Wednesday, June 22, 2022


Writing for The Atlantic, Tom Nichols expresses dismay at the menace of modern Republicanism:
... living in an alternate reality is unhealthy—and dangerous, as I realized yet again while watching the January 6 committee hearings and listening to the stories of Republicans, such as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and others, describing the threats and harassment they have received for doing their duty to the Constitution.

And the threats don’t stop with political figures; families are now in the crosshairs. Representative Adam Kinzinger, for example, tweeted Monday about a letter he received in which the writer threatened not only to kill him, but to kill his wife and infant son.
Nichols thinks he understands the problem:
I think the Trump superfans are terrified of being wrong. I suspect they know that for many years they’ve made a terrible mistake—that Trump and his coterie took them to the cleaners and the cognitive dissonance is now rising to ear-splitting, chest-constricting levels. And so they will literally threaten to kill people like Kinzinger (among others) if that’s what it takes to silence the last feeble voice of reason inside themselves....

The moment someone like Bowers or Kinzinger or Liz Cheney appears and attacks the lie, the anxiety and embarrassment rise like reflux in the throat, and it must be stopped, even if it means threatening to kill the messenger.
This reminds me of something my late mother used to say when I was being routinely harassed, and occasionally more than harassed, by tougher schoolmates: "They're just jealous." I honor my mother's memory, but she was wrong about that. Every bullied kid who's ever been told this knows it's wrong. I was brainy and weird. Of course nobody was jealous of me. And nobody in MAGA Land secretly believes that non-MAGAs know the truth.

Nichols continues:
No one who truly believes they are right threatens to hurt anyone for expressing a contrary view. The snarling threat of violence never comes from people who calmly believe they are in the right. It is always the instant resort of the bully who feels the hot flush of shame rising in the cheeks and the cold rock of fear dropping in the pit of the stomach.
Really? The Nazis secretly knew that Aryans aren't superior and that Jews are fine people? The 9/11 hijackers suspected their religious beliefs were a lie?

That's not how any of this works.

Here's an alternate theory: People who commit or threaten to commit political violence are deeply invested in the notion that their enemies should not exist. What enrages them is not the belief that their opponents might be right but the fact that their opponents continue to walk free, and in some cases are thriving. That also seems to be what infuriates school bullies.

Toughness is also a factor here. Violent political ideologues and school bullies alike pride themselves on being tough -- so if their enemies are doing fine, that means they've failed to crush them or terrify them into silence. They have to lash out.

If there's insecurity involved, it arises from a desire on the part of the angry ideologues to deny that they could possibly share attributes with the people they hate. Think of the 9/11 hijackers going to strip clubs in Las Vegas and then killing for a Puritanical form of Islam. The MAGAs (and Republicans in general) regard themselves as rugged and manly, while the rest of us are seen as effeminate and weak ("soy boys," "cucks"), and also accepting of people who are different from us (which to the MAGAs is another form of weakness and effeminacy, and in their perception of RINOs is seen in their mere acceptance of the notion that people other than Republican ideologues should be allowed to participate in government). Allowing us to live must seem to them like a cuckish form of tolerance. So of course they lash out.

No, they don't secretly sense that we're right. They're certain that we're evil. And if they hate themselves, it's because we're still here.

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