The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped

Summary:  During most of American history those on the right wing of our political spectrum posed no threat and contributed to our national dialog.  Something has changed.  More economics stress, demographic evolution, and an increased rate of social change have both mobilized and destabilized them.  But more important is what has empowered them: the plutocracy use of them as shock troops to reverse the New Deal.  Lower taxes on the rich.  Cut social spending on everybody else.  Gut the regulatory machinery limiting business profits and free them from the encumbrances of the law (as banks have successfully done during both the housing boom and bust).  Crush unions.  Reduce minimum wage and benefit standards.  The ranks of the extreme right have become useful idiots (as Lenin’s described liberals).  Today Mike Lofgren uses his experience and research to explain how this has happened.  At the end are inks to other posts on this topic.

Colonel Stok (Soviet secret police):  “These Germans, sometimes I wonder how we managed to beat them.
Vaclav (Checkoslovakian secret police):  “The Nazis?”
Stok:  “Oh, we still haven’t beaten them.  The Germans, I mean.”

— From Len Deighton’s Funeral in Berlin (1964),

The Right-Wing Id Unzipped

By Mike Lofgren
Originally posted at Truthout, 14 February 2012
Reposted with the author’s permission, under a Creative Commons License

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 14 October 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.


1. E.g., Isaac Newton’s eccentricities and unpleasant personality did not invalidate his mathematics. We are interested in the message not the messenger.

About the author

Mike Lofgren retired on June 17 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer. He served 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees.

Other articles by Mike Lofgren

  1. Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,”, Truthout, 3 September 2011
  2. ‘I Know How to Beat Republicans’: Interview With Former GOP Staffer Mike Lofgren“, Truthout, 5 December 2011
  3. Have the Super-Rich Seceded From the United States?“, Truthout, 10 January 2012
  4. Iran: War Drums Beating“, Mike Lofgren, Truthout, 7 February 2012

For more information about conservatives and the Republican Party

Evidence of how drastically the GOP has changed:

  1. Let’s play “Name that Liberal”
  2. Let’s play round 2 of “Name That Liberal”
  3. Let’s play round 3 of “Name That Liberal”

Posts about conservatives:

  1. Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
  2. Will people on the right help cut Federal spending?, 19 June 2010
  3. Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
  4. Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011
  5. Mitt Romney and the Empire of Hubris.  Setting America on a path to decline., 10 October 2011
  6. Are *YOU* a good Christian, like Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army?, 16 October 2011
  7. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011

Posts about the GOP:

67 thoughts on “The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped”

  1. They went out from us, but they were not really of us;
    for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us;
    but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us
    — 1 John 2.19

  2. If we recognize that sections of the American public are indoctrinated into the right wing propaganda apparatus i.e. Fox News, Glenn Beck Radio, and the Weekly Standard, how can we prevent others from going down that path as well as bring the indoctrinated into the reality based community?

    1. i think first you have to accept that we’ll never reach everyone nor convince all of them. That’s unfortunately part of reality. I’m not sure we should want to deprogram them in any case. “Prevent others from going down that path” could be read as “stop thought crime.” That would be the antithesis of our goal of a free and tolerant society.

      Their propaganda thrives in an environment suitable for mushrooms (kept in the dark; fed s***). The natural antidote is sunlight and oxygen. That means we have to promote the conditions that enable truth to flourish, such as fairness, justice, and good governance.

      I think this old Britannica film from 1946 can add some perspective here. It is the cleanest print I could find, except someone has added some of their own commentary, FYI:

    2. The Enc. Brit. movie was quite interesting, in that it raises issues (e.g. concentration of asset ownership, taxation distribution, economic influence on the press) that are basically becoming taboo topics in the current political discourse. I wonder what kind of reaction would occur should this very film be shown on TV.

    3. Mike, I think you should be able to download a cleaner copy of “Despotism” (as well as its companion film, “Democracy”) from I’ve watched and recommended both, since they contain information which is very pertinent to our times…namely, information which points out that this country is moving away from true democracy and moving toward despotism disguised as democracy.

    4. Bluestocking-

      Thanks for the tip. Re:”…moving toward despotism…” In some ways, I think so. But it’s also fair to say that this country never has lived up to its highest ideals, at least for very long. The fact that an artifact short film can sound fresh and progressive ought to be a warning that society’s rate of change is much slower than we “moderns” would like.

  3. None of these people are real Conservatives. They are extremely radical. I’ve had a lot of personal experience with ‘real’ conservatives and by and large liked and respected them. The true conservative is (basically) skeptical of ‘change’. In that they may except that the current situation is not perfect, but changing carries risk of making things worse. In other words, the law of unintended consequences is the core of a true conservative’s ideology.

    The other things that all true conservatives have in common are: a respect for institutions, the rule of law and in many (not all cases of course) a sense of Noblesse oblige. An expectation that of your are are the top then you have a responsibility to look after those below. Other things, a dislike of those who made easy money. Hard working people who make a packet making and creating things are admired. Those who make money fiddling the tax system or bribing Govt’s or speculating are shunned. They are skeptical about humans (good idea) in that they think people are fundamentally into power and money, therefore give someone something for nothing then they will abuse it (basically correct). They also admire hard work (another good idea).

    On the down side, hypocrisy is the name of the game in many personal lives. For example: being Gay is not allowed, though they practice it (duh) behind the bushes or the back of the bicycle shed. Or sometimes worse, hitting on the weak. Obsessive concerns about personal behaviour of others , especially along the sexual lines, is another weakness. Another weakness is they they tend to follow hierarchies and give too much credence (but not always eg Ron Paul) to those on top (even of they don’t respect them) . In other words they will always give the benefit of the doubt to someone higher up, but be merciless on someone at the bottom.

    All in all people, sometimes great and caring, sometimes terrible. I honestly like and respect ;’true conservative’ far more than many of those (in your US terms) ‘progressives’, who, as I call it “talk left and do right’. And, for what it is worth, If I lived in the US this ‘old Lefty’ would vote for Ron Paul .. because here is a secret; ‘old Lefties’ also are pretty conservative and respect hard work and respect the rule of law … applied fairly to everyone.

    But these clown are not Conservatives .. they are lying Oligraches. And they only thing they really believe in giving taking more for themselves. And, unlike ‘true conservatives’ or ‘old lefties’ they are not patriots .. they will sell out their country and all in them to anyone who pays them a buck … or are scared of.

    1. Oldskpetic: “If I lived in the US this ‘old Lefty’ would vote for Ron Paul ”

      It’s beyond the scope of this post, but a key enabler of the rise of the extreme Right is the sickness of the Left. We see this in their support of Obama, who has governed in most respects as if this was Bush Jr’s third term — legitimizing and institutionalizing much of Bush’s anti-Constitutional and plutocrat-friendly policies. We see it in their fondness for Ron Paul, despite his love of the Confederacy and support of right-wing racism and economics.

    2. Fubar (unattended gmail)

      Excellent lecture notes on the Origins of Fascism by Professor Gerhard Rempel {part of an online course “The World in the 20th Century”} at Western New England College — Excerpt:

      Like the church, the conservative classes in both Italy and Germany supposed that, by patronizing Mussolini and hitler, they had enlisted mass support for a conservative program. These vulgar demagogues, they thought, could be used to destroy socialism at the grass roots, or rather, in the streets. Then they could be discarded. In fact the reverse happened. It was the conservative patrons and their ideas who were discarded, the vulgar demagogues that survived.

      This happened because neither Hitler or Mussolini were interested in being conservative rulers. Both were revolutionaries who relished the possibility of radical power. In both Italy and Germany the fascist dictators saw a basis for that power – the lower middle calss made radical by social fear. Themselves familiar with this class, its aspirations and fears, they believed that they culd mobilize it as a dynamic force int he state and therby realize ambitions unattainable by mere conservative support.

  4. Does this analysis apply to other movements elsewhere (such as Ataka in Bulgaria, Jobbik in Hungary, extreme salafists in the Arab world, or BJP supporters in India)? I tend to say probably, but the devil is in the details.

    More importantly: this is the diagnostic. Now what is to be done?

    1. “More importantly: this is the diagnostic. Now what is to be done?”

      This is horror of my diagnosis, that our problem lies within us. What is the cure? It feels pleasant to scream “take to the Streets” and “death to the evil ones”, despite the utter futility of such statements — since the passivity and credulity of the American people make such demonstrations nothing but fodder for the 11 pm news. Nothing can be done to make us free unless we want to be free. I believe talk and writing are almost our only tools at this point. We’re in the early mobilization stage. Meanwhile our enemies advance.

      It’s not a happy time.

    2. It does. Have a look at “The Authoritarians” link. The book describes specifically the psycho-model of the followers of Ataka and its leader as well the fundamentalists. I find it very good piece of work. Thanks, guys.

  5. I think first of all that your analysis is flawed because the Nazi’s are not from the right but the left, they are national socialist, the key word being socialist. Whenever I see some one use the Nazi’s as an example of the evils of the far right I see someone who has not done his due diligence. Just as most of the countries in Europe are socialist right now and going down the toilet, we ourselves do not have a true capitalist republic but a fascist corporatism. This current political/economic crisis is not failure of capitalism or the republic but of socialism, corporatism, fascism, communism or any ism,s that seek to crush the individual not for the good of the masses but the good of the state, the elites, for the elites are the state. It is the policies of the left disguised as social safety nets that have brought us to the precipice of utter ruin by design, in order to create a new state, one that would be clamored for by the mob since they know only the dependance of the state, Just as the old republic of Rome succumbed as its citizen’s became wards of the state. It proves the old saying history repeats or at least rhymes with the present.

    1. Classifying a political movement by its title is not the most reliable method. I suggest that you read a bit about fascism, the various definitions of the term and political scientists efforts to place it on the left-right spectrum (or, perhaps more accurately, the circle — with anarchists and moderates at the antipodes).

      The Wikipedia entry on fascism, and the more detailed one on definitions of fascism, is a good place to start. Both will show that while fascism is a complex dynamics, it considered a creature of the right by most who have studied it.

  6. Benito Mussolini was a communist before he founded the fascist party in Italy, therefore fascism is a union of socialist ideas with right wing ideology (really corporatism). The Nazi state and FDR’s new deal shared similar views in that they believed the state was the answer to the problems of the masses. Eugenics originated with the English and American progressives (socialist) not in Nazi Germany. The new deal and the Nazis both believed in the state solving unemployment thru massive public works, many of the big corporations in the US funded Hitler’s rise to power and continued doing business thru out the war. Militarism is shared by Nazi’s, Communist, Fascist and socialist as evidenced by present day Europe and United States. The Republic was founded on the concept of government being a necessary evil that needed to be restricted and watched at all times, it placed its emphasis on the individual being self reliant not dependent on the state.

    1. Yes, left and right both exist in the same society — and so hence exchange ideas on ways to address current problems. How could it be otherwise?

      Eugenics is a good example, popular with both left and right. As is the New Deal — for a good analysis see Three New Deals — Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch (2006).

      But the commonalities always present among left and right does not mean that there are not factors which distinguish them from each other. You apparently do not see these. Which seems odd, as these differences drive history.

    2. Benito Mussolini was a communist before he founded the fascist party in Italy

      Yep. I see striking parallels with leaders of the neoconservatives who were former Trotskyites (google Leo Strauss). Right-wingers are enamored with the foreign policy of the neocon’s who agree with Trotsky’s vision of worldwide revolution, which is both violent and intellectual.

      I’m also amazed that many conservatives are so supportive of militarism in the name of making the “world safe for democracy” when this was an idea introduced by the progressives (i.e Wilson).

      This is why I’m convinced that the political spectrum is infinitely complex. The left-right paradigm doesn’t cut it. However, I think the Nolan Chart does a pretty decent job of abstracting the spectrum in 2 dimensions.

  7. These differences do not drive history they are the smoke screen of history. A fascist dictator and a communist dictator are the same evil dressed in different colored clothes, both use the state to achieve their goals and that is the supremacy of the few over the many for their own personal gain. The elites send the masses to their deaths over points of ideology in order to distract them and maintain power. The truth is that God holds every man accountable for his own actions, it is the responsibility of every individual to care not only for himself but also for his fellow man not thru force but thru example. This false left/ right paradigm is a distraction for the masses to keep them divided and weak, the democratic and republican party are two sides of the same coin with one purpose in mind, to maintain the elites in power, And like Janus they have two faces but one mind. What is true and right is the same for the left and the right. Truth, justice and love are not the domain of the left or the right but of all mankind, dependence on the state as the left advocates is at best serfdom and at worst slavery. Free men in a republic come together to govern for the greater good of a society, not to dictate for the benefit of a segment of that society.

    1. “A fascist dictator and a communist dictator are the same evil dressed in different colored clothes”

      I have not kept the references, but there are several in-depth studies comparing Nazi and Stalinist dictatorships.

      Behind the obvious similarities (two bloody regimes that set up concentration camps, murdered millions, with absurd cults of a paranoiac personality), there are fundamental differences.

      As far as I remember, a major one being that National-Socialism was an exclusive ideology primarily targeting its violence against specific groups considered aliens, whereas Stalinism was a universalist ideology targeting its violence against itself (every social category, including loyal party members, obedient soldiers, members of all ethnic groups — as I read in Yevgenia Ginzburg’s memoirs something like “so many -shvili and -adze are buried there — He does not even spare his own people!”).

      But in the end, Stalinism enjoyed greater support than Nazism, and survived.

      Ignoring essential differences between various forms of authoritarian ideologies means that one is fundamentally poorly equipped to resist and fight them.

    2. “A fascist dictator and a communist dictator are the same evil dressed in different colored clothes”

      Scipio is of the differences don’t matter school of thinking, in which making moral judgements is the beginning and end of analysis — and all evil political systems form a big blur. There’s not much to be said in reply.

      It worked for Jesus — who followed such judgements by healing the illness caused by the sin (preempting any rebuttal). It’s worked for the Popes for two millenia. For everybody else it’s just barroom talk, of little or no operational utility.

      It’s like a doctor telling me “You’re sick.” Thanks, I already knew that. Only a specific diagnosis leads to effective treatment. Observation, lab work, and the analytical process of differential diagnosis — these produce operational insights.

      It’s more work and not as much fun as ranting about evil.

  8. Spending to much time looking at the differences blinds you to the fact they are the same evil and neutralizes your response to the common enemy. You fight all evil with good and all lies with truth, its really that simple. Remember Stalin was Hitlers ally at the beginning of W.W.II and there is sufficient evidence to suggest he was getting ready to attack Hitler first, he just got beaten to the punch. He also would have lost if it was not for the massive English and American aid and the opening of a second front in N.Africa and Italy which pulled men and material away from the Russian front at a critical point in these two dictators confrontation, tipping the scales in Stalin’s favor.

  9. I’ve always felt that the left/right divide is, itself, the kind of pointless ideological stereotyping that we should avoid. Most political views – even at the extremes – are more nuanced than a simple single-axis measurement can encompass. A case in point: Ron Paul, who claims to hold views that are all over the place in terms of the simple right/left divide.

    What I look for is consistency in beliefs. Altmeyer puts his finger on one crucial aspect of authoritarianism: the ability to hold double standards. When I see someone holding a double standard, I assume that the underlying enablement for it is a failure to think critically – usually a sign of a person that has adopted an opinion without assessing it.

    Assuming our civilization survives and continues to advance, I expect neuroscience and evolutionary biology will get a better understanding of how the process works whereby children are pre-programmed to learn from and trust adults. It is, clearly, part of our evolutionary behavioral package and it is what authority hijacks for its own ends. There are body postures and tones of voice that affect many people as ‘more convincing’ and I suspect we’ll someday find that the sturm und drang of Nazi rallies and religious ceremonies have evolved over time to stimulate a specific response in the listener. And it affects some listeners more than others. There are other well-known techniques (most of which have found their way into military training regimes!) for inducing loyalty, in-group/out-group identification, and preparing individuals to submit to the will of a leader: sleep deprivation, caloric reduction, repetitive tasks, group vocalization and rythmic activity, and – of course – punishment and reward. And, of course, what Goebbels called “the big lie” technique – deliberate creation of cognitive dissonance, creation of the perception of breakdown of consensus, and manipulation of the Overton Window.

    It seems to me that the best way to prepare people to resist authoritarians is to educate them about the tools that are used to indoctrinate. Promoting understanding of how to detect those tools when they are in use renders them less effective.

  10. Democracy is dying, country by country in Europe, and it’s not the evil wing. It’s the bondholders. Leaders appointed directly to appease bondholders. In Greece these men have been put into place to wring the last Euro out of that country, and the people can do is yell, and then nothing happens, and then they yell louder, then march, and now they start burning things, of course nothing happens. I don’t think Greece is that far from the military getting involved. Then you can call it fascism, but it won’t have come because people want it.

    The Eurosceptics bubbled up out of the UK right wing, and right now, is one of those weird moments where the guy on the fringe, who everyone thought was crazy, is out there telling it like it is, and all the mainstream Eurocrats can just sit and cringe. I love this Farage guy — it’s one of those rare times, yes, you were right all along. What more can I say?

  11. The extreme right/religious/reactionaries aka guns/gays/god crowd I grew up with mostly wants to be “left alone” but only in the most naive sense imaginable. This makes them susceptible to manipulation by controlling the message of who exactly it is that is F-ing with them and how. At the end of the day, all they know is “someone” has it in for them, because things are not going well and dammit its not from anything they did wrong. The reality, that they are embedded in and reliant upon an extremely large, complex, and rapidly changing world is not what they want to hear. This innate desire to escape from ever increasing complexity especially under adversity is a bedrock human foible. Who can resist its siren call beckoning. “Simplicity. Clarity. Surrender your mind.”

    1. I’m just appalled by the level of war fever among these guys. I don’t know, has it always been this manic? I’ve stumbled on at least a few stories about Iran and on the Christian news websites due to random googling and I saw in the comments endless rants about killing Muslims. Right now they do seem to be working themselves into a mania.

    2. Um, mania? No, this is slightly higher than normal. If you want to see mania, check out some of the comments immediately after 9/11.

      Another indicator of how crazy the US right wing can get is the popularity of certain themes in country western songs. Lately there’s been a big rise in popularity of songs about the nobility of serving in the military and revenge songs about how we’re going to get “those who did us wrong” (unnamed, of course).

      These people are unhappy, uncomfortable, very powerful (but feel weak), and looking to hit somebody to make themselves feel more powerful and less unhappy.

      My poorly informed guess is that the order for the next set of attacks/invasions is that we’ll hit Syria (air campaign ala Libya), Iran (not sure to what level), and then the Mexican drug cartels (start with drone strikes and then escalate from there).

  12. With all due respect, FM et al., I don’t think attempting to engage Scipio in debate is productive. Even though he gives some lip service to the idea that evil is not necessarily restricted to one side or the other, it seems fairly clear (at least to me) from the bulk of his posts that he’s prone to “all-or-nothing” thinking and is determined to believe — rather conveniently — in the face of all arguments to the contrary that he and those who share his opinions have a far better understanding of what truly constitutes ethics and virtue than anyone else.

  13. Bluestocking I guess you prefer to listen to yourself drone on instead of engage in a debate. I have yet to see you or anyone else address any of the valid points I made and that is the problem with most people they buy in to their chosen ideology and are not willing to test it. I don not hold all truth’s in the palm of my hand, I am just willing to put my beliefs to the test. I spent time to look for the truth not just believe the propaganda they have given me since birth. If you just prefer people that believe the same as you to visit this place then you accomplish nothing except to maintain your sterile world. Are you and the host all knowing? Are you infallible like the pope? I do not believe in socialism I think at best it’s misguided and at worst a criminal ideology pushed by the elites, the puppet masters, the power behind the throne. There is a leftist in power now and he is the same as the right winger before him, they take turns playing good cop bad cop. Who funded Lenin’s revolution or Hitlers rise to power? The same people. The truth is what was and is not what you or I would like it to be.

  14. Sorry, but this article is a fundo-baiting piece of crap not worthy of the blog to which it is posted. Demonizing and de-humanizing “right-wingers”, which is the main focus and function of this article, won’t help you understand what really drives them and won’t help you get that clear view of the bigger picture that you need to win. There are valid, useful critiques of right-wing politics, but this is not one of them. Rabid polemic, devoid of any real analytical content.

    1. Please point us to some references that you feel would be more useful critiques of the base motivations of right-wing politics.

    2. Quite the contrary Matt D. I read this slowly and can see that one could disagree with the Reichian basis of the analysis (with validity) but Lofgren still asks us to face the reality of what he observes.
      And what he sees is fairly accurate. How else would you explain his thesis? Please explain that, as it is very accurate.

      Unless you have not entered the bubble of the Evangelical world and its embrace of the Gingrichs and Haggards (for example) or have not left that bubble, only then perhaps one cannot see the duplicity.
      But once you experience the conflicts inside the modern “conservative” faith based Experience, then you must run fast to seek another vehicle for your spiritual life.

      This is the Seed bed of America’s demise and now they align perfectly with another War arising on the near horizon. This is some very bad stuff, dude!


    3. In-group-out-group bias is probably the most powerful human cognitive bias, as evidenced by the blindness of the posters here. Everyone thinks that enemy movements are led by scheming Machiavellians and people by idiotic mindless feckless fanatics who also have a number of other distasteful and unsympathetic attributes. This article is about as valuable as analysis as pornography is valuable as relationship advice. Because it makes you feel good, you’re all sitting around saying “No, man, I think that’s totally realistic!”

    4. The author has paid his dues in the trenches as a senior Republican operative, which gives him the credibility to report his observations and insights.

      I have thirty years as a Republican activist, ringing an uncountable number of doorbells. I’ve paid the dues, and so second his analysis.

      Any objective observer can see that something has happened to the Republican Party, and more broadly to American conservatism. The freak show of their presidential primaries, with truth the first casualty of every debate and absurd delusions triumphent, provide more than ample evidence.

      Group pathology has determined the destiny of many nations during the past century, so this cannot be safely ignored.

      Matt dismisses all this for no visible reason, with prattle about “blindness”. I think that’s backwards.

    5. I could write almost the same exact article, but change out “right-wingers” for “Muslims” or “Jews”, and it would meet with howls of derision from most of the people here. Everyone has their favorite “other” that they like to demonize. And no, it doesn’t make it all better just to say “I’m not talking about everyday, ordinary , I’m only talking about the especially evil and devious who are really trying to destroy us!” (“I’m not talking about true conservatives, only right-wingers.”)

      The subjective opinions of someone who has had a massive falling out and change of heart are not particularly credible, no matter how many years of experience back them up. Would you trust the word of a recent divorcee about her ex-husband? After all, they were married for over 30 years!

      But please, continue with your mindless cheerleading. I’ll check back in when the blog returns to ACTUAL analysis, its more proper strength.

      1. Scipo and Matt are examples of broad, content-less ways of saying “don’t look at our situation — move on, nothing happening.” Both can be applied to almost any situation, no matter how severe. Both close their eyes to the differences among social phenomena that give them meaning and importance.

        The descent of the Republican Party towards madness by now should be evident to all but the most partisan observers. It takes a truly disengaged citizen to wave this away. But then we’re in this situation become Americans have become disengaged from their political machinery. Scipo and Matt are just examples of this wider social illness.

        Someone will rule America. If we choose not to, then others will take command and run the nation as they see fit.

    6. I’m not denying there’s a problem– far from it. I’m saying that this article is a part of it. Phony psycho-analysis of the enemy is good cheerleading and bad analysis.

      1. My rebuttal is that your form of rebuttal was too generic — saying that analysis itself is impossible — and so could be applied to ANY situation. Up to and including criticism of the Third Reich. To be of use you need to give some specifics as to why this post is incorrect.

    7. Fabius: That is a very valid point. I will now try to be more specific. In no particular order, and with no particular organizational scheme:

      (1) Branding an enemy individuals or movement’s motivations as pathological is a very common and often effective tactic in the war of words. Such assertions, however, are very rarely true or accurate. This is not really a problem as long as only the rank and file believe it. But once the head honchos start buying into it and basing decisions off of it, proverbially “believing their own propaganda,” errors become likely.

      (2) I am operating under the assumption that discussions on FM are at the “head honcho” level.

      (3) Off the top of my head, I can think of several more plausible explanations for “right-wing” behavior than the seductively far-fetched psychobabble of some weirdo named “Reich”. For example:

      a – A large portion of “middle americans” feel detached from mainstream culture, which is generated on and dominated by the coasts. Whatever the reason, the mainstream doesn’t “work for them. This leaves them in search of some other cultural pole.

      b – These detached individuals have been scooped up into a wide variety of movements and ideologies. One of the most successful “scoopers” has been the evangelical movement.

      c – There are probably many reasons why the evangelical movement has been so successful, not all of which involve it being pure hypocritical evil.

      d – There are probably many reasons why detached individuals have been so drawn to the evangelical movement, not all of which involve them being mentally deranged.

      e – If some leaders of the evangelical movement have betrayed the trust of those who follow them, this might be due to the ineherent, unique diabolicality of this movement. Or, it might be due to human weakness, which is universal.

      f – If some followers of the evangelical movement have been duped into supporting policies that are not good for them, this might be due to the inherent, unique mental sickness which afflicts them. Or, it might be due to human weakness, which is universal.

      (4) What the heck is an “authoritarian”? The definition most people seem to use is “anyone who approves of an authority that I disapprove of”.

      a – During the cold war, the communists portrayed Westerners as wanton slaves of the big bankers, and capitalists portrayed the soviets as wanton slaves of the party chiefs.

      b – In Iraq, the Sunni see the Shia as being fanatical, mindless, and beholden to a small number of incredibly evil scheming masterminds. And the Iraqi Shia see the Sunni as…. fanatical, mindless, and beholden to a small number of incredibly evil masterminds. Both sides see themselves as being basically honest and earnest, despite the acknowledged presence of a few bad apples.

      c – Personally, all of this sounds to me like group identify formation and maintenance. “Chearleading,” if you will. It does not sound like an accurate depiction of reality. I fail to see the analytical value of any of it.

      (5) I think it can be objectively asserted, by the “average reasonable person” principle, that the above article demonizes and de-humanizes an entire group of people. Personally, I see this as unproductive. “But, they really are sub-human demons!” is not an appeal that I find very convincing.

      (6) The apparently odd and probably destructive behavior of the Republican party is a topic that I am very interested in. I see it as being separate from the topic of this article.

      1. (1) “Branding an enemy individuals or movement’s motivations as pathological is a very common and often effective tactic in the war of words. Such assertions, however, are very rarely true or accurate.”

        That’s an example of a generic arguement that classifys most analysis as invalid, and is hence but useless and invalid. All pejoratives are used more often than they’re accurate. That tells us nothing about this specific case.

        (3) “several more plausible explanations for “right-wing” behavior than the seductively far-fetched psychobabble of some weirdo named ‘Reich’.”

        I was tempted to stop here, as this is just ignorance speaking.

        (a) There are always alternative explanations for social phenomena. Evaluating them is difficult, as the social sciences lack a quantative foundation. So we listen to people with relevant experience and knowledge, looking for useful insights.

        (b) William Reich is a major figure in psychology (see Wikipedia), and is a legitmate expert to cite. That you have not heard of him — and dismiss him without bothering to look him up — tells us if we should continue reading.

        (4) “What the heck is an “authoritarian”? The definition most people seem to use is ‘anyone who approves of an authority that I disapprove of’.”

        The dictionary answers your question: (in this context) “Favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.”

        The next part is more of “other examples of false analysis, so this too must be false.” I’ve lost interest. Whatever.

  15. We all paid our dues Maximus and I am not of the school that differences do not matter. I just point out that the similarities are more important, most people are unaware of the lies thru ignorance of the past. This self righteous leftist spill that ignores all the horrors that socialism has unleashed on the world, which out weigh the horrors of the right in my book, to me is plain ignorance of the force that is behind all this, the elites. Who are the elites? The rich powerful globalist new order crowd who will sell you socialism as cure all for the world as long as they pull the strings. I have been a republican all my life, but I am not blind to the corruption in the party and from my experience from my family fleeing Cuba because of communism, even though I was born in this country, know the answers do not lie with the left.You say you were a republican activist, though your endorsement of this flawed posting leads me think you were republican in name only. I am disgusted with the selection of candidates on the republican side and view with horror the incumbent, this is a national disaster! To paint all conservatives as evil fools is an injustice, conservatives are twice as likely, if not more, to tender a helping hand than any self absorbed leftist, and yet I would not wright of a rank and file leftist since its all a matter of knowledge been applied. To harp on the evils of the right wing as opposed to the virtues of the left when a bunch of elitist could care less if you are a commie or a fascist, as long as you dance to their tune and allow them to rape and pillage the planet is an act of futility.

  16. This essay hit the nail on the head. Thanks for publishing it.

    Authoritarians are exactly who has been hijacking the Roman Catholic Church in recent years. I used to regard militant pro-life activists and natural family planning zealots as well-meaning reformers grappling with matters on which reasonable people of goodwill could disagree. Lately, however, I’ve come to regard them, with rare exceptions, as bullies hellbent on purging all dissenting elements from the Church and shoving dissenting viewpoints down the memory hole.

    It’s as though they’re begging for another schism; they’re in the right, so everybody else can go to another church, and from there to hell. In an impressive display of arrogance, many of these zealots assume that after the purges are complete the balance of power in Christendom will remain in Rome; never in a million years would it shift to, say, Canterbury or Athens when the Catholic laity lose patience with petulant dogmatism on matters of sex.

    Natural family planning, raising large families and celibacy have been transformed from personal disciplines into public litmus tests of religious correctness. Some of the memes are absolutely insane: a particularly common one is “that child that you aborted/didn’t conceive would have cured cancer.” All sorts of cherrypicked data and unsupported assertions on everything from medicine to economics are bandied about, too. When the activists can’t use sound logic or data to support their claims, they just make stuff up and insult those who disagree with them.

    Even otherwise thoughtful people risk being turned into shrill automatons by NFP activism. A friend of mine who has as keen and nuanced a sense of American history and civic duty as anyone I know recently posted this link to some of the most unhinged mudslinging I’ve ever seen on the Internet. It is exactly the sort of nastiness that Mr. Lofgren described: “Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control“, Michael Brendan Dougherty and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, Business Insider, 8 February 2012.

    Some of the most sexually obsessed people I’ve known have been NFP activists. My RCIA class briefly touched on sex by way of illuminating some of the Catholic Church’s broader moral, theological and intellectual traditions. Meanwhile, my college’s Newman Club, free from the adult supervision present at RCIA, returned to the subject of sex like a dog to its own vomit, repeatedly going into pornographic detail, but always in a way that scolded those deemed sexually lax. It seemed sick at the time, but it’s much sicker in retrospect.

    The sadomasochistic undertones are scary. Many NFP activists need to be told to grow up and mind their own business. It’s one thing to practice NFP oneself or to encourage it as a sexual discipline, but another thing entirely to distort and cherrypick medical data and to bully others into abiding by Catholic sexual strictures.

    This isn’t a movement to return the Catholic Church to its first principles. It’s an internal insurrection by a cult.

  17. Sorry Guys, FM is right:

    “Someone will rule America. If we choose not to, then others will take command and run the nation as they see fit.”


    “The descent of the Republican Party towards madness by now should be evident to all but the most partisan observers.”

    Did you READ, “madness”? Its is truly that. We really need to seek commonality, community with our fellow citizens and drop this destructive divisiveness. There are serious trends afoot that are very ominous.

    If you are reading here it is surely because you seek fellow travelers The hour draws near.


  18. From what I read from pompous and arrogant maximus he is wrong, someone is already in charge of this country and it is not the clowns in congress or the American people and the hour is late. Most people do not bother to look deeper into history than a brief 1 page article, or look into the associations or affiliations of the people they follow and admire.I wonder how many here new Mussolini was a communist before he founded the fascist party? That progressive is really a code word for socialist or that this country is a republic not a democracy? How many people are aware that there were presidents before George Washington and that the federal reserve is privately owned bank? Some of the posters here seem content to degrade religious or conservatives as fools but bristle at the suggestion that they can not see the tree because of the forest, meanwhile the lords of the manner laugh in derision as the peons fight amongst themselves over discredited ideas like socialism.

    1. Scipio you should really stop before you embarrass yourself further. Who cares about Mussolini or socialism? The 20th Century is over. Get over it.

    2. Scipio,

      (1) A general reply to your comments

      Websites differ in nature. Some are open discussion forums, like taverns. Where people can rant and vent to their hearts content, with broad confident assertions welcomed as fun.

      The FM website is more like a university club. The audience does not respond well to big claims without giving some supporting evidence. Especially on subjects, such as this, that have an extensive expert literature. Doubly so when you’re making over-broad claims that have been thoroughly debunked. Much of your content is reads like a rant from God, stating as simplistic fact your opinion about matters of extreme complexity that have been debated for millenia.

      (2) “How many people are aware that there were presidents before George Washington”

      That’s misleading, based on a misunderstanding of the word “president”. Legislative bodies called “senates” usually appoint a presiding officers called “presidents”. As does the US Senate; see Wikipedia for a list of Senates doing so. “assemblies” appoint “speakers” as their presiding officers. These act as first among equals, and have no executive authority.

      The Articles of Confederation did not authorize any executive branch, so there was no President of the United States. Congress, both before and after adoption of the Articles, appointed Presidents as their presiding officers.

      (3) “and that the federal reserve is privately owned bank?”

      False. We’ve discussed this myth many times.

      1. The key piece of the Federal Reserve system is the Board of Governors and its staff. That is legally a Federal agency, with the Governors appointed by the President with Senate approval. The governors exercise the key governmental powers of the Fed system.
      2. The regional Fed banks are privately owned public-private hybrids. They have features of both public and private entities, and turn their profits over to the Treasury. Federal legislation gives them regulatory powers over banks, like other private self-regulatory bodies (eg, the NYSE and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority).
  19. Srl your the one embarrassing yourself by not knowing that fascism and nazism are children of the left and the modern world as we live it now was formed in the 20th century and is dieing in the 21st century. I guess Roman law and Greek philosophy not to mention the US constitution are pase because we are in the 21st century.

    1. Those are big-picture opinions. That you state them as revelations from God makes them no less speculative.

      (1) “fascism and nazism are children of the left”
      Can you cite some experts to support your theory? Esp about fascism.

      (2) “modern world as we live it now was formed in the 20th century”
      That’s true, much like saying the sun rises in the morning. Every day is the result of events during the previous century.

      (3) “dieing in the 21st century”
      Again, always true. History is a process of change, when the present order dies — replaced by something different.

      (4) “guess Roman law and Greek philosophy … are pase because we are in the 21st century.”
      Yes, and no. For centuries humanity has traveled into new and uncharted worlds — driven by social and technological changes. In that sense, as Henry Ford said, history is bunk. On the other hand:

      It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time.
      — Will Durant quoted in The Gentle Philosopher (2006) by John Little

      (5) “the US constitution {is} pase because we are in the 21st century”

      No, it’s not passé . The Constitution is dead because it’s dead in our hearts. For more about this see:

      1. Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
      2. The FM reference page America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
  20. Fubar (unattended gmail)

    re: post political stress disorder = PPSD

    Fascism and Marxism are cousin ideologies born of Romanticism (hatred of bourgeoisie). They are branches on one tree. Marxism is premised on rationalism, Fascism on mysticism. Fascism was a response to Marxism.

    Please note that it was only in the Anglo-american tradition that the representative institutions that grew during during the age of Feudalism (Abbey at Cluny, Camino de Santiago, Cortes, Fueros – Gothic Pyrenees, see Leonard Liggio) were retained as the Imperial powers became Absolutist (1492).

    Liberals locate evil in social structures, conservatives locate evil in individuals, e,g,, lack of personal responsibility.

    Traditional conservatives model themselves on rigid roles/rules. Their real god is Hierarchy.

    The rise of the Right in the USA is a precise function of the failure of the New Left to bring about promises of Deep Change. See Michael Learner’s “Surplus Powerlessness”. (or

    The expansion of the Right in the USA was a function of the fears of conservatives that the culture was being taken over the edge of an abyss of meaninglessness and narcissism by “liberals and hippies” who could not effect actual, concrete reforms that would “save” the working people’s prosperity.

    Do not under-estimate the problem of people being deeply spiritually fatigued by the repeated lies and failures of “reformers” in both major political parties/ideologies.

    Also do not underestimate how southern racists (who themselves are largely a historical remnant of a southern Scotch-Irish subculture occasionally hostile to capitalist overlords) left the Democratic party and eventually infiltrated the Republican party. Think ghost of Andrew Jackson.

    When the underlying paradigm suffers a crisis of legitimization, spiritual, psychological, social and political instability is inevitable. Paradigm regression sets in, and “pathological” versions of earlier paradigms are “empowered” through “psychological inflation”.

    1. All interesting points; thank you for posting it.

      “The expansion of the Right in the USA was a function of the fears of conservatives that the culture was being taken over the edge of an abyss of meaninglessness and narcissism”

      I suspect that social and demographic change are also factors. First, conservatives are threatened by the rise of women to economic equality AND the rising number of non-whites. Second, age increases the number of irascible conservatives yearing for the good old days.

  21. Fubar (unattended gmail)

    In the USA there are actually four major “underlying” paradigms that are combined in two parties:

    I. Religious conservatives are “pre-moderns”, they are tribal, mythic-conformist and prefer an autocratic leadership style. These are the “right wing” lunatics. M. Scott Peck described aspects of this group in his book “People of the Lie”. They are locked into dependence on their Predatory Capitalist overlords. Rove/Bush are classic examples of Predator Overlords who exploited the Lunatic Religious Right. Rush Limbaugh is another example of a Manipulator/Predator overlord followed by his victimized/zombie prey.

    II. “Conservative” capitalists are modernists, gone bad. The represent the Achievement Meme, and are thus more independent and believe in scientific rationalism (which itself is a failed ideology that once opposed Absolutism, but became absolutist in its socio-political form).

    III. Liberal/progressive capitalists are also modernists, but they believe in social equality, not unfettered “free markets”. This adjustment was the result of the vast inequalities and social injustices caused by the Industrial Revolution and Monopolists/Robber Barons (big banks then railroad, mine, factory ownership, then oil companies and the military-industrial complex, and finally, government-industrial-everything complex).

    (Both the above forms of modernism, in the USA, are premised on Natural Law {John Locke} and associated philosophies still advocated by “Libertarians”. Absolutists-imperialists vs. Freedomists.)

    IV. The fourth paradigm is postmodern: pluralism, relativism. Many postmoderns are uncomfortable with their “liberal capitalist” allies in the Democratic Party, but understand that they do not have enough political power on their own to fight the more hated conservatives-republicans. At their best, postmoderns are “cultural creatives”. At worst, they are infected with “Boomeritis”, or the “mean green meme” (thought policing, political correctness).

    V. There is a fifth emergent paradigm that is potentially growing (about 2%), but not currently significant as a power bloc: Holistic or Integralist. These are people that have come to see a need for a new paradigm beyond the “liberal vs. conservative” debate, that incorporates systems theory, consciousness studies and new age spirituality. Whole Earth Catalog. Esalen, Naropa, Noetic. Strip mall Yoga shops. Pioneers are Rudolph Steiner (Waldorf schools), Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser.

  22. Fubar (unattended gmail)

    More, hopefully useful, background: “Beyond Conservatism: Reclaiming the Radical Roots of Libertarianism“, Keith Preston. American Revolutionary Vanguard, 2005 — Excerpts:

    … The demise of the Old Order in Europe and America marked the beginnings of the political divisions of “Left” and “Right” or “liberal” and “conservative”. Rothbard correctly characterized classical Liberalism, the revolutionary ideology of the eighteenth century, as “the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity” with Conservatism being “the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the Old Order”. Given that “liberalism admittedly had reason on its side, the Conservatives darkened the ideological atmosphere with obscurantist calls for romanticism, tradition, theocracy, and irrationalism”. No better description has ever been written of modern American conservatism, whether one speaks of the neoconservative con artistry that passes for its “leadership” or the jingoist, pseudo-populist ideology used to rally its grassroots support base. As the antithesis of Conservatism, classical Liberalism was, in Rothbard’s view, “essentially radical and revolutionary”. Liberalism, as described by the great Catholic historian Lord John Acton, “wishes for what ought to be, irrespective of what is.”(7)

    If libertarianism has its roots in eighteenth century radical liberalism, how, then, did libertarianism come to be identified with conservatism? As the nineteenth century progressed, classical liberalism largely became the status quo. Like other movements that become corrupted or compromised with the achievement of victory, Liberalism began to lose its radical edge and started accommodating itself to the Establishment. Consequently, the old feudal ruling classes were able to reinvent themselves as a state-capitalist class, subsequently degenerating into neo-mercantilism and “liberal imperialism”

    … Rothbard described this process:

    “Into this gap, into this void created by the drying up of radical liberalism, there stepped a new movement: Socialism. Libertarians of the present day are accustomed to think of socialism as the polar opposite of the libertarian creed. But this is a grave mistake responsible for a severe ideological disorientation of libertarians in the present world.”

    … “Socialism, like Liberalism and against Conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, Conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc.”

    Rothbard also recognized “two different strands within Socialism” with one of these being the “Right-wing authoritiarian strand…which glorified statism, hierarchy and collectivism” and the other being the “Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism: but especially the smashing of the state apparatus to achieve ‘the withering away of the state’ and the ‘end of exploitation of man by man’.”

    … the rejection of private property rights, left the Socialists with no ideological or institutional barrier to the erection of a new tyranny upon the attainment of power. Consequently, Rothbard observed that “most Socialists (Fabians, Lassalleans, even Marxists) turned sharply rightward…and became cozy conservatives permanently reconciled to the State…neo-mercantilism, state-monopoly capitalism, imperialism and war”

  23. Tomasky: "How Mitt’s Emotion Deficit is Doing Him In Among Republicans"

    How Mitt’s Emotion Deficit is Doing Him In Among Republicans“, by Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, 15 February 2012 — “Romney isn’t sinking because of the flip-flops. He’s sinking because of his robotic reasonableness. How Mitt became the Al Gore of the GOP.”


    Reason and emotion. Recent research, notably by Drew Westen has shed light on the roles they play in our political thought process. Westen says that when it comes to politics, we “reason emotionally.” That is, we make up our minds about such-and-such a position or issue not really on its merits, but on the basis of all kinds of signals, like who’s for it and who’s against it. Also, he notes, successful appeals by politicians recognize the fact that people don’t approach politics rationally, and they make appeals that aim more for the gut than the brain.

    As a rule, Republicans are better at this than Democrats. The latter often still base their appeals on reason. Not because they’re superior human beings, but because there is something about the liberal brain that wants to believe that if there is a problem in the country, the experts will study it and offer a solution and the politicians will implement it. This brand of “liberalism,” which prizes empiricism and pragmatic problem solving, was for many years the default position in American society. The conservative movement, in contrast, rose up in opposition to this alleged dictatorship of the empirical. So conservative appeals by their very nature are more tightly constructed around denunciations of the liberal status quo—which is to say, around emotion.

    This means, to put it more simply, hating on liberals: feminazis, socialists, freedom haters, French apologists, and so on. A big part of the definition of a true and fully engaged conservative today is that that person really, really hates liberals.

    But Romney just doesn’t hate liberals. You can tell he just doesn’t. Then he tries to act like he does, and you can tell it even more. He didn’t grow up in that kind of atmosphere—his dad, though a Republican, was plenty liberal by today’s standards—and later in life he obviously didn’t govern in that kind of atmosphere. And so liberal hatred is simply not woven into his DNA.

  24. Tomasky: "There Will Be No Saviors for the GOP in 2012"

    There Will Be No Saviors for the GOP in 2012“, Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, 21 February 2012 — Excerpt:

    Prominent Republicans keep hoping for someone to rescue them from its slate of mediocre candidates. But the party’s biggest problem is the ideological bloodlust of its base.

    … So there is no savior. And let us please be clear on why there is no savior. Because there is no one who can satisfy the base of the GOP—a cohort so drunk on ideology and resentment that they cheer electrocutions and boo a soldier—and be elected president of the United States. Period. The standard journalistic trope the past few months has been to say that the Republican establishment would step in at some point and not let things get too out of hand. But that’s mostly nonsense. This GOP establishment is barely less loopy than the base. If the base is driving the party into a ditch, the establishment is riding shotgun holding a shovel.

    And there’s not one politician in sight who has the nerve to say anything about it. Romney is just a coward. If he were half the man his father was, he would do something like what his father did in 1964, when he warned the party nominating Barry Goldwater that it was headed off the rails. (Today Goldwater, considered a fanatic in his day, would be maybe about the 15th-most-conservative Republican senator.) But all Romney cares about, all any of them care about, is getting and keeping political power. They can’t see the obvious paradox—that their lust for the White House is making them submit to all the wishes of a fanatical base, which is exactly what will keep them from winning the White House.

    Remember that satirical Brecht line about it being perhaps easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect a new one? It’s not a new candidate the right needs. It’s a new electorate.

  25. Fubar (unattended gmail)

    Conservative political operative becomes Transpartisan and learns how to stop hating Liberals: xA “Song Of A Citizen” interview with JOSEPH McCORMICK at the Coffee Party Convention, Louisville, KY — 9.25.10 — excerpt:

    The term “Transpartisan” has emerged to provide a meaningful alternative to “Bipartisan” and “Nonpartisan.” Bipartisanship is limited to a debate among two political viewpoints or entities striving for compromise solutions. Nonpartisanship, on the other hand, tends to deny the existence of differing viewpoints. In contrast, transpartisanship recognizes the validity of all points of view and values a constructive dialogue aimed at arriving at creative, integrated, and therefore, breakthrough solutions that meet the needs of all sides.

  26. Fubar (unattended gmail)

    World famous linguist George Lakoff (clashes with Comsky years ago over linguistic theory) explains the basis of the gains made by conservatives:

    Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (2002)

    In this classic text, the first full-scale application of cognitive science to politics, George Lakoff analyzes the unconscious and rhetorical worldviews of liberals and conservatives, discovering radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on both the left and right. For this new edition, Lakoff adds a preface and an afterword extending his observations to major ideological conflicts since the book’s original publication, from the impeachment of Bill Clinton to the 2000 presidential election and its aftermath.

    Also see:

    Mark Turner’s work, including with Lakoff, shows that rational and metaphoric (poetic/mystical) consciousness operate in an integral framework.

    This potentially brings into question the fragmentation of the psyche discussed by Vaclav Havel (e.g., into “science vs. religion” or “liberal vs. conservative”).


    During the Upper Paleolithic, human beings developed an unprecedented ability to innovate. They acquired a modern human imagination, which gave them the ability to invent new concepts and to assemble new and dynamic mental patterns. The results of this change were awesome: human beings developed art, science, religion, culture, refined tool use, and language. Our ancestors gained this superiority through the evolution of the mental capacity for conceptual blending. Conceptual blending has a fascinating dynamics and a crucial role in how we think and live. It operates largely behind the scenes. Almost invisibly to consciousness, it choreographs vast networks of conceptual meaning, yielding cognitive products, which, at the conscious level, appear simple. Blending is a process of conceptual mapping and integration that pervades human thought. A mental space is a small conceptual packet assembled for purposes of thought and action. A mental space network connects an array of mental spaces. A conceptual integration network is a mental space network that contains one or more “blended mental spaces.” A blended mental space is an integrated space that receives input projections from other mental spaces in the network and develops emergent structure not available from the inputs. Blending operates under a set of constitutive principles and a set of governing principles. The theory of conceptual blending has been applied in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, linguistics, music theory, poetics, mathematics, divinity, semiotics, theory of art, psychotherapy, artificial intelligence, political science, discourse analysis, philosophy, anthropology, and the study of gesture and of material culture.

    —end excerpt—

    Please note that Lakoff criticizes the conventional scientific-rational paradigm’s “linear” and “mechanistic” assumptions, suggesting that the integral/network model described above is better.

    In that context, the “craziness” of the right wing can perhaps be seen as the natural disintegration (following a crisis of legitimization) of a recently over-inflated conservative reaction against the failed aspects of leftism.

    I would suggest that leftism has also disintegrated.

    This means that rather than hope for a return to the left (which would eventually inflame all of the weaknesses of the left that resulted in the rise of the right), some other framework might be a better alternative.

  27. I am surprised to see a thoughtful opinion on fascism without mention of postmodern philosophy. I am new to the site, and loving it, but it seems to me that the common thread of totalitarian thought stems from Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. Their ideas cannot easily be labeled as left or right but consistently underly the infamous dictators of last century. Can anyone pin these men as leaders of the foundational philosophies of the current ‘right wingers’?

    I fail to see the connection.

    1. Aesop,

      (1) “I am surprised to see a thoughtful opinion on fascism without mention of postmodern philosophy”

      This is a common criticism. There are always frontiers not explored — no matter the length, scope, or complexity of the article. But audience decreases gemetrically with its length. The average website post is a few hundred words; the average article on the FM website a few thousand words. Expanding the scope of articles to include the historical and philosphical dimensions would require articles tens of thousands of words long — and writers with far more brain cells AND time then we have.

      (2) “ideas cannot easily be labeled as left or right but consistently underly the infamous dictators of last century.”

      Perhaps. But tyrants are a commonplace of western and easter history, seen under almost every form of large society (beyond the clan). While their doctrines differ, do their actions and substance differ so greatly? I don’t know.

  28. It seems to me that we must make a distinction between populist “conservativism” and philosophical conservatism. Right wing populism has absolutism as the template thru which reality is interpreted. Unable to comprehend relativism, the populist is often told by his preacher that relativism is evil as well as incomprehensible. This absolutist template supplies the symbolism that subscribers take literally as in there are two kinds of people, good ones and evil ones. There is Satan and God. You are with me or against me – liberalism is not only wrong it is evil – and so forth.

    Next we should admit that an inability to comprehend relativism indicates a deficit in mental acuity. Thus what flows logically is that the conservative population is composed of a minority of philosophical conservatives and a majority of absolutists who are on the dim side. This majority will never adopt FM’s interpretation of the world. It is completely beyond them.

    FM, if you want to communicate with these masses, you will need to translate your ideas into absolutist symbols. Good luck.

    1. Mrjoyboy,

      All good points. For more about such things I recommend reading The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom.

      “if you want to communicate with these masses, you will need to translate your ideas into absolutist symbols”

      You might be correct, but I disagree. Think of websites like this collectively as the modern equivalent of the writings of Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams. The FM website will never have a mass audience, but together we can formulate a message that can.

  29. Fabius I see you continue with your ivory tower babel. I have to name sources to prove that fascism and nazism are children of the left, is it not enough that the man who founded fascism was a communist, does it not stand to reason he took his past political views and molded them into his new ones? Does the name national SOCIALIST not enough to prove from what political spectrum the nazi’s came from? Are the untold millions who have died under communism not enough to discredit the left forever? Was it not the socialist in Europe an America who supported Stalin and Mao while they were killing millions? Who fawned over them and praised them while they killed, imprisoned, tortured and robbed millions but never came out to hold them to the so-called virtues of socialism. You want to lecture to me about the mote in my eye but do not see the beam in yours! Where are the great socialist leaders to save us now? I will tell you, in the camp of the elites doing the bidding of the masters. What has socialism done for Europe except bankrupt it financially, morally, spiritually and intellectually.You degrade Christianity which has been the bedrock of western civilization for over a thousand years and now that the west has abandon it for neo paganism does the west crumble, and what do you offer us, the virtues of a discredited ideology which is socialism? Bravo Fabius, I guess you will quote some dictionary to me now and like some socialist ivy league professor quibble about some technicality.

  30. As for there not being presidents before George Washington you are mistaken, the United States designated its existence since July 4th 1776 and congress and the presidents of the congress where the leaders of the country who initiated and presided over the declaration of independence, the conduct of the war, the peace treaty, the articles of confederation and the constitution. Just because the terms of office are shorter than the ones from Washington onwards does not mean they are not presidents. Just as the powers and length of term in office changed with Washington, federal power after Lincoln, term limits after FDR and war powers after LBJ does not mean that these men where not presidents because the powers and terms changed. George Washington Jefferson and Adams would not recognize the office of president now with all its powers, and yet these forgotten presidents are relegated to oblivion as myth is preferred to truth.

      1. me: “you are playing silly work games”

        Now that was a silly thing for me to say. You obviously don’t understand, and my answer didn’t help. Let’s try again.

        Words often have multiple meanings, with context determining which is appropriate. President comes from the Latin pre (before) and sedere (to sit), meaning to preside over a group. As in a chairman of a committee. Over time that came to also refer to an executive. The President of England (formally the Lord President of the Council), an executive office. In time President became a common term for not just a nation’s highest executive officer, the head of state, or an office combinging both roles. To regard these different roles as the same, or even similar, because they have the same title is what I called “a word game.”

        The extreme case of one word with different meanings are auto-antonyms — words having two opposite meanings. Such as apparent, assume, and cleave. Or opposite by misunderstanding: Inflammable (The fire was not my fault! I would have been more careful with the match if I knew it meant the same as flammable.).

  31. Are you for real? is that the extent of your rebuttal some absurd notion that I believe we have two presidents? I think your the one playing silly word games.

    1. I gave a detailed rebuttal, which you mostly ignored. It’s a simple issue; there’s nothing more to say once the facts are stated. If you don’t understand the distinction between legislative leaders and executive leaders, there’s nothing more anyone can tell you.

      You didn’t explain why we have two presidents today. Do they fight for control? Or, like Roman Consuls in the field, do they command on alternate days?

  32. laughable, do you sit in the senate alone screaming Carthage must be destroyed. Typical tactic of the left, invent a silly statement supposedly uttered by the opponent and pout and scream in the corner, goodnight.

  33. Pingback: some more misc research « my pirate novel

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