Sunday, March 7, 2010

We need to have empathy for Tea Partiers

I don't agree, but this is an interesting article on the psychology of the tea partiers. This is an article from Psychology Today.

These tea-party folks seem to most liberals-well, to most of us who live in the "reality community," or, as I like to call it, "reality"-like crazy fuckers.

As a recent NY Times article reports, this hodgepodge of people and groups spout frankly paranoid beliefs as received wisdom, e.g. the Federal Reserve is our enemy and should be abolished, citizens should stock up on ammo, gold, and survival food in anticipation of an impending Civil War, states should "nullify" federal laws and even secede, medical records are being shipped to federal bureaucrats, the Army is seeking "Internment/Resettlement" specialists, Obama is trying to create crises in order to destroy the economy, convert Interpol into his personal police force, and create a New World Order. Conspiracy theories involving shadowy elites like the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations have resurfaced. Self-defense and armed resistance are frequently called for. Racist stereotypes, innuendo, and hostility run rampant. The Constitution is its sacred text and Glenn Beck its most beloved prophet. They don't usually wear aluminum hats but perhaps they should.

I hate these folks but I also understand them. And, well, uh, I also empathize with them. They share the same psychology as the paranoid patients I treat every day. The only difference is that the paranoid beliefs of the tea-party movement are political while those in my consulting room are of a more personal nature.

The causes and dynamics, however, are the same. And so just as I have empathy for my patients, I have come to have empathy for the tea-party'ers, even as I despise their influence and work hard to defeat their ideology. It's crucial that progressives do likewise because if we don't understand the ways that decent, god-fearing, and victimized people can come to espouse such a dangerous ideology, we won't be able to fight them effectively.

I treat people who are paranoid all the time. Sometimes they're only mildly paranoid. For example, someone I treat can't tolerate blame of any kind, can't take any responsibility for failures, and can't really be optimistic about the potential goodness in others. It's always someone else's fault. Other times, they're more severely paranoid. A patient I saw spun tale after tale of slights, interpreted innocuous events as malignant, saw conspiracies everywhere, and always imputed malevolence to others' motives. The most extreme cases can be found in the delusions of schizophrenics.

There isn't one cause of paranoia. Tomes have been written about it. Individual variations and exceptions abound. A few generalizations, however, can be made. Paranoid people are trying their best to make sense of and mitigate feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. Their beliefs are attempts to solve a profound problem, albeit in ways that distort reality.

Click here for the rest of the article.

5 comments:

Silverfiddle said...

"this hodgepodge of people and groups spout frankly paranoid beliefs as received wisdom"

The same can be said of lefties: Global Warming, Cheney/Halliburton paranoid fantasies, 9/11 troofers, Obama has his own stash of money...

The author has violated a basic tenet of psychology: making diagnoses without having personally evaluated the patient.

He or she has also lumped everyone together, a hasty generalization fallacy, and this after admitting the group is a hodgepodge, the only solid statement in this intellectually flimsy article.

This person has a PhD? Exhibit A in how far our educational system has fallen.

This is a liberal with an ax to grind and he abuses his professional credentials to do it. Soft, pseudo-sciences like psychology are ripe for such abuse.

"Everyone who doesn't think like us is crazy." If that makes you feel better inside, you should read some George Orwell as the antidote.

vomamike said...

Silverfiddle - Have you heard of the science called Anthropology? While you have a point - to a small degree - that you can't diagnose every individual from afar; like statistics, a professional in a given discipline, can make broad assertions by studying and evaluating a group. We do it all the time whether it is studying a species - or evaluating the behavior of a group of humans. We know that psychology is not an exact science, and this was just one professionals opinion. And you are probably right when you say the same can be said for such "groups" as 9/11 truthers, etc. Although I think you add to that mix some very rational platforms such as global warming which is science, not paranoia.

I've noticed one consistency among you on the Right - the constant effort to attack the messenger - usually without countering the message. You did both. Do you know how hard - how much education, it takes to get a PhD? If you did you wouldn't be so quick to dismiss his degree as symbolic of a failed educational system.

Silverfiddle said...

I don't have a PhD, but I can spot an abuse of credentials when I see it.

Global warming is another area where this is rife. The earth may be warming due to man made causes, but we just don't know, and a lack of correlation with carbon usage adds in some doubt.

Also, evidence shows that this current increase in warming is not unprecedented.

So while I blame no one for believing in global warming, I do blame the likes of Al Gore (even dedicated GW scientists distanced themselves from his wild rhetoric at Copenhagen) et al who insist the science is settled, when it definitely is not.

Everyone is not a scientist, so we rely on those that are for professional opinion. Crap like this does not further our understanding and casts a shadow over whole professions

vomamike said...

Silverfiddle - just because you disagree with the guys professional opinion hardly constitues "abuse of credentials".

As for global warming - hey stick your head in the sand all you want - it doesn't change the facts.

Silverfiddle said...

My first post established how he abuses his professional credentials.


"As for global warming - hey stick your head in the sand all you want - it doesn't change the facts."

Childlike credulity is the extreme opposite of sticking your head in the sand.