Events continue to prove the truth of FDR’s pronouncement that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. The paranoid style in American politics reflects that in American life, as Dave Weigel reports:
One week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Diane Lochocki drove with her boyfriend from New York to the New Hampshire State House. Ben Carson was filing for the presidential primary, and Lochocki, 78, wanted to see him. It was time for a new president, one who actually took the threat of radical Islam seriously.
“Terrorists are insidious people,” Lochocki said. “Your neighbor could be one and you wouldn’t know. I feel we should close our borders until we get the rest of the world under control. If that’s inhumane, then I’m inhumane. You think what you want.”
Right, if only Obama had the nerve and the courage, which he might were he to have been born white, we would even now have the world under control, and there would be nothing to fear.
Carson would seem to be the perfect candidate for Ms. Lochocki, given the shared lack of concern for others’ opinions when they fail to validate one’s paranoia. The good doctor, whose basic selling point to his audience is his oft-repeated disdain for political correctness, is exactly what the Republican party needs (which is why we’ve heard of him): an African-American man who started at the bottom of the economic ladder yet made it to a high peak in his profession, proving by his example that institutional racism is a thing of the past, nothing more than the fever dreams of those cowed by political correctness. He tells right-wingers that they don’t need to consider other people when they speak and act, which is what they’ve always done anyway but these days civilization has advanced to the point that there are sometimes unpleasant social repercussions.
Dr. Ben demonstrates by his candidacy that knowledge, skill, and talent are dispensable attributes for presidential candidates who have a following composed almost entirely of Right-Wing Authoritarians. One of the things Bob Altemeyer demonstrated experimentally about RWAs is that they’re very good at categorizing information so that beliefs can remain unchallenged. They also tend to believe that someone else truly believes what they say if the RWAs agree with what was said, even when they’ve been warned that the other person was instructed to say that. This explains, for example, why obviously insincere protestations, especially of faith, are widely accepted as genuine, and why revelations of embellishments and exaggerations in Carson’s autobiography have no effect on his support. His obvious inability even to conceptualize the role of President, let alone assume it, seems to be draining his numbers a little, but like The Donald he has a core group of supporters that is unlikely to abandon his candidacy, and in his case this is literally a religious quest for most of his audience.
I suppose it goes without saying that if you had media channels to a bunch of high scorers on Altemeyer’s RWA scale you could put together a very profitable enterprise, such as a mail/email operation that sold, say, inspiring tales of success and belief. Complaining about the historical accuracy of such tales would be succumbing to political correctness.