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Striving for a more respectable servility

By Al Schumann on Sunday July 6, 2008 02:00 AM

Sara Robinson, a progressive pundit, opines that the right wing has no adequate heuristics for coping with rapid change and that this is so because they are possessed of an authoritarian mindset. First, and at the risk of indulging an easy cheap shot, the heuristics the right wingers do have are more than adequate for coping with the challenge of progressivism, which appears to have been cursed by an activist base consisting of hundreds of thousands of overeducated, over-informed, under-experienced and occasionally vicious Arnold Horshacks. Their equivalents on the right have strained their gloating muscles as the Humvee of movement conservatism deals with their pleas to be called on. But this is hardly a setback, nor does it stress their heuristics. Second, and here is where Robinson completely misses the point, any system that's based on manufactured scarcity and rationing privileges is going to cause cognitive dissonance in the people who are subject to its control, even if it's run by completely sincere, ethically committed progressives. The path of least resistance in such a system is to accept noblesse oblige, when it's offered, bay in defense of droit de seigneur when there are incentives for that and move along smartly when the nice policeman sez. There is no way to keep most of the system and overcome the fundamental, embedded injustice; which means there is no end to the severe cognitive dissonance; which means no end to the proliferation of the authoritarian follower mindset. What makes the progressive agenda irremediably fatuous is that when push comes to shove, they settle for securing their leadership's privilege. The crass and bloated blooming of the character traits that appall progressives, in others, are positive adaptations to the perverse incentives of "the only live utopian program in the world today". Who, really, is future-ready as long as that program obtains and who... less so?

According to Robert Altmeyer, a researcher she cites in defense of her perfervid diagnosis of the right wing mind, the hallmarks of the authoritarian mindset are "submission, aggression and conventionalism". While this is certainly true of the Reagan/Bush/Bush II cheerleaders and 'big government' conservatives, it is no less true of the progressives. The difference is they strive to pull it off with spezzatura. To that end, they've created a deeply botched science of making excuses for their opinion leaders and hierarchy superiors, who demonize and marginalize the very few effective liberals. The progressives pick over the dull psychology of the botched science to provide rhetorical ammunition to vigilante hall proctors who chivvy progressive stragglers back into formation at the first sign of rebellion. The stragglers' sad response to the chivvying is, literally, to give money to the people the proctors designate.

It's appalling how similar that behavior pattern is to the classic caricature of insecure, unpopular high school students who try to buy the friendship of the cool kids.

As their reward, they get to organize themselves into free labor and money donor pools, vote for their groupuscles' subproctors and, for those who can afford to plunk down the participation fee, a seat in the audience for an exclusive lecture from a progressive celebrity. To question this process is to guarantee a gaseous jeremiad against immature freshman dorm cynicism. The wagging, Pecksniffian finger of progressivism furthers hectors in impatience with small vices and, having hectored, fails to move on to anything more substantive than melodramatic entreaties to elect more and better Democrats. The actual, real world, method of creating and improving these Democrats is inevitably left as an exercise for the reader, who is free to offer any suggestion as long as most of it consists of perseveration in the cause of electing more and better Democrats.

When progressives complain about dearth of more and better Democrats, and rail against the capitulations of actually existing Democratic politicians, they'll occasionally allow as how their political leadership may not really be capitulating; that the leadership is acting in accord with the actually existing progressive values. But that's as far as they'll go. When the "capitulations" start to run thick, fast and furious, they turn to inveighing against e coli conservatism, the greater evil to their lesser evil, and trot out Pravda-like sets of statistics designed to prove how stupid everyone is for resisting their electoral charms.

“To attain our ultimate goal, we spearhead a compelling progressive agenda that addresses the kitchen-table issues working families face.”

With the caveat that service to that goal means not voting for Democrats is not an option.

Comments (6)


Yes. It's remarkable, really, how convinced Democratic Party cultists are that they're smarter than their counterparts.

JS Mill once observed that Tories are not necessarily stupid but that most stupid people were Tories. I rather think that was overstated even at the time, but it's certainly false now. Plenty of stupid people are Democrats. Many of them, of course, are just stupid in their Democratic capacity and quite intelligent in daily life -- but the same can be said for the pachyderms.

Still, the fetish-narrative of the two camps is interestingly different. The Rs think their opponents are people of poor character. The Ds think their foes are people of lesser intellect.

I fear the Rs may win this one on points.


the dyed in the wool hi edified demlib-ling
fears the majority job class
below em is ....one big block of stupid

in the face of their tower troll
plan-ed dismalization
these great white wagery types
are able to extrude
only cheese whiz thought-oids

not the well tuned counter points
of the meritific


"any system that's based on manufactured scarcity and rationing privileges is going to cause cognitive dissonance in the people who are subject to its control"

nice line
then again

CD is a notion crafted by thems that fears
our briar patch minds
abhores internal contradictions
and wants to roll em flat
comb em out
but to me that's like trying
to un tangle a mobius strip

the mind forms thought paths that cutlessly
swoop into their opposites

viva the collision of soft parts
viva the BIG C revolution

Al Schumann:

I think the Dems confuse the scientificky/logic-related rhetorical style they receive, as consumers of the Enlightenment Values Deluxe package (on sale now!!!), with incisive thinking and grounding in reality. The Reps rely on blustering rhetoric that makes no pretense at logical consistency and scorns reality. The scientificky people have no trouble slicing that into ribbons. When the Dems look at the reflection of their performances in the media's funhouse mirrors, they see an Enlightenment Values Deluxe warrior scholar wrestling with a loathsome fart-joking cretin from the Dark Ages -- as opposed to seeing two hogs scrambling for the trough, one wearing a Diderot party hat and the other a necklace made of plastic bobblehead Jesus skulls.

The term, "cognitive dissonance", bothers me a little too. People obviously have no problem hanging on to contradictory thoughts. So I try to restrict my own use of it to situations where people are required to act against what they hold dear, required to cheerlead the people making them do that and face a great deal of pain if they refuse.

Ms. Robinson was propelled into stardom by Orcinus blog. A revealing post of hers is linked to via this post of mine:

In addition to the exchange that took place in the comments section of her referenced 2006 post, the following discussion regarding her thesis took place on the now defunct UFOB blog.

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Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


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