The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Terror and True Believers

True Believers tend to evolve, but towards a more authoritarian version of themselves. This doesn’t mean some individual true believers don’t desert the “cause” and embrace a more rational and nuanced view of reality, but the tendency in most believers is toward greater intolerance and authoritarianism.

There is a kind of thinking that you can call fundamentalism, and this is how True Believers tend to think.

The term is borrowed from evangelicalism where a group of them, at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles put together a series of doctrinal assertions called The Fundamentals of the Faith. Those who clung to these “fundamentals” came to be known as fundamentalists. The term evolved to describe their method of thinking, they refusal to consider evidence to the contrary, and their utter intolerance of those who disagreed with them.

While this toxic method of thinking came to us from evangelicalism it is not, by any means, confined to religion. We see fundamentalist thinking across the board in secular matters as well as religious, on the political left, right and everything in-between.

The fundamentalist tends to adopt a principle, theory or doctrine and then holds it against all evidence to the contrary. It isn’t that these beliefs can’t be called into question by a preponderance of the evidence, but true believers refuse to do so. Once a belief is adopted they refuse to consider it may actually be wrong.

For many fundamentalists the more evidence accumulated against their cherished belief the more firmly they cling to it. With this mental clinging to an idea once formed they become increasingly intolerant of those who disagree with it. With increasingly intolerance there is also an increased tendency toward violence.

These beliefs, which they endowed with divine sanction whether religious or not, are now held so high they justify the violation of the rights of others.

The longer a believer holds a belief the greater their “investment” in it and the less likely they are to consider whether it’s correct or whether it’s relevant to the issue under discussion.

They are beliefs, which by the personal psychology of the believer, cannot be refuted because they are not open to rational discussion. Evidence presented that is contrary to the belief is automatically assumed deficient and only confirming claims are considered justified.

These beliefs are almost always endowed with a morally superior status over the beliefs held by others. In addition it sooths the egos of the irrational by assuring them that they, instead of being illogical, are a superior thinker who has discovered this fine and true belief others shun. And if clinging to it makes you superior others refusing it makes them inferior. To the degree you assume morality as your mantle those who dare disagree are assumed immoral. To the degree you believe your society would be some sort of utopia then others becomes enemies of everything you consider good.

The demonization of others becomes rampant in your thinking and soon any kind of coercion or intimidation is justified to enforce conformity to the good. Typically this sort of thought process concludes there is one important end which society, as a whole must seek. There is no room for the multiplicity of ends sought out in a society of free individuals but just one end which society as a herd is forged to achieve. F.A. Hayek put it this way:

Where there is one common all-overriding end there is no room for any general morals or rules… Where a few specific ends dominate the whole of society, it is inevitable that occasionally cruelty may become a duty, that acts which revolt all our feeling, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old or sick, should be treated as mere matters of expediency, that the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousands should become an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims, or that suggestions like that of a “conscription of women for breeding purposes” can be seriously contemplated. There is always in the eyes of the collectivist a greater goal which these acts serve and which to him justifies them because the pursuit of the common end of society can know no limits in any rights or values of any individual.

True Believers have contempt for those who don’t hold to their doctrine. They divide the world into “us” and “other” and they assert others are inherently evil people with nefarious purposes. As Eric Hoffer noted, “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”

True Believers demonize the other with the most outlandish claims and become more and more willing to engage in violence. A favorite claim is the “other” is out to do harm to “innocent children.” So, they become rapists, molesters, or murderers. The Nazi propaganda rag Der Stürmer regularly terrorized readers with stories of Jews sacrificing Christian children so they could drink their blood in secret rituals, or how they “groomed” children to be raped and molested. Today’s Republicans have quite literally taken Nazi claims about Jews grooming children and just applied it to today’s scapegoat for hate movements — the LGBT community, especially trans individuals.

Republicans have rallied two groups to their cause: the largest is their rank and failure, resentful white lower class voters. These are people who, by their own standards, are failures in life. They are poorer than average, they are less educated than average, they are more prone to have run ins with the law, face more broken marriages and, by all their standards of “God’s ideal” fall far below their cherished virtues. The second group are deep pocket crony capitalists — not advocates of free markets, but advocates of politically manipulated and rigged markets. They are the funders of this movement.

It’s not the deep pocket billionaires that attack drag shows; it’s the “macho men” that these alt-Right groups attract. But, again, by their own toxic view of masculinity they are obvious failures. The toxic man supposedly goes through women like they are M&Ms in a candy bowl. In reality they tend to be incels whining and bitching because they can’t find any woman interested in them — with good reason. They portray themselves as these super fit macho warriors and when photos emerge of them “patrolling the border” we see terribly obese men struggling to walk short distances. Their vision of themselves and their reality are at war — so they have learned to ignore reality and believe their own fantasies.

Hoffer again had an apropos comment. He said:

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

People can find meaning in their life through productive achievement of one kind or another — they are individuals, like the fictional Howard Roark, who love the doing more than the financial reward. They take satisfaction in their achievements, not in power over others. And there are those who achieve nothing and seek meaning by being “God’s warriors” on earth, or the great Patriots defending America, the white Race and ultimately the “rulers” over all those they hate. They achieve nothing of substance, but they can destroy, tear down, ridicule and kill. In the end their “achievement” is the destruction of the very people they secretly envied the whole time.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.