John Holbo Profile picture
17 Oct, 19 tweets, 4 min read
I would like a better theory of the psychic appeal of Qanon and, in general, right-wing nuttery. I suspect - but this is admittedly off-the-cuff analysis - it is guilt and resentment rooted in the following manner. 1/
American pop culture seems 'liberal'. That is, the media is liberal. That is, with the exception of "Sweet Home Alabama", the left has the good, political songs. And TV and movies are 'liberal', too. We'll see about "Hillbilly Elegy" but it ain't no "Birth of a Nation". 2/
That is, we don't get major, right-tilted media products that express - forthrightly - the view that American is going to hell in a hand-basket because sexually loose black people are taking over, due to communists like Martin Luther King, Jr. 3/
We don't get movies about how women shouldn't enjoy legal equality or about how Jews are the root of all evil. You get a lot of movies & tv about evil, rich, white dudes, oppressing minorities (racial & sexual), abusing women, finally getting what's coming to them. 4/
You don't get a lot of movies about righteous, powerful white dudes heroically stemming a dark tide, putting uppity blacks and immigrants back in their place - sending them 'home', while teaching women important life-lessons about not being feminists. 5/
There are plenty of movies about evil, white Christian religious fanatics doing more or less obviously bad shit. There aren't a lot of movies about the hegemonic, LGBTQ ruling class - you know, the soft totalitarian pink police? - really sticking it to defenseless Christians. 6/
Hollywood doesn't churn out parables about the evils of same-sex marriage (it could be some Midwich Cuckoos thing.) Hollywood doesn't tell stories in which cruel, intolerant gay people learn it's ok to be nice and Catholic, after all.
The reason we don't get these things is because Hollywood is liberal, yes. But also because conservatives have changed their minds about a lot of stuff. The left has semi-won certain fights, not just politically but, morally, in hearts and minds. 6/
As a result a lot of 'conservative' stories, if people tried to tell them on the big screen, would seem morally laughable. Even to conservatives! It would just seem insane. But it's hard for conservatives to have this as their origin story. It's hard to be the baddies. 7/
'The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice. We conservatives have fought a rear-guard action against that on many fronts. But we lost repeatedly. And that's why you should be proud to be a conservative!' There are colorable exceptions! Reagan & the Cold War. 8/
And (viewed a very selective way) the American founding. But broadly the American right, due to the degree to which it has assimilated left-liberal values, is considerably starved for heroic 'origin stories' of the right righteously triumphing over the evil left. 9/
This creates a psychic pressure on behalf of a hallucinatory rewrite/memory holing of history and the contemporary scene. The value stakes in the battle have to be radically over-written so the right comes out RIGHT. 10/
So we get fights against satanist, cannibalistic, underground pedophile rings something-something. The lurid quality of Q is the tribute vice pays to virtue. And the sheer size of the tribute - all these burning hetatombs of nonsense - says something about the degree of it. 11/
This argument will annoy conservatives who aren't Q-believers. That's fair. You don't have to believe in Q to be against left-liberalism. But the fact that so many who are against left-liberalism clutch at Q seems due to this dynamic. 12/
And that's Trump, too, of course. Why does he retweet a story about how Obama had Seal Team 6 killed to cover up for his failure to kill Osama? Not because that is likely to be true. But because it seems like the sort of thing that OUGHT to seem likely to be true. 13/
America ought to be the sort of place where someone like Obama should seem like the feckless, reckless villain of the piece. And someone who looks like Trump should play the hero, restoring white virtue. That it's the opposite is annoying to conservatives. It must be a trick! 14/
In short Q & Trump are functions of the right resenting the left having all the good songs. It sucks to be the villain of so many shared 'better angel' stories. The right lashes back by doing a heel turn 'fine! I'm the villain!' (Trump) while projecting it on the Other (Q). 15/
Obviously 'fine, if you're going to cast me as villain, then I'm going to be the villain, see how you like it!' and 'I'm not the villain, you're the villain!' are not consistent postures. But if you are guilt-stung, you may reach for both at the same time. 16/
PS: Some people have critiqued granting of the point that 'the media' is liberal. I agree that there are huge exceptions to this but there is also a kernel of truth to the notion, and I think that kernel explains a lot of resentment and grievance, hence Q appeal. /end

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More from @jholbo1

29 Sep… One of the problems with the 'live not by lies' frame is that Dreher uses 'lie' for any case in which there is a policy or norm he feels is not deferential to his religious outlook. 1/
So 'live not by lies' translates as: don't settle for less than spiritual hegemony. But seriously, let's start with the case and what ought to be the norm here. How do we generally address people? Other things being equal, we address them in the manner they wish to be. 2/
We call them by the name they prefer. We don't presume to name them ourselves. We call them by the titles they assume - like Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Sometimes they have professional titles like 'Dr.' or 'Major' or 'Senator' or 'Director'. 3/
Read 25 tweets
28 Sep
Let me qualify my argument that D's should not attack Amy Coney Barrett.

P1 Horrible as he was, Scalia had the paper qualifications to be an SC judge and R's loved him for his relentless, results-oriented, activist jurisprudence.

P2 On paper Barrett isn't worse than Scalia. 1/
C Barrett is qualified to sit on the SC, if R's really want her.

C is true. R's have the right to inflict Scalia-grade damage on the republic by appointing bad, unprincipled judges. It's bad! They should be ashamed. It shocks the conscience. But that's the system. 2/
So D's should not die on the hill of the argument that no one like Scalia should ever be an SC justice. Scalia WAS a justice. He served. He is lionized on the right. Thus, there is precedent that his level of shenanigans, from the right, is acceptable SC jurisprudence. 3/
Read 17 tweets
27 Sep
I'm looking at how this is going. This is a disaster. Dems need to lay off critiquing Amy Coney Barrett AT ALL. She is a distraction. The issue is systemic. Dems need to make the hearings an indictment of the process, the system, laying the ground for expanding the court. 1/
In another situation, Barrett would be a fine nominee. She would be! In present circumstances, she represents a dangerous, destabilizing, activist lurch to the right. An SC packed with activists cannot expect its decisions to command legitimacy in the eyes of most voters. 2/
They will see what's behind the curtain. Namely, a minority of voters elect a majority of Senators. They in turn confirm only justices who will serve as ultra-partisan super-legislators to secure policy results conservatives could not hope to get democratic support for. 3/
Read 4 tweets
27 Sep
Amy Comey Barrett is not the issue. Josh Hawley is the issue. Dems need to make Josh Hawley (& co.) the issue in the confirmation hearings. "No more secret moderates". 1/… Image
Ask Barrett whether it would be proper for nominees to be vetted and legal outcomes pre-specified by legislators in the manner Hawley demands. The litmus test is not just partisanship but unbending partisan extremism, incompatible with devotion to the law and the Constitution. 2/
'Judge Barrett, what assurances can you give the American people that, if confirmed, you will disappoint your ultra-partisan supporters? You will instead do your sworn duty solemnly to uphold the law, not merely legislate in conservative fashion from the bench? 3/
Read 4 tweets
26 Sep
There is a lot of debate about whether the Dems should attack Amy Coney Barrett for this-or-that. That's a mistake. They shouldn't attack her at all. She's not the issue (and on twin-earth, where she's nominated to correct a hard left tilt, she's a fine pick.) 1/
If they find out that she's got 2 million in secret gambling debts, that should come out. But, stunning scandal revelation aside, any criticism of the nominee - even valid criticism - is a distraction from the problem. Make the hearings about the systemic state of the SC. 2/
Say things like 'You have been nominated because hard-right activists want you to deliver policy for them. They want you to overturn Roe, end the ACA, overturn Obergefell, and deliver pro-business, anti-regulatory decisions, etc.' Find juicy quotes in support. 3/
Read 12 tweets
23 Sep
This Ezra Klein/David French podcast episode is interesting. Contrasting views on how to deal with the severity of the partisan split - the red-blue civil war. Klein: more democracy. French: more federalism. 1/…
Klein has the better of it. French's side reduces to something ugly - or just sad - when the Madisonian varnish won't take. French explains more democracy won't work because the right fears 'the tyranny of the majority'. That is, it won't accept majority rule. 2/
At all. Not just about Bill of Rights basics. He talks about how, for the right, even very modest policy steps - he cites Obamacare provisions and wearing masks to stop a pandemic - become 'condensed symbols' (in Dreher's sense) hence categorically unacceptable. 3/
Read 9 tweets

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