Emotion

Oath Keepers

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers paramilitary group, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a seditious conspiracy to disrupt the electoral count. It’s the harshest punishment so far resulting from the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and is especially significant because Rhodes himself was not present at the Capitol that day. Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, was convicted last November of the politically charged sedition charge and multiple other felonies.

Rhodes’s conduct was found to amount to terrorism by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, a first in a case related to the Jan. 6th attack. This factored into his calculations under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated that the sentences reflect the grave threat these actions posed to democratic institutions.

Ongoing danger of political violence

Rhodes, who never entered the Capitol building during the siege, was nevertheless described as presiding over the action like a general on the battlefield. Even after his arrest, he repeatedly invoked the prospect of political violence — including during his sentencing hearing. Judge Mehta cited Rhodes’s intelligence and charisma as factors that made him dangerous, as they inspired dozens of people to travel to Washington for the electoral count.

Rhodes plans to appeal his conviction and sentence. He testified in his own defense last year, but this decision backfired after inconsistencies were pointed out in his account of his actions leading up to the Capitol siege and his penchant for conspiracy theories.

Kelly Meggs, a co-defendant also convicted of seditious conspiracy and a former leader of Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The judge heard emotional accounts from police and congressional staffers who continue to suffer from the aftershocks of the assault on their workplace.

Key takeaways from the Rhodes verdict

  1. The Impact of the Verdict: The sentencing of Stewart Rhodes could influence any sentence Enrique Tarrio, the former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys group, will face on the same charge later this summer. This case sets a precedent for future cases related to the Jan. 6th attack.
  2. The Role of Rhodes in the Capitol Siege: Despite not entering the Capitol building, Rhodes played a significant role in the events of January 6. His leadership and influence over the Oath Keepers were highlighted during the trial.
  3. The Aftermath of the Assault: The emotional trauma inflicted on the police and congressional staffers present during the assault continues to be felt. The sentencing of Rhodes and Meggs is one important step towards holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
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tunnel vision model

Tunnel vision is both an actual physical condition, and a metaphor for a myopic type of thinking. In the former, people who experience tunnel vision have a loss of peripheral vision that results in a constricted, circular field of vision akin to looking through a tunnel. In the cognitive metaphor, tunnel vision refers to a resistance to considering alternative points of view or potential solutions to a problem. Whether due to conviction in one’s position or mental laziness in exploring other options, tunnel vision can be dangerous and lead to deleterious outcomes.

Motivated reasoning is a closely related concept to tunnel vision, in that both phenomena feature someone being predisposed to a specific belief or outcome. In both there is a tendency to back a certain course of action even before evidence is available or fully examined, and to continue to hold that position regardless of any new evidence that may come in that challenges the preferred narrative. Tunnel vision can lead to bad decisions, because focus is being placed on a favored outcome while ignoring potentially much better solutions or courses of action.

Key aspects of tunnel vision

  1. Limited perspective: Tunnel vision in decision-making occurs when people fail to consider the bigger picture or explore alternative viewpoints. They may become fixated on a specific goal, approach, or outcome, which prevents them from recognizing other potentially more effective or beneficial options.
  2. Confirmation bias: This cognitive bias occurs when people selectively focus on information that supports their pre-existing beliefs or assumptions, while disregarding or downplaying evidence that contradicts them. This biased thinking reinforces tunnel vision and leads to poor decision-making. Related to: motivated reasoning.
  3. Groupthink: In group settings, tunnel vision can be amplified by groupthink, a psychological phenomenon where members of a group prioritize conformity and harmony over critical evaluation and independent thinking. This can result in a narrow-minded consensus that overlooks important information and alternative perspectives.
  4. Emotional factors: Strong emotions, such as fear, stress, or overconfidence, can also contribute to tunnel vision in decision-making. These emotions may cloud judgment, cause people to fixate on specific aspects of a situation, and prevent them from thinking objectively and rationally.
  5. Inability to adapt: Tunnel vision can lead to rigidity and an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Decision-makers may stubbornly cling to their initial plans or beliefs, even when faced with new information or challenges that call for a different approach.

How to avoid tunnel vision

To mitigate tunnel vision in decision-making, it’s essential to cultivate self-awareness, engage in critical thinking, and actively seek out diverse perspectives and alternative solutions. By challenging assumptions, being open to new information, and considering a broader range of factors, individuals and groups can make more informed and effective decisions.

  • Get a second opinion
  • Have a brainstorming session to evaluate other points of view
  • Take a break for a while and come back to the problem or issue again after some time away from it
  • Do thought experiment exercises where you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to imagine how they would solve the problem, or what decision they might make given their own interests and beliefs.

More about how we think:

Think Better β†—

Mental models are a kind of strategic building blocks we can use to make sense of the world around us.

Mental Self-Defense β†—

You may not know it yet but you’ve been drafted into a war. A conflict of cognitive warfare, in which the battlefield is your mind.

30 Common Psychological Biases β†—

These systematic errors in our thinking and logic affect our everyday choices, behaviors, and evaluations of others.

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Psychological projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when an individual unconsciously attributes their own feelings, thoughts, or attributes to another person. Projection is a way for people to cope with and protect themselves from unwanted or uncomfortable emotions such as guilt, anger, or anxiety. In essence, psychological projection involves transferring one’s own emotions, thoughts, or motives onto someone else, as a means to avoid confronting or dealing with them directly.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, initially conceptualized projection as a defense mechanism. According to Freud, the mind has various ways to protect itself from psychological distress or anxiety, and projection is one of many methods. While Freud’s work laid the foundation for understanding projection, our understanding of the concept has evolved over time, with many modern psychologists examining its cognitive, social, and emotional aspects.

Several factors contribute to the likelihood of an individual engaging in psychological projection. These factors include personality traits, social and cultural influences, and situational factors. People who are more prone to projection often have a higher level of neuroticism or difficulty regulating their emotions. Social and cultural factors can also play a role, as people may be more likely to project certain emotions or traits onto others depending on societal norms and expectations. Situational factors, such as stress or emotional conflict, can further exacerbate the tendency to project.

Types of projection

There are various types of psychological projection, including:

  1. Complementary projection: This occurs when an individual projects their own feelings or thoughts onto someone who has a complementary role in their life, such as a partner or coworker. This type of projection can often be seen in relationships, where one person may accuse their partner of being unfaithful when, in fact, they are the ones who are struggling with feelings of infidelity.
  2. Complimentary projection: In this form of projection, an individual attributes positive qualities or traits that they themselves possess onto someone else. This may be done to reinforce a positive self-image or to maintain a sense of self-worth.
  3. Projective identification: This is a more complex form of projection in which an individual not only attributes their own emotions, thoughts, or motives onto another person but also manipulates the other person into actually exhibiting those characteristics. This can be seen in interpersonal relationships where one person tries to control or manipulate the other to confirm their own beliefs or fears.
  4. Collective projection: This occurs when a group of individuals projects their shared feelings, thoughts, or motives onto another group, often as a means of maintaining group cohesion or protecting the group’s image. This type of projection can be seen in situations of intergroup conflict, where one group might blame another for problems that actually stem from within their own group.

Negative consequences of projection

Psychological projection can have several negative consequences, both for the individual engaging in projection and for those on the receiving end. For the projector, it can prevent them from taking responsibility for their actions, feelings, or thoughts, thereby hindering their personal growth and emotional development. It can also distort their perception of reality, leading to poor decision-making and strained relationships.

For those on the receiving end, psychological projection can be confusing, hurtful, and damaging. It can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and emotional distress. Additionally, being subjected to projection can cause individuals to question their own reality and self-worth, potentially leading to feelings of self-doubt or depression.

Projection in politics

Politicians and their supporters often engage in projection as a way to deflect criticism, discredit opponents, and maintain a positive image of themselves or their party. Projection in politics can manifest in various ways, including the following:

  1. Accusing opponents of misconduct: Politicians may accuse their opponents of engaging in unethical or illegal activities that they themselves are involved in, as a way to deflect attention from their own actions and create doubt about the opposition (classic example: when then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich waged a campaign against then-President Bill Clinton for having an affair, while he himself was having an affair with a Congressional aide on his staff).
  2. Misattributing motives: Politicians might project their own motives or goals onto their opponents, suggesting that the other side is pursuing an agenda driven by selfish or malicious intent. This can be a way to delegitimize the opposition’s policy proposals or campaign messaging.
  3. Stereotyping and scapegoating: Projection can also be seen in the form of stereotyping and scapegoating minority groups or other marginalized communities. Politicians may project their own insecurities, fears, or prejudices onto these groups, blaming them for social or economic problems, as a way to rally support and distract from the real issues at hand.
  4. Groupthink and collective projection: Political parties, factions, or movements may engage in collective projection, projecting their own faults or shortcomings onto rival groups. This can help maintain group cohesion and reinforce a shared identity, but it can also contribute to political polarization and conflict.

Projection in politics can have several negative consequences, including the distortion of facts and reality, the exacerbation of political polarization, and the perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudice. It can also hinder constructive dialogue and compromise, making it more difficult for politicians and policymakers to address pressing issues and find solutions to problems.

To counteract the influence of projection in politics, it is essential for individuals to remain vigilant and critically examine the claims and accusations made by politicians and political parties. Media outlets and journalists also play a crucial role in fact-checking and holding politicians accountable for their statements and actions. Encouraging open and honest dialogue, promoting empathy and understanding, and fostering critical thinking can help mitigate the impact of projection in the political arena.

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Emotional blackmail is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to exert control and undue influence over others by exploiting their emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities. It typically involves the use of threats, guilt, or negative emotions to pressure someone into complying with the manipulator’s demands or desires.

Forms of emotional blackmail

  1. Threats: The manipulator may threaten to harm themselves, the victim, or someone the victim cares about if their demands are not met.
  2. Guilt-tripping: The manipulator may try to make the victim feel guilty for not complying with their wishes, suggesting that their refusal indicates a lack of love, care, or loyalty.
  3. Fear: The manipulator may use the victim’s insecurities, anxieties, or fears to manipulate them into submission.
  4. Obligation: The manipulator may insist that the victim “owes” them something, such as a favor or support, in order to pressure them into compliance.

Emotional predators use blackmail

Emotional blackmail can be subtle or overt and may occur in various types of relationships, including romantic partnerships, friendships, family, and professional settings. Emotional predators (often people with personality disorders) tends to use psychological manipulation techniques to get what they want from you — without much (or any) regard for your own feelings in the matter, or the ethical dubiousness of doing so.

Recognizing and addressing emotional blackmail is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships.

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Negging is a manipulative tactic often used in the context of dating and interpersonal relationships. It involves making backhanded compliments or subtle insults aimed at undermining someone’s confidence and self-esteem. The term “negging” is derived from the word “negative,” and it is typically employed to make the target feel insecure or uncertain, causing them to seek validation from the person employing the tactic.

Negging is often associated with pickup artists (PUAs) and their strategies for attracting romantic partners. The idea behind negging is that by lowering a person’s self-esteem, they become more susceptible to the manipulator’s advances and more likely to seek approval or validation.

Negging examples

  1. “You’re really pretty for a girl with glasses.”
  2. “I like how you don’t care about what people think of your outfit.”
  3. “You’re surprisingly intelligent for someone who talks so much.”

Negging is part of the broad pantheon of tactics used by emotional predators. It can have negative consequences on the target’s emotional well-being and can potentially lead to toxic or abusive relationships. It’s essential to recognize negging as a manipulative tactic and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. If you encounter negging, it is crucial to assert yourself, disengage from the interaction, or seek support from friends, family, or professionals if necessary.

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by (as the name implies) narcissism, including a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for admiration. People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are special or unique in some way. They may be preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, beauty, or ideal love. However, behind their grandiose façade, they often have fragile self-esteem and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection.

NPD is part of the Cluster B family of personality disorders. People with NPD tend to exhibit odd, sometimes bizarre behaviors that are offputting to others and tend to have serious effects on the individual’s life.

NPD diagnosis

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines the following diagnostic criteria for NPD:

  1. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, characterized by a sense of self-importance and an exaggerated sense of achievements and talents.
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Belief that they are special and unique and can only be understood by other high-status people or institutions.
  4. Need for excessive admiration.
  5. Sense of entitlement, expecting to be treated in a special way or given priority.
  6. Exploitation of others for personal gain; using the tactics of emotional predators; narcissistic abuse.
  7. Lack of empathy, an inability to recognize or care about the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them.
  9. Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The symptoms of NPD may vary in intensity and presentation, but they are typically stable and longstanding. The condition may start in early adulthood and may be diagnosed only after adolescence, as it is difficult to differentiate between normal developmental narcissism and pathological narcissism in childhood.

NPD: Lack of empathy

People with NPD may have difficulty in maintaining close relationships because of their lack of empathy and preoccupation with themselves. They may feel entitled to special treatment and have unrealistic expectations of others. They may exploit others for personal gain and may become angry or hostile when their expectations are not met. Additionally, they may struggle with criticism or rejection and may react with rage or humiliation.

NPD is often co-occurring with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It may also be comorbid with other personality disorders, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder, as individuals with BPD may exhibit traits of NPD, such as a need for attention and admiration.

Treatment for NPD often involves psychotherapy, particularly psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies, which aim to explore the underlying psychological factors contributing to the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may also be effective in addressing maladaptive beliefs and behaviors associated with NPD. However, individuals with NPD may be resistant to therapy, as they may not recognize the need for treatment or may be unwilling to acknowledge their role in the dysfunction.

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Propaganda is a form of communication that aims to influence people’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors towards a particular cause, idea, or ideology. It involves the use of persuasive techniques to shape public opinion and to create a favorable image of a person, group, or organization, while discrediting or demonizing its opponents.

Propaganda can take many different forms, including posters, speeches, films, radio broadcasts, social media posts, and news articles. It can be used for political, social, religious, or commercial purposes, and it is often associated with authoritarian regimes or totalitarian societies.

One of the key characteristics of propaganda is its use of emotional appeals, rather than rational arguments, to sway people’s opinions. Propagandists often appeal to people’s fears, hopes, or prejudices, and use catchy slogans, symbols, or images to make their message more memorable and persuasive. They may also use repetition, exaggeration, or distortion of facts to reinforce their message and to create a sense of urgency or crisis.

Disinformation at scale

Another key feature of propaganda is its use of selective or biased information to support its claims and to discredit opposing views. Propagandists may use half-truths, rumors, lies, or Big Lies to create a false or misleading picture of the situation, and to manipulate people’s perceptions of reality. They may also use censorship or propaganda techniques such as suppression of dissent, demonization of opponents, or use of fear to create a chilling climate of fear and intimidation.

Propaganda can also be used to create a sense of unity or identity among a group of people, by emphasizing their shared values, beliefs, or interests, and by portraying outsiders or enemies as a threat to their well-being. Propaganda can thus be used to mobilize people for a common cause, such as a war or a political campaign, or to reinforce existing social norms and values.

However, propaganda can also have negative consequences, such as creating divisions, fostering hatred, or suppressing dissent. It can lead to the dehumanization of other groups or individuals, and to the justification of violence or discrimination. Propaganda can also undermine democracy by limiting people’s access to accurate information and by creating a distorted view of reality.

To resist propaganda, it is important to be critical of the messages we receive, to question the sources and motives of the information, and to seek out alternative perspectives and sources of information. We should also be aware of our own biases and prejudices, and strive to be open-minded and tolerant of different opinions and viewpoints.

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A growing body of psychological and cognitive research is showing that the conservative mind has a few things in common. Some research suggests that conservatives may be more attuned to potential threats and have a stronger emotional response to them compared to liberals. For example, studies have found that conservatives tend to have greater physiological responses to images and sounds that evoke fear or disgust.

Other studies have found that conservatives tend to score higher on measures of cognitive closure, which refers to the tendency to seek closure and avoid ambiguity and uncertainty. This may manifest as a preference for traditional values and a resistance to change. Additionally, conservatives may be more likely to rely on heuristics (mental shortcuts) when making decisions, whereas liberals may be more likely to engage in deliberative thinking.

It’s possible these traits at growing scale could present a profound challenge for American democracy in years to come:

More on conservatives:

Fairness vs. Hierarchy β†—

Liberals believe in fairness; conservatives believe in hierarchy.

Rule of Law vs. Cult of Personality β†—

Democracy is built on the rule of law, but the right-wing tends to prefer a cult of personality.

Artists vs. Fundamentalists β†—

Artists are famously left-wing, and fundamentalists are classically right-wing..

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McCarthyism refers to the anti-communist political repression and paranoia that swept the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly during the tenure of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin. It was a period of intense fear and suspicion of communism during the Cold War that manifested in government investigations, trials, and blacklisting of individuals suspected of being communists or communist sympathizers. The era was marked by a pervasive fear of subversion and betrayal, as many Americans believed that communists were working to infiltrate and undermine American institutions.

The roots of McCarthyism can be traced back to the early 20th century, when communism was viewed as a major threat to Western democracy. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of the Soviet Union fueled anti-communist sentiment in the United States, which intensified during the Red Scare of the 1920s. However, it was not until after World War II that anti-communist fervor reached its peak.

National anti-communist paranoia

In 1947, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9835, which established a loyalty program for federal employees. The program required all federal employees to undergo a background check and sign a loyalty oath, swearing that they were not members of the Communist Party or affiliated with any other subversive organization. The program was intended to weed out any suspected communists from the federal government, but it soon became the basis for a broader campaign of anti-communist witch-hunts.

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy rose to national prominence with his claims of widespread communist infiltration in the federal government. In a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, McCarthy claimed to have a list of 205 known communists in the State Department. He provided no evidence to support his claim, but the speech propelled him to the national spotlight and began a period of intense media fascination with the Senator’s provocative claims.

Over the next several years, McCarthy became the face of the anti-communist crusade. He chaired the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and conducted public hearings and investigations into suspected communist activity. Many of his targets were innocent, and his tactics often included intimidation, character assassination, and guilt by association.

Army-McCarthy hearings

McCarthy’s tactics eventually led to his downfall. Between April and June of 1954, he conducted televised hearings to investigate alleged communist influence in the Army. The hearings were a disaster for McCarthy, as he made unfounded accusations and engaged in verbal attacks on witnesses. As the hearings progressed, McCarthy’s behavior became increasingly erratic and confrontational. He bullied and intimidated Army officials and witnesses, often interrupting them and accusing them of lying. His behavior turned public opinion against him, and the hearings marked the beginning of his decline.

The turning point of the hearings came when Army counsel Joseph Welch famously confronted McCarthy after he had attacked a young lawyer in Welch’s law firm:

“Senator, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Joseph N. Welch, Army chief counsel

The exchange was a defining moment in the hearings, and it marked the beginning of the end for McCarthy’s political career after millions of Americans witnessed his aggressive demagoguery. In fact it went on to become one of the most famous moments in the history of congressional hearings, and is often cited as an example of the power of a well-timed and well-delivered rhetorical response.

The hearings ultimately failed to uncover any evidence of communist infiltration in the Army, but they did expose McCarthy’s reckless and abusive tactics and damaged his reputation. They also demonstrated the power of televised hearings in shaping public opinion and holding government officials accountable.

Historical influence of McCarthyism

McCarthyism had far-reaching consequences for American society. Thousands of people were investigated, blacklisted, and lost their jobs or were denied employment on suspicion of being communist sympathizers. The entertainment industry was particularly hard hit, with many actors, writers, and directors being blacklisted for their political beliefs. The unfounded smears against Hollywood contributed to a negative sentiment on the right-wing that continues even to this day.

The era of McCarthyism also had a chilling effect on free speech and political dissent. Many people were afraid to express their opinions or engage in political activism, for fear of being labeled a communist or communist sympathizer. The era demonstrated the dangers of political repression and the importance of protecting civil liberties and freedom of expression.

McCarthyism was a dark period in American history that was characterized by political repression, paranoia, and fear of communism. It was fueled by the perceived threat of subversion and betrayal, and it led to the persecution of innocent people, the erosion of civil liberties, and a chilling climate of fear and suspicion. The legacy of McCarthyism serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of political repression and the importance of protecting free speech and civil liberties in a democracy.

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authoritarians gather for a witch hunt

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 personality traits come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?

The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. They also have an aversion to difference, ambiguity, complexity, and diversity.

How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?

Authoritarian personality studies

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.

Continue reading Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory
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Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that are characterized by persistent and inflexible patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that deviate significantly from cultural norms and cause distress and impairment in various areas of functioning, such as work, relationships, and self-image. Personality disorders typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood and tend to persist over time.

There are several types of personality disorders, each with its own unique set of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the standard diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals, identifies ten personality disorders organized into three clusters based on their shared features and clinical presentation.

Cluster A personality disorders

Cluster A personality disorders include paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders, which are characterized by odd, eccentric, and suspicious behavior. People with paranoid personality disorder have a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others and may interpret benign remarks or events as threatening. Schizoid personality disorder is marked by a lack of interest in social relationships, emotional detachment, and solitary pursuits. Schizotypal personality disorder involves eccentricities in speech, behavior, and appearance, as well as unusual beliefs and experiences.

Cluster B personality disorders

Cluster B personality disorders include borderline, narcissistic, histrionic, and antisocial personality disorders, which are characterized by dramatic, erratic, and emotional behavior. Borderline personality disorder is characterized by unstable mood, self-image, and interpersonal relationships, as well as black and white thinking and impulsive and self-destructive behavior. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) involves a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and an exaggerated sense of entitlement. Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by excessive emotionality, attention-seeking behavior, and exaggerated expressions of emotion. Antisocial personality disorder involves a disregard for the rights of others, a lack of remorse or guilt, and a tendency towards impulsive and irresponsible behavior.

Antisocial personality disorder, or ASPD, includes individuals colloquially known as sociopaths and psychopaths. All of the disorders within Cluster B include excessive narcissism as a foundational core, and within ASPD that extreme self-regard has a dark and amoral character referred to as malignant narcissism.

Cluster C personality disorders

Cluster C personality disorders include avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, which are characterized by anxious, fearful, and perfectionistic behavior. Avoidant personality disorder involves social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection. Dependent personality disorder is marked by a pervasive need for others to take care of them and an inability to make decisions without excessive reassurance or advice. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder involves preoccupation with rules, order, and perfectionism, as well as rigidity and inflexibility in one’s beliefs and values.

Effects and treatment

Personality disorders can cause significant distress and impairment in various areas of functioning, such as work, relationships, and self-image. People with personality disorders often struggle with interpersonal relationships, have difficulty maintaining employment, and may experience problems with substance abuse, self-harm, or suicidal ideation.

Treatment for personality disorders typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and support from family and friends. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and schema therapy are all effective in treating personality disorders. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms. It is essential to seek help from a mental health professional if you or someone you know is struggling with a personality disorder.

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These days the GOP is just 3 cults in a trenchcoat — nevertheless, it’s helpful to understand some of the ideologies and extremist beliefs that folks on the right engage with. Understanding the psychology can help us make predictions about actions, reactions, and other developments in the political landscape.

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republican vs. democrat cage match boxing ring

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing that we got the Trump crime family out of the Oval Office, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives? How has political polarization gotten this bad?

These are some of the resources that have helped me continue grappling with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. How can we understand this era of polarization, this age of tribalism? This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is both a personality type and a form of government — it operates at both the interpersonal and the societal level. The words authoritarian and fascist are often used interchangeably, but fascism is a more specific type of authoritarianism, and far more historically recent.

America has had flavors of authoritarianism since its founding, and when fascism came along the right-wing authoritarians ate it up — and deeply wanted the United States to be a part of it. Only after they became social pariahs did they change position to support American involvement in World War II — and some persisted even after the attack of Pearl Harbor.

Scholars of authoritarianism

  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Bob Altemeyer — The Authoritarians
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident CzesΕ‚aw MiΕ‚osz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
  • Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis. He also wrote extensively about the mindset of the authoritarian follower in his seminal work, Escape from Freedom.
  • Eric Hoffer — his book The True Believers explores the mind of the authoritarian follower, and the appeal of losing oneself in a totalist movement
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
  • Tyrants
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand
    • The Fountainhead (1943)
    • Atlas Shrugged (1957)
    • Objectivism
  • Greatness Thinking; heroic individualism
  • Nietszche — will to power; the Uberman
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)
  • More authoritarianism books
Continue reading Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today
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A scapegoat is a person or group who gets unfairly blamed for the wrongdoings, misdeeds, or crimes of others. Scapegoating is the act of doing this to someone.

The term comes originally from the Bible, in a story from Leviticus where a Jewish chief priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on a goat before releasing it into the wilderness. The goat psychologically cleansed the bad deeds of the population, serving as a convenient mechanism for group healing.

The modern scapegoat

In contemporary times the scapegoat metaphor is used to describe situations where a guilty party gets away scot-free by loudly and vociferously blaming an innocent “enemy” instead. This can be on a small scale like a workplace or a family, but it can also be on a larger scale within society — labelling entire groups or racial identities as “enemies” fictitiously and thus, dangerously.

Scapegoats have a close cousin in the political realm, in the “Us vs. Them” core dynamic of fascism. Fascists essentially pretend that only Outsiders are dangerous, because it gives anxious people the illusion of safety. This ideology increases the followers’ dependency on the in-group, to the point of hero worship or even cult worship.

The illusion of control

Scapegoating is often driven by prejudice and bigotry, fear, and a need to maintain the status quo. When people feel threatened, either by external factors such as economic or political instability or internal factors such as a sense of personal inadequacy, they may look for someone to blame. Scapegoating can provide a sense of control and empowerment, allowing people to believe that they are doing something to address the problem. However, this illusion of control comes at the cost of dehumanizing and harming others.

Scapegoating can have serious consequences for individuals and communities. The scapegoated individuals or groups can become marginalized, ostracized, and stigmatized. They can experience discrimination, harassment, and violence, both on a personal and group level. Moreover, scapegoating can distract attention from the real problems and prevent work towards constructive solutions. By focusing on blaming individuals or groups rather than addressing the root causes of problems, scapegoating can perpetuate injustice and inequality.

Dealing with scapegoating

Preventing scapegoating requires recognizing its underlying causes and addressing them. This can involve promoting empathy, understanding, and open communication, and fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility. It can also involve challenging the narratives that promote scapegoating and promoting a more nuanced understanding of complex issues, with less black and white thinking. Educating people about the dangers of scapegoating and the benefits of cooperation and collaboration can also help to prevent it.

Scapegoating is a harmful and unjust practice that involves blaming individuals or groups for the problems of a larger community. It can have serious consequences for the scapegoated individuals or groups and perpetuate injustice and inequality. Preventing scapegoating requires recognizing its underlying causes, promoting empathy and understanding, and challenging the narratives that promote it. By working together and taking responsibility for our collective well-being, there’s no reason why we can’t build a more just and equitable society.

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