As has been mentioned, the process of spreading the message of the far-right is diffuse and self-perpetuating, with no real head on the hydra, a few demagogues have managed to gain some notoriety but are not exclusively tied to any hate groups or fringe ideologies, though small threads can be connected to their ideas and followers through decontextualization of their content. As is the case when scientific racism and contrarian or reactionary politics are allowed to flourish.
Two-valued logic is fertile ground for a demagogue to sway groups caught in a web of propaganda as noted by Allport (1955), who mentions that when a population falls into a cognitive style that utilizes the principle of least effort, two-value logic is the ultimate result, where categories of “good” and “bad” are the only options. Differentiated thinking dips and two-valued logic rises, allowing a demagogue to harness enormous power (p.185). Either one or the other, no mediation.
Demonization is another example given by Berlet (1998),
Demonization fuels dualism–a form of binary thinking that divides the world into good versus evil with no middle ground tolerated. Dualism allows no acknowledgment of complexity, nuance, or ambiguity in debate, and promotes hostility toward those who suggest coexistence, toleration, pragmatism, compromise, or mediation (p.6).
A contemporary example of a group utilizing two-valued judgments can be found in the “manosphere”.
The manosphere, a now transnational conglomeration of forums, blogs and websites which center around the concept of The Red Pill, a philosophy meant to awaken men to feminism’s misandry and brainwashing.
The product of this has been deemed the incel or involuntary celibate, a group of men who view themselves as unable to find a partner or have sex despite desiring to (Høiland, 2019). Høiland notes, incels see men who get sex as Chad and attractive women as Stacy, both being archetypal forms of alpha male and babe, respectively (p. 13-14). The author also points out that hypocrisy can be found in the incels position, where they say they want a traditional partner but also want them to be a product of the sexual revolution, essentially canceling the other out (p.15).
There has been a slew of shootings by those taking on the moniker or who had beliefs that fall into the description given by Høiland. However, it should be noted, that according to the incel wiki (n.d.), the mass shooters or criminals reported on by the media did not come from locations on the net that were designed specifically for the incel community, they seemed to have emerged from sites such as 4chan and PUAhate, which are not devoted strictly to inceldom.
Regardless, on the fringe or more radical end of the spectrum, a strong form of digging in of the heels to a belief creates that low ebb where two-valued logic can flourish. The idea that Chad always gets Stacy or that if you lack certain physical characteristics you have already lost the evolutionary contest of sexual conquest. Looking at the incel forums one can see nothing but negativity, a constant barrage of how they will not amount to much along with misogynistic and racist beliefs. This attitude, and the overlap with far-right groups, create the ground for radicalization, the so-called “red-pilling” of the person. It starts with trying to install a sense of “awareness” by twisting the narrative, of being in an oppressed position within society, which is reversed and put onto those who are actually oppressed, simply scapegoats to justify their worldview.
Essentially control appears to be taken out of their hands, largely due to their distorted cognitions. In the psychological literature, it can be referred to as learned helplessness. Where according to Maier & Seligman (2016), passivity is the default when faced with consistent adversity, the key to escaping such a state is by learning control.
In this case, the effort of control may be misguided, and according to Høiland (2019) that when the ideology utilizes anti-feminist and racist points to try to maintain their position, they only seem to continue to humiliate themselves (p.15). This goes back again to the rational trap mentioned last time, Pratkanis, Pratkanis, & Aronson (2001) where feelings of shame or inadequacy, make them more vulnerable to propagandist persuasion.
From here the paths can diverge and those that are using two-valued logic can easily be swayed to further radicalization. The subject might begin to regulate their behavior based on the demands of the culture they are participating in. Where even fitness and abstinence might begin to be promoted as a means to improve the self, but along with this is the ever-present two-valued logic i.e., racist or fascist ideas might still be promoted or introduced.
regardless of theology, religious radicals of different religions share common behavioral patterns. Costly and demanding sacrifices, strict prohibitions, and extreme theological positions tend to cluster in communities with large doses of collective activity, mutual aid, a relatively low income membership, less (secular) education, small congregations, and a self-segregating attitude toward the mainstream culture. That clustering of characteristics was recognized by sociologists Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch, who labeled it the “church-sect” distinction (p.101).
Here we can see some similarities with many of the sites listed throughout the series of writings, essentially the notion that there are large amounts of collective activity via online forums and boards. Mutual aid in the form of actually trying to sway elections and produce propaganda. Low-income membership is relatively easy with the internet. Self-segregation can be witnessed through the method of two-valued logic, Chad and Stacy, or us versus the normies. There are even theological underpinnings with the use of Pepe and the cult of KEK. A sort of meme magic is utilized, by trying to will events into existence. All of it culminating in what we see now. Though it is not entirely unfamiliar territory as noted by Bernays (1928), “It must be enlightened expert propaganda through the creation of circumstances, through the high-spotting of significant events, and the dramatization of important issues” (p.114).
With all of that, what follows are those acts of self-sacrifice and prohibitions, such as the mass shootings or even vehicular manslaughter for notoriety in the former case and the latter would be cutting oneself off from interactions with other groups because of two-valued logic or demonization.
Overall, participation certainly does not mean radicalization as there are other factors that have others engage with the aforementioned activities, possibly anonymity, novelty, or ignorance. Though, it still contributes to muddying the discourse while also amplifying and spreading the propaganda.
What may start as simple interaction with funny memes could ultimately pull some into a world of hate and violence. All this, without mentioning the greatest weapon in the propagandist arsenal…
Next time: Conspiracy
References:Allport, G. W. (1955). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, Mass: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co
Berman, E. (2011). Radical, religious, and violent: The new economics of terrorism. MIT press
Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. New York, NY: Horace Liveright
Høiland, T. (2019). Incels and the stories they tell. A narrative analysis of Incels’ shared stories on Reddit (Master’s thesis)
Maier, S. F., & Seligman, M. E. (2016). Learned helplessness at fifty: Insights from neuroscience. Psychological review, 123(4), 349
Main Page (n.d.) in the incel wiki retrieved September 05, 2020, from https://incels.wiki/w/Main_Page.
Pratkanis, A. R., Pratkanis, A., & Aronson, E. (2001). Age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of persuasion. Macmillan