- the article explains conservatism among both rich & truly poor. This is a useful insight. However, it argues too strongly against ascription to external causes. That ubiquitous tendency is rightly observed & criticised, but Hoffer seems (in these quotations) to understate the unarguable fact that there really are uncontrolled environmental variables. (As my friend used to say: ‘you might be hit by a bus’.) That is rarely more obvious than now.
Can you elaborate on this?
- the article suggests, more than once, that dissatisfied or disappointed people are only dangerous — potentially passionate, extreme or militant; not conservative = safe & good — if allowed to become ‘comfortable’. This looks like thinly coded language against redistributive work.
I don’t think it’s thinly coded in the book, quite honestly. I think the book makes the case that if your goal is social stability, you need to give people meaning. Personally, I think religion has been a bulwark for this throughout history, and giving the poor meaning may in fact be religion’s chief, primary, most important function. In tandem of course with promulgation of a shared morality. It seems to me that our rush towards atheism has left tremendous gaps in both of these places, and neither is particularly healthy for a society. This goes back to Hoffer’s discussion of the substitution effect. People within these mass movements, particularly the SJ one, are reinventing both a meaning for life, and a moral code, and enforcement of that moral code, in real time. The truly frustrating thing about SJ is that its moral code is not fixed, and transgressions from prior times with alternate moral codes are not forgiven. This is very alarming. In the long scale, everybody and everything gets canceled.
It’s true that Nazis, Communists & various (other?) religions ‘had all this figured out’. It’s fair to ask how the current hegemon — US — has kept a lid on its own discontents, until now.
I think the USA has been running substitution schemes for life meaning. Consumerism and sports occupied the hole in a big way, while we ran a generic nationalism program underneath that. But again, what was our response to Covid-19? We stopped buying things, and we cancelled sports. Those two mass movement substitution programs evaporated.
I say it’s militarism: not only its continuous wars & permanent state of high alert & armament; also its idealisation of ‘service’ & almost unique (among developed nations) militarisation of individuals, homes & civil authority.
I think this is true for a subset, particularly perhaps the subset who have currently fallen into MAGA, but MAGA isn’t really a new thing in that regard, it’s just repurposed old memes for new figureheads. Nobody currently in SJ was placated by that stuff historically.
All these enthusiasms — for arms, ‘fair’ competition & self-reliance — constitute dangerous mass psychologies. As your article diagnoses, there is real danger that these faded dreams are being displaced by new but sadly familiar enthusiasms.
True Believer points out nationalism as a fixture in mass movements, and a quite common one. That one still sits within MAGA. In many ways, MAGA is a classic, simple, very early stage “cult of personality” mass movement, while SJ is a much more complicated, much larger, much more fluid one. And the thing that’s intriguing (or terrifying depending on your point of view) about SJ is that it is constantly reinventing its indoctrinations in real time. Check your feed to find out how many genders there are this week, delete any tweets to the contrary from months gone by. Try not to get excommunicated like Rachel Dozeal. Etc.