15 January 2021

The wingnut mind and its limitations

A striking feature of the wingnut mind is its lack of imagination.  As I've noted before, for weeks now far-right blogs and sites (especially their comment threads) have been awash in fantasies of violence and slaughter, of shooting and hanging liberals, showing us who's boss when we "come after" them and try to take their guns or round them up or whatever they think we're going to do.  The expected circumstances are vague -- it's the thought of using their guns to take us out that they relish, in sharp relief.

They expect us to come down to their level and engage them in some kind of physical confrontation in which their guns will give them the upper hand, because guns are what they have and what they know.  That's not how it works.  When humans set out to cull wolves from an area, they don't do it by coming down to the wolves' level and fighting them physically so that the wolves have a chance to rip them to pieces.  They do it with high-powered rifles from a distance, preferably from helicopters, or use poison.  We're not going to deal with our current wild-animal problem in ways that play to their strengths, either.  As I suggested here, we're already fighting them by focusing on the areas where we have the advantage -- propaganda, technology, culture, communications, economic power.

Especially given their inflamed rhetoric, I'm sure a few groups of wingnuts here and there will shoot a few individuals or attack a few pieces of infrastructure that support our cities (another vivid fantasy I've seen on their blogs).  But they won't do enough damage to "win" or affect the long-term trajectory of the country -- not even close.  I doubt they'll ever again accomplish anything as spectacular as their raid on the Capitol, which was scary enough but lasted only a few hours and achieved nothing except to turn a certain number of Republican politicians against them.  And as with the Capitol raid, the individual perpetrators of violence will be identified, tracked down, and arrested, while those who support it too heatedly with rhetoric will be fired, ostracized, and rendered unemployable.  Such people will be left physically unharmed but financially ruined -- crushed by forms of power against which guns are useless.

I keep calling them "the stupid one-third", and the stupidity matters.  It's not just a matter of two opposing but basically comparable world-views.  People whose thinking is so limited operate at several critical disadvantages.  For one thing, as I explained in the earlier post, our world-view is mostly consistent because it's based on reality, and reality is consistent and objectively knowable.  Theirs is prone to fragmentation because it's based on delusions, and delusions vary from person to person and can change randomly.  (The left is prone to factional splits too, but these are usually over real policy differences, not over whether Satanic lizard people from outer space exist.)  Also, they lack any nuanced sense of history (their constant invocations of the Founders are clichéd, trite, and ignorant), any deep sense of how the world actually works, or any ability to think multiple moves ahead or to accurately anticipate the actions of their opponents.

The storming of the Capitol is a case in point.  They had no soberly-considered set of objectives which they reasonably expected this action to achieve.  At best there was some idea that if they could stop the electoral-vote count and perhaps murder some number of Democratic and "RINO" politicians, this would somehow nullify the election result, intimidate the political establishment, and allow Trump to remain in power (this is a bit like believing that burning your credit-card bill will make the debt disappear).  They had no grasp of the resilience of institutions and procedures in a quarter-millennium-old democracy, or of the fact that when enormously-powerful people are temporarily scared out of their wits by a threat of personal violence, they tend to strike back, not back down.  They didn't seem to understand that threatening Republican leaders or beating and killing police officers would profoundly alienate people who have shown at least some sympathy for their cause.  They turned the colossal might of the federal government against their movement, while inflicting no substantial damage on their enemies at all.

And so it goes.  As I said, I expect occasional further violent incidents, followed each time by ostracisms, firings, and arrests and prosecution.  It's the furious lunges of a cornered animal against the practiced and skilled responses of an experienced hunter.  The animal may be big and noisy and scary, but you know who's going to win in the end.

The "soft power" arena, too, illustrates their mental limitations.  I've written a lot on the subtle role of popular movies, TV, and suchlike in driving and normalizing the kind of cultural changes that so upset the fundies and wingnuts.  The occasional efforts of the enemy to produce analogous counter-propaganda (the "Christian movie" industry comes to mind) are invariably clunky, preachy, and lacking in any appeal except to those who already believe.

But the same seems to apply even with much less demanding works.  For example, the Trump era has provoked a great abundance of liberal satirical music videos mocking the enemy's pomposity, blundering, and stupidity (see for example here, here, and here).  But despite the range of right-wing blogs and sites I read, I've never seen any analogous right-wing musical take-downs of left-wing figures or movements, and I really doubt they exist.  The humor, imagination, and skill to produce such things (however modest) just aren't there.

They are fanatically invested in keeping Trump in power because, in spite of experience, they believe that political power is the prime mover that determines everything else.  On our side, at least a significant number of people realize that politics is only one arena among several, and that political wins and losses are much more the effect than the cause of deeper cultural tendencies.

Crippled by its delusions, the wingnutosphere exists in a sustained state of tedious rage and pitifully-transparent efforts to sound frightening.  It's a self-created prison of cramped minds unable to escape, not because they're locked in, but because they're unable to conceive of the world beyond the cage of their own limitations.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

You are so right.
They relish on those fantasies and feel empowered by them. Their execution of their 'ideas', though, is invariably clunky and awkward. They are overconfident with no reason. Only their guns. They have no sense of humor, irony or history enough to produce anything but incomprehensive conspiracy theories. Their grasp of history is vague and they lack cohesion in their thought. Maybe, because as you say, there's no solid anchor to their rantings.
It's all a blubbering, snarling anger that has no outlet. They're dangerous, yes, but it will be very difficult for them to do something like the Capitol ever again. There's only one Agolf Twitler, after all.


15 January, 2021 04:06  
Blogger bluzdude said...

It's funny how they posture and pose with their guns and roll around in violent fantasy scenarios, but still play the "victim."

Seems our entire political arena revolves around a race to claim victimhood and demand appeasement.

15 January, 2021 05:32  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, those are all characteristics of black-and-white thought (so to speak).

15 January, 2021 06:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the 70s there were Survivalists, then Preppers going into the 90s. There were always the race war doomers, the Galt's Gulch wannabes, the idiots who thought The Turner Diaries was a How-To manual. On the other end there were people who were simply concerned about how society was changing and, even more practically, those who realized that having a reserve of beans, bandages, and blankets, perhaps even a few bullets, might be handy.

I used to be a fringe part of some of the groups. I was never going to be at the center. Partly because I have doubts about my own leadership ability rooted in my doubts about the concept of leadership itself. This manifested itself in my observation that most of the more popular leaders were far too interested in guns and the how-to-die-a-hero mindset. If the idea really is survival then going down in a blaze-of-glory should not be on the menu. This idea was not popular.

When polled on boards about the greatest risks to the group others would suggest "the golden hoard", or limited supplies. My suggestion was that debt, property taxes, and a lack of employment or income was by far the biggest threat. This view was also not popular.

[The "Golden Hoard" was taken from a video game referencing the Mongol invasion of Europe. The idea was that if things get dicey the urban population will flee the cities and operate as bands plundering the rural landscape and population. IMHO this isn't likely. City folk like the city and will, under stress, stick to the cities. Rural folk much the same. For sure any aid is going to go to the cities first. Rural areas get what is left over.]

In the end investing huge amounts of cash in military hardware that sits largely unused is unsustainable if your finances are not in order. Particularly if your desire to use that equipment causes you to do something so foolish that it interferes with your employability and income.

Looking at the attempted coup, I think that is the correct label, and finding out who these people are I see a lot of people who could be on-line acquaintances from the boards. But older and wealthier. I also note that these are not, for the most part, poor people. Average income looks to be several times the median of around $45K. Some chipped in for flights on private jets, have spouses that are well-heeled professionals, are the son of a state supreme-court judge. These are not in the lower 80% who would have to take out a loan to pay $700 for a new water pump on their truck.

15 January, 2021 07:06  
Anonymous wjbill said...

humor is especially lacking in the conservative/wingnut mind. Was Dennis Miller ever really funny? (snark)

15 January, 2021 09:42  
Blogger Leanna said...

So perfectly explained. That last paragraph hit the nail squarely on the head.

15 January, 2021 10:17  
Blogger CAS said...

This is such a brilliant post that I hesitate to comment because nothing more need really be said. So, this is simply a bit of feedback. I love the wolf/wild animal analogy and I'm glad you pointed out the imagination, humor, and skills on the left that are blatantly absent on the right.

Last night I listened to a journalist from Politico reporting on members of the wingnutosphere as you've aptly labeled them. She, along with countless other journalists and members of law enforcement, are following their actions as they struggle to rebuild their fractured (having been kicked off Twitter and FB) online isolation chamber. She said there's clear evidence indicating that many of these rebels-without-a-clue, when shown pictures of the national guard troops now plastering Washington DC, actually believe those soldiers will join them in their next attempt to destroy Congress.

It's the kind of outrageous, wildly delusional interpretation of facts that we've come to expect from these people. I hope you are right that the inevitable violence that lies ahead will amount to little in the overall scope of things. Nevertheless, it will be painful to witness the damage when it does occur.

15 January, 2021 11:11  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: They feel wronged because they're losing their former dominant position -- and being dumb, they easily twist that into feelings of victimization.

The weird thing is, their minds are so limited they can't even see how limited they are. It's similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect but not exactly the same.

Bluzdude: That's an odd thing about it. They claim to despise the cult of victimhood, but they themselves are essentially whiners.

Debra: They don't acknowledge nuance. Everything opposed to them is absolutely evil and probably Satanic.

Anon: Thanks for the insider report. I suppose part of why these groups are so crazy is that anybody who's a bit less crazy is eventually made to feel unwelcome and leaves.

If food ran short, I'm sure I wouldn't leave the city and try to loot the countryside. I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to do that. At least in the city there are other like-minded people who could help each other. Start large-scale urban vegetable gardening or something.

If what we saw in the Capitol lynch mob was richer-than-average wingnuts (who therefore presumably have their act together to some extent), then I shudder to think what the rest are like.

15 January, 2021 15:51  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Wjbill: Don't know who that is, sorry. If there are wingnuts with wit, it certainly isn't evident in their internet "culture".

Leanna: Thanks! I was pretty pleased with that last paragraph.

CAS: Thanks! If we also get angry sometimes, I think it's because we have a culture genuinely worth preserving, that creates things that are fun and interesting, which is being threatened. The other side seems to just have anger all the way down.

The fantasy of the military abandoning its Constitutional duties to join a wingnut uprising is one they've nurtured for many years. A lot of military personnel do come from the rural/Southern culture, but a lot are also black or Latino. And it doesn't help that Trump has spent so much energy in office insulting and denigrating the military.

The violence will indeed be painful, certainly to the individuals who end up in its crosshairs. I don't at all intend to minimize or ignore brutalities like the murder of officer Sicknick. But revolutions are not made by murdering small numbers of people. John Wayne Gacy managed a higher body count.

15 January, 2021 16:03  
Anonymous Nick said...

I copy pasted this article for keeps. Well done.
If societal pressures are working in our favor, I note a trend in clothing fashion toward military/survivalist. This is especially seen in the advert margins of all my web pages. For a minority, they wield outsized power.
Politics is supposed to be a battle,,,, of ideas. They keep losing , so break the rules of interaction.

15 January, 2021 16:15  
Blogger Richard said...

They are just so stupid and selfish. I went out today on my electric wheelchair and saw about 20 different kinds of birds, i checked on our deer herd, i talked with neighbors, and i waved at strangers. I also looked at the plants.
These other neighbors are probably dangerous. They lack imagination. They are stuck on trumpism like shit to a shoe.

15 January, 2021 19:49  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Yes, stupidity is a powerful force among the Trump Cult, along with extreme gullibility.

The "Stupid One-Third" also includes the percentage of authoritarian personalities in any population. MRI's show conservatives tend to have an over-active enlarged amygdala, the primitive fight-or-flight center of the brain.

Humans need to evolve past the dominance of the emotion-based portion in their brains, or it may lead to our self -extinction.

I'm reading "Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers" by John Dean and Bob Altemeyer. They include some interesting research on Right Wing Authoritarians. (RWA's)

I can't recommend it enough.

16 January, 2021 08:23  
Blogger Martha said...

So wonderfully stated! This is what I think but would not be able to put in words quite as eloquently as you did in this post. I really enjoyed and appreciated this post!

16 January, 2021 12:07  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Another insightful, thoughtful piece on what the Trumpistas are about. The insurrection didn’t succeed because, as someone else noted, the Trumpers were like the proverbial dog who chased and caught the car.

The mobs did just enough mayhem and murder to get the powerful to react. What happens from here is anyone’s guess.

Thanks for this.

16 January, 2021 14:28  
Blogger Mary said...

Another excellent post. I’ve saved many for future reference..

17 January, 2021 06:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Nick: Thanks. I've noticed ads for military/camo-style clothing, but I essentially never see anyone actually dressed that way. I know Portland is a fairly liberal place, but that kind of clothing doesn't seem to be much of a thing among the general population.

Richard: Not knowing anything about your neighbors, it's hard for me to say.

Dave: I've heard the claims that conservatives' brains are innately different somehow, but I really think the susceptibility to delusional thinking is linked to religious background, not genetics. Religion itself obviously isn't genetic since nonbelief in the US has gone from barely over 0% to over 25% in just two or three generations -- and of course individuals change political orientation as well. Low intelligence certainly has a genetic component, but even there, I suspect stultifying rural/religious environments have a lot to do with it.

Martha: Thanks! I appreciate it.

Shaw: Thanks. They've certainly escalated things. If the Republican leadership has finally realized how dangerous these mobs of crazies are, that will be a game-changer.

Mary: Thanks! That's quite a compliment.

17 January, 2021 09:05  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Watching many of the video footage ... I do tend to think, that there was a small percentage of this group, that had a plan ... and only used the mob gathering to try to achieve it, but it didn't work. What I mean is, I felt those few, actually, not necessarily were going to kill politicians, but definitely do a sudden scare tactic (like when a special cops team do a 4 or 5am raid on a dope house, and the element of surprise tactics in raids by military abroad), to catch many politicians, definitely to detain with zip ties, and perhaps to sort of interrogate, scare, and steal documents, and to try to get paper records of vote counts/ paperwork (and other documentation not available to public), and at least to try to make the vote not go through somehow. The mass of the followers (Trumpster diehard crowds) they pull in, is just to create chaos and mix people up with sudden shock, as strategy ... allows time for a few in all the chaos to do their thing less noticed ... it's a diversion tactic, just like when you commit a crime like kidnapping, bank hold up (more organized scores) ... you must create diversion. I mean, a good thief will commonly use diversions. I'm sure FBI and Intell is starting to look into this, they know well.

18 January, 2021 12:34  

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