don’t go “their way”, and they think the second amendment gives them a Constitutional sanction to do just that.

    They will be stomped out, or die off, eventually in various ways, I hope mostly peaceful.

  72. 72
    Anoniminous says:

    Franz de de Waal’s book Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes. From the Amazon blurb:

    What he finds is often not pleasant: chimps seem capable of astonishing deviousness and savagery, which has obvious implications for the behavior their human cousins sometimes exhibit.

  73. 73
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    If I live to be 117, I will never stop regretting that I clicked on that NRO link. Holee sheeyut.

  74. 74
    Valdivia says:

    Totally late to this thread. I’m sure someone already mentioned Hofstader? He is truly a must to understanding the crazy today. Because that’s what conservatives are. Just wingnuty.

  75. 75
    handsmile says:

    @Grincheuse:

    Yes, a wonderful book by a first-rate historian. Fischer’s Liberty and Freedom (2004) is the work I have most enjoyed (related to my professional interests): an exploration of how those two terms have been defined and distinguished in American popular culture from the colonial period to the 20th century. Lots of amazing images, insightful text.

  76. 76
    YellowDog says:

    Reading is for liberals. That includes the Bible.

  77. 77
    Woodrowfan says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I don’t understand how a Fillipina can be a “conservative”, seeing as if the racist white guys who run the show had their way, she’d be relegated to the role of “comfort woman” for the junior enlisted.

    I have a lot of Filipino inlaws. They’re all conservative Catholics and God trumps everything else, and what God wants is what their priest tells them he wants.

  78. 78
    joeyess says:

    I had my eyes opened by Digby. Yes, she warns of the sky falling at every turn, but she is dead on with this one.

  79. 79
    maurinsky says:

    @Elly:

    Thanks for the link to that Holbo piece. Really excellent.

    I tried to read Atlas Shrugged to understand the mindset of glibertarian types when I was in college the first time, but I couldn’t do it.

  80. 80
    handsmile says:

    @Valdivia:

    Maybe late, but always most welcome and never failingly pertinent!

    You’re the first to mention Hofstadter I believe. Of course, absolutely! His Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) and The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964) are essential texts to this topic.

    Do you know/have a sense whether he is still assigned on university curricula?

  81. 81

    @BGinCHI:

    I honestly don’t understand why anyone would have to read about what makes selfish people selfish and lacking in empathy.

    Ignorance and fear.

    And/Or,

    Money and arrogance.

    I co-sign all of this.

  82. 82
    David in NY says:

    Hofstadter. Paranoid Style in American Politics and other such.

    Ed: I see @Valdivia: beat me to this, but she’s (he’s?) right.

  83. 83
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: It’s like the “need” for Homeland Security anti-terrorism funds after 9/11. Ah, fuck hardening mass transit systems and ports. Poduck, AR needs another SWAT-tank-Hummer-mabobble!

  84. 84
    Woodrowfan says:

    I have noticed what many here have said already, that many of the conservatives, OK, almost all, are also very fearful people. And among their fears are people who are different. They don;t understand how someone can be different and that scares them.

  85. 85
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: See, it’s all about what kind of Filipino/a you are. Kind of like being the right or wrong kind of Cuban. Marco Rubio, as it turns out, is the “wrong” kind of Cuban. The wrong kind of Cuban are Negro-communist-mud people. QED.

  86. 86
    David in NY says:

    Will the recording secretary please provide a list of the books named above? Thank you.

  87. 87
    David in NY says:

    There’s a late-emerging Hofstadter groundswell.

  88. 88
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Elly:

    Thank you Elly for the links, concerning the conservative trope that some are suppose to rule over others, I see the great problem is that their concept of the proper elite is only those who are arrogant enough to seek power and have the blessings of the wealthy.

    Frankly, my standards are in a different direction. Those that can’t accept science and math as the defining standards of reality should have no say in politics. The earth is just getting too crowded to entertain any kind of woo-woo like YEC or Sola Scriptura. Or that faith without good works is a legitimate moral framework.

  89. 89
    Jewish Steel says:

    I was raised by Rockefeller Republicans. I get it.

  90. 90
    geg6 says:

    @Keith G:

    Is there such a thing as gun culture?

    You apparently don’t know anyone in it or you wouldn’t say such a thing.

    To answer, yes. Yes, there is.

  91. 91
    muddy says:

    @Yankee Buzzard:

    I don’t think you can understand Conservatism, especially Southern Conservatism, without understanding the history and values that shape “Redneck” thinking.

    I have a lot of friends here in VT who describe themselves as rednecks, but really they have no idea.

    When my kid was 11, we moved down south for a few years. We had been there about a month when he says to me, “I don’t want to be a snob, but I think there are 2 levels of society here lower than what you’d ever see at home.” I said, You’re not a snob, things really are different down here. Vermont may as well be Denmark in contrast. There was a phrase in WNC, “Just came off the mountain and put shoes on.”

    And my “redneck” friends here are mostly gun nuts, of the Constitutional variety. Work under the table and don’t pay taxes and then whine how taxes are too high. Lucky for them they have a mean confrontational liberal friend to smack them down sometimes. ;)

  92. 92
    geg6 says:

    @Yankee Buzzard:

    Yup. And you’d think they’d know better, seeing as how it was following that idiot Bonnie Prince Tearlach (Charles Stuart, to you and me) into disaster at Culloden that sent so many of them to the Appalachian strongholds that they so stubbornly cling to today.

  93. 93
    shortstop says:

    @handsmile Depends on the university and program, of course, but I read him in grad school and my nephew, an undergrad, did so last year.

  94. 94
    geg6 says:

    @Valdivia:

    Good point. Man, I haven’t read his stuff since college and I must have been too young to really “get” it then.

    May have to go back and read Paranoid Style again with the benefit of age and experience with these assholes.

  95. 95
    Arclite says:

    The thing that helped me understand conservative thinking is Bob Altermeyers The Authoritarians.

    His site is here.

    He has made his book (261p) available FOR FREE here.

    In fact, being free, it would make for a great Balloon Juice book club book.

  96. 96
    rec says:

    This is an old article, from 2005, but I remember finding it very illuminating:

    Red Family, Blue Family – Making sense of the values issue

    I like the Inherited Obligation family vs. Negotiated Commitment family frame

  97. 97
    WereBear says:

    @muddy: Work under the table and don’t pay taxes and then whine how taxes are too high.

    My husband has some relatives like that. When they retired, they were bitter and angry about the smallness of the Social Security check.

    I understand, in some part, because I was raised with a completely dysfunctional attitude towards money; one that says the route to prosperity is to never spend anything, on anything.

    It does not work.

  98. 98
    aimai says:

    I’m touched to be picked up!

    The single most important book/essay for me was first John Dean’s introduction to “Conservatives Without Conscience” and then Bob Altemeyer’s book The Authoritarians. The Authoritarians basically explained to me how that which I admire is that which they abhor, and vice versa. The notion of the world as a zero sum game, and of society and oppressive social norms as necessary to keep the baser passions and the baser people in check–that has been helpful too. The single most important basic difference between conservative and progressive world views is that conservatives generally worship hierarchy and will do anything within their power to either maintain the hierarchy or maintain their belief in its basic rightness even if they are crushed at the bottom. Progressives or liberals don’t believe the world is a zero sum game and do not privilige hierarchy over other models of social organization–and they are more likely to rebel against their position at both ends of the hierarchy by rejecting power for its own sake (that would be renunciation or noblesse oblige) or rebelling against accepting bottom status (revolution).

  99. 99
    ruemara says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Not Death Eaters, Ravinians.

    They are chosen. We are not, ergo we should be slaves and any uncomfortable ethics of our enslavement should be hidden from their eyes.

  100. 100
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Capri:

    They like Republicans because they are “fiscally conservative.” If you point out that, in actual fact, they behave with less fiscal constraint than Democrats – it doesn’t register.

    Ah, but that’s not what “fiscally conservative” means when Republicans say it. “Fiscally conservative” means “doesn’t believe in giving free stuff to shiftless Negroes.”

  101. 101
    JCR says:

    I’ve just started reading “American Nations” by Colin Woodard, and, while I haven’t gotten very far yet, I find it interesting to understand the cultural, historical and practical basis for many of the positions I personally think are friggin’ insane today. I’m in academics, so I have to say I’ve heard a lot of insane, vicious shit from the far left as well. I think the key differences are between people who are able to consider others’ perspectives and try to work from evidence rather than ideology, and people who see things in black and white, good vs. evil, and are ruled by ideology and fear. The right wing version is scarier, at least in this country, but they don’t have a monopoly on rigid extremism. It’s important to remember that we’re wired for fear; it’s a part of our survival mechanism and it takes conscious effort and/or a sheltered upbringing to change our default settings.

    Also, Stephen Pinker’s book “The better angels of our nature” is a very timely and interesting meditation on violence and its decline. It helps explain the “honor culture” that often goes hand-in-hand with gun culture.

  102. 102
    aimai says:

    @Grincheuse:

    That is absolutely one of my favorite books EVER! I, also, highly recommend it.

  103. 103
    Chris says:

    @aimai:

    The single most important basic difference between conservative and progressive world views is that conservatives generally worship hierarchy and will do anything within their power to either maintain the hierarchy or maintain their belief in its basic rightness even if they are crushed at the bottom.

    Yep. It’s amazing how long it took me to realize; epiphany came in a long Facebook screed by an uncle of mine on the subject of police brutality in OWS saying that our police was way too militarized, but that it was the sad and necessary consequence of a population that had grown “increasingly disrespectful of authority.” It’s easy to forget among all the screaming worship-words “freedom,” “liberty,” “Second Amendment solutions” and all that, but they fundamentally have a massive boner for Order and Authority for its own sake.

    And among other things, it explains why they’re so much more offended, for example, by civil rights activists protesting nonviolently than by KKK members lynching black people. Yes, part of it’s racism; but a big part of it is also simply the shock and outrage at the unruly sight of people going against the established order of How Things Ought To Be.

    (Also, on the book list – Les Miserables. Not the best book on the list, but every conservative I’ve ever met fits the profile of either Javert – the people I just described – or the Thenardier).

  104. 104
    shortstop says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Absolutely. But even then, their numbers are from a parallel universe. Ask them how much they think the gov is giving to shiftless Negroes. Their estimate will be close to what we spend on defense.

  105. 105
    Mike in NC says:

    No surprise to read that Doughy Pantload’s mom adores Chickenhawk Cheney. May they both DIAF.

  106. 106
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    I can’t point to any one thing, but reading wingnut blogs probably did the most. I feel like I understand contemporary conservatism pretty well now–the projection, the willful ignorance, the Manichean outlook, etc.–but what I don’t really understand why they are that way. It’s the same thing with the right-wing stance on plenty of issues. I can understand liking guns, but I don’t understand how one comes to fetishize them and declare that their guns are protecting them from “government tyranny” that actually doesn’t exist. I can understand opposing abortion, but I don’t understand how one can then come to the point where they’re insisting that rape victims MUST bear their assailants’ children. And on and on.

    EDIT: I should add that I grew up in an area that had a pretty strong old-school conservative undercurrent. “Old-school” mostly meaning “rich guys who wanted tax cuts to benefit them, but who really had no interest in culture war shit and didn’t insist that reality must be made to conform to their talking points.” As a youngster, that’s what I thought conservatism was. Boy, was I in for a surprise….

  107. 107
    aimai says:

    @Chris:

    I really didn’t understand that we are a people divided by a common language until I read the book mentioned upthread “Albion’s Seed.” When you read that book you discover that the words we commonly use to discuss things in, say New England like liberty, adulthood, religion, childhood, man, woman, loyalty, courage etc… have a completely different meaning in other parts of the country–a meaning that goes back to those early social differences between the various folkways of the immigrants. In particular some southern cultures see courage and bravery as well as liberty and independence as attributes only of certain kinds of people where as in New England those words are really generalized to the entire populace or understood as potentially attributes inherent in all peoples regardless of social status.

    It might not make sense until you read the book but reading the book helped me understand how the slave owners who wrote the constitution could write generic statements about liberty without considering for one second that it would/could/should apply to women and to non whites.

  108. 108
    stevie says:

    The thing that did it for me was that book by bill buckley. I got to the point where he says that the is no such thing as equality. My parents were pretty conservative and raised me to be one too. But I believed all the patriotic bullshit about equality in the declaration of independence and knew I wanted some for myself as a woman. Then I read that book and I knew he was right. He and my parents and most conservatives do not believe in one of the basic founding principles of our nation! I knew then I was always going to be a liberal.

    Someone online asked me why I care so much about LGBT rights if I am straight. It is because I still do believe in that principle. That is what makes me feel patriotic and really love my great country. Because I know we can do this. We can live up to our principles if we stand up to those who pretend to love our country while hating the principles upon which it was founded.

  109. 109
    muddy says:

    @WereBear: The biggest gun nut I know is entirely supported financially by his wife (she even buys his cigarettes) and he doesn’t do housework because he is “an old fashioned man”. I said to him, Not too old fashioned to let your wife support you tho! He does a couple hours here and there fixing friends cars etc. but it never goes to the household.

    ETA: he has never contributed to SS, so he is only on her account there as well.

    She works as a janitor for the school district, she has great union bennies due to the teacher union. Their household runs entirely on the taxpayers dime, and he hates the union, feminism, gun grabbers, taxes, etc.

    I have never been able to understand what she gets out of it. I’ve been given to understand that it’s not due to great sex or deep feelings. He rules the “castle”. If I paid for everything and had to do all the work at home as well, I would expect to get my way all the time (thus I live alone with animals). Headscratcher. She complains to everyone but has not done anything concrete and it’s been near 30 years now, and it went on the same before they even married. I guess she enjoys the martydom, always getting to complain, always being the “good one” in the marriage (since he is dreadful), but there is never any action. Just can not grok.

    ETA: He has never contributed to SS, so he’d better hope she doesn’t dump him, he won’t have a dime coming.

  110. 110
    Rafer Janders says:

    Dick Cheney, the Uber Daddy: Maybe it’s the sly, knowing smile that hides a teamster’s vocabulary that makes this man so macho. To me he is the essence of cool….I was first introduced to him at a reception and, even though he didn’t know me, he leaned over and kissed me. Right then I was hooked.

    I didn’t click through, but I’m guessing the above was written by Rich Lowry?

  111. 111
    Chris says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    Exactly same here. Reading wingnut blogs doesn’t explain the “why,” but it does explain the “what.” I was attracted to conservatism when I first got interested in politics, circa high school. Reading their blogs – in my case, EjectEjectEject.com, now part of PJM – where the hard right believers care enough to come comment and don’t feel the need to hold back – is how you get under the “Jesus, flag and apple pie” shit they say in public and find the ugly, prejudiced, class-riddled, power-worshiping psychopathy that lies beneath. After that, conservatism didn’t really hold much appeal anymore.

  112. 112
    hitchhiker says:

    David Brock’s Blinded by the Right, which taught me that at the public affairs level it’s all a grift — a big show put on to enhance the power and wealth of those at the top.

    Anything by Ann Coulter, which I look at as a way to see them in relief. She’s a lens that highlights the actual issues of the conservative masses, which are:

    Liberals think we’re stupid. They might be right.

    My two favorite brothers — alas! — live in the northern Great Lakes part of the world, and they’re captives of Fox and Rush. Lovely people, aside from that. I asked them once why they listen to Rush et al, and they said, quite surprised, that he’s funny and also on the only station that comes in good. Okay, says I, but you realize he’s mostly making that stuff up, right?

    Their sudden stiffness reminded me of the Coulter lens . . . I was reinforcing it. It’s a conundrum to me, how to talk to people who’ve most definitely been scammed without implying that they ought to look more carefully at the terms of the deal they’ve bought into, and thus implying that they’re stupid.

  113. 113
    JustRuss says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Local TV news

    This. I have an old Ayn Rand lovin’ friend who’s been a news cameraman for some time, and even he is appalled how his station has shifted to “All Crime, All the Time” in the last decade.

  114. 114
    Chris says:

    @aimai:

    I’ve been meaning to read that for a while. And yeah, I’m aware of the “these words apply only to us” conceit among them.

    @stevie:

    Heh. Yeah, that’s one of the drawbacks for them of believing all that patriotic “liberty and justice for all” stuff – some of us actually believe it and, when we figure out that our fellow “patriots” don’t, aren’t really motivated to stick around anymore.

    Someone online asked me why I care so much about LGBT rights if I am straight. It is because I still do believe in that principle.

    Call it one of those failures of empathy; they have a real problem processing the concept that someone could possibly care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them. It’s why they dismiss those faggy liberal causes like hunger in the third world or soup kitchens in the inner cities as “just a few kids trying to draw attention/be rebellious/jump on a bandwagon/wev.”

  115. 115
    Jim Pharo says:

    Easy. Richard Hofstaeder’s piece(s) on the Paranoid Style. Also, the first 25 pages of Nixonland by Rick Perlstein. (All the rest of Nixonland, but I’m pretending the first 25 pages are an “article.” Which they are, because I say so. And they read like one.

  116. 116
    Chris says:

    @aimai:

    I’ve been meaning to read that for a while. And yeah, I’m aware of the “these words apply only to us” conceit among them.

    @stevie:

    Heh. Yeah, that’s one of the drawbacks for them of believing all that patriotic “liberty and justice for all” stuff – some of us actually believe it and, when we figure out that our fellow “patriots” don’t, aren’t really motivated to stick around anymore.

    Someone online asked me why I care so much about LGBT rights if I am straight. It is because I still do believe in that principle.

    Call it one of those failures of empathy; they have a real problem processing the concept that someone could possibly care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them. It’s why they dismiss those girly liberal causes like hunger in the third world or soup kitchens in the inner cities as “just a few kids trying to draw attention/be rebellious/jump on a bandwagon/wev.”

  117. 117
    Jim Pharo says:

    Oh – and Ayn Rand. Reading her helped me understand the essentially juvenile nature of modern ‘movement conservatism.’

  118. 118
    KS in MA says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Thanks for the link. That does explain a few things.

  119. 119
    redshirt says:

    Seriously, 1984. If you’ve not read it since High School, do so again. Absolutely chilling and terrifying, especially since the Republicans took it as an instruction manual and not a warning.

  120. 120
    MCA1 says:

    @Jim Pharo: Both of these for me, as well. Both put a background to the fear, paranoia and resentment that drive a large portion of the modern Republican Party’s voter base.

  121. 121
    MCA1 says:

    @Jim Pharo: Both of these for me, as well. Both put a background to the fear, paranoia and resentment that drive a large portion of the modern Republican Party’s voter base.

  122. 122
    Liberty60 says:

    OT, but here is something you need to keep on file for the next time your wingnut aunt sends you a sneering dismissal of Liberal-California-turning-into-Greece:

    S&P raises California Bond Ratings, citing improved budget picture under Democratic spuermajority

  123. 123
    Chris says:

    @redshirt:

    I consider “1984” a foundational book for politics in general, more than just conservatism. But good call.

  124. 124

    I feel like I understand contemporary conservatism pretty well now–the projection, the willful ignorance, the Manichean outlook, etc.–but what I don’t really understand why they are that way.

    Take a course in psychology. Their behavior is human instinct, what all of us are programmed to do automatically. Some of us have used our ability to think rationally to grow beyond that selfish animal, but that selfish animal is where we all start out.

  125. 125
    Jeff says:

    Moral Politics by George Lakoff

    He may not be right on all fronts, but his account of why liberal and conservative positions tend to group together the way they do is incredibly useful.

  126. 126
    Visceral says:

    I’d say an article well worth reading to understand conservatives is Dead Right by John Holbo, the source of “Donner Party conservatism”. Long rambling article but a couple main points. For conservatives, culture trumps economics: i.e. hippies and gangbangers can never be rich, crew-cut button-down straight-and-narrow conservatives will never be poor, so if you want to improve people’s lives, you first need to improve the people. To that end, hardship builds character, so to make better people and therefore a better society, engineer hardship: gut the welfare state, let the market try to screw everyone, and people will have no choice but to sack up and buckle down. “Get the culture right” and prosperity really will be just around the corner. People’s insides will change to match their outsides, so fussing about clothes, language, etc. is necessary to mold the person underneath.

  127. 127
    redshirt says:

    @Chris: Really? How so for politics, as I don’t see how it refers to “normal” politics at all, but rather the dictatorial means of control over a society. Unless your implying that all governments are like this, to more or lessor degrees.

  128. 128
    redshirt says:

    @Liberty60: That’s awesome. Because if things like this keep happening, it will seep into the mind of even the craziest money man that Democrats are better for business. And then the Republican party collapses.

  129. 129
    General Stuck says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    I would say this is about right, imo, as the short answer. The selfishness I think comes from a lack of ability to process different forms of fear. Up to and including the most rabid wingnuts with a persistent existential fear of having been born in the first place, and the certainty of death.

    For whatever reason, some folks just can’t reconcile that fact of life, so they direct all the angst outward onto others. There are of course a lot of other factors involved, and I think there also is a kind of genetic wingnut. But it is the relentless sense of fear for everything that drives the worst wingnuts to very crazy thinking patterns.

  130. 130
    MaryRC says:

    Not a book or article, just a comment on some wingnut site (maybe lucianne.com) sometime around 2003-2004 to the effect that the commenter loved Donald Rumsfeld because every sentence he spoke to the press had the unsaid phrase “Fuck you” at the end of it. Not unlike the love for Dick Cheney quoted above, but the commenter was a man. Not that it makes much difference. The revelation to me was that bullies make their tender parts tingle, because they identify with the bully. It explains a lot about Sarah Palin’s appeal as well.

  131. 131
    redshirt says:

    @General Stuck: Interesting angle – a genetic basis for Wingnut. I can buy it.

    Thesis: In every population there is the 27%, but it is the nature of the particular society/time which either magnifies or mitigates that crazy factor. From time to time charismatic individuals can rally this 27% towards their ends.

    It is a sign of our times that it is now far easier to influence this 27% than at any other time in history. Consider how difficult it would be to whip up the mobs into a good Groupthink 300 years ago, or even 100 years ago, as opposed to now.

  132. 132
    Chris says:

    @redshirt:

    The eternal conflict between High, Middle and Low; the tendency to “doublethink” in the service of one’s cause; the use of war and nationalism and the effect they have on a population… Call my cynical, but it seems to have a universal application beyond just conservative or dictatorial politics. (Not always to the same degree, but not every society needs to be Orwellian for it to have relevance).

  133. 133
    David in NY says:

    One further trait I’ve noticed of late about conservatives that I’m not entirely sure is touched on enough, and that’s their unshakeable belief not only that they’re right, but that they are certain to triumph.

    Recently, in the wake of Lincoln, I reviewed a bit of Civil War history and damn, if Jefferson Davis in April, 1865, didn’t sound just like Karl Rove, on the evening of November 6, 2012 — Davis as certain that with just 3000 more troops the Confederacy was bound to win (even with Joe Johnston telling him his troops were melting away) as Karl Rove was that there were more Republican votes in Ohio that would put Romney over the top (in the face of Fox News’s contrary conclusion). In fact, Davis himself is probably as near as we can get to the Platonic ideal of the wingnut. No doubt a study of the South’s determination to go to war would reveal a lot about the nature of conservatism.

  134. 134
    Mnemosyne says:

    @redshirt:

    Consider how difficult it would be to whip up the mobs into a good Groupthink 300 years ago, or even 100 years ago, as opposed to now.

    I’m not so sure I agree with you on your police work there, Lou. French Revolution, anyone?

    In fact, it’s probably harder to get people into groupthink now since it’s so much easier to find and distribute contrary information.

  135. 135
    MaryRC says:

    @brantl: Did you read the rest of Lucianne’s valentine to Cheney? She explains it all: the friend that he shot ran in front of his gun. So Dick was the real victim. Not that being the victim made him any less cool or macho, of course.

  136. 136
    redshirt says:

    @Mnemosyne: Not impossible, but far more difficult. How did you effectively spread propaganda prior to electronic media (telegraph, radio, tv, internet)? Newspapers, letters, speeches. These things are slow and target small groups. Plus, 300 years ago, how many of the 27% could even read?

    Again, not saying their weren’t charismatic leaders who whipped up the 1530’s version of Wingnut, just that it was exceedingly more difficult.

  137. 137
    redshirt says:

    @Chris: That seems pretty cynical, or maybe I’m reading Orwell too specifically. To say that every form of politics is following the outlines of Doublethink, and Groupthink, etc, doesn’t seem right to me. I mean, yes, an inherent part of politics is getting people to agree with you, and thus influencing their opinions, but this can be done in a sincere fashion, or in deceptive, manipulative fashion. I have a hard time seeing how, say, the politics of Ancient Greece adhere to the dynamics Orwell laid out in 1984. Least of all because technology was a key factor in 1984.

  138. 138
    Chris says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    In fact, it’s probably harder to get people into groupthink now since it’s so much easier to find and distribute contrary information.

    Yes and no, I think… How many people go on the Internet actually seeking out contrary information, and how many of them, when they find it, actually process it as opposed to running to PJMedia to ask their guru how this shockingly inconvenient information must be wrong? Modern communications technology works as a tool of groupthink as much as information.

  139. 139
    Mnemosyne says:

    @redshirt:

    Again, not saying their weren’t charismatic leaders who whipped up the 1530′s version of Wingnut, just that it was exceedingly more difficult.

    St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

    You really, really need to do some reading on European history if you think it was difficult to whip up frenzied mobs in the days before the internet. If anything, now the internet keeps people in their homes complaining rather than taking to the streets to rip their “heretic” neighbors limb from limb.

  140. 140
    redshirt says:

    @Mnemosyne: I’m not sure I buy it. The Internet is not a tool the 27% use to check their facts, but rather to confirm whatever crazy bias they have.

    The influencers knows this, and use this to manipulate them in ways impossible in the past. Witness the emergence of phrases or attacks Wingnut wide seemingly overnight – BENGHAZI! Fast and Furious! Manufactured outrage designed for consumption by the 27%.

  141. 141
    Mnemosyne says:

    @redshirt:

    Deciding that Protestants are trying to take over the country so we’d better kill them before they do was not manufactured outrage? And it happened over and over and over again in the pre-internet age.

  142. 142
    aimai says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I agree with Mnemosyne–it was harder to get an illiterate population out into the streets by, say, literature but any place where a large group of people already congregated (churches, cities) were extremely volatile places precisely because large groups of people act and react in ways that are extremely non rational and non thoughtful and emotion laden.

    If anything the internet, as Mnemosyne says, like TV (yes, even Fox news) pacifies people by keeping them agitated but isolated. It takes a tremendous amount of coaxing and manipulating to get people out into the streets or active in any real way that takes more than a click.

  143. 143
    Mnemosyne says:

    @aimai:

    See also, pogroms. It was very easy to get illiterate villagers whipped into a frenzy over the evils that Jews had brought to their villages.

  144. 144
    redshirt says:

    @Mnemosyne: Sure. My point though was based on the comment from General Stuck about a genetic basis for the 27% – that in any community at any time there is a quarter of the population genetically predisposed to fear, paranoia, xenophobia, etc.

    In the entirety of human civilization, it has never been easier to 1. Centralize the propaganda and 2. Disseminate it.

    Mob action is not necessarily the barometer. Would you describe the rise of the Tea Party and their behaviors in 2009/2010 as a mob action? I would not, but rather, the effect of targeted propaganda to a very specific demographic of the population in order to shape policy.

  145. 145
    aimai says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Yes, but villages that were nucleated settlements. Where people are illiterate you need a medium to communicate the issues and ideas and you need a location or a transmitter. There have actually been some interesting studies of the flow of information from Paris to the outlying suburbs and then the rural areas during the Revolution indicating that people shouting from field to field was faster than a man on horseback.

  146. 146
    muddy says:

    @rec: This is very late, but thanks for that link, It was a really good article.

  147. 147
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @David in NY:

    their unshakeable belief not only that they’re right, but that they are certain to triumph.

    I would hazard to guess that’s an outcropping of conservative Christianity. You know, that whole “there’s a war going on right now…but the good news is it was already won 2000 years ago by Jesus” thing.

  148. 148
    ezdidit says:

    The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer, is available for free online at http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
    It’s rumored to be paid for in perpetuity by President (ugh) Richard M.Nixon’s chief of staff and Watergate whistleblower, John Dean.
    This book helped me to understand the key differences in psychological disposition between Liberals and Conservatives. Bob’s study is the only one of its kind.

  149. 149
    Ted & Hellen says:

    How would the average Balloon Juice commenter know anything about being a Liberal?

  150. 150
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Yankee Buzzard: Well, it’s too late now, their children are marrying outside the tribe and their grandkids are mixed, at least in some areas. Maybe they adhere to that bright line–no race mixing–in Tennessee. It’s all over but the shouting in Florida.

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    jake the snake says:

    The 27% think they are a majority, and resent and deny
    any information to the contrary.

  152. 152
    jake the snake says:

    @Another Halocene Human:
    To show how things changed over the years. I remember my
    mother, who was born in Alabama in 1916, telling me that
    “white people” and “colored people” should not mix socially.
    This was in the beginning days of school integration the the late ’50s or early ’60s. By the 1990s, the sister of one of her best friends was married to an African=American
    and my mother tried to set my daughter up with their son.
    So, in 30 years she went from being uncomfortable with integration to thinking that it would be a good idea for
    her granddaughter to date someone of mixed race.

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  154. 154
    rec says:

    @muddy: Even later to my own party, but I found a PDF version that doesn’t have the formatting issues of the HTML:

    Red Family, Blue Family – Making sense of the values issue

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