Tag Archives: Trump

Trump, Trump Supporters, and Cults

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_Trump_supporters_(30018900853).jpg

As many readers know I was a member of a religious cult for too many years in a former life and have since delved into some of the specialist literature by psychologists, sociologists and historians to help me reflect on and understand that experience.

I have mentioned before how fascinated I was when once watching a TV interview with several former members of the Hitler Youth and how some of their accounts of their experiences in that movement echoed so very clearly my own experiences in a religious cult. More recently I have posted on certain strong similarities in the radicalization processes that draw people into radical extremist groups, in particular Islamists, and the gradual “conversion processes” of cult members.

Others have made similar comparisons between the Trump phenomenon and cults. I think there may be something to these comparisons.

The Leader

One of the more striking points in common is the devotion to a charismatic leader. Behaviour that in other persons would normally mean their condemnation and ostracism from society is forgiven and excused in the cult’s leader. Followers will even draw attention to those flaws to “prove” they do not “idolize” the man but “see him warts and all” and are therefore clear and rational in deciding to give him their loyalty. But that is an illusion. We know it is an illusion when we compare the process with the way religious cults will justify the most corrupt and hypocritical behaviour of their leaders by pointing to how God so loved great sinners like King David. Crimes, cruelty, hypocrisy, outright dishonesty are excused. Sometimes flatly denied even despite the clear evidence before everyone’s eyes.

The leader is admired for his “strength”. Such “strength” is contrasted with all who have gone before and all other “would-be leaders” he opposes today. Followers have lost their ability to discern the difference between “strength” per se and bigotry, intolerance and wilful ignorance. Indeed, those who speak up for compassion, for understanding, for tolerance and genuine democratic values are smeared as weak, fifth-columnists, subversives, wreckers of society and all that is good and pure.

Victimhood

And that leads us to the notion of a siege mentality. A persecution or victim syndrome. “Whites and Christians are the most disadvantaged groups in society”, we hear. The leader is speaking up to defend and promote what has been in real danger of being lost to “political correctness”, to “immigrants” — especially those from countries where people have a different religion and skin colour. Both the nature of these immigrants and the reasons for leaving their homelands are lied about to feed into popular (and the leader’s) prejudices. Political correctness is also misrepresented as a tyranny against free thought. There is a failure to distinguish between genuine wrongs and wrong ideas and those that are validly critical of society’s shortcomings. The leader represents a righteous push-back against all that is seen as corrosive of decent society.

“Truth”

And the leader is the primary source of truth. All criticism from the outside is “fake news”. The leader can flat-out lie and followers will remain wilfully unaware, refusing to seriously countenance exposure of his lies and reflexively justifying all his lies, distortions, anti-social bigotry and the rest. It is the critics who are considered extreme, fanatical, wild-eyed terrified of what their leader represents.

The Emotional Factor

And that brings us back to the emotional component. Emotion is unavoidable. It is part of being human. But a clear headed rational debate about political and social problems and solutions is not in the Trump cult agenda. Emotional commitment leads and buttresses the views and loyalties and ignorance and prejudices of the cult followers. Emotional commitment means defensiveness, and defensiveness too often calls for attack. The racism, the ignorant bigotry against those who have long stood for democratic values and a humane society, that attacks are directed against the weak and vulnerable, — all of these and what their true character are hidden from view by the righteous emotion of the cult loyalists. Civil debate, seriously honest and open discussion of the issues, becomes impossible with the loyal followers of someone like Trump.

What has led us to this type of society is also worth exploring. We know what “radicalizes” individuals to join extremist groups and cults. Are there valid wider social parallels? Another post for that one.

Three New(ish) Things

New on René Salm’s site:

The Hermann Detering Legacy—Introduction

I have decided to devote part of this website to a repository of Dr. Detering’s work, particularly his articles that have been translated into English. Not all of that material is to be found on his German website, and the success and extent of this undertaking will depend in some measure on the help of readers who are able to furnish material or clues to other of his writings. . . .

–o0o–

Newish on Richard Carrier’s site, the same topic as covered earlier in half dozen or so reviews of Gathercole’s article on this blog:

The New Gathercole Article on Jesus Certainly Existing

Simon Gathercole gained infamy writing a really atrocious, face-palmingly bad article on the historicity of Jesus for The Guardian some years back. Which I took to task in 2017 (in The Guardian on Jesus). He has now published a proper, peer reviewed article on the subject, focused on the Epistles of Paul . . . .

Of course right out of the gate this confuses “historical” with “human.”

–o0o–

And something important:

Can America recover from Trump? A radicalized right wing suggests dangers ahead

. . . . Imagine if Trump was a brilliant, learned leader committed to the enactment of a consistent agenda; a man who could summon considerable skill and savvy, not merely to promote himself but to fundamentally transform American law and reinvent the relationship between the federal government and its citizenry. As candidate and president, Trump has already demolished standards of civility, worsened the racial and ethnic fractures of the American public, and reduced the Republican Party to a slobbering set of sycophants. And he has done all of this by barely lifting a finger. The true danger might emerge when Trump slithers into the sunset, and his enraged and frenzied loyalists, who now control the infrastructure of one of America’s two major political parties, are looking for a replacement and find the real thing. . . .

 

Looks like it’s about to get messy….

Within 24 hours of losing the House . . .

Strike One….

—o0o—

Strike Two….

—o0o—

Strike Three….

Trumpism: No, it’s not the economy that’s to blame

Smith (left) and Hanley — The University of Kansas

I posted on Facebook a link to an article that challenged my own “liberal” spirit of wanting to believe that racists and other bigots were fundamentally fearful and that a sure cure was to be found in strategically administered education and information. I had long believed that one reason people were sometimes fearful was that they believed certain their economic future was being threatened by immigrants, or people on welfare, etc. The article that challenged these hopeful views I have long held was based on an interview with a co-author of a scholarly publication that remains hidden behind a paywall but now someone has forwarded me a copy of that work and I can set out some of its details here. It is

Smith, David Norman, and Eric Hanley. 2018. “The Anger Games: Who Voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, and Why?” Critical Sociology 44 (2): 195–212. https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920517740615.

The hypothesis that the authors set to test was

that prejudice is fueled more by aggressiveness than by submissiveness, and that it is accompanied by the wish for a domineering leader who will punish the “undeserving.”

Previous studies as a rule had interpreted a desire for authoritarian leaders as an indicator that people loved the idea of submitting and following a domineering figure. Smith and Hanley tested for a new view of authoritarianism — one that derived satisfaction from

forcing moral outsiders to submit. . . Authoritarianism is not the wish to follow any and every authority but, rather, the wish to support a strong and determined authority who will “crush evil and take us back to our true path.” Authorities who reject intolerance are anathema, and must be punished themselves.

(p. 196)

The desire for authoritarian leaders arises not from a submissive spirit but from a wish to see in charge someone who is “punitive and intolerant“.

Authoritarianism and prejudice, two sides of the same coin

Previous studies are cited that appear to make a convincing link between authoritarianism and prejudice. There is a strong statistical correlation between authoritarianism and many forms of bias, “from ethnocentrism to misogyny and homophobia”. It appears that people who support intolerant leaders are not somehow playing down their intolerance because they like something else about them; it looks like they support them because they are intolerant.

17 Variables

The researchers examined 1883 white voters in the 2016 election. Of those 1883 around 52% voted for Trump (979) and of 716 of his supporters (73%) “voted for him enthusiastically”.

The variables they measured were five demographics

  1. gender
  2. education
  3. age
  4. marital status
  5. income

and twelve attitudes. Attitudes towards

  1. Child traits (i.e. desire or propensity for submission to an authoritarian leader)
  2. Domineering leaders
  3. African Americans
  4. Reverse discrimination
  5. Immigrants
  6. Muslims
  7. Women
  8. Personal finances
  9. Health of the economy
  10. Liberalism vs conservatism
  11. General religiosity
  12. Fundamentalism

read more »

Here is the part of Trump’s UN speech they should have laughed loudest at

But they didn’t laugh at this part. I guess sometimes irony is just too painful to bear . . . .

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.

The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from Iran’s treasury, seized valuable portions of the economy . . . . all to line their own pockets and send their proxies to wage war. Not good. —

(From Politico)

 

Alarming — Is This Future Possible?

The author is no fool. If I came across the article on a less reputable site by someone unknown I would probably ignore it as alarmist. But it’s by

Trump Is Taking America To an Evil Place

Roundups, Concentration Camps, What Comes Next?

Every American, including native-born whites, should be alarmed about the advancing Trump administration plans to build mass detention facilities, which could fast be turned into concentration camps to hold opponents of Trump policies.

Abundant signs reveal Trump administration planning for mass roundups. News of these plans is out there but easily missed in the endless flurry of stories about Trump White House chaos. This story needs, but has not received, focused attention from our mainstream news media, from the minority party and especially from principled Republicans.

The Trump administration acknowledges planning on mass detention camps designed, initially, to hold 20,000 people.

Much more disturbing is a U.S. Navy memo obtained by Time magazine that outlines plans to build concentration camps to hold 94,000 people in California alone. . . . .

I have not sought permission to copy the entire article here so if you have not already done so read it at https://www.dcreport.org/2018/07/13/trump-is-taking-america-to-an-evil-place/

 

Trump and Another (Australian) Baby Boomer Drop Kick

When I read . . . .

The thing about Donald Trump is that he was never one of the Cool Guys. He was the schmuck over there across the room who was feeling up women and picking our pockets while we looked the other way. He ran a campaign that said, you know the club they would never invite you into? I’ve been there, and it’s all bullshit, and I’m going to tear it down, the whole stinking meaningless system run by these people who have looked down on you from their suites in Davos and the Renaissance Weekends, the places they kept you out of while they were making decisions about your lives and not listening to anything you had to say.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, Don’t blame yourselves millennials (like you would), boomers created Donald Trump at Salon.

What is it about the hair with these guys?

. . . . I was reminded of Bob Katter, the leader of Australia’s Katter Party — (pro-guns, anti-gay, pro-racist/corrupt/dictatorial state premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen supporter . . . . you get the picture). . . .

He was one of those who threw eggs at the Beatles when they arrived at Brisbane airport in 1964.

Trump Should Get the Nobel Peace Prize

The idea that Trump might be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has been bandied about (even if forged). I like the idea. It’s one time my eyes have not rolled to the back of my head over some new thing associated with the dangerous idiot. Awarding it to Trump would, I believe, bestow some much needed levity on the reputation of the prize itself ever since it was awarded to war criminal, mass murderer and assassin Henry Kissinger. That day in 1973 brought satire itself to an end, as many said at the time. Trump is buffoonish enough to restore that satirical edge to the Nobel Peace Prize award. But it has to be awarded quickly. Before he has time to start serious scale human slaughter in Iran or elsewhere. Once that happens a Trump Nobel prize would be robbed of all levity and possibility of satire once again.

 

 

Oh you hapless United States of Americans, is this really what it means to make (your part of) America great again? By David Cay Johnston of DCReport.org:

Deducting a CEO’s Jet, But Not a Cop’s Uniform

What the Republicans’ Tax Bill Really Means for People Like Us

. . . . .

Buried in the hastily drafted tax bill’s more than 500 pages are provisions eliminating “miscellaneous” deductions taken by almost 28 million taxpayers in 2015. Those are costs you bore to support your job or an investment you own or to pay a professional to prepare your income tax return.

This year cops and other first responders can write off the costs of buying uniforms and dry cleaning them. But in 2018, cops who buy their uniforms or are required to buy their own guns and ammunition will no longer be able to deduct those costs as reasonable and necessary expenses to support their earning a paycheck, thanks to Trump and Congressional Republicans.

But that’s not all. Cops and anyone else who belongs to a union will no longer be allowed to deduct their union dues. People who must bear travel costs without reimbursement from their employers will just have to suck it up starting in January.

The new law takes special aim at teachers who seek advanced degrees, which typically qualifies them for more pay. Tuition, books and related costs of getting advanced degrees will not be deductible after the end of this year.

Why are Trump and Congressional Republicans dinging first responders, teachers, nurses, traveling salespeople and even those who pay someone to prepare their income tax returns? So the rich can get bigger tax breaks, of course.

. . . . .

What Congress left intact are the rules that let Trump write off his Boeing 757 jet . . . . Similarly, untouched are the bar tabs of corporate sales agents or the costs of executive retreats at resorts like Trump golf courses.

It’s a good thing you’ve all got your guns. Looks like time for a coup against the plutocracy and time to establish a real democracy.

 

 

WHY? Why of course — now it makes sense….

Since reading PZ Myer’s Why post I have come across something else, an article by Max Blumenthal, that does make sense of what Trump is doing:

Michael Flynn’s Indictment Exposes Trump Team’s Collusion With Israel, Not Russia

I can imagine the Christian Zionists will be thrilled to bits. Another step closer to Armageddon.

WHY?

My thoughts, exactly: https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/12/05/why-3/

It’s almost as if he’s looking for a magic switch he could flip to generate international incidents to distract from the corruption and criminality he’s fomenting at home.

Jesus Loves Trump, (a man after his own heart)

The Bible’s ethics are not for our time. They represent an age when policies like those of Trump’s “extreme vetting if immigrants” were whitewashed as inspirationally loving.

Take the “beautiful” and “touching” story of Ruth . . . .

The story of the Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman is akin to that of Ruth, which many scholars see as an example of Hebrew inclusiveness. However, Laura Donaldson, who identifies with Native American peoples in the United States, reads Ruth as a case where a woman must reject her Moabite identity and religion to be accepted into the Hebrew community. For Donaldson, Ruth’s story is not really about altruistic acceptance, but rather another story of cultural imperialism. Her study reveals that benign interpretations of cultural assimilation in the book of Ruth may reflect the privileged social position of Christian feminists who have not experienced forced assimilation and integration into another culture. Avalos, Hector, 2015. The Bad Jesus, p. 239

Similarly, as Avalos points out,

Jesus’ acceptance of the [Syrophoenician] woman was contingent on her declaring his dominion. She calls him “Lord, Son of David’ and repeats the title of “Lord” after he refuses to help her the first time. (p. 238)

To be welcomed into Jesus’ community a Canaanite must demonstrate “worshipful reverence” of the leader. The Canaanite woman is required to “adopt the cultural premises of Jesus.”

That’s the only way the aliens can become “good people”, “wonderful people”, “the best people”.

 

 

 

What a bizarre profession

Romans 13 has been getting a lot of mention lately. Romans 13:1 was the one biblical text that the Communist authorities in Romania consistently knew. “Submit to the authorities” – the Bible says so! — Religion Prof, Nov 14 2016

The Religion Prof tagged those words with this image:

Meanwhile, another “religion prof” has singled out his research into this same passage for special attention with a title that on the basis of a confusing document from an ancient civilization strangely advises modern readers on their contemporary civic responsibilities:

When to Disobey Government – Quick Look at Romans 13

This post is a recycling of appreciation from a “religion master”, again providing instruction for readers today on how they should relate to political authorities:

How Should Christians Relate to Governing Authorities? Michael Bird Clarifies

How strange. Would anyone today turn to the recordings of the Sibyl Oracle for messages of guidance? Or to Hammurabi’s Code for how to treat a purveyors of faulty goods? Or to Plato or the wisdom of Imhotep? Or to the heavenly influences on human affairs according to Porphyry?

I am all for studying ancient documents. I have always loved studying ancient history. But the point has always been to understand how the ancients thought and lived, not how I can learn from them as guiding lights for my own life.

But notice how religion profs and masters take an ancient writing and strain and pull to make it somehow “relevant” as an instruction to readers today:

Consider Stanley Porter’s condition: qualitative superiority. “According to Porter, Paul only expects Christians to obey authorities who are qualitatively superior, that is, authorities who know and practice justice.” (449) The Greek for “governing authorities” (exousiais hyperechousais) seems to suggest this, given that hyperecho carries with it a “qualitative sense of superiority in quality.” (449) Therefore, the only governing powers to which Christians should submit are those that reflect the qualitatively divine justice they’ve been entrusted to bear, enact, and steward.

Woah there! Where to begin?

A raft of scholars have found reason to doubt that the passage in question was even original to the writing addressed to Romans: Pallis (1920); Loisy (1922: 104, 128; 1935: 30-31; 1936: 287); Windisch (1931); cf. Barnikol (1931b); Eggenberger (1945); Barnes (1947: 302, possibly); Kallas (1964-65); Munro (1983: 56f., 65-67); Sahlin (1953); Bultmann (1947). And who was this Paul, anyway? What independent evidence do we have to establish anything for certain? And how does one get from “a qualitative sense of superiority in quality” to modern readers’ concepts of “God” and “divine justice” (whatever “divine” justice is)? What was the original context and provenance of the document — we can only surmise — and what in the name of Mary’s little lamb does it have to do with anything in today’s world?

It would be naïve to suggest this passage is the last word on church/state relations, given that our conception of “state” is conditioned by post-Enlightenment views and the original context for Paul’s instructions came during a time of relatively benevolent and well-behaved authorities.

Amen. But why oh why does it deserve to be introduced into today’s discussion at all? Why not bring in Plato as well?

Bird reasons there are occasions resistance to governing authorities is both required and demanded by Christian discipleship. “Just as we have to submit to governing authorities on the basis of conscience, sometimes we have to rebel against governments because of the same conscience.” (450) When governments misuse their power, sometimes Christians must say, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29)

Bird likes John Stott’s summary of this discussion: “Whenever laws are enacted which contradict God’s Law, civil disobedience becomes a Christian duty.”

Deep. Just what everyone instinctively knows and follows. We all acknowledge the need for some form or organization and cooperation. We are social mammals, after all. And we all live this way for the sake of peace and getting along. But of course those of us who have crises of conscience will very often find themselves resisting or evading those causing them such grief. It’s the stuff of thousands of movies and novels and pages of history books. “Christian discipleship” is no exception to the common experience of humanity and living in organized societies. Just dressing up the same conflict in the verbiage of one’s particular ideology makes no difference. My god, Sophocles’ Antigone has remained a timeless classic because of the way it epitomizes the theme of the individual standing up for right against the state.

This human universal owes precious little to a few words written from a vaguely understood context and provenance in a civilization far removed from ours.

And religion careers and publishing businesses are built on the determination to wrestle with problematic Roman era discourses in the belief that they offer something exceptional for initiates into the arcane mysteries.

 

They Love Trump Because You Hate Him

The French smoke because Americans don’t. Or at least that’s what they used to tell us, only partly joking. But nobody would injure himself just to spite someone else, would he? Seems unlikely.

But if you skim the web looking for reasons why people smoke, beyond the typical reason (they enjoy it), you’ll find a surprising number say that they do it because they know it’s bad. If it annoys others, then so much the better. In a world where people have precious little control over their own lives, smoking can become an act of individuality and rebellion.

In the first episode of True Detective, Rustin “Rust” Cohle asks for “a sixer o’ Old Milwaukee or Lone Star, nothin’ snooty.”

 

When I heard him say that, I immediately thought, “I know this guy.” I grew up when mainstream beers in the U.S. were pretty tolerable. Did they become more watered-down and more bitter over the past few decades? I would argue that they did. Some of the low-calorie beers that people drink by the gallon every weekend barely taste like beer to me.

Just the fact I admitted publicly that I hate cheap American beer shows that I’m outside of Rust’s circle. Only a fool would pay more than he needs to to get drunk. Only a snob would ask the bartender, “What’s on draft?” Authentic people see value in bad beer, bad coffee, and gummy white bread.

That’s one of the keys to unlocking the mystery behind Donald Trump’s winning the presidency. If you didn’t vote for him, you can probably rattle off a hundred reasons why you think he’ll be a disaster. You may even be in the middle of “explaining it” to somebody on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit right now. Or maybe you’re laying out your case in an strongly worded email email to an uncle who doesn’t have the good sense to keep his racist comments to himself. read more »