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A real-world test for the authoritarian mind

There are three conditions of the human psyche that are puzzling and frightening to those of us who don’t have those conditions. Those conditions are authoritarianism, religious fanaticism, and not being very smart. All three of these conditions are commonly found in the same person. To have even one of them can be debilitating. To have two is doubly debilitating. Donald Trump, for example, is not a religious fanatic. But he is an authoritarian, and he is not very smart. For convenience in this post, let’s call the people who have these conditions Trump-Susceptibles, or Reds. Let’s call those who don’t have these conditions Not-Trump-Susceptibles, or Blues.

There is a certain symmetry here. Just as Blues are puzzled and frightened by Reds, so Reds are puzzled and frightened by Blues. Each group sees the other as dangerous. There is a certain way, though, in which the symmetry breaks down. Blues can understand Reds. Blues just look down on Reds as mean, addled, and stupid. But Reds cannot understand Blues. Understanding Blues is beyond the capacity of Reds. I would argue that Reds cannot understand Blues because of what I call Webster’s First Law: People cannot perceive above their own level. So Reds, lacking the capacity to understand Blues, say that Blues are under the influence of Satan, or that Blues are the agents of evil conspiracies such as Pizzagate. Smarter people can easily understand the thought processes of the not-so-smart. But the not-so-smart cannot easily understand the thought processes of smarter people. Religious fanatics who have no doubt that they know the mind of God and even the mind of Satan think that there is something wrong, and wicked, in those who don’t have their innate knowledge of the mind of God. God speaks to Reds; Blues wickedly refuse to listen.

Let’s consider the Satan angle, for example. A must-read this morning is the Washington Post piece ‘I would rather die than kill the country’: The conservative chorus pushing Trump to end social distancing. The article quotes R.R. Reno, editor of the religious journal First Things, as saying that “sentimental humanists” are behind the closing of public accommodations because of the corona virus. “Satan prefers sentimental humanists” to do his handiwork, Reno said. There you have it. Reno believes that he knows the mind of Satan. And Reno believes that Blues are doing Satan’s work. According to Wikipedia, Reno holds a Ph.D. from Yale. Presumably he is smart, so he has two of the three debilitating conditions — authoritarianism and religious fanaticism.

They claim that their concern is about the economy, or about the world that their children will inherit. I don’t buy that. Either they’re trying to deceive us on their true motivations, or they’re deceiving themselves. Their true concern is that they might lose their power.

Reds are a minority. Yet somehow we Blues find ourselves in a nightmare in which Reds hold the White House and the U.S. Senate, and the Reds all around us are gloating. Trump’s fear, obviously, is that a collapse of the economy will take away his only hope of holding on to Red power. Because Trump, and other Reds, see nefarious conspiracies and Satan behind anything that frustrates what they see as God’s work, they see the corona virus as a wicked plot — a hoax — invented by Blues. Reds all over the country have gotten the message, and now Reds out in the hinterlands are all abuzz about it. (See the Facebook meme below, which came from the Republican Party group in my county. Note the message of the meme, that this is all just an evil conspiracy by Blues.)

I would not be at all surprised now to see Reds organizing gatherings (not to mention defiantly going to church) to teach us Blues a lesson.

No one knows what course this pandemic will take. But certainly one possibility is that people who are authoritarians, religious fanatics, and not very smart are going to get sick and die in larger numbers. Their defiance of the devil’s work done by us Blues could cost many lives, though, and not just Red lives. If thousands of students return to Liberty University as the corona virus is spreading rapidly, what might happen? Jerry Falwell Jr., like Donald Trump, is so sure of what’s inside of his Red mind that he’s willing to bet a great many of other people’s lives on it. Red power is at stake, so to them it’s God versus Satan, and they expect God to protect them.

No one knows what’s going to happen, so I am not going to make any predictions. But the probabilities don’t seem to be on Trump’s and Falwell’s and Glenn Beck’s side. How many Reds will follow them, and for how long? If thousands of Reds go along with them and expose themselves to the virus, then that would be, at the very least, a fascinating test of the real-world consequences of the Red world view. It also could diminish the number of Reds in the American population.

As for me, I’ll be watching their experiment closely. And I’ll be doing my damnedest to stay as far away from them as I can.

Update 1: During the Trump era, Russian propaganda as carried by has shown a peculiar alignment with Republican propaganda in the United States. As with all propaganda, we need to do our best to figure out whose interest it serves.


Decadent like the late Roman Empire, the West is committing suicide through its irrational response to Covid-19

West can’t cope with Covid-19 because of DOCILIANS, the pampered herd whose demand for ZERO RISK actually risks killing thousands

Compare this with Fox News:

Fox News’ Brit Hume: It’s ‘Entirely Reasonable’ the Elderly Would Want to Die to Save Economy

Update 2: New York Times: The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.

Update 3: Politico: A far-right rallying cry: Older Americans should volunteer to work.


  1. JamesM wrote:

    In other words, Darwin’s theories are still at work. There’s hope.

    Friday, March 27, 2020 at 12:12 am | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:


    Friday, March 27, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink
  3. Tom wrote:

    You know, it doesn’t take too much searching to learn what a sleazy guy Jerry Jr. is…a once practicing attorney, not a minister, whose lifestyle would be anathema to most evangelicals, if they would only lift the corner of the tent and peek in.

    Monday, March 30, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

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