Three Quick but important Stories Two: Why people believe-and hate

We at LSS love it when someone discovers something big, something exciting, that seems to be real illumination of the darkness we’re in. Over the years, we have seen it in physics, paleontology, history, theology, and even sports. Now we think that Skylar Baker-Jordan of the Independent*, may be on to something. We thank Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for drawing our attention to this piece.

Let’s start with a little warning: it’s written from a point of view which could be described as “leftish”, “Liberal” or “Progressive” There’s nothing wrong with that; all articles will have their biases, which is why intelligent people always read from journals on both sides. So it takes the expected view of Mr Trump’s supporters which can be summarised in this quote about the regions in which he grew up.

Beneath the stereotype of “Midwest nice” and “southern hospitality,” a bloviating jingoism, a blustery bullying, a latent authoritarianism has always lurked.

Strong stuff indeed, and doubtless the other side could trade some equally wounding insults via Fox News or The Sun. Such name calling has slowly escalated into the terrible partisan divisions which have so wounded the United States and the current disturbances which may yet bring it to its knees.

Progressives like to say “the Right has guns-we have reason. We have facts.” So why do all these so-called reasons and facts keep seem to bounce off the intellectual carapaces of their opponents? Right- wing people are no more stupid than Left-wing ones. Look at a group of Trump supporters or Brexiteers and you will find successful engineers, businessmen or craftsmen. (they do tend to be male). It is here that Baker-Jordan hits the intellectual paydirt.

In 2016, the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found that high levels of authoritarianism frequently correlate with support for Donald Trump. This does not mean these folks consciously crave dictatorship, but rather that they express classic authoritarian traits — a desire for “law and order” and social hierarchies, for example — triggered by their anxiety over social change. This is what makes engaging with my Trump-voting family so tricky. Most of them are incredibly defensive and utterly convinced of the righteousness of their cause because anything that challenges the status quo is seen as an innately bad thing.

Here lies the hostility to media, denial and aggression, the support for leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro. The real deep inescapable fact is this anxiety, and the cause is the massive bewildering social changes brought about by globalisation.

It is no good at all sneering at these people, or demonising them. Because they are a psychological type that constitutes a large slice of the population. A slice that often works hard, pays its taxes (except for the rich ones) and is often a vital part of the little networks that keep societies alive. By which we mean things like sports clubs, churches, masons, charities and all the other groups that constitute a healthy social ecology. If the progressives are the side of reason and fact, they need to face the fact that these people exist, and accommodate their needs. Otherwise they will be in the unfortunate position of those sailors who deny the existence of waves in the sea. And all the gains in areas like race, ecology, inequality and even freedom itself will surely be lost.

Eric Kaufman Whiteshift: Populism Immigration and the Future of White Majorities Penguin 2018

#skylar baker-Jordan #donaldtrump #anxiety #authoritarianpersonality

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