30% of every OECD country polls fascist. That's just always been the case, for 150 years. In most modern wealthy democracies those people are afraid to express their opinions, because it's commonly understood that people who hold those opinions are generally detrimental to the common good. That was the political lesson of WWII.After I read this comment I wrote the following to David:
In the US however they get their own news channels and one-half of the political power, because for some reason around 1980 we all started feeling sorry for the narcissistic fantasists and sentimentalists that call themselves "movement conservatives," who told us they felt bad because they were left out of what they called "the Liberal consensus."
The Liberal consensus was really just an agreement not to let the aforementioned narcissists do what they do best, which is to monopolize the conversation and claim it's all about me and my pain and what about my people, which in general prevents us from confronting actual real live reality, like genuinely poor people and genuine disasters like climate change. And we let down our guard, forgetting that these 30% always feel bad, because they really have nothing more to their belief system than a heightened sense of persecution coupled to a heightened sense of their worth. Everything else - their politics, economics, religion, sociology - is an attempt to rationalize those two basic principles: "I oughta be in charge, but my inferiors won't let me."
30 years later people in the media think they're entertaining and sell eyeballs so they give them a seat at the table, and they don't realize the fascists want all the seats and have bad table manners besides. And while the rest of us would like to pay attention to the reality we've ignored since Reagan first pretended he was President, the media and the conversation is dominated by these 30%, who refuse to give up their fantasyland, just as we should have known they would.
I'm not normally reductive when it comes to people, but that these 30% would hallucinate that they're hard done by and at the same time threaten the rest of us over their perceived injury is as predictable as flowers blooming in spring.
David, I was so impressed with your comment on CPP. I've been by your blog, looked at your FB About section and note you're a highly educated and obviously thoughtful person. I wish you'd flesh out your comment some more—on your blog perhaps—for folks like me who are less informed. I found that first paragraph particularly provocative. 150 years? Obviously there was no such thing as modern polling that long ago, so what's the historical basis for this statement? I really would appreciate some guidance in understanding this. My education is mostly self-education and I'm the first to admit I'm a poor teacher. Thanks so much for accepting my friend request.Here is David's reply:
I'll have to try to write up something longer, with more footnotes, but it was actually easier to document some of these things before the Internet. I heard about the fascism study about 25 years ago, and it had happened a few years prior to my hearing about it. What the researchers were trying to establish was whether there was a specific national danger to fascism - was it more American or French or Greek than German or English, for example. So they took a bunch of statements out of Hitler's speeches, carefully controlled for content (e.g. they made sure they weren't specifically anti-semitic) and asked people across the 17 countries in the OECD at the time to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with them. If I recall correctly the study asked people specifically if they would vote for someone who expressed those opinions, something like that.
What they found was a remarkable degree of similarity, that somewhere from 25-35% of any given study country's population consisted of people who would vote for a fascist candidate, who strongly agreed with those principles. Now, that was what, probably more than 30 years ago? But the numbers haven't changed much since then. There's all sorts of regional, ethnic and economic variation - I know that the province in Canada I grew up in seemed to have a pretty high percentage of fascists - but when you look at political history in the modern bourgeoisie state before and after WWII it's pretty consistent.
So when I say it's been that way for 150 years, I'm being rhetorical. There wasn't a lot of polling obviously in 1850 in Prussia or New England or Japan. But you can infer the patterns from the politics. Leftists and less economically-focused liberals are constantly fighting the same battles against people who use exactly the same arguments now that they did when women were trying to get the franchise.
Finding that study is obviously going to be difficult. But there's a guy named Bob Altemeyer at the University of Manitoba you should read who's done most of the modern research on what he calls "the authoritarian personality", using techniques that are very similar to what I described in the study above. The similarity is so close that it may be that Altemeyer was part of that original study I heard about years ago.
Here's a link to the Wikipedia entry on Right-wing Authoritarianism that helps explain where this stuff comes from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_authoritarianism
And here's a link to Altemeyer's faculty page, where you can download his book "The Authoritarians": http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
The book he links to there is far from technical. He's made it very accessible and it's one of those bits of research you read that makes you both instantly happy - because finally you're seeing that the apparently irrational behavior of the conservatives in your life isn't just you, it's not you who's crazy, there's a pattern there - and also very depressed, because right-wing personalities really are able to hold irrational and contradictory opinions and probably nothing can be done about them, and it would appear they're like the moon or poverty or some such thing, and they'll always be with us.
I didn't actually get all the way through Altemeyer's book, it's that good. He lays out the results of the research and the details and at a certain point you just know how the story goes. But I highly recommend it.
Because these people are dangerous. When I say that the liberal consensus was all about making them feel bad so they'd keep these opinions to themselves, about putting a little responsibility around their first amendment rights, I'm not joking. When Reagan killed the fairness doctrine he freed these people - who were his people - to say whatever they wanted. But they're largely incapable of understanding consequences or causality; the personality operates at a level of wish fulfillment and childish vindictiveness that means they really don't know what they're saying. They don't understand that people die because of the things they say.
I'm about as much of a first-amendment absolutist as you can be as a Canadian who's lived at the far western edge of California for 20 years. But these people present a problem: they will shout fire in a crowded theatre, whether there's a fire or not, and afterward claim to be the victim, claim in fact to be more of a victim than the people who were trampled and physically injured as a result. The because part of that, it turns out, isn't really all that important; the personality type always sees itself as aggrieved, and so they'll come up with whatever deluded reason they need to in order to explain how they got hurt worse than everyone else.