The Problem of Right Wing paranoid persecution complexes

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ASPartOfMe
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18 May 2022, 7:01 pm

Noah Rothman for Commentary

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The killing of ten black Americans in Buffalo, New York by an 18-year-old suspect who was reportedly radicalized by racist hate speech he encountered online should be an event that transcends politics. It was a hideous, evil act, and the mania to which the alleged shooter subscribed doesn’t merit serious scrutiny. That would be a better world, but it is not the one in which we live. The temptations in modern political discourse to write the discrete criminal actions committed by individuals into wholesale indictments of the society they inhabit is too great. Indeed, overcomplicating events to place ourselves within stories in which we don’t belong has become a feature of the political landscape, and it’s doing our politics no favors.

Though there is as yet no evidence that the Buffalo shooter had any particular affinity for Republican politics or mainstream conservative media, center-left venues have been quick to note the extent to which elected GOP officials have flirted with the toxic conspiracy theory to which he subscribed. The theory and the paranoia that accompanies Republican officeholders and right-wing commentators alike have lent it credence. Though none have shown that the massacre in Buffalo was motivated by this idea more than the shooter’s mental illness, the legitimization of this narrative is nonetheless irresponsible and has the potential to radicalize the unstable.

Hold on, note critics of progressivism’s attachment to tidy and exculpatory narratives. The right didn’t exactly invent the idea that demographic change in America would lead to a wholesale revision of the social compact. Democratic elected officials, leftwing activists, and respected political scientists spent the better part of this century advancing the idea that demographic trends have set the party on a predestined course toward prohibitive political dominance.

This is a misunderstanding of the theory advanced by the likes of John Judis and Ruy Teixeira in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, and it’s a misapprehension common to much conspiratorial thinking. Among other predictions, these authors posited, and Democrats subsequently adopted, a theory of demographic change predicated on a straight-line projection. But it was always an organic phenomenon that would develop entropically—not something that an organized cabal was or even could do to anyone else. Most important, their theory was wrong!

U.S. citizens with immigrant roots are not lockstep Democratic voters; in fact, they’re trending away from Democrats. The American left did not maintain its hold over an American working class of all ethnic stripes; they’re trending away from Democrats as the party caters increasingly to its educated, affluent activist class.

So much of the conspiratorial thinking that is popular today among the most engaged elements of the American right is characterized by similarly fallacious thinking. Specifically, they reject the likeliest explanation for events and trends they find distasteful and attribute them to a Rube Goldberg doomsday device. Donald Trump didn’t lose the 2020 election, as head-to-head and job approval polling predicted he would for months. A sinister plot spanning six states and involving hundreds of conspirators robbed him of his due. Those who are inclined toward these ideas abjure the simple and rational in favor of the complex, all in the effort to preserve the idea that someone is doing this to me.

This trait did not arise in a vacuum, and the right’s left-wing opponents often reinforce the right’s persecution complex. Too much of what progressive activists and their comrades in media reflexively deem conspiracy talk is vindicated in retrospect. Like the right, the left, too, prefers the complex and comprehensive to the simple but messy in the pursuit of their own psychologically soothing narratives. And when they wield the levers of cultural power to enforce their preferred fictions, it absolutely does reinforce the right’s belief that they are the victims of a vast enterprise arrayed against their interests.

The collapse of these rearguard actions should have helped the right balance its belief in the left’s ability to bend reality to accord with its will. Like “great replacement” theory, though, the right seems more inclined to cling to its sense of victimization than revel in the left’s humiliations. Many on the right are sacrificing Occam’s Razor in the process. And in succumbing to their own paranoia, Republicans become less relatable and, thus, less electable.


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kitesandtrainsandcats
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18 May 2022, 7:42 pm

Quote:
Many on the right are sacrificing Occam’s Razor in the process.


That brings to mind ...

https://nesslabs.com/occams-razor
"
This all sounds great. We don’t want to make things more complicated than they need be. But using Occam’s razor is also risky. Both our minds and the world are complex machines which cannot be grasped by applying such a simplistic approach to decision making. Conflating simple with correct can be dangerous, so it’s important to know the limitations of this approach.
"
...
"
Occam’s razor is pretty easy to understand. It says that other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones. It is used everyday by scientists to choose between competing theories. The problems?

First, there is actually no empirical evidence that the world is simple, and therefore simpler solutions are more likely to be correct. In fact, many scientific theories have become more complex over time, as researchers would uncover new data.
"
...
"
The biggest mistake people make with this mental model is to assume it reasonable to transpose a philosophico-scientific principle to messy day-to-day challenges. It may also be used as a way to gloss over complex but crucial components in an argument, thus falling prey to confirmation bias—our natural tendency to interpret information in a way that affirms our prior hypotheses.
"


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18 May 2022, 8:46 pm

But they're not really sacrificing occam's razor, as the commenter writes. Their conspiracy theory is way simpler than the complexity of history and global economics which leads to why the American working class has gone done the drain.
I'm not sure where to even start that narrative. With the industrial revolution, probably.

What the conspiracy theory does, apart from breaking down the incredible complexity of everything - while needlessly complicating the very latest turns in the story - is personifying it, rather than adopting a systemic view.

This has happened often in history, but one noteworthy iteration is Germany after ww1: the government decided to devalue the currency to ease the burden of paying reparations for the great war, thus destroying the life savings of working class people while the rich knew how to profit from it.
But rather than blaming the government (but then, the other option would have been debt peonage for generations) or somehow hindering the rich from taking advantage of the situation, exploiting the working class further, a new, old story was employed: blame the Jews. The rich stayed rich, even through ww2, and the Krupp dynasty was inducted for war crimes in both world wars, yet was the richest family in Germany again in the 50s.


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18 May 2022, 10:48 pm

The right-wing conspiracy theories do violate Occam’s Razor. Looking at polls, and how court after court ruled the simplest explanation is that Biden won. Even more so for a group of global elites or Jews to put their personal ambition and egos aside to engage in a conspiracy to replace whites and keep at it for decades never mind violating Occam’s Razor, it completely strains credulity.


My criticism of the column is that while correctly pointing out how leftwing in word and dead fed into right-wing paranoia, he fails to note how the right by word and deed has fed into the left's paranoid fantasies. Also, it should have been pointed out that there is no evidence that the terrorist read The Emerging Majority or was affected by the aftermath. It strains credulity as the book was published before he was born. And the conversation around the theories of the book was at its most prominent during the Obama era when the terrorist was a child.


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18 May 2022, 11:35 pm

Sorry, you're right, Occam's razor is violated in regards to the question of who won the election.
But the socio-economic history that lead us to this point is so much more complicated that the conspiracy theory ends up being the simpler, less convoluted explanation. Not for the outcome of the election, but for why America is broken right now. Child-eating democrats is so much simpler than the long-term effects of Reagan-era economic decisions.

I don't know if the guy has read the book or where that information comes from but I know that I have read some books that were written hundreds if years before I was born.
A small number even thousands of years before I was born.

Regarding the impact of the book: there's at least two topics in PPR concerned with "the great replacement" right now. The theory of immigrants replacing the white, anglo-saxon ....ummm....Natives...???
has been around for much longer and is a racist trope that comes in various versions.
In Europe, the racists are afraid of the African "expansive procreation-type", ignoring that two or three generations ago, five to ten children was not unusual in Europe either.


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20 May 2022, 4:29 pm

Ah yes, a right-winger shoots black people and goes on for 180 pages about his explicitly right-wing reasons for doing so, and all the right can do is cry "mental illness!".

The Replacement Theory is an odd conspiracy because, in some ways, the left ascribes to it too. Both sides have those who believe that unlimited immigration will favor the left because they believe that non-white immigrants will obviously vote Democrat. This ignores plentiful data that Hispanic voters are fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. However, the mainstream right's rhetoric is too racist for the left to believe that Hispanics would ever vote Republican. On some level, many Republicans agree with this. Mainstream pundits and politicians on both sides assume all immigrants will think Republicans are racist and vote Democrat.

Ironically, Republicans' own racist beliefs about Latin American immigrants blind them to the fact that those immigrants will end up voting Republican about as much as they will Democrat.

Still, the racism of conservative pundits and the need to rile up the white Republican base for votes and ratings means that they will keep pushing the Great Replacement theory much as their European counterparts do.

It all has to do with race. Immigrants from Christian, capitalist, democratic Mexico are treated the same as immigrants from democratic or autocratic Muslim countries. Virtually no one on the right in my country laments that conservative Christians are being denied entry to this country. (Most Latin American immigrants are staunch Catholics--theyre not exactly going to be unquestioning supporters of progressive social positions). They are treated as threats to "Western Civilization" because they are not white. Full stop. It doesn't matter how Christian you are or how much you tend to vote conservative once you get here. In the eyes of the right wing and much of the mainstream right: you are not white so you will never make positive contributions to white civilization. That makes you a threat and that means you should stay out or die. Hence: right wingers listening to mainstream conservative pundits and shooting people for not being white as a result. It will continue to happen until the mainstream right learns to stop pandering so obviously to white supremacy.


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20 May 2022, 9:32 pm

^^ I think Protestantism is an integral part of what the American right considers "the West".. protestantism did bring some ideas to Christianity that made it something very different... Catholicism has a lot of qualities in common with Hinduism and other old religions that managed to structure large social hierarchies for millennia, where there needed to be some strategy to keep the bottom strata in their place but also generally happy enough so they don't revolt.


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21 May 2022, 1:49 am

roronoa79 wrote:
The Replacement Theory is an odd conspiracy because, in some ways, the left ascribes to it too. Both sides have those who believe that unlimited immigration will favor the left because they believe that non-white immigrants will obviously vote Democrat. This ignores plentiful data that Hispanic voters are fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. However, the mainstream right's rhetoric is too racist for the left to believe that Hispanics would ever vote Republican. On some level, many Republicans agree with this. Mainstream pundits and politicians on both sides assume all immigrants will think Republicans are racist and vote Democrat.

I've read arguments to the contrary:
The massive free movement of people across the globe is essentially the result of a neoliberal order between nations.
And the victims of the (potential) conflict brought on by immigration are only the lower/middle class (especially those of major ethnic groups) - which will cause them to turn right. That is, it will actually make the left lose its original supporters.
I don't want to pretend that heterogeneous culture shock won't cause any trouble.


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