The Origins of Conservatism in the 1920s and 30s

(notes / draft) What are the true origins of conservatism?

1930s, in opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal

3 main factions then:

  1. libertarians — Milton Friedman
  2. traditionalists — William F. Buckley, National Review (1955), Barry Goldwater
  3. anti-communistsJohn Birch Society, Robert Welch, McCarthyites

After the Allies won World War II, a number of the early Hitler sympathizers “hid out” in anti-communist circles, allowing them to cloak their underlying fascism inside of the American Cold War project and give it a semi-presentable face in conservatism.

In the 1970s, 2 more conservative groups emerged for a total of 5 main sects:

4. neoconservatives — Ronald Reagan

5. the religious right — the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell Sr. & Jr., Jimmy Swaggart, Jim & Tammy Fae Baker, Pat Robertson, Jesse Helms, Paul Weyrich, Paul Regnery, William Rusher, prosperity gospel

  • Evangelicals
  • fundamentalism
    • relationship between fundamentalist thinking and authoritarianism
    • rejection of science and empiricism
    • rejection of the liberal political order
    • limitations of received wisdom
  • Christian nationalism
    • Biblical law
    • End Times

Other topics

  • neoliberals & theocons — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and others who led us into forever wars in the Middle East
  • MAGA
  • white supremacists & Lost Cause religion
  • right-wing anti-government violence
    • domestic violent extremism
  • conservative ideology
    • a form of totalism

American Fascists and the Global Right 😈

It feels like the 1930s all over again — and with good reason. The rise of right-wing extremism around the world has been a known trend for decades, and America’s past flirtations with fascism had been largely swept under the rug by the then fascists who tried to put a stop to FDR’s New Deal and prevent the U.S. from getting into World War II.

They fought against labor unions and labor organizers, often using private militia as henchmen to do their dirtywork with plausible deniability for themselves. The KKK was just one of many instruments put to use in service of plutocratic aims to quell any “communist awakening” amongst their workers, lest they get any uppity ideas for themselves. They fell for the popular conspiracy theories of their time, which included Hitler’s bogus assertion that Jewish bankers controlled the world and had to be stopped before they destroyed the white race.

Those fascists, butthurt over America’s overwhelmingly popular decision to enter the war and stop Hitler from exterminating the Jews, seethed with jealousy at the post-war “liberal consensus” that flourished alongside the booming US economy, propelled first by the war effort and later by the peacetime success of the New Deal’s long shadow and the burgeoning of the American middle class.

They turned into the John Birch Society, and the McCarthyites, and the Libertarians, and the Moral Majority, and the Gingrich Revolution, and the Tea Party, and the MAGA / QAnon stew sloshing around mass media. The kooks on the far right — the kind of ilk so cray cray that even William F. Buckley excommunicates you from the Republican Party — have taken over the hen house now. Outrage sells, as Facebook well knows — and as two-bit dictators around the world have bribed Mark Zuckerberg to brainwash the masses using the most inanely illogical propaganda prolefeed, the world tilts dangerously towards authoritarianism and the end of our democracy as we know it. And with it, all hope for truth and light into the future for some time to come — the equivalent of a political meteor hitting the Earth.

The fascists are still around, and now they have tools of propaganda that Goebbels could never have even wet dreamed of. They’re more powerful and more well-connected — to other sociopaths, malignant narcissists, and other pathological cult-leader types who might be f transactional service to each other from time to time. We’d be wise to keep an eye on these folks.

NameTypeLocationKnown for
Roman AbramovichForeign agentRussian oligarch close to both Putin and Trump
ACU Strategic PartnersForeign agentA company seeking to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East in partnership with a sanctioned Russia company; Mike Flynn was working for them without having disclosed it to the US government as required.
Sheldon AdelsonBusinesspersonLas Vegas, NVCEO billionaire of the Sands Corp casino empire (died, 2021)
AggregateIQCorporation
Todd AkinPoliticianMissouriPolitician who lost his Senate race to Clairse McCaskill in 2012 when he made the comment on TV about women having a way to "shut the whole thing down" to avoid becoming pregnant if raped.
American Energy AllianceNon-profitA tax-exempt nonprofit that advocated for corporate-friendly energy policies. Koch's Freedom Partners donated $1.5 million in 2012.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)Non-profitCorporate-funded nonprofit that writes legislation for Republican legislatures, including spearheading the efforts to wrest partisan control over election results in 49 states.
Americans for ProsperityPACThe Koch Brothers' Libertarian political advocacy arm
Philip AnschutzColoradoCO oil and entertainment billionaire and founder of Qwest Communications
Lee Atwater
Michele Bachman
Steve BannonMedia personality
William Barr
Andy BiggsPoliticianAZHouse Republican
Black LegionExtremistMichiganSecret society of black-hooded terrorists working in MI against labor unions and labor organizers in the 1930s. Legionnaires talked of staging a coup to oust FDR and imposing a fascist regime in the United States
David BogatinOligarchNYCA top figure in the Russian mafia who bought 5 luxury condos in Trump Tower to launder money, he admitted in 1987.
Jacob BogatinOligarchDavid Bogatin's brother, and a partner of notorious Russian mob moss Semion Mogilevich
Harry and Lynde BradleyKochtopusMidwesterners who built their wealth on defense contracts
Andrew BreitbartMedia personalityFounded both Brietbart and the Huffington Post
Ruby Bridges
Mo BrooksPolitician
Brother's CircleCriminalOrganized crime gang pursued by then-FBI head Robert Mueller circa 2011
Michael BrownFerguson, MOUnarmed black man killed by the police in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking a series of riots in the city.
Pat Buchanan
William F. Buckley JrMedia personality
Doug BurleyFounding and leading both The Family and the National Prayer Breakfast of right-wing power brokers
Cambridge Analytica
Tucker CarlsonMedia personality
Doug CaseyAyn Rand devotee and "anarcho-capitalist" who specializes in how to profit from turmoil
Michael CatanzaroLobbyistPartner at the CGCN Group lobbying firm who headed "energy independence" for the Trump transition team.
Madison Cawthorn
Center to Protect Patient RightsDark money group funded by the Kochs to attack the ACA with fearmongering and vitriol
Mike CernovichMedia personality
CGCN GroupLobbyistLobbyist for the Koch brothers
James ChaneyActivistNeshoba County, MSOne of 3 civil rights activists murdered by local white supremacists when engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, along with Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman
Chris ChristiePoliticianGovernor of NJ
Michael CohenBusinesspersonDonald Trump's personal lawyer, sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for felony crimes, including campaign finance crimes
Steven A. CohenFinance (SAC Capital Advisors)
Roy Cohn
Competitive Enterprise InstituteThink TankA Washington think tank that had been bankrolled by fossil fuel industries, particularly the Kochs.
Continental ResourcesCorporationOklahomaOK-based shale oil company with a large and profitable fracking operation
Coors brewing familyKoch InvestorColorado
Ted CruzPoliticianTexas
Kim DavisPublic SectorKentucky
Devos familyKoch InvestorFounders of the Amway marketing empire; Betsy DuVos is the Secretary of Education under Trump
Amadou DialloNew Yorka West African immigrant mowed down by 41 shots from police when leaving his apartment on February 4, 1999.
James DobsonMedia personalityconservative talk-show host
Chester DolesFormer KKK leader who runs the white supremacist American Patriots USA. Nearly beat a Black man to death in 1993. Marched in 2017 in Charlottesville.
Dinesh D'SouzaConservative gadly who alleged that Obama was "African" in outlook rather than American, absorbing his "radical" views from his Kenyan father
Doug Ducey
David DukeWhite Supremacist
John EastmanRan against Kamala Harris in 2010 for California AG, then showed back up in 2020 to write an outrageous op-ed that Newsweek for some reason actually published, that claimed that she was "secretly" not a US resident and therefore not eligible to be the VP! Now the Kamala Harris birther
Myron EbellOutspoken climate change skeptic, who headed the Trump transition team for the EPA
Election Integrity Project CaliforniaExtremistElection fraud group working with Leonard Leo
Cassandra Fairbanks
Jerry Falwell, JrTelevangelist
The FamilyLobbyistShadowy DC group with tremendous sway in Congress and around the world, following a distorted "strongman Jesus" version of Christianity.
The Federalist SocietyExtremist
Scott FitzgeraldPoliticianWIHouse Republican
Michael FlynnLobbyist
For AmericaPAC
Fox NewsCorporation
Freedom PartnersKochtopusThe Koch Brothers' secretive donor club.
FreedomWorksExtremist
Kevin GentryVP of Special Projects and VP of the Koch Foundation
Greg GianfortePoliticianbody-slamming Guardian reported Ben Jacobs while running for a GOP House seat in Montana
Newt GingrichMedia personality
Tim "Baked Alaska" GionetWhite Supremacist
Rudy GiulianiPoliticianNYC
GiveSendGo"Christian" donation platform
Barry GoldwaterPoliticianAZ
Chuck GrassleyPoliticianSenator
The Great Awakening
Marjorie Taylor GreeneQAnonGA
Eric Greitens
Harold HammKochtopusBillionaire founder of Continental Resources, an OK-based shale company with large fracking business & one of the charter members of the Kochs' donor circle.
Orrin HatchPoliticianSen. Orrin Hatch raised concerns about funding certain entitlement programs. β€œI have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything,” he said.
Josh Hawley
Jesse Helms
Leona Helmsley
Diane HendricksThe wealthiest woman in Wisconsin at $3.6 billion
Heritage FoundationThink TankWashington, DC
Honest Elections ProjectExtremistA conservative legal organization connected to Leonard Leo that files legal briefs to SCOTUS opposing mail-in ballots and other voting reforms that help more people to vote,
Andrew JacksonPoliticianUS President
John Birch SocietyExtremist
Andrew JohnsonPoliticianUS President
Chuck JohnsonMedia personalityAlt-right super troll
Alex JonesMedia personalityHost of InfoWars, the 9/11 conspiracy show that put the genre on the map
Jim JordanPoliticianOHA long-time Tea Party hyena, the Congressman known as Gym once helped his buddy cover up decades of sexual abuse of young wrestlers in their care.
Judicial Education ProjectExtremistA legal group tied to Leonard Leo, working to advance conservative takeover of the judiciary.
Islam KarimovOligarchUzbekistanFormer Communist official who became the first president of Uzbekistan in 1991, and remained the country's dictator until his death in 2016.
Brett KavanaughJudge
Dr. D. James Kennedycreating a Dominionist "conversion" playbook
John F. KennedyPolitician
Robert F. KennedyPolitician
Martin Luther KingActivistCivil Rights leader in the 1960s, and enemy of Southern politicians
Charlie KirkMedia personality
KKKWhite Supremacist
Bill KochBusinessperson
Charles KochKochtopusKansasindustries: pipelines, oil refineries, lumber and paper, coal, chemicals, commodity futures, etc.
David KochKochtopusKansasindustries: pipelines, oil refineries, lumber and paper, coal, chemicals, commodity futures, etc. (now deceased)
Fred KochKochtopusKansasFather of Charles and David, Fred Koch was an early and fervent acolyte in the ultra-conservative John Birch Society
Frederick KochBusinesspersonNew York
Ku Klux Klan (see KKK)White Supremacist
Ken LangoneBusinesspersonFounder of Home Depot
Lyndon LaRoucheCult Leader
Robert LeFevreKochtopusCharles Koch's mentor, a quasi-anarchist, who said, "government is a disease masquerading as its own cure"
Leonard LeoExtremistChairman of the Federalist Society, a legal organization working to pack the courts with conservative judges.
Liberty CounselChristian special rights group
William S. Lind
Kelly LoefflerPoliticianGeorgiaInsider trading immediately upon arriving at her unelected Senate seat when her husband, President of the NYSE, found a way to have some money arrive at Brian Kemp, the Governor, who appointed her.
Dana LoeschMedia personalityNRA spokeswoman
Paul ManafortLobbyist
John McAfeeBusinessperson
Michael McKennaKochtopusLobbyist and President of MWR Strategies lobbying firm, who have the Koch brothers as clients
Rebekah MercerOligarchDaughter of NY hedge fund manager Robert Mercer; she helped guide the Trump transition team following the 2016 election
Robert MercerOligarch
MicroChipPro-Trump bot-king
Michael Milken
Semion MogilevichCriminalNotorious Russian mob boss
Stefan MolyneuxMedia personalityAlt-right troll
Sun Myung MoonCult LeaderLeader of the Moonie cult and self-proclaimed deity, Mr Moon served time in federal prison for tax fraud, among other charges.
Roy MoorePoliticianTrump-backed politician and pedophile who narrowly lost the Alabama Senate race to Doug Jones in 2018.
MWR StrategiesKochtopusLobbying firm for the Koch brothers
neo-NazisExtremist
Ralph NormanPoliticianHouse Republican who skirted the metal detectors to enter the House floor after the January 6 insurrection
NRAExtremistNational Rifle Association
NYPDPublic SectorNew York Police Department
Barack ObamaPoliticianChicago, DC, Los AngelesThe 44th President of the United States, and the first black person to hold the job. He was widely loathed by the Right despite his positive record.
John M. OlinKochtopusChemical and munitions company titan
Norman Vincent PealeBusinesspersonChristianity as a business man's religion
Mike PenceMedia personality
Rick PerryPolitician
Scott PerryHouse Republican who skirted the metal detectors to enter the House floor after the January 6 insurrection
Jordan B PetersonAcademic
Mike PompeoPublic SectorSec of State after the firing of Rex Tillerson; former CIA Director; former Republican congressman from KS and largest recipient of Koch campaign funds in all of Congress
Jack PosobiecMedia personality
Lewis Powell
Sydney PowellAlso Associates with UFO believers and anti-vaxxers
Proud Boys
Thomas Pylepresident of the American Energy Alliance, funded by Exxon and the Kochs
QAnon
Nancy Reagan
Ronald ReaganPolitician
Pat RobertsonTelevangelist
George Romney
Mitt RomneyPolitician
Richard Mellon ScaifeKoch InvestorHeir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes, and Koch donor
David Schnare"Free-market environmentalist" who accused the EPA of having blood on its hands, who joined climate change denier Myron Ebell on the Trump transition team for the EPA
Stephen SchwarzmanFinance
Rick Scott
Jeff Sessions
Marc ShortRan the Koch Brothers' secretive donor club, Freedom Partners, before becoming Mike Pence's senior advisor during the 2016 presidential transition
Sinclair Broadcasting GroupCorporation
Paul SingerKoch InvestorFinance (Elliott Management hedge fund). Supported Rudy Giuliani.
SNCCNon-profit
Richard SpencerMedia personality
State Policy NetworkFunded in part by the Kochs
Roger StoneLobbyist
Richard StrongStrong Capital Management Mutual Fund
Tea PartyIntensely antitax group
Peter ThielBusinessperson
Three Percenters
Turning Point USA
Unification Church
Unite the RightActivist
University of Texas at Austin
Ricky Vaughn
George WallacePoliticianAlabama
Joe Walsh
Kelli WardPoliticianAZGOP Chair
Ron WatkinsIdentified as the most likely suspect to be Q
WeevWhite SupremacistAndrew "Weev" Auernheimer
Paul WeyrichWhite Supremacist
Darren WilsonPolice officer who brutally killed a Black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO in 2014.
WikiLeaksForeign agent
Milo Yiannopoulos
TYPE (raw)Typepivot
BusinesspersonAcademic
BusinesspersonActivistTYPE (raw)
BusinesspersonBusinessperson
BusinesspersonCorporationBusinessperson
BusinesspersonCriminalCorporation
BusinesspersonCult LeaderKoch Investor
BusinesspersonExtremistLobbyist
BusinesspersonForeign agentMedia personality
BusinesspersonJudgenon-profit
CorporationKochtopusPolitician
CorporationLobbyistPublic Sector
CorporationMedia personalityThink Tank
Koch InvestorNon-profitType
Koch InvestorOligarchGrand Total
Koch InvestorPAC
Koch InvestorPolitician
Koch InvestorPublic Sector
Koch InvestorQAnon
Koch InvestorTelevangelist
Koch InvestorThink Tank
Koch InvestorWhite Supremacist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Lobbyist
Media personality
Media personality
Media personality
Media personality
Media personality
Media personality
non-profit
Non-profit
Non-profit
Non-profit
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Politician
Public Sector
Public Sector
Think Tank
Think Tank
Type

Dunning-Kruger Effect

A strong and prevalent cognitive bias that causes a large majority of people to rate themselves more highly and more skilled than statistically possible. Lack of self-awareness can cause us to overestimate our knowledge or ability in a given area, and this phenomenon is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Posited in 1999 by two Cornell psychologists, Professors Dunning and Kruger also found that low-skilled people often have a double bind: they think of themselves as very skilled, but the lack even the basic level of skill that would allow them to detect and learn from their mistakes to get better. It’s very difficult for them to get out of the “trap” of perceiving themselves as superior, thus obviating any need to continue effort at improvements.

They also found that individuals of high skill levels also suffer from a sort of “lensing effect” (now dubbed the Dunning-Kruger Effect accordingly) in terms of their own self-assessment, but in the other direction — they are not generally aware of the rarity of their gifts. They assume most other people have the same kinds of knowledge and critical thinking skills that they do. In other words, careful study of our images of ourselves found us all to be living in a bubble of inaccurate self-perception, on both ends.

How to counteract the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

  • Ask for feedback from other people, and listen to it honestly.
  • Keep learning and gather knowledge and improving your skills.

Trump is driving Evangelicals from the flock

It’s been said that the devilish ways of pedophiliac liberal Democrats are killing Christianity in America, but the numbers tell a different story. Following the 2016 Armistice in the War on Christmas, Donald Trump yet managed to drive 1 in 7 Evangelicals from the fold, according to data from Pew and PRRI.

Far from the surge in True Believers prophesied by the right wing, the religious right’s deal with the proverbial and/or literal devil seems to have driven members away. Trump is losing Evangelicals, and really — should we be so shocked? If it doesn’t matter (to some) whether our leaders are serial philanderers and lifelong business cheats, or earnestly striving public servants spreading compassion — what use is their moral code, then? None. It is bankrupt.

ShrΓΆdinger’s Moral Leadership

The religious right can’t have it both ways — either moral leadership is important, or it isn’t. It can’t selectively be important *only* when a Democrat is in power. Evangelicals also need to make a choice between God and Caesar. Prosperity gospel is the latter and not the former, but many pretend otherwise or are fooled — after all, fool’s gold can still fool.

Cognitive dissonance upon dissonance continues to fall in the totally unraked forest of right-wing values. I’m aiming to continue pulling on a few threads connecting the religious right, and Evangelicals in particular, to the rise of political extremism in the Republican Party:

  • The pitch that winning the culture war is more important than God’s law is thin at best
  • Donald Trump is not a Christian
  • The “imperfect vessel” fails as moral justification
  • Jesus didn’t care about tax cuts
  • Christian leaders’ claims that politics is amoral ground beyond the reach of God’s teachings is self-evident nonsense
  • Christians are leaving their own moral house unguarded. No one is showing the living proof of Jesus’ teachings anymore — and it’s not the fault of the people on the left who weren’t doing it before.

Essential thinkers on authoritarian personalities

Many people around the world were shocked in the aftermath of World War II. How could “polite” society break down so utterly, so swiftly, and so zealously? Why did authoritarian personalities come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?

A braintrust of scholars, public servants, authors, psychologists, and others have been analyzing these questions ever since. Some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject of authoritarianism were either themselves affected by the Nazi regime, or lived through the war in some capacity. Other more recent contributions have built on those original foundations, refining and extending them as more new history continues to unfold with right-wing behavior to observe.

Top research on authoritarian personalities

  • Theodor Adorno — Forced into exile by the Nazi regime, the German philosopher was a member of the Frankfurt School who tried to make sense of the evils of Hitler’s rule. He developed the F-scale in 1947, a personality test designed to identify authoritarian personalities through a set of signature traits like conventionalism, aggression, superstition, cynicism, stereotypy, projectivity, and preoccupation with sex. His studies on antisemitism and propaganda would lay the groundwork for sociological studies at the Institute for Social Research at Columbia University, the Frankfurt School’s intellectual and literal home in New York City during WWII.
  • Bob Altemeyer — Canadian psychology professor who built upon Adorno’s work to create the Right-wing Authoritarianism Scale in 1981, the now standard diagnostic tool for identifying authoritarian personalities. Altemeyer’s research on authoritarian followers added new dimensions to the field of study, often focused previously on the psychology and behavior of authoritarian leaders of the day such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. His most recent book, The Authoritarians, compiles the essential insights from his forty years of research on authoritarianism and is available for free at the link above.
  • Erich Fromm — A German Jewish psychologist and sociologist, Erich Fromm fled the Nazis and worked with the Frankfurt School of exiles on issues of social change, socioeconomics, and a broad range of interdisciplinary studies across the social, political, and economic sciences. His first book, Escape From Freedom (1941), is considered one of the founding tomes of political psychology. In 1964 he coined the term malignant narcissism to describe the depths of ultimate evil he lived through during Hitler’s rise to power, a phrase clinically synonymous with psychopathy — the quintessential cold-blooded killers who show no remorse for their murderous zeal. His concept of group narcissism (1973) extended Freud’s theory of collective narcissism to describe the phenomenon where members of an ingroup hold inflated views of their group that require external validation from others to continuously reaffirm their supremacy.
  • Hannah Arendt — Born Jewish in Germany in 1906, Hannah Arendt got her doctorate in philosophy in 1929 but was unable to find footing in her academic career due to the sharp rise of hostility towards the Jews. Arendt fled the country in 1933 after Hitler came to power and she was arrested for her “illegal” research into antisemitism. Forced to flee again from her exile in France in 1940, she escaped to New York and became an American citizen in 1950. Her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), is considered one of the seminal works on the subject. Among her many other titles, The Human Condition (1958) may be the most influential — it establishes her core philosophy of “natality,” the idea of human affairs naturally renewing itself through the literal process of birth, with new individuals arriving continuously to reinterpret both the present and the past as well as re-imagine the future.
  • Karen Stenner — An Australian political scientist, Stenner is known for her cross-cultural research findings that show about a third (approximately 33%) of whites in a given population will tend to have authoritarian predispositions. Her work also shows the difference between authoritarian personalities, who have a great distaste for difference and diversity, and conservative mentalities, who have a significant aversion to change. Stenner posits authoritarianism as the result of a low tolerance for ambiguity, complexity, and — as a consequence — sociocultural diversity: “freedom feeds fear which undermines freedom, and democracy is its own undoing” (from her 2005 work The Authoritarian Dynamic).

More foundational thinkers

  • Czeslaw Milosz — Author of The Captive Mind (1953), the Lithuanian-born poet, writer, and activist grew up in Poland and lived through the German invasion and Soviet occupation there during and after World War II. In the book, he describes the psychological and social effects of living under Communism, with emphasis on the surprising complicity of many members of the Polish intellectual and creative class.
  • Vaclav Havel — A Czech playwright who became more politically active as a dissident after the Soviet invasion of Warsaw in 1968, Havel wrote The Power of the Powerless (1978) about his experiences living in the lies of a communist regime. He was a political prisoner under the anti-intellectualism of Soviet rule multiple times, once for as long as 4 years.
  • Viktor Frankl — Holocaust survivor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher who chronicled his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, his observations about his fellow prisoners, the guards, and the psychology of Hitler’s murderous antisemitic regime more broadly. After being liberated from Auschwitz, having lost the rest of his family to the camps, he returned to Vienna to head a hospital neurological department and wrote Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) over the course of only 9 days. He went on to develop logotherapy, a branch of psychotherapy that places the search for life’s meaning at the center of human motivation, and laid the groundwork for the development of positive psychology.
  • Herbert Marcuse — Another refugee intellectual with the Franklin School, Marcuse worked with the pre-CIA OSS to research and counteract Nazi propaganda.
  • George Orwell — The British author most synonymous with portraying the evils of totalitarianism through his two classic fiction works Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). To this day we use the term Orwellian to describe the creeping dread of a dystopian, all-powerful government pumping out lies and thought control.
  • Robert O. Paxton — Seminal work on the nature of fascism
  • Timothy Snyder — Yale professor and scholar of autocratic regimes
  • Masha Gessen — Russian-American journalist, author, and queer activist whose definitive biography of Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face (2013), is one of several must reads on the rise of Russia’s revanchism with the West.
  • George Lakoff — Linguist who analyzes political messaging and writes about the strict father vs. nurturing parent Manichaean struggle between conservative/authoritarian and liberal value systems. Lakoff stresses the counterintuitive finding that approximately 98% of our thinking is done unconsciously, and that we are driven by these unconscious thoughts and beliefs to a much larger extent than we are generally aware of.
  • Alice Miller — Swiss psychologist whose career uncovered that the consequences of child corporal punishment tend to be authoritarian personalities later in life. Her work shows that child abuse perpetuates emotional blindness later in life and a number of vicious cycles in society from generation to generation, from aggression and paranoia to corruption, crime, and violence.
  • Jerrold Post — One of the foremost researchers on political paranoia and a founder of the field of political psychology, the professor spent 2 decades as a CIA agent prior to teaching and writing about the political behavior of malignant personality types. His last book, Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers (2019), was published one year before the 2020 election.
  • Richard Hofstadter — studies the “paranoid style” in American politics
  • Jonathan Haidt — Author of The Righteous Mind
          

Tulsa Race Massacre

On May 31, 1921, a mob of murderous whites descended on the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma dubbed Black Wall Street, and razed it to the ground. They dropped homemade bombs in the first ever domestic aerial attack on American soil, during the Tulsa Race Massacre following the end of World War I.

Over three hundred Blacks were murdered and hastily buried or burned. Police and other state officials were complicit; no one was ever charged for the crimes and insurance companies refused to honor Black business owner’s claims from the destruction of their livelihood and senseless slaughter of their friends, families, and community. A generation of wealth was wiped out overnight, with deep economic repercussions passing down to ensuing descendants.

Whitewashing, literally

The Confederates managed to memory hole the Tulsa Race Massacre event clean out of history for the most part, until the 100-year anniversary of the event — arriving at a time of perhaps maximum racial polarization and most extreme partisanship in this country since the civil rights era. Nor is it the only example of mass murder and destruction of Black property and assets — there are plenty others we’ve never heard about in school. That’s why it’s so important to bear witness, and to remember, and to tell and retell the stories of our past — even the painful ones. Especially the painful ones.

The Conservative Mind

A growing body of psychological and cognitive research is showing that the conservative mind has the following in common, indicating a profound challenge for American democracy in years to come:

  • are low in the “openness” trait — seek comfort and familiarity, and avoid novelty or challenge
  • dislike change and difference
  • rigid and dogmatic thinkers; close-minded
  • have a strong need for closure
  • have a high tendency to jump to conclusions while exuding self-righteous conviction
  • are high in conscientiousness, but low in conscience — many see life as a game to win at all costs, especially the social dominators
  • value loyalty
  • more likely than liberals to engage in motivated reasoning
  • more likely to have strong religious beliefs
  • more likely to engage in magical thinking
  • more likely to believe in conspiracy theories
  • more likely to exhibit authoritarian personality traits
  • more likely to harbor aggressive tendencies

See also: