Saturday, March 11, 2023


David Brooks looks at studies showing that left-leaning young people have high levels of sadness and concludes that this is largely because progressives have what he calls "a catastrophizing mentality":
For many, America’s problems came to seem endemic: The American dream is a sham, climate change is so unstoppable, systemic racism is eternal. Making catastrophic pronouncements became a way to display that you were woke to the brutalities of American life.
Also, Brooks says, progressives have created "a culture of denunciation ... often in over the top, vitriolic terms":
For example, Damon Linker recently wrote a piece for Times Opinion arguing that Ron DeSantis is bad, but not as terrible as Trump. The furies descended on him online. The gist was that it is shameful to merely say DeSantis is bad — you need to say he is a fascist, pure evil! If you aren’t speaking in the language of maximalist exorcism, you’re betraying the cause.
The obvious response is that this despair seems consistent with the facts. Systemic racism? Among other things, three years after the death of George Floyd, the police (of all races) still treat Black people as expendable. A political system awash in fossil fuel billionaires' money makes climate change seem irreversible. And parents of trans kids are fleeing Ron DeSantis's Florida, where it appears to be open season on their kids.

But even if Brooks believes that progessive catastrophizing is unwarranted, his colleague Michelle Goldberg reminds us that nobody catastrophizes as much as right-wingers:
Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state and a possible presidential candidate, recently tweeted, “Our internal threats — especially those trying to corrupt our kids with toxic wokeness — are more serious than our external threats.” Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said, “Wokeness is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic.”

Given that the Covid pandemic has already killed over a million Americans, this is transparently insane.
Right-wingers seem to believe that all the powerful institutions in the world are in a vast conspiracy to destroy everything they hold dear:
Take, for example, a 2020 video ... in which the Teneo Network’s co-founder Evan Baehr described how he believed the left operates. He asked his audience to imagine a luncheon at the Harvard Club featuring a billionaire hedge funder, a movie producer, a Harvard professor and a writer for The New York Times.

“The billionaire says, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if middle school kids had free access to sex-change therapy paid for by the federal government?’” Baehr said. “Well, the filmmaker says, ‘I’d love to do a documentary on that; it will be a major motion film.’ The Harvard professor says, ‘We can do studies on that to say that’s absolutely biologically sound and safe.’ And the New York Times person says, ‘I’ll profile people who feel trapped in the wrong gender.’”
Right-wingers' rhetoric is full of catastrophizing. For years they've warned that "we won't have a country" if some calamity isn't averted -- Islamic terrorists have to be stopped, the border has to be sealed, Joe Biden's inauguration has to be prevented. They think COVID, COVID vaccines, or both are a liberal/Chinese/Deep State/Big Tech attempt at genocide. They think there's a war on Christianity. They think the World Economic Forum wants to destroy U.S. sovereignty. They think liberals want there to be only "one gender." They think every acronym poses a mortal danger -- CRT, ESG, DEI, SEL, CCP. And the right-wing movement is full of people who devote many of their waking hours to doomsday prepping -- preparing for the complete breakdown of civilization.

So why aren't they depressed?

Well, some of them are depressed. Not long ago, we were regularly told -- by David Brooks and others -- that lower-middle-class white men in great numbers were suffering "deaths of despair" (gun suicides, painkiller overdoses, and so on). While Brooks portrays liberal teenage girls' despair as liberals' own fault, despair among blue-collar white men was also the fault of liberalism -- we're all upper middle class, you see, and our contempt for manly men with dirt under their fingernails drives these men to suicide, along with, secondarily, the deindustrialization wrought by CEOs (who I guess are all liberals, too).

But most conservatives don't seem to be in despair, even though they say that civilization is on the verge of being destroyed. Why?

The answer is simple: Deep down, they know that life is pretty sweet for people like them. No one's really coming for their guns -- they have plenty, and it's easy to buy more. No one's really coming for their red meat or their big-ass SUVs. No one's forcing them to be gay or bi or trans. Politically, they run half the states. They run the Supreme Court and will control it for decades. They run the House, and they have an excellent chance of taking the Senate and the White House next year.

And in the meantime, they make liberals squeal in agony any time they please. Hey, let's propose a bill to make being a Democrat illegal! A legislator in Florida actually did that. Let's hand out AR-15 pins on the House floor! Let's find creative new ways to make guns more available and abortions less available! Let's ban books and drag shows, and put up more and more barriers to being trans, until eventually it's illegal at every age! Past a certain point, it's all just sport. It's quite possible that most right-wingers don't even care about the actual policy outcomes -- as the man said, the cruelty is the point.

The point is that the cruelty is fun for them. So of course right-wingers are happier -- they're having fun making us miserable.

We want to solve big problems -- bigotry, economic inequality, a rapidly warming planet -- and all those fights are hard. But right-wingers, for all their complaining, mostly like our society just fine. All they want to do is fuck with us -- and they don't have very much trouble getting what they want.

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