A Conservative Explains Why Right-Wingers Have No Compassion

  

Category:  Mental Health and Wellness

Via:  hal-a-lujah  •  3 years ago  •  29 comments

A Conservative Explains Why Right-Wingers Have No Compassion
They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



February 17, 2012, 9:00 AM GMT

A former Republican Senate Congressional staffer on why right-wingers think people without insurance deserve to die.

Although Mitt Romney used the word "conservative" 19 times in a short speech at the February 10, 2012, Conservative Political Action Conference, the audience he used this word to appeal to was not conservative by any traditional definition. It was right wing. Despite the common American practice of using "conservative" and "right wing" interchangeably, right wing is not a synonym for conservative and not even a true variant of conservatism - although the right wing will opportunistically borrow conservative themes as required.

Right-wingers have occasioned much recent comment. Their behavior in the Republican debates has caused even jaded observers to react like an Oxford don stumbling upon a tribe of headhunting cannibals. In those debates where the moderators did not enforce decorum, these right-wingers, the Republican base, behaved with a single lack of dignity. For a group that displays its supposed pro-life credentials like a neon sign, the biggest applause lines resulted from their hearing about executions or the prospect of someone dying without health insurance.

Who are these people and what motivates them? To answer, one must leave the field of conventional political theory and enter the realm of psychopathology. Three books may serve as field guides to the farther shores of American politics and the netherworld of the true believer.

Most estimates calculate the percentage of Republican voters who are religious fundamentalists at around 40 percent; in some key political contests, such as the Iowa caucuses, the percentage is closer to 60. Because of their social cohesion, ease of political mobilization and high election turnout, fundamentalists have political weight even beyond their raw numbers. An understanding of their leaders, infrastructure and political goals is warranted. Max Blumenthal has done the work in his book "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party." Blumenthal investigates politicized fundamentalism and provides capsule bios of such movement luminaries as James Dobson, Tony Perkins, John Hagee and Ted Haggard. The reader will conclude that these authority figures and the flocks they command are driven by a binary, Manichean vision of life and a hunger for conflict. Their minds appear to have no more give and take than that of a terrier staring down a rat hole.

Blumenthal examines the childhoods of these religious-right celebrities and reveals a significant quotient of physical and mental abuse suffered at the hands of parents. His analysis of the obvious sadomasochistic element in Mel Gibson's films - so lionized by the right wing - is enough to give one the creeps. But the book is by no means a uniformly depressing slog: the chapter titled "Satan in a Porsche," about fundamentalist attempts to ban pornography, approaches slapstick.

According to the author, the inner life of fundamentalist true believers is the farthest thing from that of a stuffily proper Goody Two Shoes. They seem tormented by demons that those in the reality-based community scarcely experience. That may explain their extraordinary latitude in absolving their political and ecclesiastical heroes of their sins: while most of us might regard George W. Bush as a dry drunk resentful of his father, Newt Gingrich as a sociopathic serial adulterer and Ted Haggard as a pathetic specimen in terminal denial, their followers on the right apparently believe that the greater the sin, the more impressive the salvation - so long as the magic words are uttered and the penitent sinner is washed in the Blood of the Lamb. This explains why people like Gingrich can attend "values voter" forums and both he and the audience manage to keep straight faces. Far from being a purpose-driven life, the existence of many true believers is a crisis-driven life that seeks release, as Blumenthal asserts, in an "escape from freedom."

An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade. In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.

Robert Altemeyer, a Canadian psychologist, has done extensive testing to isolate and describe the traits of the authoritarian personality. His results are distilled in his book "The Authoritarians." He describes religious fundamentalists, the core of the right-wing Republican base, as follows:

They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times and are often hypocrites.

There are tens of millions of Americans who, although personally lacking the self-confidence, ambition and leadership qualities of authoritarian dominators like Gingrich or Sarah Palin, nevertheless empower the latter to achieve their goals while finding psychological fulfillment in subordination to a cause. Altemeyer describes these persons as authoritarian followers. They are socially rigid, highly conventional and strongly intolerant personalities, who, absent any self-directed goals, seek achievement and satisfaction by losing themselves in a movement greater than themselves. One finds them overrepresented in reactionary political movements, fundamentalist sects and leader cults like scientology. They are the people who responded on cue when Bush's press secretary said after the 9/11 attacks that people had better "watch what they say;" or who approved of illegal surveillance because "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear;" or who, after months of news stories saying that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, nevertheless believed the weapons were found. Altemeyer said:

Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds. They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result.... And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going away.

Twenty to 25 percent is no majority, but enough to swing an election, especially since the authoritarian follower is more easily organized than the rest of the population. As for Altemeyer's warning that such personality types "are not going away," the rise of the Tea Party after 2008 showed that he was a better prognosticator than Max Blumenthal, who thought the radical takeover of the GOP during the Bush presidency had "shattered the party."

Altemeyer cites clinical data to show us how certain people score high on psychological tests measuring authoritarian traits and that these high scores strongly correlate with right-wing political preferences. What Altemeyer is lacking is a satisfactory explanation as to why a significant percentage of human beings should develop these traits. We obtain some clues in Wilhelm Reich's "The Mass Psychology of Fascism," written in 1933 and unfortunately only obtainable in a stilted 1945 translation full of odd psychological jargon. One does not have to agree with Reich's questionable later career path and personal eccentricities(1) to notice that his 1933 work is a perceptive analysis of the character of the authoritarian political movements that were rising in Europe. Anyone reading it then and taking it seriously could have predicted the new totalitarian regimes' comprehensive repressiveness, extreme intolerance and, within a few years, nihilistic destructiveness.

Reich appears to see fascism as the political manifestation of an authoritarian psychology. Who are the authoritarians?

Fascist mentality is the mentality of the subjugated "little man" who craves authority and rebels against it at the same time. It is not by accident that all fascist dictators stem from the milieu of the little reactionary man. The captains of industry and the feudal militarist make use of this social fact for their own purposes. A mechanistic authoritarian civilization only reaps, in the form of fascism, from the little, suppressed man what for hundreds of years it has sown in the masses of little, suppressed individuals in the form of mysticism, top-sergeant mentality and automatism.

Here again we see the paradoxical nature of the authoritarian personality: rebelling against authority while hungering for it - exactly as the contemporary right wing fancies it is rebelling against big government while calling for intrusive social legislation and militarism. In the midst of dire economic circumstances, why do they expend inordinate energy brooding over contraception, abortion, abstinence education, gay marriage and so forth and attempt to transform their obsessions into law? Reich said:

The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety.... The result of this process is fear of freedom and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids political reaction not only through this process which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical but also by creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order. The suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars.

According to Reich, a patriarchal, sexually repressive family life, reinforced by strict and punitive religious dogma, is the "factory" of a reactionary political order. Hence, the right wing's ongoing attempts to erase the separation of church and state, its crusade against Planned Parenthood, its strange obsession with gays. Consider the following political platform, which sounds almost as if it were taken from a speech by Rick Santorum:

The preservation of the family with many children is a matter of biological concept and national feeling. The family with many children must be preserved ... because it is a highly valuable, indispensable part of the ... nation. Valuable and indispensable not only because it alone guarantees the maintenance of the population in the future but because it is the strongest basis of national morality and national culture ... The preservation of this family form is a necessity of national and cultural politics ... This concept is strictly at variance with the demands for an abolition of paragraph 218; it considers unborn life as sacrosanct. For the legalization of abortion is at variance with the function of the family, which is to produce children and would lead to the definite destruction of the family with many children.

So wrote the Völkischer Beobachter of October 14, 1931. As Altemeyer warns, they are not going away: certain psychological constructs and the political expressions they give rise to, persist over time and across cultures.


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Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
1  seeder  Hal A. Lujah    3 years ago

After witnessing so much inhumanity on the part of NT's conservatives today, and pretty much every day since 2015 or so, I went looking for the answer to why they are so full of hate.  I typed into google "why conservatives l", and before I could finish the thought google finished it for me:  "why conservatives lack empathy" helpfully popped up.  It must be a common question for google.  This article from 2012 was very illuminating.  Remember when 'conservatism' and 'right wing' used to not be interchangeable?  Wasn't even that long ago.  This article is a pretty amazing thing to revisit in the days of the train wreck Donald Trump administration.

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
1.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @1    3 years ago

[deleted] (back in the days I was actually an involved registered democrat)

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
1.1.1  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Nowhere Man @1.1    3 years ago

Really?  You don't find that statement to be incredibly hyperbolic and incendiary?  deleted

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
1.1.2  Nowhere Man  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @1.1.1    3 years ago

Really? from one who told me I needed to kill myself because of my beliefs?

Remember when 'conservatism' and 'right wing' used to not be interchangeable?

What is not incendiary and hyperbolic about this?

Interesting that my sweeping generalization is deleted but the seeders is left standing....

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
1.1.3  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Nowhere Man @1.1.2    3 years ago

ROFL - you think that equating conservative with right wing is no different than equating the left with domestic terrorism?  

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
1.1.4  Nowhere Man  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @1.1.3    3 years ago

Given current events over the last several years, no difference at all.

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Junior Quiet
1.1.5  Jack_TX  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @1.1.1    3 years ago
You don't find that statement to be incredibly hyperbolic and incendiary?

Hang on..... aren't you the person who said:

so much inhumanity on the part of NT's conservatives today

Do you even understand what irony is?

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
1.1.6  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Nowhere Man @1.1.4    3 years ago

Says the guy who once murdered someone in a public restroom.

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
1.1.7  Nowhere Man  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @1.1.6    3 years ago

You call what I did murder?

Fuck you...

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
1.1.8  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Nowhere Man @1.1.7    3 years ago

I'd ask the only other person in the room for their opinion, but they are dead.  If there was even a whiff of him being a liberal, I'd say the DA should reopen the investigation.  You have a murderous hatred for liberals, and an obvious penchant for lying - as illustrated right here on NT several times where you tried to convince us that you took certain photos that you clearly did not.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2  Tessylo  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @1    3 years ago

Remember the gem 'compassionate conservative'?  That's an oldie but a goodie 

An oxymoron for sure 

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
2  JBB    3 years ago

Hate is not an American Value but the conservatives surely do value hate...

 
 
 
livefreeordie
Junior Quiet
3  livefreeordie    3 years ago

Very misleading seed

no actual conservative is cited

the claim that 40% of Republican voters are Fundamentalists demonstrates an ignorance of Protestant Christianity in America

Most Evangelicals are NOT fundamentalists.  Fundamentalists are a very small segment of Protestant Christianity in the US. They consider many Evangelicals to be heretics and especially Charismatics or Pentecostals.

leftists broadly apply Fundamentalist labels as a derogatory term without regard to the actual beliefs of conservative Christian and Catholic voters

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
3.1  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  livefreeordie @3    3 years ago

Mike Lofgren (the author) is a former Republican congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees.

It's telling how you have completely ignored the whole point of the article, and chose to focus on the semantics of fundamentalist vs. evangelical.  That certainly lends credence to what is in the article.

 
 
 
livefreeordie
Junior Quiet
3.1.1  livefreeordie  replied to  Hal A. Lujah @3.1    3 years ago

Nothing that was cited reflected conservatism but was someone’s opinion of conservative beliefs

Lofgren was never a conservative. His views are that of the Republican Establishment which is left of center as shown in this interview where he displayed contempt for conservatives going back decades

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Junior Quiet
3.2  Jack_TX  replied to  livefreeordie @3    3 years ago
Very misleading seed

no actual conservative is cited

the claim that 40% of Republican voters are Fundamentalists demonstrates an ignorance of Protestant Christianity in America

Most Evangelicals are NOT fundamentalists.  Fundamentalists are a very small segment of Protestant Christianity in the US. They consider many Evangelicals to be heretics and especially Charismatics or Pentecostals.

leftists broadly apply Fundamentalist labels as a derogatory term without regard to the actual beliefs of conservative Christian and Catholic voters

It doesn't matter to them at all.  Liberal politics is their religion.  It's just like old time Baptists of the 1950s.  They have their doctrines, their rituals, their tent revivals, and their prophets.  They even proselytize door to door.  Liberal politics is how they decide good from evil and the righteous from the infidels.  

They don't give a single solitary rat's ass how misleading, biased, slanted, inaccurate or generally full of shit anything is.  This is simply about affirming to each other that their religion is the true one and everybody else is either an unwashed non-believer or a future convert.

 
 
 
Steve Ott
Professor Quiet
3.3  Steve Ott  replied to  livefreeordie @3    3 years ago
Most Evangelicals are NOT fundamentalists.

I wholeheartedly agree, having been a member of both groups. 

leftists broadly apply Fundamentalist labels as a derogatory term

Agree again, but at the same time, the rightests paint with their own broad brush strokes. 

Saying that a subset equates to the whole is a logical fallacy that both sides fall prey to, but will not admit it. As to the definition of an actual conservative and actual liberal would probably best be left to an entirely new thread.

 
 
 
Skrekk
Sophomore Expert
3.4  Skrekk  replied to  livefreeordie @3    3 years ago
leftists broadly apply Fundamentalist labels as a derogatory term

I generally refer to you folks as Christian extremists or the Christian Taliban.

 
 
 
Ronin2
PhD Quiet
4  Ronin2    3 years ago
They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times and are often hypocrites.

Just described every hard line political activist on either side. I find it hilarious the left doesn't see this in their own.

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
4.1  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to  Ronin2 @4    3 years ago

Trumpsters like yourself all believe that anyone who voted for Hillary did so out of unwavering devotion to Hillary Clinton.  You think that, because you don't know any other way to think than how the articles describes.  We are not the tribal ones, we are the ones who use sound reasoning and empathy.

 
 
 
Hal A. Lujah
Professor Expert
4.1.2  seeder  Hal A. Lujah  replied to    3 years ago

removed for context

 
 
 
luther28
Sophomore Quiet
5  luther28    3 years ago

Just described every hard line political activist on either side.

While I do agree that the article would seem to describe the seemingly disenfranchised segment of the right, I must agree with Ronin2 that it is applicable to either extreme.

Personally I believe it is an abdication of ones own thought, sheep looking for the right shepard

 
 
 
user image
Freshman Silent
6      3 years ago

.

 
 
 
lennylynx
Sophomore Participates
6.1  lennylynx  replied to  @6    3 years ago

Smatter EA, cat got your tongue?

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
7  Sean Treacy    3 years ago

Alternet posts from 2012? And people bitch about XXX's seeds!!!!

But yeah....

 
 
 
bbl-1
Professor Quiet
8  bbl-1    3 years ago

Conservatism?  What ever.  Conservatism has devolved into Ayn Rand Supply Side and that is enough for me to run away from that ticket.

I remember the 2012 election when Romney and Ryan both said they were Supply Siders.

 
 
 
Skrekk
Sophomore Expert
8.1  Skrekk  replied to  bbl-1 @8    3 years ago
Conservatism has devolved into Ayn Rand Supply Side and that is enough for me to run away from that ticket.

It seems to be synonymous with white nationalism these days no doubt in part a consequence of the GOP's racist southern strategy.

 
 
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