It's about POWER

There’s this thread running through a lot of the political discourse about how people on the right can believe things that are patently false.

One theory is that they are dumb.

But my theory is, they know it’s false and it’s about POWER.

For example, climate change. I think people know that’s a fact. But they want to exert the power to deny the fact so that they can enjoy all the benefits of using energy excessively.

For example, building a wall. I think people know it’s ridiculous AND THAT’S THE POINT. We can force you to do this stupid thing because we have power and we want to exert our power.

For example, All Lives Matter in response to Black Lives Matter. They get why African Americans want to organize. They just want to pretend to misunderstand because it’s about POWER and keeping power.

Your thoughts?


My thoughts? I think you nailed it.


Good point, though I think there’s a lot of overlap. People do a lot of incredibly stupid things (whether they believe it or not), thinking they will get more power out of it. Usually they’re disappointed. It’s a vicious circle.

I think people at the top (including religious leaders) generally don’t believe any of the obviously stupid crap (exceptions: Trump, Palin, etc.), but know their followers do, so spout it anyway.


I suspect even Trump knows better. If you want to find out why pols and “influencers” push demagoguery, follow the money. In Trump’s case, he figures (correctly, as it pertains to his base) that he hardly needs to cover the money’s journey.


I think that Trump’s election is kind of the ur-example of that. The Republican elite were peddling nationalist, xenophobic narratives to get themselves elected and to get their regressive economic policies enacted, but they weren’t really enthusiastic about walking their bigoted talk. They didn’t really believe most of what they were saying, but they knew they coulduse it to turn votes into cash . And then Trump, who does believe all that garbage, came along and used it to steal their base right out from under them, and they were forced into a choice of actually becoming the cartoon villains that they had been promising their base, or growing a moral backbone at the expense of losing some of that power.

Most seem to have chosen the “cartoon villain” route.


I think you’re totally right. Partly because of the term “libtard” and how quickly it comes out: I call you a nasty name, you get upset, I “win”!

Then there’s that birther I met in Florida who backed right down when I corrected him on what I said, but kept calm and cheerful (or at least Canadian) about it.

They’re not stupid. They’re trying to manipulate the progressives – oops, “libtards” – into losing their shit, because that means they “win”.

It’s politics and government on the level of a middle school playground.


I think the conservative value system places a lot of emphasis on things like authority and tradition, which are directly counter to intellectual value systems.

Flat Earth ‘believers’ are mostly people whose value systems are in direct opposition to those of intellectuals. The same could be said for people who claim the world is only 4000 years old, climate change deniers, etc. Whether they know it’s false or not doesn’t matter, they don’t care whether it’s false or not. They don’t value truth, they value ‘right’ where ‘right’ is what they’ve been told by their people, whom they were raised to never question. Intellectuals, with their different value systems, are the enemy. To admit that intellectuals are right would undermine the core of the values that they were raised with and which forms the core of their self-image, so they go to absurd extremes in the opposite direction.

It’s not about what they believe or what they’re trying to achieve, but mainly about their values and tribalism. I can see how a power trip would also play into that as well, given the us-vs-them antagonism toward intellectuals.


ding ding…

They are still stupid, but it makes them feel powerful to say that climate change is fake or that a wall will stop the bad people and so forth.


My own theory is that it isn’t anti-intellectualism, it’s the need to pose as someone who is counter culture without having to take any real stand on an issue. So athletes in fringe sports dominated by conservative values (MMA for example) are going to have these guys who have these public battles with “haters” while never threatening their opportunities much.


I have this theory that all the conservatives are trauma victims who believe that they keep themselves safe by following the rules. And that if we can heal their trauma they can be free if this slavishly desire to please authority.



Sartre again:



There is considerable room in applying principles of free markets to crash the monopolies. It’s the kind of thing people understand and can apply, not some kind of magic that will someday replace the price system. There’s a reason why systems that are solely socialist get turned by bad actors into some form of exploitation. Prices can be set by an opaque corporate or government bureaucracy. Neither meets our needs.


I’m reminded of this video essay:

While the focus in this video is on Right Vs Left, I find it interesting because it seems to outline a mode of behavior which is found in a lot of arguments that are not always about aligning oneself with the tribe, but about avoiding having to think about our actions and our desires, if it just so happens that there’s a tribe of people who don’t like to think then yeah, they are a part of that tribe now.

For a lot of people the idea comes first, any reasons given in defense of the idea are performative.


I want to agree with you, but there are so many stupid people out there that I can’t. Many of these stupid people are seemingly normal, college educated folks, but they just have no intellectual curiosity and feel too comfortable inside their little echo chambers. They think if the authoritative sounding white man on the TV tells them something, then it must be true, no question. They think “left wing” means someone who watches CNN instead of Fox News, because they have no understanding of how broad the political spectrum is seems how complex the issues are. Nor do they care, because once the issues are boiled down into pablum so simplistic it becomes false, they feel smart for being able to understand the news. Once they think they understand it, and that they understand it because they’re smart, they think their opinion matters. It doesn’t matter at all, for many reasons I won’t go into here.

On the subject of Fox News, they advertise reverse mortgages, “we buy gold” ads, and lots of Christian bullshit so soppily moralistic as top be unbelievable. It’s obvious they have no respect for their viewers. Is that intentional? Are they intentionally scaring off the moderately smart people who will eventually start to question them, so that they can focus on the minority of people who are super dumb and make them even dumber?


I’ve read that one trick scammers use is poor grammar, obvious mistakes, and other things that will weed out anyone with a brain. They only want the suckers.


Oh, FSM, this.

True story, a colleague once saw me reading an article about some of the neuroscience behind an athlete’s recovery regime. She asked me why I was reading it.

“Because I find it interesting,” I said.

“But how is that going to help your career?”

She was dead serious. She couldn’t comprehend reading something that wasn’t for work or your field of study. Not only does this person have an advanced degree, she also had a parent with brain trauma. The idea of a site like this, where we seek out and share and discuss interesting stories for the sake of interesting stories would be incomprehensible to her.


I wish I knew where I read the article, but it was saying that selling scammy bullshit was literally how right wing media got started, years ago with some seedy mail order company, and that this company expanded into a media empire that is fueling the right wing paranoia. It is very odd to listen to right wing radio as the line between the content and ads is so thin and so symbiotic.


This may be why boycotting the advertisers of major right wing media personalities like Rush and Sean may never work. There will always be a snake oil salesman who will continue to buy ads with them and won’t surrender to normal pressures.


Huh. I thought that was just to fool the spam filters.


I’m so borrowing the term Schroedinger’s Douchebag.