Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category


I fixed dinner tonight and had the GF over (a joy to be around, nicest woman in the world), with several blues CDs in the background (Robert Cray, Willie Edwards, Junior Parker, et al.) as we ate and drank.

Eventually, the talk turned to singing. After decades playing in bar bands, where I let my “fingers do the walking,” (and if you recognize that reference, you’re dating yourself), last winter I decided to try my hand at vocals after our new band’s vocalist ghosted when we had three-and-a-half sets of material down and I was ready to start booking us. (No obvious problems musically or with anybody in the band, no warning — he just disappeared. I’m still slightly pissed at the lack of courtesy, but mostly disappointed and mystified, as we sounded good and were almost ready to go.)

So, we were high and dry. To keep things from crashing, I decided to try my hand at singing, and I sucked. Bad. I’m not quite as bad now, but still not good. I do a decent job on about 10 songs (embarrassingly badly on maybe another 20), but am obviously in the “Our guitar player will sing one for you now” category when we have a better vocalist. (Any good, local (Tucson), left-of-center vocalists reading this, please leave a comment.)

Anyway, the GF has a great sense of rhythm (good dancer) and seems to have an instinctive understanding of the blues (she’s lived a hard enough life for it–which, frankly, is important if you’re gonna get it right), but when I suggested that I haul out the acoustic in a “judgment-free zone” and play a few tunes with her doing vocals, she recoiled in horror, and said she “can’t” even try it — which meant “won’t.”

I’ve run into this over and over, including with myself. I’ve been playing in bands for decades, but it’s only over the last half-year or so that I’ve even tried singing. With the blues band (great players one and all), none of them would even do shouting (no singing, no being on pitch necessary) in call-and-response tunes. I’d go, “C’mon! you don’t even need to sing! Just bounce off me!” And they wouldn’t do it. No way, no how. They were petrified. They’ve all spent thousands of hours playing their instruments, and are all great players, but vocals? No way, no how. The horror! The horror!

This caused me to look at my own previous reluctance to even try singing, and to remember what I was telling my self-sabotaging self when I chickened out:

  • “I sound like shit! I’ll be humiliated!”
  • “I can’t stand it if that’d happen!”
  • “It’d be awful! Absolutely awful!”
  • “I’m such a good player, I shouldn’t need to sing!”

I still sound like shit (mostly–pretty decent on a few tunes), and am still embarrassed by my vocals, but here’s what I tell myself to keep the anxiety under control:

  • If I sound like shit, it ain’t the end of the world;
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan both thought they sounded awful–were they? (In other words my self-criticality isn’t necessarily accurate.)
  • Again, if I make a fool of yourself vocally, what’s the worst that can happen? Will I die? Go bankrupt? Will my honey walk away from me in disgust because of bad vocals? (No)
  • Would I be better off if I sing, even badly? (Yes)
  • Most people are so self-absorbed they’ll barely register whether I’m good, bad, or indifferent. So, why not?
  • The critical jerks are mostly a bunch of insecure, incompetent assholes, too — so why not?
  • What real harm can nasty comments do to me?

And that’s the key: what you tell yourself.

With singing, get over the initial embarrassment and you might have a hell of a lot of fun. Maybe not, but why not try? You have nothing to lose except your embarrassment.

 


Over half of our e-books will be on sale starting today, and will be available at all of the usual e-book vendors (Kobo, Apple, Amazon, etc.). Most are priced at $.99, and none of the sale titles are above $2.99. Here are the temporarily reduced e-books:

Science Fiction

  • Sleep State Interrupt, by T.C. Weber
  • The Wrath of Leviathan, by T.C. Weber
  • Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, by Zeke Teflon
  • The Watcher, by Nicholas T. Oakley

Classic Fiction

  • The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition, by Upton Sinclair

Anarchism/Politics

  • Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle, by Rafael Uzcátegui
  • Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, by Rodolfo Montes de Oca
  • The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations, Chaz Bufe, ed.
  • The Best of Social Anarchism, Howard Ehrlich and a.h.s. boy, eds.

Science

  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science, by John Grant

Humor

  • The American Heretic’s Dictionary, by Chaz Bufe
  • Bible Tales for Ages 18 and Up, by G. Richard Bozarth

Atheism

  • Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock
  • Spiritual Snake Oil: Fads & Fallacies in Pop Culture, by Chris Edwards

Performing Arts

  • Stage Fright: 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear, by Mick Berry and Michael Edelstein
  • An Understandable Guide to Music Theory: The Most Useful Aspects of Theory for Rock, Jazz, and Blues Musicians

I’m going stir crazy, and I presume damn near everyone else is too — and after only two weeks.

After thinking about how much you dislike this mild form of isolation, please think about all of the prisoners subjected to total isolation for months or years on end think about how they feel, what it does to them. And then think about how the government you support subjects people to such psychological torture.

Whatever. Here are a few things that might help you pass the time in your mild form of lockdown:

  • Archive.org  has a very large library of classic films, including a very nice collection of films noir. All are free.
  • Kanopy features the Criterion collection of films and many others, and is free on many public library sites. The film I’ve seen most recently that I’d recommend is Harrod Blank’s (son of legendary countercultural director Mel Blank) Wild Wheels, a wonderful documentary about art cars and their creators. If nothing else will do it, this will leave with a kinder view of humanity, its creativity, and a smile on your face.
  • Learn the night sky. The best free tool to help you do this is Stellarium (free download). Probably the best planetarium program, regardless of cost. Even if you just have your naked eyes, you can learn the constellations and follow the planets. If you have even cheap, small binoculars, Stellarium will open a whole new world of deep sky objects to you; and if you have even a cheap kid’s 60 mm telescope, wow are you in for some fun — especially as both air pollution and light pollution abate with the coronavirus tragedy. (Always look on the bright side of life.)
  • Learn to sing or play an instrument. Even if you just have your voice, there are a lot of vocal lessons available on Youtube. Singing is also a great shame-attacking exercise. If you have even a cheap instrument available, there are likewise a hell of a lot of useful instructional videos. One Youtube channel that I’ve found particularly useful is GuitarPilgrim, though to take full advantage of the videos you need to be at least an intermediate-level player. Whatever, the guy is an incredibly good guitarist and also incredibly good at explaining how to do things. I can’t recommend this more highly — it’s head-and-shoulders above all of the other instructional guitar videos I’ve seen.
  • Write. If you’re reading this, you have the means to do it. Nowadays, there are an incredible number of aids available, both in your word processing program and online. My favorite tool is probably the self-explanatory thesaurus.com. And buck up — today, you have it good: take advantage of all the tools. For both nonfiction and fiction, it’s a great idea to write a highly detailed outline before you start writing. You won’t follow it, but it’s a great jumping-off point.
  • Garden. As long as the water stays on, you’re good. Even if you’ve never done it before, it should be pretty easy. I live in one of the most hostile environments in the U.S. for gardening (alkaline, nutrient-deficient soil, low rainfall, brutal sun), and I still get good yields. If I can do it here, you can do it anywhere. A lot of public libraries have seed catalogs which will help to get you started. Helpful hints: start small — if you’ve never gardened before, start with a garden of under 100 s.f.; buy seeds or get them free from a seed catalog — do not buy individual plants for $3 or $4 apiece from a big-box store. They’re an incredible rip. Six-packs for $3 or so aren’t a bad way to go (far from great, but not terrible), but spending three bucks or more for a start is obscene. And then start saving seeds and saving money next year. (Sorry to sound so mercenary, but cost is a consideration, even with treating Mother Earth well. And I hate ripoffs.)

Much more on all this later.

For now, please meditate on how the government tortures your fellow human beings with solitary confinement.


A couple of nights ago I was talking with my longtime friend, ex-stand-up comic, and ex-bandmate, drummer extraordinaire Mick Berry. We’ve both been working on our vocals recently, but for very different reasons: me, because I’m sick of dealing with egomaniac vocalists; Micko, because he’s sick of dealing with musicians period, and wants to go out and do solo gigs playing piano and singing.

Anyway, he suggested that I do some singing and let him critique it. I panicked. Over the last year, I’ve sung several times during jobs at bars and thought nothing of it, but this spooked me: Micko actually has ears and I value his opinion; this is in stark contrast to audiences, who (god bless ’em)  tend to be way too forgiving.

Anyway, Micko finally talked me into it, and I reluctantly said, “I’ll do it as a shame-attacking exercise.”

He replied without missing a beat:,”You didn’t realize that all music performance is a shame-attacking exercise?”


“Observation: The strongest men I know — guys who deadlift over 500 pounds, run 4-minutes for the mile, throw a discuss hundreds of feet, or run ultramarathons — tend to be caring, considerate, and generally calm dudes. The guys I know who want to be strong and tough — but who are not — tend to be loud, defensive, and overly proud. Toughness isn’t walking around with your chest puffed out trying to intimidate. It’s making the right decision under uncertainty and distress. This is one of the great paradoxes of toughness. Once you have it you don’t need to show it.”

Brad Thulberg, Fake Toughness

 


Over the last few years, three close, two of them really close, friends have died of cancer and another is in remission. Two of the three died of cancer spreading after undergoing the horror of prostate removal, which did no good whatsoever — it just made their suffering worse — and my other friend died a horrible death of pancreatic cancer. A fourth still-surviving friend is in remission from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. And still another very close, long-term friend is currently dealing with prostate cancer, which is not responding to radiation treatment.

They account for over two-thirds of my close male friends — all of them a few years younger than me. It’s heartbreaking, but they’re dead or dying.

So, how the hell do you deal with this? How can you be a decent person and support your friends while they’re suffering? And not go crazy yourself?

This is all purely personal, purely observational, but this is what I’ve concluded:

  • You can’t fix it. Admit it to yourself. Accept it.
  • Do not recommend “alternative” treatments — they’re “alternative” because they don’t work. In fact, unless you’re a medical/scientific professional, do not recommend anything — I guarantee that your cancer-suffering friends have already researched it.
  • Just be there.
  • Listen.
  • Treat them normally — not as someone to be pitied or helped. Do the most mutual, joint projects you can come up with.
  • Don’t withdraw. Continue as normal.
  • Help physically, when necessary, and try not to make it obvious you think they’re an invalid. (This pm, I went over to my bud J’s place and worked in his garden for an hour while he worked for 15 minutes — the important thing is that we both worked and I was there for him.)

Some people withdraw from friends who are dying from cancer, and that’s understandable. The reasons seem to be that the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming; the fear of personal mortality, and the reminder of it, which overwhelms decent behavior. . . . Either that or they’re empathy-empty sociopaths, like Tump, who only do favors when they anticipate return.

The lesson is that when your friends have cancer, don’t withdraw, don’t try to solve things, — and above all don’t leave them feeling all alone — just be there just listen to them. That’s all you can do; it’s not enough (nothing is). but they’ll appreciate it.

 

 

 

 


At long last we have enough suitable material for another one of these “interesting and marginally useful” posts. This one is fairly heavy on the interesting (and funny) side, so we’ll start off with the most marginally useful sites we’ve stumbled across recently.

  • If you’ve ever tried to explain to an imbecile that there’s a difference between correlation and causation, you can relax; you can forego such exercises in frustration from now on: just point imbeciles at the Spurious Correlations site. No matter how dim people are, there’s at least a chance that a 25-watt bulb will flicker to life in their craniums once they see the near-exact correlation between — my favorite — Per capita cheese consumption and The number of people who died by becoming entangled in their bedsheets in the years 2000 through 2009 (statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The Spurious Correlations site features many other such correlations; a good one is that between US spending on science, space, and technology and Suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation in the years 1999 through 2009.
  • You’ve probably heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is essentially the maddening phenomenon — currently on spectacular display in American politics — in which the more ignorant a person is about damn near anything, the more convinced they are that they’re knowledgeable. Psychologist David Dunning, who supplied half of the name for the effect, was recently interviewed by Vox reporter Brian Resnick. The interview bears the promising subtitle, “How to fight the Dunning-Kruger effect . . .” Unfortunately, Dunning’s advice does seem only marginally useful (those who need it most won’t take it), but it’s worth reading nonetheless.
  • We put up a post about this a month ago, but can’t resist plugging Nihilanand once again. It’s a gag/serious site concerning the criminal activity known as parenthood, and features over 100 memes, some outright hilarious. We put up one of them last month, and here’s another. (But before we go on, do check out the BBC article, “Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him.” It’s almost as funny as the memes.)

Nihilanand meme

  • Banksy’s Dismaland is long gone, but if you missed its very limited five-week run in 2015 at an “abandoned lido” (whatever the hell that is), there are still two great photo tours of the “bemusement park”: Colossal’s “Welcome to Dismaland” and (yes) Business Insider’s “29 Photos from Banksy’s Twisted Dismaland.” (Note: “Welcome to Dismaland” is slow in loading.) Here’s one of the tour photos:

  • Finally, the Miami Herald just published (and kudos to them for not hiding behind a paywall) a piece titled “Florida is just full of weirdos,” which is a list of the supposedly ten best Florida Man Twitter posts, a Twitter feed that has over 400,000 followers, and which concerns weird news in Florida. We’d strongly disagree that these are the ten best Florida Man posts — it looks like they selected ten at random and labeled them the “best” —  though we do like the one about the dimwit who was “released from jail on an auto theft charge” and was immediately rearrested after trying to break “into another car in the jail’s parking lot . . . with a deputy behind the wheel.” If you like this sort of thing, we’d urge you to check out the Florida Man Twitter feed, which almost always has something to rival the above. The one in the current batch of tweets that caught our eye was a headline from the Florida Times-Union (in Jacksonville) reading, “Florida man kidnaps neighbor’s dog, has sex with it in his trailer,” which brings up the always pertinent question, how is it possible to kidnap a dog?

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


Astounding front cover(Astounding, by Tim Nevala-Lee. New York, Dey St., 2018, $28.99, 532 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

While the subtitle mentions Heinlein, Hubbard, and Asimov along with John W. Campbell, this is primarily a biography of Campbell centering on his activities as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog), the largest-circulation and most influential science fiction magazine in the 1940s through the 1960s; the book has a special focus on Campbell’s relationships with the authors he published, his influence on their work, and on the authors’ relationships with each other.

The level of detail in this exceedingly well documented 500-plus-page book is, well, astounding, and the amount of work Nevala-Lee did to produce it must have been equally astounding. The dust jacket copy notes that the author drew on “unexplored archives, thousands of unpublished letters, and dozens of interviews.” It shows.

This is not, however, a dry academic history. Nevala-Lee does a fine job of bringing to life the decidedly oddball quartet listed in the subtitle, along with their wives and girlfriends (some of whom did much uncredited work) and many other sci-fi authors of the time. Nevala-Lee has not, however, produced a hagiography: the portraits of all of these figures are nuanced, bringing out both their attractive and unattractive traits. The attractive traits include. in all but Hubbard, dedication to work and writing, the authors’ and Campbell’s mutual support, and in Campbell’s case a messianic belief in the transformative power of science fiction. The unattractive traits include spousal abuse and pathological lying (Hubbard), right-wing authoritarian politics (Hubbard, Campbell, and Heinlein) and denunciations of associates to the FBI as “communists” (Hubbard). (For a good dissection of Heinlein’s most authoritarian work, see Michael Moorcock’s famous takedown of Starship Troopers, “Starship Stormtroopers.”) Even Asimov, who comes off as by far the most sympathetic of the quartet, had a serious flaw: engaging in serial sexual harassment.

For those interested in cults, there’s also a great deal of material on Hubbard’s and Campbell’s formulation of dianetics — basically a rehashing of Alfred Korzybski’s tedious and trivial “general semantics” concepts along with (though they wouldn’t have known the term) abreaction therapy (which can be quite dangerous), all with a “cybernetics” overlay — and their subsequent falling out prior to Hubbard’s coming up with the term Scientology, founding of that “church,” and installation of himself as that money-making machine’s glorious leader.

This brief summation only scratches the surface, and anyone interested in science fiction and its history should have a great time delving into this well researched, well written book.

Highly recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


There’s a standard psychological list to assess psychopathic tendencies, The Hare Psychopathology Checklist. It’s a list of 20 traits common to psychopaths.

The traits are ranked on a scale of 0 to 2, with 0 being entirely absent, 1 being somewhat present, and 2 being strongly present. The Checklist ranks someone as a psychopath if their score is 30 or above out of a possible score of 40.

One of the points on the Checklist “revocation of conditional release” is entirely dependent on class status (doesn’t apply to the rich — they’re never in the system in the first place) — and another is almost entirely so, “juvenile delinquency” is almost entirely class-dependent (the rich get “diverted” and their records erased), so let’s disallow those two criteria. That leaves 18 checkpoints. Let’s see how Trump does, taking a score of 27 (75%) as indicative of psychopathy:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • criminal versatility

My best estimate, based on abundant public evidence, is that Trump scores 33 out of 36, well up into the psychopathy range.

What’s your estimate? Why? (Please leave a comment.)

And why isn’t the press addressing the urgent matter that we have an apparent raving psychopath with his finger on the nuclear button?

 


Randolph Bourne

“War is the health of the state. . . . In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock. . . . A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily.”

–Randolph Bourne, The State (1918)


Blue Front AmazonIn 2000, my old cat and best friend Spot Bob died. (“Spot” — think Star Trek NG and “Data” — and “Bob” — think Joe Bob Briggs, or as an ex-GF who grew up in a single-wide in a junkyard put it, “Joe Bob,” “Billy Bob,” “Spot Bob”.)

After he expired in my closet on a foam mattress, I swore I’d never have another pet animal. Ever.

Less than a month later, my GF at the time got in a horrible car crash after I dumped her. She was a hardcore hidden drinker, got abusive when she drank, and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. The afternoon I said goodbye and said “call me when you stop drinking,” she drank a pint of vodka after I left, jumped in her car, and got in a head-on crash.

She left behind a baby parrot she’d been badly abusing. (She’d also cut herself up with razor blades, as I’d found to my dismay a couple months into the relationship.)

After she crashed, her ex didn’t want the bird, and neither did her two (barely) grown kids, who were, quite understandably, severely emotionally fucked up in their own right.

So, I took the bird and gave him a home — a year-and-a-half-old Yellow Naped Amazon. I had no idea how to properly take care of him. I just let him roam the house and fed him the food PetSmart sold me. He quickly became my best buddy. The only problem was that he attacked on sight any woman who came into the house, sometimes drawing blood. He drew no distinction between my horribly abusive ex and other women: he wanted vengeance..

IM000394.JPG

So, when women came over, I’d lock him up — but I felt guilty as hell about it. But he’d physically attack them — remove flesh — if I didn’t. (Now, he’s much better with women, still conflicted but nonagressive.)

Shortly after that, I met a woman in a web design class who was a volunteer with the local parrot-rescue group, TARA — Tucson Avian Rescue and Adoption.

I did 10 to 20 hours a week volunteer work for the next decade, doing fostering, behavioral rehab of abused and neglected Amazons (dozens), and parrot-care education classes, plus the web site.

Along the way, three more abused Amazons decided they liked it here and wanted to hang around. I couldn’t turn them away, so I now have four permanent three-year-olds with large powerful beaks.

I love them. They’re a pain in the ass, and it takes me about an hour a day to take care of them physically (cutting up veggies and fruits, cleaning water and food bowls, cleaning up the shit around their cages, changing the papers in their cages, etc.) Then there’s their demands on me: “Pick me up! Pick me up! Give me scrinches!” I spend several hours a day with a parrot on my shoulder. And it feels good. I’m doing something good for other conscious, feeling beings. (And you bet they are!)

It helps me get out of myself and care for others. I never had kids because I didn’t want to put them through the same emotional torture I went through as a kid — yes, “dumbth” on my part: generalizing from a sample of one terribly messed-up family that shouldn’t have and didn’t reproduce beyond me.

Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve been hoping that someone younger than I am would fall in love with the birds and would take them on after I croak. It hasn’t happened, and probably won’t.

As Albert Ellis said toward the end of his life, regarding death, “I’m not exactly looking forward to it.” Neither am I. But what I do worry about is what’s going to happen to my birds.


“There is one thing in the world more wicked than the desire to command, and that is the will to obey.”

–quoted by Charles T. Sprading in Liberty and the Great Libertarians


There have been many attempts to explain why Trump voters remain loyal to him. Given that Trump is an obvious bully, con man, hypocrite, boastful sexual predator, overt racist, pathological liar, and a rich kid who’s never done a day’s work in his life, many “analyses” get stuck at the “what in hell is wrong with these people?” stage. There are, however, some common analyses that make sense in part. We’ll get to them shortly.

But let’s first take a look at the best psychological explanation I’ve seen of why Trump voters haven’t fled him in horror. It’s “A Neuroscientist Explains What Could Be Wrong with Trump Supporters’ Brains,” by Bobby Azarian, a scientist affiliated with George Mason University. Azarian cites four reasons why many of Trump’s voters stick with him. (We’d encourage you to read the entire article.)

  1. Azarian quotes psychologist David Dunning as follows regarding how woefully misinformed many Trump voters are: “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” Azarian adds, “Essentially, they’re not smart enough to realize they’re dumb.” (Obviously, not all Trump voters fall into this category. Azarian doesn’t add, but should, that desperation and frustration will often lead people to take a chance, even a remote chance, on damn near anything that promises relief.)
  2. The second component in loyalty to Trump is fearfulness: A great many of Trump’s followers, especially die-hard conservatives, are fear driven. As Azarian puts it, “Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. . . . These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch.”
  3. Fear of death increases the effectiveness of Trump’s fear mongering. Azarian notes, “[W]hen people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis . . . By constantly emphasizing [supposed] existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric.”
  4. The fourth reason for Trump’s hold on his core voters is his showmanship: he’s a master at keeping his audience engaged. As Azarian says, “His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level. . . . He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.”

There are other factors in Trump’s support that Azarian doesn’t mention, though many others have; the following are all commonly cited, and all have some validity.

An important factor is that conservatives, more so than progressives, tend to live inside a media bubble, that is, they seek out news and opinion outlets that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, fears, and prejudices, and “cluster around,” as a 2014 Pew report put it, a small number of news sources or, often, a single news source: Fox News. Not coincidentally, Fox and other right-wing media outfits, such as Breitbart and Sinclair Broadcasting, deliberately and consistently trigger Trump supporters’ fear response. Trump supporters tend to live in a news/opinion echo chamber where it’s “all fear all of the time.”

Another factor in Trump’s continuing support is that a great many Trump voters are in real economic distress; many are stuck on or near the lowest level of need: basic survival. Economic insecurity is the rule in the United States now — as an example of this, approximately 60% of Americans say they couldn’t handle an unexpected $500 expense without going into debt. Billionaire trust fund baby Trump talks about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and pretends that he’s a friend of those who work for a living, and many working people are so stressed and desperate that they grasp at the straws he throws them as they sink ever further into the economic quicksand.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the Democrats weren’t controlled by corporatists (those funded by and serving the interests of the corporate world and the 1% who by and large own it). The corporate Democrats have controlled the party for roughly four decades, and when in power (Clinton and Obama) have done essentially nothing to address the ever-more-urgent problem of economic inequality and the despair and anger it spawns, even when they’ve had huge majorities in Congress. Instead, they’ve focused on identity politics issues that do not in the slightest threaten the financial interests of their corporate backers. (Of course, issues such as LGBT and women’s rights must be addressed — but it’s absolutely crazy to make them your primary focus while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla of economic inequality.) The corporate Democrats appear to be (and to a great extent are) elitists who are unconcerned about the economic well-being of average people, and who have been skating by for decades on the anemic message that “we’re not as bad as the Republicans,” while standing for essentially nothing.

That explains the astoundingly low rate of voter participation in American elections. In 2016, only 59% of those eligible voted — in a presidential election; in midterms the percentage is much lower — and a good majority of those who didn’t vote were low-income people, many of whom could have been reached with a message about jobs  and reducing economic inequality. The corporate Democrats wouldn’t even touch those and related issues, such as healthcare for all, and as a result huge numbers of people sat on their hands or voted for third-party candidates — or voted for Trump. (In the 2016 election, 41% of those eligible didn’t vote; Clinton received the votes of 28% of those eligible; Trump 26%; and about 5% went to minor party candidates.)

The only rays of hope are that there’s a revolt in the Democratic Party against the corporatists; Trump’s hardcore supporters are a minority of, at most, 35% to 40% of those most likely to vote; Trump is so loathsome, vicious, and dangerous that people opposed to him can’t wait to get to the polls; and Trump’s economic policies will screw his working class supporters in short order, and some of them will realize it — eventually.

These are small rays of hope, but they’re better than none.

 


Johann Hari

“For thousands of years we’ve known that if you think life is only about money and status, you’ll feel miserable. We know that a steady diet of junk food will make you sick. A steady diet of junk values does the same thing. . . .

“An intrinsic value is something you do for the joy of doing it. An extrinsic value is something you do because you have to. Dr. [Tim] Kasser found that when societies move toward extrinsic values, depression increases.

“A few years ago, Melania Trump was asked if she would have married Donald if he was not rich. Her answer was stunning. Do you think he would he have married me if I was not beautiful? she replied. This is a clear example of living extrinsically.”

–Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, in interview with Eleanor Bader

(The entire interview is well worth reading.)


Mr. Fish Donald Trump graphic

“Why the stupid so often become malignant – To those arguments of our adversary against which our head feels too weak, our heart replies by throwing suspicion on the motives of his argument.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

(graphic by Mr. Fish)