With recent events in the GOP (to say nothing of the irrational behavior on display ever since Obama got elected) many posters here have often expressed confusion about the behavior on display. Often I have seen posters baffled by the sheer spite and inconsistent beliefs being proclaimed by various factions of the right wing. So I decided to make this thread to try and explain the inner workings of the most influential part of the modern right wing, Authoritarians.
Rather than going the usual route when this topic is raised of trying to simply dismiss Authoritarians as simply ignorant or spiteful, I will here argue (and attempt as best as possible to demonstrate) that the usual treatment of this topic is too simplistic, too often speaking in cold academic descriptions. There is to me a completely coherent "method to the madness" of Authoritarians, and I will attempt here to lay out the inner workings of the mindset of Authoritarians, how they function in groups, the various sub-types of authoritarian leaders, what motivates them, and finally, how to anticipate (to a surprising degree) the behavior of Authoritarians. I will do so by first defining the terms I use in my own (mentally ill) mind to understand Authoritarians, and then using those concepts to examine recent US history as a way of elaborating on my meanings.
I am doing this firstly because I have a rather unique perspective on the topic, and secondly because it is my firm conclusion that between now and the 2016 elections there will be a significant (probably dramatically so) increase in the aggression and irrationality of the right wing in this country. For reasons that I will do my best to explain and elaborate on, I have concluded that between now and the 2016 elections we will see bigots drop their mask and start getting real.
Much of the first few posts here will be culled from an already ongoing discussion in the Marriage Equality thread, however, the discussion has moved beyond the scope of that thread and is not really germane, so I am moving it here.. First off, let me make some caveats.
I am not an expert nor do I have any higher education. I am a schizophrenic (full diagnosis Bi-Polar Type II Schizoaffective, PTSD, possible mild autism, depression) trans-woman (only recently out to myself) raised in a hardcore Authoritarian cult. I have only four years of proper education (High School) with the rest of my education being handled either directly at the cult or in home schooling under the supervision of the cult. My childhood was extremely painful and controlled. I did not have a social security number until I was 18 because social security numbers were the mark of the beast. I did not find out about the birds and the bees until two years after I entered puberty and was having erections. (I thought my erections were a curse from God for my impure thoughts and tried desperately to hide them). I have been involved in a variety of other cults and proto-cults in my adult life. I have also had the great fortune to be involved with some truly remorseless people that gave me an insight into just what humans will do to each other. (Many years ago I had a life insurance policy that named my business partner at the time as sole beneficiary, one of our mutual acquaintances repeatedly tried to pitch this business partner on killing me for the insurance money.)
Of interest I am sure to some who may remember me I was a Kyoon-esque poster on these forums many years ago. My forums name back then was Truckin A Man and I used to spray Ron Paul/9-11 Truth/Anti-Vaxxer insanity on these forums (and early LF) back around 2007. (I have previously owned up to this before in the Conspiracy thread.) I also spent many years under a complicated delusion where the voice of the biblical prophet Enoch was giving me instructions to prepare for the final war between Heaven and Hell. I based major life decisions on Enoch's instructions (what jobs to take, where to live, who to befriend, etc).
So yeah, take everything i say with a grain of salt. I am a crazy person. A self aware crazy person perhaps, but still a crazy person.
Also, the style in which must of this is written is not meant to dehumanize or otherize the people I am describing. I am not trying to do anything but explain how I understand the people I was raised around. The manner in which this is written is more a consequence of my Schizophrenia more than anything else. Forums User Schizotek summed it up pretty well.
And the capitalization thing people mentioned is just something schizos tend to do even when they aren't babbling about the CIA trying to assassinate them by slipping an empty Monster can underneath their brake pedal. It's "this represents a concept related to but not identical to this words textbook meaning, but I don't have a separate word for what I'm trying to describe so I'll turn it into a proper noun to distinguish that", as opposed to just trying to make it look scary. Normal people do it too but it's practically a schizophrenia trademark.
Please bear in mind, this all comes from a weird spot in a schizophrenic mind, and it is really hard for me to put it all into a coherent form. Schizophrenia interweaves and ties things into a Gordian Knot, and finding a few strands I can tug at enough to elaborate on is rather taxing. So while this is all written in a pretty direct manner, it is just like, my opinion man. I recognize that there is probably no way to test any of this, and furthermore, it is written with an air of authority it does not deserve. (Such is Schizophrenia though, if I tried to properly caveat everything I would never be able to get myself to actually write it down.) I suppose this is something like what a Kyoon rant might look like if he actually took his meds.
I recognize that nothing I say can be tested or proven and I'm not going to even bother trying to do so. I am just offering my (rather unusual) viewpoint on a portion of the population that I feel is not well understood. There has been some Academic research into the topic of Authoritarians, namely "The Authoritarians"/ by Bob Altemeyer, (which is a pro-click free ebook by a real scientist, go read it) however there is not near as much study as one would hope. So I am going to try and describe Authoritarians groups from the inside and from a laymans perspective.
One more brief caveat, I want to make it clear that I am not discussing Joe Shmedley white flight suburbanite or your average college Republican. I am discussing Authoritarians, which are a specific subset of the population. (Actual portion of the population is not known, but its probably not even in the double digits range percentage wise.) Authoritarians may be right or left leaning, however, in the US, left leaning Authoritarians (ex Anti-vaxxers, Homeopaths, etc) are essentially powerless, whereas right leaning Authoritarians have a disproportionate amount of influence over the GOP, for reasons I shall try my best to describe in this thread.
Narrative: The first concept i want to discuss about Authoritarians is what I call "Narrative". Contrary to the common view that Authoritarians live by the dictates of some unseen and vengeful God, they actually base their decisions/live their lives based upon a narrative of which a vengeful petty God is always a feature. Whether it be a Fundamentalist Zealot or an Objectivist shitlord, Authoritarians always have a narrative that determines everything they say, think, or do. Narrative is the true God of the Authoritarian, which is why what God actually says or does has very little practical worth. What Authoritarians care about is what God (Or for Objectivists the Free Market) should be doing according to the narrative. No matter what is actually happening, they will believe and behave as if the narrative is playing out exactly as they expected it too. Regardless of actual real world circumstances, outcomes, situations, or influences, Authoritarians always prize the narrative above all else.
Narrative works on three primary levels (Grand, Outer, Inner) that I will describe in detail here.
Grand Narrative: One of the curious things about Authoritarians is that no matter what form the narrative they live by ultimately takes, it will always conform nearly identically to certain (surprisingly narrow) details and themes. The names, characters, and settings may change, but the ultimate shape and themes of the story remains uniform. I call this the Grand Narrative. From start to finish, this narrative always follows the same path, to the same eventual conclusion, no deviations. This narrative has multiple sections and each section has certain expectations for behavior. For example, various Authoritarian Communist movements have believed themselves living in the "Dawn of a New Age"(the start of the Grand Narrative) and have conduced themselves as such. In contrast American Evangelicals believe themselves to be living at the "End Times", or the end of the Grand Narrative, and they base all their decisions on that perception. Understanding then what part of this universal story an Authoritarian thinks themselves living in is critical to understanding what decisions an Authoritarian is going to make, and why.
Another curious thing is that no matter what situation an Authoritarian is born into, given enough time, they will ultimate create the Grand Narrative, no matter how hard they may try to avoid it. Owing to extremely complex and interwoven psychological factors Authoritarians use the Grand Narrative to provide succor for human emotional needs that they are otherwise unable to provide for. Thusly, inexorably, any Authoritarian will inevitable create a different version of the exact same story. Because the Grand Narrative is designed to meet subconscious needs and not address real world problems. While it is yet beyond me to tell the entire story from start to finish (Which I hope to someday be able to do, possibly in a Novella form) I can draw an interesting comparison here to demonstrate what I mean.
I am certain that most readers here will be familiar with the Rapture story. Just in case though, the basic outline of the Rapture is as follows: "God (Yahweh) passes judgement on the world by sending the perfect man (Jesus) as a thief in the night to rescue his chosen people (selected for their innate merit of being true believers). Jesus takes his chosen into paradise (heaven), where they sit back and watch as the world collapses into torment without them. Once the world has been destroyed, the followers of Jesus will emerge as rulers in a new golden age."
Important to note that this narrative appears nowhere in the Bible. It is rather cobbled together from a wild sample of sources that were never meant to be tied together .A Bible verse here, a stray bit of Jewish Mysticism there, a piece of occult errata there, etc etc. The rapture story is an example of the Grand Narrative, for even though it can be found nowhere in the Bible, Authoritarian Christians nonetheless have been able to find all the clues they needed to create it.
Now we turn to Ayn Rand, one of (in my view) the most influential Authoritarian philosophers in the modern age. Don't be fooled by her Atheism or her constant harping about individual liberty, Ayn Rand was a bigoted zealot like any other and believed essentially the same things as any Christian Fundamentalist I can think of. As a result of this, Ayn Rand's philosophy and writings should reflect the Grand narrative, and I believe they do (although only piecemeal).
Consider Atlas Shrugged. When you break it down, it is little more than a repeat of the Rapture story. "God (the free market) passes judgement on the world by sending the perfect man (John Galt) as a thief in the night to rescue his chosen people (selected for their innate merit of being Captains of Industry). John Galt takes his chosen into paradise (Galt's Gulch), where they sit back and watch as the world collapses into torment without them. It is assumed that once the world has been destroyed, the followers of John Galt will emerge to rule the world.
So from this example I am trying to establish that no matter what narrative a given group of Authoritarians follows, in the end it generally contains the same specific themes and narrative structure, just with different names. I believe this explains why there is a noted intersection of Fundamentalist Christians and Objectivists. While it would seem from a surface reading that these two groups should be innately opposed (especially in light of Rand's almost Nietzchian venom for Christianity) the fact of the matter is that they are but minor variations of the same overall theme (Authoritarianism). Furthermore, as a result of phenomena I will lay out shortly, the blending of the two groups was always an inevitable reaction to Authoritarians losing the culture wars.
Outer Narrative: The Outer Narrative is what a given Authoritarian (Or group of Authoritarians) claims to believe. "Jesus is Lord!" "Tax Cuts Increase Revenue!" "We are just a concerned citizens militia asserting our 2nd Amendment rights" etc etc. Whatever it is that an Authoritarian cannot shut the fuck up about, that is the Outer Narrative.
The Outer Narrative is not the totality of what an Authoritarian group believes. It is always rather the watered down version that is deemed acceptable for public consumption. Whatever it is that an Authoritarian proclaims as his sincerely held beliefs out in public is always going to be rather different from what gets discussed behind closed doors. Curiously, Authoritarians are completely oblivious to this fact. Each Authoritarian group believes itself the sole possessor of some great knowledge/insight/whatever that makes their group special and uses this as a justification to deliberately obfuscate their real beliefs. However, each Authoritarian group judges every other Authoritarian group solely by the other Authoritarian groups Outer Narrative.
Another interesting facet of the Outer Narrative is how often it is used to shield the Authoritarian's beliefs from criticisms. Broadly speaking, attacking the Outer Narrative with facts or logic has little result primarily because you are not attacking what the Authoritarian really believes. This is why debating an authoritarian often seems so fruitless, it seems that nothing you say makes a dent. This is because you are not arguing against what the Authoritarian really believes, but rather a shell of it. So long as the next level of narrative (what I call the "Inner Narrative") is not directly threatened, an Authoritarian can keep it up all day. (Occasionally though while debating the Outer Narrative you will hit upon a line of logic that inadvertently refutes an aspect of the Inner Narrative and the Authoritarian will suddenly become incredibly hostile and aggressive, more on this later.)
Inner Narrative: This is what an Authoritarian (or group of Authoritarians) actually believe. Inner Narrative's are often closely guarded from prying eyes and seldom discussed anywhere someone outside the in-group may hear. (alternatively it will be discussed in a coded fashion using jargon). Examples of the Inner Narrative could be a council of elders of a Southern Baptist Church discussing their Pastors latest revelations from God, or a racist militia hanging out at Bill's house to drink beer and discuss the coming RaHoWa, or a politically active group of Ron Paul Libertarians discussing 9-11 Truth conspiracy theories in hushed tones at a restaurant. The Inner Narrative is always used as an over-arching justification for everything else the Authoritarian individual/group is engaging in. Arguing against the Outer Narrative is generally fruitless, as if you do prove an aspect of the Outer Narrative wrong, the Authoritarian will use the secret Inner Narrative to avoid any painful introspection.
Inner Narrative's are generally very self centered (almost narcissistic) and place the believer in a central heroic role, the noble few "True X" struggling against an almost invincible opponent, on behalf of the ignorant (and probably unworthy) masses. The Inner Narrative is where the true sense of an Authoritarians value as a human being and purpose in life are derived from. Debate the Outer Narrative all you want and nothing will happen, because Outer Narrative's serve as a shield, a deliberately altered version of the Inner Narrative, so it is expected that parts of it will not hold up to scrutiny from unbelievers, because unbelievers are not ready to accept the more profound truth of the Inner Narrative. Inner Narrative's are always charged with intense emotion, and should you ever attack the Inner Narrative (even inadvertently) watch out!
On occasion the Inner Narrative will leak out and rear its ugly head. This happens when the Outer Narrative ceases to be a useful shield and instead becomes a liability. I will use the infamous (and somewhat dramatic example) of "I AM A PRAYER WARRIOR" lady from Trading Spouses. Please watch this video.
This lady is a classic example of an Authoritarian under pressure. Over the course of living with another family (and outside the Authoritarian environment she was adapted too) this lady began to feel immensely insecure. Her Outer Narrative was falling apart as a result of interacting with diverse people she had no experience with. The caricatures she had been taught to believe in and the ways of bringing non-believers into the fold she had been assured would work had failed miserably. Moreso, she began to feel under attack, and her Outer Narrative (her professed beliefs) became a vulnerability instead of a shield. Any Authoritarian put into a situation such as this will eventually resort to the Inner Narrative as a defense mechanism. Granted, this particular example is a good bit more dramatic than what usually happens, however, it is nonetheless an accurate (if somewhat overwrought) representation.
The out of control emotion and aggressive lashing out while shouting mentally ill nonsense is fairly typical. What this lady is demonstrating is a sort of psychotic break triggered from the stress of the Outer Narrative collapsing and the Inner Narrative asserting itself publicly. I would note here that what this lady is shouting is what she has actually believed all along and what has guided her decisions every step of the way in her life up to this point. (Also important is that she has functioned reasonably well up to this point in an Authoritarian environment, when taken outside that environment her mal-adaptations and inability to change become clear, but that is another article sized discussion)
This next piece applies very directly to the infamous Freeprepublic.com's trend towards radicalization and explains the real social function of the occasional purges serve.
[Author's Note. Free Republic, or "Freep" is quite famous in certain political circles for being a hotbed of racist right wing politics. Once a bastion of Conservative thought with accounts held openly by White House staff during the 2nd Bush Presidency, it has since become substantially more radical over the years]
Compaction Cycle: The Compaction Cycle is a major factor in how Authoritarian groups function and is my term for an unrecognized (but very important) constant low level cycling of individual Authoritarians through a variety of different Authoritarian groups. The Compaction Cycle is primarily important because it describes the trend towards radicalization in Authoritarian groups, and even provides something of a barometer than can be used to measure the likely pace at which a given Authoritarian groups is likely to radicalize. (That is, a way of determining the speed at which a group is radicalizing completely independent of any action they are taking or rhetoric they are using.) This cycle is also important because it is a major factor in how Authoritarian groups build common ground with each other when they are looking for allies. (It also plays a large role in the cross pollination of various strings of Authoritarian thought.) To explain this facet of Authoritarian behavior I will call forth the metaphor of a snowball. Specifically, a snowball made of that wet slush shit that is right on the border between being frozen and being a puddle.
If you have never gotten a chance to play with such a snowball then let me elaborate. By snowball standards they are heavy, awkward projectiles that travel slowly and are easily dodged. Even when you do hit something with such a snowball, the effect is minimal, usually a wet *punt* sound and a blunted blow. This snowball then is a metaphor for the average Authoritarian group when it is not under pressure. Unwieldy, awkward, not terribly effective, but can still get the job done. Put an Authoritarian group under pressure though, and things change.
Let us return to our wet snowball. If you take it in both hands and compact it, you will squeeze out a surprising amount of water. You will then be left with an ice ball. Although much smaller and having less total mass, an ice ball is a nasty projectile. Fast, accurate, hard to see coming, and can leave a hell of a bruise. To take this example a bit further, if you drop your new ice all in a pile of snow and scoop it all up, you will now have slush ball with an ice ball core. A better projectile than you started with, but not as good as the ice ball by itself was. However, if you compact this new ball down, you will squeeze out the water, and be left with an even larger ice ball. Now you are creating a dangerous weapon indeed. And you can keep adding on layers of ice so long as you have a supply of snow, eventually getting a baseball sized projectile of solid ice that can really fuck something up. Even though you lose much mass every time you compact the ball down, as long as you have a snowbank handy to keep dipping your ice ball in, you can keep adding more total ice.
Now back to Authoritarian groups. An average Authoritarian group is like our slush ball. A mixture of hard and soft members, since when forming Authoritarian groups are like an annoying new guild in WoW. ("LAID BACK FAMILY GUILD THAT RAIDS AND PVP'S RECRUITING ALL LEVELS AND ROLES PST) They will accept anyone willing to pay lip service to the groups ideals. When not under pressure or threatened, Authoritarian groups are much more relaxed.
All such groups when under pressure however, start to drive softer members out. Stress rises, tempers flare. Rhetoric becomes harsher, group identity becomes more important, aggressive members start to scrutinize for any perceived flaw in the tribe. Eventually someone (or a group of someones) finds themselves on the wrong side of an internal dispute. It could be their fault, it could not be, doesn't really matter. In the end they were guilty of the sin of not spotting the group think forming fast enough and they are driven out. This can be seen in Freep's purges of all non McCain/Romney supporters once those candidates had locked the nomination in.
With the "softer" members (or water in our slushball) compacted out, the remaining members are more radical overall. While the overall mass, or number of members has decreased, the remaining members are the ones who have proven themselves to be the most competent at falling in line and will prove less likely to disagree with the group think in the future. They have become like the Ice Ball.
The metaphor does not end here though, because we need to consider what happens to those outcast members. Most of the time (80% or so if I had to guess) they will go on to join another group. Since they are Authoritarians they will join another group that also follows the Grand Narrative. (While I would like to mention that this is how you get 9-11 truthers that become UFO nuts that become Objectivist Shitlords and then wind up being 9-11 truthers again over the course of a long enough period of time, I want to stay mostly with the Freep example.) The Freep members that join some other online Conservative community will be quite a bit more shy about rocking the boat. They will be more sensitive and more alert for changes in the tribes group think. They will find themselves drawn to the new groups hardliners and will become more hardline themselves. Often, Abused becomes abuser, and when the new group finds itself under pressure, the formerly outcast member will be among the most vicious attackers of whoever winds up as the new groups scapegoat.
The overall trend here is that Authoritarian groups swap members more often than many realize, and one groups rejected softie becomes the next groups hardliner. Just like our slush ball, the weak are driven out and the ice remains, then more members are added and the cycle repeats until eventually everyone is either a hardliner or has stopped associating with Authoritarian groups altogether. I feel this is a good explanation for what we observe in the modern GOP. In raw numbers GOP voters/supporters are in serious decline, but the remaining members are rapidly becoming radicalized. Because of the Authoritarian takeover of the GOP over the past 40 years the less hardcore Republicans are being pressed out of group after group until they either become hardliners themselves or find no home in the GOP.
Allright, now I want to try and get into some stuff that builds on what I have thus far described, and in doing so I attempt to shed some light on what is widely regarded as a confusing chapter of recent American history, the Cliven Bundy Ranch showdown. First off I want to describe a character that appears in many variations of the Grand Narrative. For sake of simplicity I will label this character the "Anti-Christ.
[b]The Anti-Christ:[/b] This character archetype is a near universal thread in many Outer Narratives, which is why I consider it to be a part of the Grand narrative. I want here to draw attention not to the popular [b]Left Behind[/b] representation of the Anti-Christ, but to what this character represents. The Anti-Christ is a charismatic leader practically worshiped by his followers. The Anti-Christ always has a hidden agenda though, and is himself (almost always a male, curiously enough) merely a front man for a darker, organized, malevolent force. The Anti-Christ then is to be opposed at all times and at all costs, because whatever he is doing, no matter how seemingly benign, is always part of some larger plot designed to trick the masses into killing themselves.
Now we come to a really meaty concept, what I call "Narrative Convergence".
Narrative Convergence: When Authoritarians perceive a threat (which is often) their first instinct is to strike at the jugular with overwhelming force. It does not matter how insignificant the threat really is or how wide the gap in power between them and their target is, they want to hit a vital spot with every ounce of force they can muster. The goal is to establish dominance by firstly destroying the threat and any trace of it, and secondly, having witnesses so that other potential threats learn their place. Authoritarians are always look for a big dramatic battle, they are looking for every conflict to go down like the final battle of a [i]Lord of the Rings[/i] trilogy. Fierce, fast, big, that is how an Authoritarian wants to fight every battle be it a swordfight or a debate.
With this in mind Authoritarians have been absolutely nonplussed with their steady losses in the culture wars. Despite their attempts to create cartoonish caricatures to fight with, they have found no real solid target to aim their aggression at. While the internal groupthink at this point is certainly strong enough that they all now agree that these devilish liberal strawmen exist, every time they try and go out looking for them they find very little. This is a bit like that robot planet on Futurama where the entire planet goes out hunting for humans every night and always comes back empty handed.
Distinctly aware that they are losing the culture wars but unable to get the big battle they inherently crave, the long term stress has lead many Authoritarians to do something unusual, seek allies.
Typically minor differences in the Outer Narrative are sufficient for an Authoritarian group/individual to reject associating with each other beyond what is minimally necessary. (Obligatory Emo Phillips "Heretic" bit here) However, the pressure of losing the culture wars has forced many Authoritarians to become more willing to compromise on elements of the Outer Narrative so long as the Grand Narrative remains intact. That is to say, in seeking to find common ground with each other (like any other group of people) Authoritarian groups have started to become more closely knit than seen in previous years, and the factor that unites them is the Grand Narrative. Whatever differences in Outer Narrative exist are slowly being discarded so long as the over-arching themes of the Grand Narrative are preserved. (The Compaction Cycle also plays a role here as Authoritarians that have been members of other groups often serve as bridges between various factions.)
In other words, the Outer Narrative's of many Authoritarian groups are converging on the themes of the Grand Narrative. (Thus my labeling this process "Narrative Convergence".)
The clearest example I can think of what I am trying to explain here is what has happened to Obama. We are all familiar with "Obama Derangement Syndrome" at this point, and I want to explain where this animus comes from. It isn't explicitly racist, although Obama's race certainly contributed greatly to the initial impulse that drove a previously slow process of Narrative Convergence into a rapid one. (If one recalls the way Authoritarians behaved during the Clinton Presidency I believe it is easy to see the momentum was already building, Obama's blackness merely accelerated an already ongoing process.)
Recall my earlier definition of the archetype of the Anti-Christ in the Grand Narrative: "The Anti-Christ is a charismatic leader practically worshiped by his followers. The Anti-Christ always has a hidden agenda though, and is himself (almost always a male, curiously enough) merely a front man for a darker, organized, malevolent force. The Anti-Christ then is to be opposed at all times and at all costs, because whatever he is doing, no matter how seemingly benign, is always part of some larger plot designed to trick the masses into killing themselves."
In short, as a result of Narrative Convergence, Obama has become the archetype of the Anti-Christ to a wide range of Authoritarian groups. This is how Obama can be a Commie/Muslim/Kenyan/Illuminatti/Marxist/Reptilian/ad infinitum trying to implement Sharia Law/Socialism/New World Order Population Reduction/ad infinitum all at the same time, and no Authoritarian bats an eye at the inherent contradictions of being all those contradictory things. Because all of those things and all of those agendas are part of the Archetype of what I call the Anti-Christ. To Authoritarians they are not contradictory, they are complimentary. (The minor differences in Outer Narrative are no longer important so long as the Grand narrative is preserved.) So to all Authoritarians, Obama has become a willing front man for a more sinister agenda. A Charismatic face for the purest, vilest of evils. As a result, every action Obama is taking must somehow be a plot and must be opposed at any cost. Authoritarians have so thoroughly convinced themselves of this fact at this point that they are now willing to die on each and every hill and take each and every battle to the bitter end, because they feel they must do so in order to survive.
With these ideas in mind, please watch this brief video.