September 30, 2010
Turns out the Greeks had a word for what ails the Republican Party — Anosognosia. To explore this disorder on its home turf, go to a Tea Party rally armed with official budget figures, agreed upon by economists of both the Keynesian and the Friedman schools, which prove beyond the shadow of a mathematical doubt that the Republicans are, historically, the party of high deficits. Now try to convince any random demonstrator of this simple historical fact.
The thing can’t be done, because the poor devil suffers from anosognosia. It is what allows him to cry out “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” without his head exploding.
Here’s a dictionary definition of what keeps his head together:
Anosognosia is a condition in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware of or denies the existence of his or her disability.
For more, go here.
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 30, 2010 06:56 PM
There's a qualitative difference between willful, tactical ignorance and a genuine inability to know one is not competent to form a judgment. There's overlap of course, but the major Dunning-Kruger effect with the teabaggers is an inability to know they're completely incapable of small "r" republicanism. They're not capable of self-governance and not capable of understanding why that's so. Their ignorance on the issue of deficits could be remedied, superficially, if one of their charismatic doctrine providers made the effort. What can't be remedied is the habitus of the authoritarian follower. That's their blind spot, and it's one they share with most of the voting public.
I dunno, I kinda think we're stuck with a dilemma here.
On the one horn, the ideal of democracy is widely praised and generally admired, especially by those currently out of power. Yet, whether we're talking Woody Allen's Bananas or Barack Obama's Washington, good-intentioned leaders continue to quail when presented with the difficult choices. In fact democracies only seem to progress when the majority of the population realizes, or is allowed to realize, what the hell is actually going on.
On the other horn, we have the observed fact that many people regularly and predictably fail to act or respond in realistic ways when presented with bamboozlement. Thing is, if this is inherent in people, and a significant minority (or worse) is constitutionally incapable of participating reasonably in a democratic society, then democracy is a failed concept and we need to come up with an alternative.
I would argue first that authoritarianism is not irremediable. The extensive work of Bob Altemeyer on such attitudes has shown significant movement toward tolerance among those with intolerant attitudes whose college experiences brought them in contact with members of groups they'd always condemned (though rarely met). Many people who believe authority is a good thing turn out to have relatively restricted experience sets, and are therefore likely to change attitudes as experience increases.
If general moronism is inherent, we'd better find a different kind of government. Seems to me the problem is not inherent capacity but information distribution. People would make more sense, I think, even those currently tea-bagging, or I guess they say -partying now, if they were better educated and informed.
I think a significant portion of the public has what Eric Hoffer called the true believer syndrome. This ties in with authoritarianism in that are able to flip from Republicans to Democratic contenders for Vice-President, not knowing what they are voting for but truly believing in their personal Savior, the President or a new group of leaders, all at the drop of a hat. One guru can't explain this phenomenon, whether it is Hoffer or Altemeyer. They are in themselves a form of authoritarian figures to many people.