AUTHORITARIAN WATCH: Taub knows where the wild things are!

FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2016

A humble, four-question test:
Do we the liberals know how to talk about politics without instantly dropping our bombs?

We've been asking that question for several months. Our fiery leaders keep giving an answer:

Actually, no, they seem to say. Actually, no. We do not!

The latest confession appears in today's New York Times. We refer to the op-ed column in which a fiery writer named Lindy West explains who all those Trump voters are.

According to the leading authority, West is "an American writer, feminist and fat acceptance movement activist." In our view, she's also a person who's inclined to analyze politics through the liberal use of our bombs.

West's column starts with a string of whistles designed to convey an obvious thought: The Others are a bunch of southern rednecks. She uses a woman named Elizabeth Kemper as her whistled example.

(How many whistles can you count in West's opening paragraph? We count four different whistles, starting with her very first word.)

By paragraph 5, West is ready to give a direct and highly general description of Trump voters. As she does, sure enough! She delivers a hail of bombs:
WEST (3/11/16): The notion that Mr. Trump voices ideas that his supporters are “afraid” to express, vital truths lost to the scourge of political correctness, has been a rhetorical through-line of his campaign. Mr. Trump says exactly what he thinks, his fans gush—about immigrants, about Muslims, about women—a bygone pleasure now denied most Americans.

It’s an odd construction. Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability—how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa?—an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.
In fairness, West drops her bombs with skill. We don't think we've ever seen an M-bomb directly followed by an X-bomb in the way she has crafted here.

As she continues, West also delivers an S-bomb. She saves the inevitable R-bomb to serve as the paragraph's chaser. In this way, West paints a sweeping portrait of Those People, The Others, the many supporters of Trump. (It seems to us that she dropped her B-bomb on Trump's head alone.)

At this point, please remember our question. The question we asked was this:

Are we liberals able to talk about politics without instant use of our bombs? Again and again and again and again, our answer seems to be no.

That said, West's presentation strikes us as unintentionally humorous. She starts by rolling her eyes at the ludicrous notion that Trump voters—people like Kemper—are "afraid" to state their views.

Four paragraphs later, she abandons her whistles and turns to her bombs. She shows no sign of understanding that this is almost surely the practice to which the redneck Kemper was referring at the start of her column.

Please remember our question! In this case, West couldn't get through paragraph 5 without resorting to liberal use of her bombs. In our view, this instinctive practice, however pleasing, comes with a very large downside.

In our view, West is involved in otherization, a practice which dates to prehistory. Confronted with people whose reactions differ from her own, she can only imagine one possibility:

The people in question are morally bad, in a deep and primal way. In a sweeping, multi-pronged assessment, she fashions them as The Other.

(More unintentional humor: In paragraph one, West criticizes the redneck Kemper for being "all certainty." By paragraph 5, our analysts were howling. "Look who's talking!" the youngsters said.)

Our view? In this column, Lindy West behaves like a tribal player drawn from the swamp of prehistory. Last week, in a lengthy piece at Vox, Amanda Taub dropped a different bomb on the heads of the nation's many Trump voters.

In our view, she did so in puzzling fashion.

As we noted yesterday, Taub reported "astonishing" results from some research she recently conducted. Through her research, Taub says that she has discovered the existence of "a potentially enormous population of American authoritarians."

If we credit Taub's research, authoritarians are all around us. And sure enough! As is often the case in such matters, the appalling group in question is heavily associated with The Other Political Party:
TAUB (3/1/16): The first thing that jumped out from the data on authoritarians is just how many there are. Our results found that 44 percent of white respondents nationwide scored as "high" or "very high" authoritarians, with 19 percent as "very high." That's actually not unusual, and lines up with previous national surveys that found that the authoritarian disposition is far from rare.

The key thing to understand is that authoritarianism is often latent; people in this 44 percent only vote or otherwise act as authoritarians once triggered by some perceived threat, physical or social. But that latency is part of how, over the past few decades, authoritarians have quietly become a powerful political constituency without anyone realizing it.

Today, according to our survey, authoritarians skew heavily Republican. More than 65 percent of people who scored highest on the authoritarianism questions were GOP voters. More than 55 percent of surveyed Republicans scored as "high" or "very high" authoritarians.
Please understand! In that frightening, scary passage, there's something Taub didn't say.

Taub didn't say that most Republican are "authoritarians." In fact, she said something much scarier than that:

Taub said that 55 percent of Republicans are "high" or "very high authoritarians!" Presumably, the total number of "authoritarians" in the GOP is substantially higher than that.

We're going to take a wild scary guess—according to Taub, something like 80 percent of Republican voters are "authoritarians." To our ear, this represents a very liberal use of the A-bomb, one of the many bombs our tribe deploys in our current attacks on The Others.

In her column in the Times, West drops a quick series of bombs. As part of her sweeping portrayal, she describes Trump voters as misogynists, xenophobes, supremacists and racists. Last week, Taub dropped the A-bomb—authoritarian—into that tribal stew.

These are all extremely unpleasant words. They represent the kind of judgment which tends to end political discourse—the kind of judgment which tends to divide the world into warring tribes.

Such warfare rarely turns out real well. If only for that reason, we'd think a person would want to be careful about the use of these sweeping negative assessments. This raises an obvious question:

How did Taub reach this deeply unflattering judgement about Republican voters, especially about Republican voters who are voting for Trump? What made Professor Taub feel she knew where the wild things are?

Given its historical associations, the term "authoritarian" is a very unpleasant term. In our view, a decent person would want to be extremely careful before carpet-bombing the countryside with such a destructive bomb.

On what basis did Taub decide that so many of The Other Team are "authoritarians?" Tomorrow, we'll review the part of her lengthy report where she answers that question.

As it turns out, Taub based her sweeping negative judgment on results from a humble four-question test. In our view, Trump voters are currently making a rather shaky political judgment. We'd say Taub's judgment is just as bad, possibly tilting toward worse.

Regarding West, we suggest one final point:

According to the leading authority, West is an activist in the realm of fat acceptance. To us, that sounds like a good idea.

It seems to us that West might strive to broaden the reach of her acceptance. Can Lindy West accept the idea that people can disagree with her views and judgments without being Evil and Other?

Can West extend her cone of acceptance that far? Dating to the realm of prehistory, this has been a major challenge for us the tribal people.

Alas! In these highly partisan times, a certain conclusion keeps becoming more likely. For a large percentage of us the people, our tribalism may rank "very high."

Tomorrow: That humble four-question test

19 comments:

  1. John Brockman has edited a book that might interest the Daily Howler community.

    http://www.amazon.com/Universe-Leading-Scientists-Explore-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00G2AKBNS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text

    ReplyDelete
  2. And Kevin Drum has more good reading for daily howlers.

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/03/kids-are-becoming-less-violent-adults-not-so-much

    ReplyDelete
  3. And, Howler readers, in our view Al Gore once found a shocking place in much the same way Somerby reports Taub "has discovered the existence" of "a potentially enormous population of American authoritarians."

    ReplyDelete
  4. This will be news to Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker who insists in tweet after tweet that the human race is becoming much nicer. Actually, I was watching "Spartacus" last week, and he may be right.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Other than Bob Somerby repeatedly calling it scary, I haven't read anything in Taub's work that is scary or which she depicts as scary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most writers and observers seem to find Trump's comments about the violence at his rallies, and the silent response of his opponents scarier than Somerby thinks the Taub piece is designed to be.

      Delete
  6. Jeez, Somerby -- of all people -- complaining about "unpleasant words" that "end discourse" with "Trump voters."

    The irony on so many levels is so delicious, only one of them being a journey into the Incomparable Archives to see if Somerby himself might have used "unpleasant words" that "end discourse" against his own hand-picked targets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Journey to the Inomparable Archives My Ascot!
      How about a little skip ahead to the next post:

      "our own money-grubbing gang of career liberal poodles"

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  8. Is the study of any negative personality trait suspect? If not, then is applying such studies to voting blocks off limits?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lindy West's column is an embarrassment. One of many dumb comments
    ...to see what Mr. Trump means by “make America great again.” It just takes a history book. Many of us remember what America used to be like, and don’t care to go back.

    I grew up in an America that did great and remarkable things: defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; making its defeated enemies into democratic allies; bringing Europe back to economic success via the Marshall Plan; providing food for a starving world; Norman Borlaug developing new grains that have nearly eradicated world hunger; developing cures and vaccines against many dread diseases, becoming the economic leader of the world, etc.

    Of course, America wasn't perfect. But, it's noteworthy that Lindy West skates right past America's many great achievements, to which Trump was surely referring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it all went to shit when Reagan was elected. Biggest mistake this country ever made. He fed the monkey-brains to the GOP, and the whole party is now infected with prion disease.

      Delete
    2. Not surprising that David's remembrance of America during his Andy Hardy days is that it was all good.

      David's historical revisionism is consistent with his current tribally-blinkered, black-and-white worldview, as he now pivots from "I don't believe a thing Trump says" to suggesting that Trump now is credible in sharing David's myopia of a gilded America in days gone by.

      David, do you now believe that Donald Trump will make America great again and return you to the secure and safe bosom of Ma Hardy?

      Delete
    3. Howard -- I appreciate you posting under a name, rather than anonymously. I'm afraid you misrepresented some of what I wrote. In particular, I wrote, "Of course, America wasn't perfect." That's different from your claim, that I said it was "all good."

      In answer to your question, I don't think Trump would be a good President, for a number of reasons. One is that he has no experience in wielding leadership in a governmental role. Another is that his political views tend to be pretty liberal (except regarding immigration.)

      BTW you used some purple prose to attack my praise for American achievements, but you didn't refute a single one of them.

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  13. My life became devastated when my husband sent me packing, after 8 years that we have been together. I was lost and helpless after trying so many ways to make my husband take me back. One day at work, i was absent minded not knowing that my boss was calling me, so he sat and asked me what its was all about i told him and he smiled and said that it was not a problem. I never understand what he meant by it wasn't a problem getting my husband back, he said he used a spell to get his wife back when she left him for another man and now they are together till date and at first i was shocked hearing such thing from my boss. He gave me an email address of the great spell caster who helped him get his wife back, i never believed this would work but i had no choice that to get in contact with the spell caster which i did, and he requested for my information and that of my husband to enable him cast the spell and i sent him the details, but after two days, my mom called me that my husband came pleading that he wants me back, i never believed it because it was just like a dream and i had to rush down to my mothers place and to my greatest surprise, my husband was kneeling before me pleading for forgiveness that he wants me and the kid back home, then i gave Happy a call regarding sudden change of my husband and he made it clear to me that my husband will love me till the end of the world, that he will never leave my sight. Now me and my husband is back together again and has started doing pleasant things he hasn't done before, he makes me happy and do what he is suppose to do as a man without nagging. Please if you need help of any kind, kindly contact Happy for help and you can reach him via email: happylovespell2@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
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