Why Is America Polarized? The Answer May Surprise You

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Yves here. Tom Neuberger is correct to point out that the current level of Team Us versus Team Them is “manufactured” but he is oddly loath to use the word propaganda. The go-to book on this topic, which is regularly cited by those who have read it as better than Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion, is Alex Carey’s Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. Carey explains how Americans are particularly susceptible to propaganda due to our undue respect for wealth and commercial success compared to other civic and personal virtues. The earliest and for decades most effective propagandist in the US was the National Association of Manufacturers. Among other things, NAM identified free enterprise with America’s values, and presented corporate efficiency and profits as consistent with the general good, as opposed to benefiting the rich.

Another factor that has greatly contributed to polarization is the long-term campaign, turbocharged in the late 1960s-early 1970s, to move America’s value to the right. A centerpiece was to attack government as inefficient and untrustworthy, and individuals as the only sensible locus of power and decision-making. Of course, atomized individuals, excerpt for the very wealthy ones, are powerless.

Media fragmentation, the rise of what in its early days was called “narrowcasting” and big tech and media firms greatly improving their ability to improve “engagement,” stir emotions, and hone messaging, have also helped fracture society and politics.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

No established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S.
—Yascha Mounk

It’s almost a commonplace to say that Americans are politically polarized. “At each other’s throats” would be more accurate. A recent study from the Carnegie Endowment has — no surprise — found as much. (See “What Happens When Democracies Become Perniciously Polarized?”) From their report:

The rise of an “us versus them” mindset and political identity in American sociopolitical life is evident in everything from the rise of highly partisan media to the decline in Americans’ willingness to marry someone from the opposing political party. Even more concerningly, these dynamics are contributing directly to a steep rise in political violence.

Again, no surprise.

The article’s scary conclusion: “Placing the United States’ struggles with pernicious polarization in a broader context yields a deeply troubling picture. … Reducing the threat of pernicious polarization to democracy requires deliberate, urgent action. Or, as this research suggests, American democracy itself may cease to be.”

This observation is both very troubling and, as I said, a commonplace. We live indeed at a time when “everything new is old again,” a time that’s tucked between the start of a world-historical collapse and stories about it that sound too old to be new.

Writers in the serious world are taking note, of course, even if others aren’t. Witness this piece by Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic, which leads him to conclude, “No established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S.”

Once more, no surprise to anyone living here, or indeed, to anyone living in range of competent news.

The Cause of Our Current State

The cause of our fall to this state, however, is harder to discern, at least according to the mainstreamers at Carnegie or The Atlantic. Mounk, for example, handles the causes this way: “But if many citizens come to believe that letting the other side rule poses a threat to their well-being, even their lives, they may no longer be willing to accept the outcome of an election they lose.”

Apparently, citizens just “come to believe” that Republicans or Democrats are existential threats to life, or democracy, or both. Many politicians, indeed, are threats to both life and democracy, but our fellow citizens too? Are they also to be hated and feared?

Apparently so, according to this far-right pastor:

We’ve also been exposed to similar invectives on the left, from people who have said both publicly and privately that Trump voters are Putin lovers, or that anti-maskers and -vaxxers deserve what they get.

As an example of the former, consider this from a recent Newsweek: “While a significant majority of Americans agree that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not justified, Republicans are more likely to hold an unfavorable view of President Joe Biden than they are of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new poll.”

I’m not arguing the yes or no of that statement; I’m pointing out that Newsweek, a liberal establishment publication, decided to print it. The implication is clear — Republican voters love Putin.

As an example of the latter, the anti-vaxxer animus, Howard Stern has been as clear as anyone, and echoes the sentiments of many who say the same thing less publicly:

Howard Stern said on the Jan. 19 [2022] episode of his Sirius XM radio show “The Howard Stern Show” that hospitals across the U.S. should not admit patients who are unvaccinated against COVID (via Uproxx). Stern has often used his radio show to speak out against anti-vaxxers, but he was more blunt than ever when he told listeners this week, “If it was up to me, anyone unvaccinated would not be admitted to a hospital. At this point, they have been given plenty of opportunity to get the vaccine.”

“… It’s time for you to get it [the vaccine]. Now, if you don’t get it, in my America, all hospitals would be closed to you. You’re going to go home and die. That is what you should get. Absolutely.”

Again, he’s not talking about the well-bought leaders of the Republican Party. He’s talking about their voters — all of them.

Howard Stern is not paid to say this (though Newsweek may be in a much more subtle way), any more than the preacher linked to above is paid to speak his anti-Democrat wisdom with such force.

So where does these invectives come from? Are they just “in the air”?

Johnny Mack Brown and the Great American Mob

In fact, these ideas are “just in the air,” if by “the air” we mean “the air we listen to.”

Consider the old-time Westerns, the ones with Tex Ritter, Hopalong Cassidy and Johnny Mack Brown.

Johnny Mack Brown in Rogue of the Range (1936)

In many of these shows there’s a scene where a mob of angry townspeople gather outside the jail calling for the hanging death of some usually innocent prisoner caged inside. The mob is always large and exceptionally mean. Their anger is palpable and universal.

Then the sheriff, the movie’s hero or someone allied with him, would go outside to deal with the threat. Would he accuse them all of wickedness and threaten to take their own lives if they attack? Sometimes.

But mostly he picks the mob apart. “Sara,” he’d say to one woman. “You came to this valley poor, and now you and Jim” — her husband, standing beside her — “are good and decent folk. Do you really want to go outside the law, the law that keeps this valley safe for you and your kids?”

Sara (and Jim) would look down, ashamed, and back away from the others. One by one, the sheriff would isolate members of the mob, peel its parts away, until only a few, the mob’s true leaders and its angry core, remained. Not enough people to actually storm the jail, not with the deputy inside, the one with the shotgun. The mob was beaten and the threat is gone.

Most mobs are like this — a few instigators, people who will never let go of the cause, surrounded by many who are far less committed than they, but momentarily caught up, swollen by the atmospheric anger of the rest. Remove that atmosphere and most people will return to “normal” — exactly the right word, since “normalize to groups” is what human beings do best. It’s why, in fact, we survived as long as we have. Rugged individuals die alone. Groups, united by a common culture and mind, breed and live on, however strange that mind may appear to a neighboring tribe caught up in its own group thought.

The Evil That Men Do

This leads to two ideas.

The first is that we all — the lefties and the right — should treat the opposite mob as teachable, not intractable; as fixable, not fixed. Farmer Sara in the example above was screaming for violent death, a hanging death, until she wasn’t, until she normalized to a different group — the town’s mind, not the mob’s. Or, to say it differently, she came to her senses.

In 2016 there are many stories of angry, change-seeking voters not sure whether to cast a Trump ballot or a Sanders one in states with open primaries. Not all Trumpists are, at their core, like the worst; just as not all Democrats (or liberals) are, at their core, like the ones satirized in the Phil Ochs song:

Each of us lives on a line that contains our worst and best selves. And most of us move along it, from better to bad and back, embarrassingly often. Almost no one is cemented permanently to her worst presentation. For the left, this means that treating the 47% of the country that voted for Trump as racist lost-cause fools is not only wrong, it’s also itself a self-fulfilling lost-cause prophecy.

Manufactured Anger

But the second idea that leads from our mob analogy is even more important, since it answers the question, “How did we get this way?” The fact is, we’re as divided as we are because the division is funded and manufactured.

Liberal voters are told from dawn to dusk by their well-paid, in-house media that the other side is, in a word, evil, though the accusation, as befits that crowd, is much more cleverly put. (See the Newsweek article above for a small example; watch MSNBC at any hour of the day for a larger one.)

Similar examples from the right — or worse ones yet — are endlessly available:

In fact, the American Right has financed a decades-long project — has been doing so, in fact, for almost 50 years — to make sure that Farmer Sara and her husband not only stay with the mob, but are emotionally rewarded daily for doing so.

Put simply, our mobs are manufactured, especially the ones on the Right (though liberals are catching up), and the output of that manufacturing is, as noted above, the reason the country will fail.

As things stands today, the country is becoming ungovernable, except in the “rich rule us all” sense that oligarchies always share. It’s certainly ungovernable by the people, and has been for a while. Our participation in these manufactured mobs ensures that the blame for this falls, not on the manufacturers where it truly belongs, but on the mobs themselves, gathered precisely to scream distracted in each other’s face.

As long as those mobs exist, and as long the rich that swell the ranks of each are allowed to inflame us all against us all, for just that long will democracy fail in America, and we will be the cause. To escape the rich, we must escape their mobs, and encourage others to escape them with us.

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  1. CoryP

    Manufacturing Consent is by Herman and Chomsky, not Walter Lippmann.

    Maybe you meant Public Opinion ?

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      Chomsky didn’t seem up to the task of critiquing the manufacturing of consent when it came to Covid. So everyone has their blind spots.

      As far as the article is concerned, it’s not really a critique of power and how it’s wielded to manufacture consent. It feels more like a feel good, Democrat, you’re not wrong about the other side, op-ed.

      Pulling out this sentence as an example:

      For the left, this means that treating the 47% of the country that voted for Trump as racist lost-cause fools is not only wrong, it’s also itself a self-fulfilling lost-cause prophecy.

      This is rather meaningless. There were people who voted for Trump who had legitimate complaints, if you will, against Clinton and the Democrats. That voting for Trump just might be a logical response, given their experiences and the options they were offered. NC is the only place I’ve seen that has real nuanced conversations about this.

      This article does nothing, in my opinion, to move us beyond the good v. evil PR of the two-faced political coin and the end-goal of completely dismantling the tattered remains of the New Deal. Worse, it tells us that we must get the mob to look inward. To be better people.

      In fact, the American Right has financed a decades-long project — has been doing so, in fact, for almost 50 years — to make sure that Farmer Sara and her husband not only stay with the mob, but are emotionally rewarded daily for doing so.

      And other face to that American Right political coin has done what exactly? Perhaps punished Farmer Sara, her husband, and their community to the point where the mob feels like the only legitimate outlet for their rage at what’s been done to them in the name of the wealthy’s progress agenda?

      To escape the rich, we must escape their mobs, and encourage others to escape them with us.

      Escape to where exactly? What rose-colored glasses utopia is there that could possibly bandage over the dismantling of this country and the destruction that’s been left in its wake? The author doesn’t even acknowledge that there is any legitimacy to root causes of the mob’s rage as opposed to the PR symptoms we are told to accept about what the other side believes. How they, and not us, refuses to believe in reality. Whatever that actually means.

      To me, this article pretends to critique but is just another flavor used to manufacture consent.

      1. Jacob Hatch

        For the left, this means that treating the 47% of the country that voted for Trump as racist lost-cause fools is not only wrong, it’s also itself a self-fulfilling lost-cause prophecy.

        This is rather meaningless. There were people who voted for Trump who had legitimate complaints, if you will, against Clinton and the Democrats. That voting for Trump just might be a logical response, given their experiences and the options they were offered. NC is the only place I’ve seen that has real nuanced conversations about this.

        Perhaps it’s the way you read it.

        1. Noone from Nowheresville

          In my experience the words racist lost-cause fools is what’s reinforced, not the denial.

          What’s the self-fulfilling lost-cause prophecy? Is it perhaps that 47% of voters (as opposed to the general population) are or will become racist lost-cause fools?

          * approx. 70 million vs 160 million vs how many could actually be categorized as racist lost-cause fools. How many people bother to stop and think about who the author is talking about?

          1. Noone from Nowheresville

            Adding: The other piece in that sentence that bothers me is that the word treating has an undertone of adults in the room treating other people like children without real agency.

            If I assume approx 70 million Trump voters are being treated perhaps as a group easily lead astray and The Left knows better. How many people comprise The Left? Or is The Left in this case, meant to mean all Biden voters? some subsection? half the population?

    2. Bryan

      The phrase (not title) “the manufacture of consent” is Lippmann’s, as Herman and Chomsky noted.

  2. ambrit

    The author does not go the extra mile and suggest the solution to the problem that many succesful revolutions employ; kill the rich. It does get as stark as that. The ‘normalization’ of the demonization of anger being focused on the legitimate causes of pain and suffering leads to a double bind psychological trap. The anger, denied a ‘legitimate’ outlet, turns inward. A heavily neurotic and self destructive society results.
    I wish there was another way out of this mess.

    1. Watt4Bob

      A 92% wealth tax rate for billionaires would be less bloody.

      Admittedly, difficult to imagine, but give ‘them‘ a choice.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        You’ll have to devise a way to enforce that tax internationally, from South Dakota to Panama to Singapore to the Caymans, because once that specter appears, the rich will scurry like wharf rats from one bought sanctuary to the next. Does thinking Global Capital can only be bested by Global Labor make me a Trotskyist?

      2. Greg Gerner

        And what will the American Oligarchy say when confronted with the choice between (A) a 92% wealth tax rate for billionaires and (B) a 1789 style revolution complete with pitchforks and guillotines?

        “I’m thinking. I’m thinking.”

        (Apologies to Jack Benny.)

      3. lance ringquist

        you can try under free trade, its just that it will not work.

        ah the wonders of free trade: Secret real estate purchases are a driving force behind the offshore economy

        ah the wonders of free trade: investors are pouring money into properties in all corners of the world, fueling inequality and driving up prices

        under free trade Inheritance taxes, withholding taxes, taxes on land sales and capital gains taxes can all be reduced or eliminated


        offshore tax havens are a direct result of free trade: the pathology of free trade is being exposed

        Today’s global rich are increasingly stateless, detaching their money from nation states and conventional representations of ownership to hide and preserve it. A global oligarchy is growing — and it does not bode well for everyone else and the planet.

        free trade enables the plundering of the wealth of nations, especially hurting the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations. It allows wealthy individuals and corporations to dodge and evade their tax responsibilities, shifting obligations onto those with fewer resources. It empowers criminals, deadbeats, and kleptocrats

        in 1983 there were only 15 billionaires in the u.s.a., under nafta billy clintons free trade, billionaires have ballooned into more than 615, and under free trade, this is happening globally



        free trade, what a boon for the rich, what a catastrophe for the poor and civil society

        ya can’t tax them under free trade.

        Microsoft’s Irish subsidiary paid zero corporation tax on £220bn profit


        just a small sample.

  3. nap

    Edward Bernays, founder of the public relations industry, used a similar term. Writing in 1947, he said:

    “(L)eaders, with the aid of technicians in the field who have specialized in utilizing the channels of communication, have been able to accomplish purposefully and scientifically what we have termed ‘the engineering of consent.’

    This phrase quite simply means the use of an engineering approach—that is, action based on thorough knowledge of the situation and on the application of scientific principles and tried practices to the task of getting people to support ideas and programs….

    The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest….

    A leader frequently cannot wait for the people to arrive at even general understanding … democratic leaders must play their part in … engineering consent to socially constructive goals and values….

    The responsible leader, to accomplish social objectives, must therefore be constantly aware of the possibilities of subversion. He must apply his energies to mastering the operational know-how of consent engineering, and to outmaneuvering his opponents in the public interest…”

    (cited in Consequences of Capitalism by Chomsky and Waterstone (2021))

    Bernays’ successful PR campaigns included WWI (generating American support for involvement), smoking (especially by women) and a 1953 coup in Guatemala (United Fruit Company).

  4. Robert Hahl

    Henry Miller’s 1939 travelogue, “Colossus of Maroussi,” mentioned that the finest hotel room in NYC cost five dollars per night. I can’t prove it, but it seems clear that creating lots of money, and giving it out to people who don’t know what should be done with it, must account for a lot of these troubles,

  5. BeliTsari

    All we see are family fights, between retired yuppies, who dumped white flight suburban parents, to gentrify working-class minorities out of red-lined streetcar suburbs. We’ve all been taught to call Creative Class “liberals?” They’d co-opted: civil rights, feminist, whole food/ ecology, LBGT, income equality/ labor movements; approprated our real cultural & lifestyle integrity into stereotypical media monitized commodities; liquidated integrity of community or self reliance amongst true equals (as petit-bourgoise kids took jobs, in LBJ era government programs, based upon education & certifications unavaible to most locals) kind of like The Peace Corps in Economic Hit Man terms? Upper Middle Class colonization, following the bulldozers, speculators’ arsonists, long-hot-summers & urban renewal/ Negro Removal perpetrated by their parents’ firms? TV images, to most citizens; more concerned with inflation and industrial jobs being off-shored to think about media manipulation, distraction and agenda-setting entertainment industry agitprop. Meanwhile: disco, cocaine, BMWs, EST, dress for success and consumerism consolidated ofay PMC ghettos in every city as “minority” kids were bussed from high-rise or projects. So, RAM or Tesla, Sins or Crank, Gelato or Slurpee, Amazon or Walmart, Comcast or Comcast… what’s not to despise?



  6. LAS

    I don’t think the people are polarized by nature. Left to themselves there is quite a lot that they do and would agree on. For one thing, a vast majority agree that little kids and innocent adults should not be shot up by angry teenagers carrying automatic weapons into the classrooms, malls, streets. And I don’t think people see angry teenagers carrying automatic weapons is some part of a “well regulated militia”.

    Policy makers who don’t want to do what is popular but rather prefer to do what they get campaign contributions for doing are leading people into this polarity. They use heated rhetoric to hide their own lack of responsiveness to popular opinion and popular action or problem solving. They use it to conceal that they are effectively corrupt. They use charged language and behavior to divert public perceptions and project polarity, responsibility, and negative externalities onto the people for the benefit of a wealthy elite campaign donor class. IOWs, polarity is not causing democracy to fail, but a symptom of how it has already failed.

    1. Scottd

      You mean like cutting the standard of living of America’s 99% in half to “nudge” them into buying electric cars?

  7. ArkansasAngie

    You can blame the right for all sorts of thing (I do regularly) but today it is the left justifying ,,, rationalizing authoritative use of force. Examples? Ministry of truth. Hunter Biden laptop. Russiangate. Cancel culture.
    Mandates. And in all of these examples the left is willing to not only fire a person but also put them in jail if they don’t comply.

    1. BeliTsari

      Exactly right! Everybody hates Liberal elites, since they’re so totally lacking in irony, self deprecating humor… here, they’re cutting you off, bashing into you with a pram, busy Zooming Mindfulness Class. I’m awaiting CCW Reciprocity to hit NYC. Hypocrisy is rife in the parasitie class, paranoia & dead eyed outraged Karens abound (as media promulgates protection scams, unleashing our cytokine inflamed amygdalas). “Street” crime will soon distract us from a MILLION murdered by “vax-only, let ‘er RIP, LIVE with it, it’s OVER!” our Catastrophe Capitalism feeding frenzy, to indenture re-re-reinfected PASC essentials into 1098 gig-serfdom, ever more often evicted or stripped of equity by other former W4 employees, now Civvl, RepoApp, Xiteb, etc (upwards redistribution apps, rescuing our betters’ NASDAQ portfolios).

    2. The Historian

      What ‘left’? There is no ‘left’ any more. The Squad was the last vestiges of the ‘left’ and they caved. I’m really curious as to why you believe it is the ‘left’ that is responsible for all those things you list, like Cancel Culture. Do you seriously think Cancel Culture is a ‘left’ idea? I think all those people who lost their jobs and were jailed under Joe McCarthy would disagree with you.

      I’m really curious why you think Biden and Clinton are ‘leftists’. That really blows my mind, to tell you the truth!

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Not to go all Tom Joad on you, but so long as I’m alive there’s a Left. All the people the Democrats showed the door to had to go somewhere.

        But it’s a frustrating life. The moment you disagree with a Democrat, they start calling you a Trump supporter. They refuse to see the Left, all they can see is them vs Trump (and who could possibly ever even think of voting for Trump—what is wrong with YOU?!).

        1. ambrit

          Agreed. A classic case of “othering.” Probably quite a bit of ‘projection’ going on too.

        2. The Historian

          I wish more people would go all Tom Joad on me – it would give me some hope for the future!

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            I go all tom joad with some regularity.
            And i consider myself Left, fo sho.
            Im for anything left of bernie…fdr….huey long…all the wY to subcommandante marcos.

            The dems are not,however, “left”…letalone “far left”…no matter the rhetoric and/or fever dreams of ted cruz and other assorted reptiles.

            If you dont ever worry about the next meal, then you might be eligible to BE the next meal.

            1. Tom Stone

              Bernie is center right, at best.
              His support for the Wars is, to me, unforgivable.

              1. Acacia

                Agreed. Bernie hasn’t been someone I wanted in the Oval Office since I realized he would only ever have been a slightly better head administrator of the Empire. Eff that. He has, however, played an important role in revealing the mendacity of the Democrat elite.

        3. chris

          There has to be a Left in the US. Who else would we kick and then wipe our shoes on if not for you filthy hippies?…/s

          I feel like in the US we argue over which shade of political beige we’re allowed to paint with whereas real color exists elsewhere. The Left in the US has no power and no identifying markers of note. It’s a punchline to a joke that only losers on the fringe can laugh at. And mores the pity. Our society is stuck in this current madness because our leaders can’t conceive of an alternative.

          If there is a Left remaining in this country, the easy topic to pick up is the cost of living. Come up with a platform for managing that and helping with the cost of things like fuel while transitioning to a different future and you’ll get all the votes you’d ever want.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            t least until you’re deplatformed, derided, scandalised and otherwise cancelled…including interactions with the mundane electoral machinery(ballot access, etc).
            this to say nothing of MSM or the “official debates”(run by a corpse, which is in turn run by D&R parties)
            only thing the Left has left is One on One…ie: Evangelism.
            but that takes big brass balls, in many places(like Rural Texas)
            and it is the slowest possible means of organising.
            (it did, however, work pretty well for Christianity…such that the Constantinian Shift became necessary)

            1. chris

              I do wonder about that. But in the case of Christianity, the Roman roads made it possible for the new ideas to travel at the same speed as everyone else’s ideas. In our case, you can throttle or disappear anything you don’t want voters to see. Or you can do what seems to be happening now. After the election where the information might have affected the result you can admit it wasn’t Russian propaganda.

      2. Wukchumni

        Antoinette of color implored the Ukrainians to eat a $40 billion cake, here have another slice!

      3. Stick'em

        What ‘left’? There is no ‘left’ any more.

        There are left-wing individuals in the United States, but there is no mainstream left-wing political party in America. Both American mainstream political parties are right-wing parties.

        This excellent video shows how the Ratchet Effect (aka triangulation) works tirelessly to make it so:


          1. Stick'em

            Consider the strong possiblity for people living in the information bubble you label “the right,” their defintion of “the left” is simply people I don’t like.

            And vice versa

        1. Bill Webster

          I recently read a claim that Julius Nyerere said, ‘[T]he United States is also a one-party state, but with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.’

    3. nippersdad

      “…the left is willing to not only fire a person but also put them in jail if they don’t comply.”

      I think you have a contradiction, here. Who on “the left” is in a position to fire or jail anyone? Methinks you are describing the PMC, who are by definition not of “the left.”

    4. Jams O'Donnell

      You are making the mistake (common in the USA) that the ‘Democratic Party’ are of the left. Both US parties are fully paid up (and I mean ‘paid up’) branches of the capitalist state. ‘Leftists’ in the US, apart from a clued up minority of real socialists, would not be recognised as part of the left in practically any other country in the world (Saudi Arabia may be the exception). So start by understanding that.

  8. Sardonia

    Carl Jung’s writings on the Shadow and Projection come into play here.

    Every human possesses every human aspect – both good and bad – but very few humans are able to handle perceiving themselves as “bad”. So all of that gets crammed into the Unconscious, creating an intolerable tension – which is relieved by most by projecting that “bad” unconsciously onto others. Thereby, one perceives oneself (one’s ego) as “good”, and finds the handiest target to drop their load of “bad” into.

    Jung’s prescription, of course, was that the only really viable way to deal with this was for each person to become aware of their Shadow – and own it, and work to improve it and integrate it into their conscious ego. It’s called growing up; but not many are up to the task.

    That makes them all fine fodder for the demagogues who make them feel all comfy by pointing to an Outgroup where they can dump their Shadow. That tension needs to be released. It’s being done so in the worst possible ways….

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Sardonia: I have great respect for Jung (well, because I think that he offers insights and a viable path for us to learn to grow), but I think that Jung applies more to individuals and their struggles than to a commonwealth.

      The U S of A has other demons, not being dealt with.

      1. Sardonia

        Well, every group (or mob, or commonwealth) is composed of individuals. Understand this individual psychological process, and one can see what’s going on in the individuals.

        Then consider that when you gather individuals into a mob or group or commonwealth, this individual dynamic is intensified by group/peer reinforcement – so it’s even stronger.

        A commonwealth has a collective Shadow – and when leaders or influencers (media) encourage it to project that Shadow onto another commonwealth, that’s how wars break out.

  9. liam

    Is the polarisation of America, while also about all of the above factors, not structurally baked in? I read somewhere, (if I recall it correctly, it was here at NC), that the US was unique in terms of its political and governance architecture in being able to remain stable for an extended period, unlike it’s fellow travellers throughout the Americas. European countries are for the most part parliamentary democracies, which by their nature don’t encourage polarisation as there are no competing governmental institutions around which competing factions can coalesce.

    1. Susan the other

      Our stability could just be the big banquet we’ve been having. Marx is credited with a quip that the main reason socialism didn’t catch on in America was because it crashed up against all the shoals of beef. Meaning, at least everybody was being fed. And agriculture has always been our top priority. We’ve been a good country for the most part. But it’s so easy to lose a sense of direction as apprehension grows. We humans naturally make a big effort to defuse ourselves. The Link (here) on Gobekli Tepi being called the “Temple of Eden” was most interesting because it showed our primal instinct for coming together 15,000 years ago to harmonize our brain waves – in ritual. That our instinct to harmonize predates and probably required a food and beer industry to placate our primal anxieties. Hence followed the “agricultural revolution.” But lately it seems we are accumulating volumes of fight-or-flight freakiness – and it is unsettling because it is being manipulated by pushers and profiteers – making it more extreme.

        1. Susan the other

          Maybe two or three days ago; scan for Gobekli Tepi or the Temple of Eden.

  10. DorothyT

    How appropriate to include a Phil Ochs song. He was more than a singer/songwriter. He was a cultural historian of his time. He paid the price for understanding it so well.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I disagree with the author, however; liberals are *exactly* like the Phil Ochs song.

      1. caucus99percenter

        So are German Greens, it turns out. Pro-environment — until it comes to war, NATO, € 100 billion for the Bundeswehr, and relabeling dissent as “disinformation” so it can be censored and crushed.

  11. Carla

    As is often the case, Yves’ brief prefacing remarks are more astute (and more honest) in my opinion, than Neuberger’s whole piece.

    Thank you, Yves!

  12. SOMK

    Years ago (circa Iraq invasion I think) read about a poll of Bush voters on CEO pay, they estimated CEOs earned roughly 20 times what the average employee earned and that it should be 6 times (when it was around the 350:1 mark).

    Remember thinking you could work with that, if you were so inclined.

    1. fresno dan

      if you were so inclined…exactly ….if you thought that was a bad thing. But they (both parties) don’t, really

  13. DJG, Reality Czar

    Would it be okay if we went back to a materialist approach?

    The article smacks too much of Baptist testifying and Methodist sermonizing. Yes, we’ll save the valley if we can turn around Sara and Millicent and Bob and Jeremiah… Let’s all sing “Gather by the River.”

    There is too much marketing inherent in the article (propaganda, manufactured consent), and too many appeals to people not getting along and disliking each other. These are symptoms.

    Can we talk materialism? Class war? The U.S. is overwhelmed by lousy labor practices, demented bosses, crazed marketing departments with delusions of grandeur, crappy pensions, and wage theft.

    Yet the Democrats can’t pass the ProAct. I wonder why. And the Fed is hinting that wages are too high. Wages are too high in the U.S. of A.? That very idea is class warfare, not “manufactured consent.”

    Give people meaningful educations, work, and health care. Not so long ago, the blogger, Digby, kept pointing out that violent events would happen much less often if people had meaningful work. I can’t argue with her insight.

  14. KD

    The Obama 2nd term people started pushing the “white privilege” narrative after about 2012/3 which can be monitored based on its frequency in mainstream media. It is probably not PC to point it out, but if politics consists of Friends/Enemy distinction, and you define your political enemy on racial terms, then you are really defining them as a biological threat. There has been very little examination of the ways in which the Left, Inc. racialist narratives fed into the rise of Trump, but between the bank bailouts and the failure to reorganize the economy and the rise of “antiracism”, it is not hard to see how Trump got the nomination. By the time you get to 2016, you have HRC calling Trump supporters “deplorables”–more dehumanizing language–and claims that the GOP was somehow the reborn Nazi party. It is pretty clear that the “moderate centrists” in the Democratic Party by 2016 had gone from viewing the GOP as a loyal opposition to a political enemy. Further, the chicanery between the National Security Agencies and the Clinton campaign suggests that the normal rules no longer applied.

    The other piece is the Democrat’s failure to restructure the economy after it was clear that neoliberalism was a failure, and was immiserating the masses and weakening the real economy. It must be very heartening to the political establishment that the focus is on rival mobs rather than any kind of substantive economic changes to the existing system, but it is the economic failure that is feeding the precarity which feeds the extremism and the search for enemies. Once you define your opponents as enemies, agents of foreign adversaries, deplorables, termites or whatever, you cannot really believe in fair elections or free speech or any other the accoutrements of a functional republic. Your enemies don’t deserve a fair election or an opportunity for speech.

    I’m focusing on the Democrats, because I view them as primarily responsible in the period of 2008 to 2016 for creating the dynamic. The Republicans in that period were largely out of power, and Trump’s win in 2016 was not what the Republican establishment wanted. Even after 2016, the GOP is largely divided and there is undoubtedly a war within the GOP that must play itself out in some fashion between the Trumpists and the establishment. I’m not trying to be partisan, just an assessment of capabilities.

    The tactic is to use divisive rhetoric and violent mobs to threaten the other side, and then when anyone reacts, come down on them with a ton of bricks and condemn them. You can point out the disparity between the George Floyd “mostly peaceful” protests and the Jan. 6 business at the capital in terms of official action, but it reflects the rise of the political, and the question of legitimacy replacing legality. [While elements of the Right would no doubt love to run this scenario in reverse on the Left, it is not at all clear that the GOP elites have the stomach for such an operation, which would be a direct attack on the PMC which they ultimately belong to.] This is the genesis of the creeping authoritarianism haunting both sides of the political spectrum, and it does remind me of Lenin’s view of fascism being the result of late stage capitalism. There just doesn’t seem to be much of an alternative, its a “choice” between blue fascism and red fascism, while both of them buttress and protect oligarchical elites who are responsible for the current failure and instability.

  15. John R Moffett

    I have one thing to say about this: “Workers unite, left and right”. As long as working people let the wealthy divide us, we will be mired in an artificially divided nation that fractures and eventually fails.

  16. fresno dan

    While a significant majority of Americans agree that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not justified, Republicans are more likely to hold an unfavorable view of President Joe Biden than they are of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new poll.”

    I’m not arguing the yes or no of that statement; I’m pointing out that Newsweek, a liberal establishment publication, decided to print it. The implication is clear — Republican voters love Putin.
    Well, I hold that view, and I think in a reasoned and civil debate, I could defend it very well. And by analogy, I never hated Bush II, but I think most people understand that the president, or the congress, or the country can make ill considered decisions, that in the fulness of time can be seen to have been WRONG. Didn’t at the time of 9/11 most Americans think invading Iraq was a good idea?
    So I don’t think the Newsweek statement is inflamatory – I think the author reveals his opinion. Which is fine. But is the implication that I am always suppose to believe the US president over a foreign leader???
    Kissinger is considered persona non grata here, but his view on the situation in Ukraine is more disspasionate and logical than what passes for most of the discourse on the subject. Much of the criticism of Trump was just tribe pandering. My point being that too much “news” is just that if so and so said something, it must perforce be bad, without any serious evaluation of what was said. But that is the whole scheme isn’t it – no thinking, just all emotion.

  17. Stick'em

    “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

    ~ Noam Chomsky

    ^This is what I see. The American duopoly are practically speaking, two wings of the same party. The Corporate Power/Neoliberal party. The duopoly agrees on most issues within a narrow range of variance. For example, both red and blue parties agree so-called “trickle down” (supply side/Reagan voodoo) economics is good and should be enacted as general policy.

    What the duopoly parties disagree on is questions of specific application, such as whether or not said trickle down philosophy should be applied to racism. The blue wing says, “Yes!” get us some identity politics figureheads (such as Obama and Harris), and watch their personal fame and fortune trickle down to black people in general. The red wing says, “No!” go with the good ole white boys network.

    Meanwhile, while one side is shrieking “Obama bad!” with their short’n’curlies on fire, and the other side yelling “Obama good!” with a head full of visions of Cliff Huxtable, ain’t nobody got time to question the overall neoliberal structure of everything. Bring up neoliberal economics, and the average American will stare at you blankly as if you suddenly started speaking in ancient Mesopotamian. Because polarization. Black vs. White is polarizing, yet the rich stay Green with loot either way.

    Please read Neoliberalism: the Idea that Swallowed the World to see the “presuppositions of the system” because in my experience, the average American citizen can neither see these or question ’em, much as the average fish doesn’t notice the water in which they swim.


    1. super extra

      Meanwhile, while one side is shrieking “Obama bad!” with their short’n’curlies on fire, and the other side yelling “Obama good!” with a head full of visions of Cliff Huxtable, ain’t nobody got time to question the overall neoliberal structure of everything.

      I’m still working out my grand overarching theory on this dynamic, but one element I’ve identified over the years that seems to be critical: if you want to avoid this dynamic you can’t “take the bait”. The factions that work to stir this shit do it with the gratuitious application of “bait”. This can be any type of distraction/red meat/cognitive kill switch that isn’t directly related to the problem at hand but reliably triggers enough people to “take the bait” and divert the focus from where it needs to be.

      Someone recently who succeeded in their efforts and did not take the bait – and was acutely aware of this at the time of his efforts – is Chris Smalls during his successful Amazon union drive. When the camera was on him it was 100% the union effort, it was the union’s goals, it was single-minded. He didn’t get distracted by bait like commentary about AOC or personal attacks on him directly. Everything was redirected back to the union effort, and then he won. Same for Fetterman in PA. I don’t think this is a silver bullet as in not taking the bait will always lead to success, but I think it is critical to breaking the deadlocks and distraction.

    2. PKMKII

      I would add on that the trend seems to be that the narrower the spectrum of acceptable opinion, the more heated the polarization on the debate within the spectrum gets. The fewer and fewer things that are allowed to be on the table for critical debate, the bigger the stakes that are perceived to be in the remaining things. As neoliberalism became more and more hegemonic, the more it needed to present the wiggle room as drastically important to the course of history.

      1. Stick'em

        Yes. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” reads the sign on the door… except for arguing about the small segment of identity politics/culture war/ wedge issues we tell you to argue about as we perform your regularly-scheduled program of political puppetshow theater on the TeeVee.

        We encourage you to have a conniption about whether or not trans- people can use the bathroom, as this is certainly the height of all moral issues.

        Your very souls depend on getting THIS ONE thing correct!

        Just don’t bother to question who owns the building the bathroom is in, or ask the owners to justify their ownership of it and every conceivable piece of property around it, or ask why it is neccessary for people to die to invade X foreign country to maintain said ownership’s profits.

        That sh!t will get you removed.

  18. Larry

    America has been polarized from it’s start. No sooner had the colonists won their “freedom” from the Brits, then they were fighting against their new overlords the Federalists. I can’t recommend this great book enough:


    Many of our political divisions can still be traced back to slavery. I’m not sure we’re any more or less governable now.

    1. hunkerdown

      What do you mean, ungovernable? People still follow laws and respect property for the system to reproduce itself. Are you making some kind of argument that hearts ought to be governed? If so, you’re renouncing the concept of freedom of conscience, and I think you should say so in as many words so that you understand what you’re calling for.

  19. Thuto

    Europe was on what seemed like an exorable march towards embracing this left-right, liberal-conservative divide at EU state level, before the war brought about a temporary halt to the processions heading further and further (politically) apart in the name of unity against Russia. Poland and Hungary were in the naughty corner, and the other liberal democracies viewed themselves as their moral superiors (although the Poles’ black sheep status has been repealed for now and their dissenting views on some of the “European values” espoused by liberal leaning EU governments have been memory holed to present a united front against Putin), exactly what we are seeing in the socio-political arena in the US where ideological persuasions are taken as proxy indicators for one’s moral standing. As I see it, the reality, masquerading as democracy, that the US, and increasingly the EU, are stuck with is one where algorithms have made manufacturing consent a low marginal cost business, and a captured traditional media that operates along partisan lines continuing to narrow the confines of what constitutes acceptable public discourse by pushing narratives that drive wedges between people.

  20. John Emerson

    Mirowski (“The Road from Mont Pelerin”) and Slobodian (“”Globalists”) describe a long-term program aimed at moving the American intelligentsia to the right, the heroes of which are Milton Friedman of the Chicago School, Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian school, and James Buchanan of the Virginia school. (All of these had friendly relations with the Pinochet regime). It was open and not a conspiracy but tended to avoid publicity (though “Capitalism and Freedom” and “The Road to Serfdom” were best sellers). There were many lesser players and the effort was coordinated in annual meetings, and many well-funded think tanks relied on the ideas of this group. The Mont Pelerin people presented themselves as purely academic scholars if necessary but all of them always had a political program.

    Mirowski and especially Slobodian report that after .about 1970 (and Pinochet) the leaders of this group came to realize that the transition from a welfare state society to their preferred form of untrammeled capitalism would be so painful for so many peoplethat it could not be achieved democratically and without gross deception, and that the freemarket utopia would require an authoritarian state at the service of the market, and that’s one definition of neoliberalism — economic liberalism without political liberalism.

    Some also came to the conclusion that the mass of men in this free society would need to be indoctrinated with proper values by religion at the service of the market. . Adam Kotsko’s “Neoliberalism’s Demons” shows how contemporary evangelical Christianity, far from being a buffer against the market or resistant to market values, is a servant of the market.

    1. Questa Nota

      Education has played a role over the past century in changing how Americans learn and think. One standard observation is to compare curricula and exams from prior eras. That would provide some newfound respect for those living long ago.

      For a deeper dive, read John Gatto for thoughts on how the education establishment arose and what they did.
      The Underground History of American Education
      Dumbing Us Down
      Weapons of Mass Instruction

      1. John Emerson

        Looks like libertarian BS to me. There are all kinds of people trying to destroy the public schools from many different angles, and they don’t help. I see that they’re already trying to capitalize on this shooting.

        1. AGR

          >” There are all kinds of people trying to destroy the public schools from many different angles”

          It seems more about indoctrination and control than “destruction” or even “education”. ” libertarian”?- Not by a long shot. It’s easy to discard into a pigeonhole, without a minimal effort to engage.

          For anyone interested, J.T.Gatto did go deep into this subject. The chapter on ” The Psychopathology Of Everyday Schooling” seems particularly relevant.


        2. jonhoops

          You might want to actually read the Gatto books before casting your preconceived aspersions.

          Gatto argues that our kids are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. He rails against the archaic factory based model which is way past its sell by date.

          Plus it is an interesting history of public education in America.

          1. John Emerson

            I wasn’t born yesterday, I’ve been through the libertarian bullshit over the decades and I’m done with it. Homeschooling can be s good things but it is not a replacement for most people, and unschooling is total BS — a relative has tried it, disastrously.

            My own public schooling 60 years ago or so was more or less OK, and my public school son’s education ending in 1990 was pretty good. I have all kinds of criticisms of the public schools, but I have no interest in people who reject them entirely, most of whom are neoliberals, libertarians, and Christians I wouldn ‘t even want to be in the same room with.

            I am not going to read every goddamn book someone else thinks is wonderful. I did read his Wiki page and nothing there made me want to know more about him, and nothing any of you have said did either.

        1. John Emerson

          I read “Compulsory Miseducation” around 1964 and still have the copy I read. I liked it at the time but have no idea now what he proposes to replace the present system.

          My post that people are commenting on was about the neoliberalism and these comments are all about something that others thought should be the topic instead.

    2. Anthony K Wikrent

      Thanks for the mention of Kotsko’s book. Also important is Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Princeton U Press, 2015), which details why and how rich businessmen set out to corrupt USA christianity with the objective of stopping FDR, the New Deal, and the growing enmity toward the “free enterprise” system engendered by the Great Depression. Basically, the rich had polls conducted which found that the most trusted institutions in USA were the churches and the clergy, so the rich funded and promoted “education” for the clergy on “free enterprise.”

      It should also be noted that abortion became a nationally divisive issue when Paul Weyrich found that it was an issue that could be used to motivate the conservative base.

      I think it’s seriously misleading that Neuberger also blames “the left.” For nearly a century now, the rich have been “feeding red meat to the base” in order to diminish and curtail the regulatory, administrative, and welfare state, and here we are.

      …the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; …a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants. — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist # 1.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        I think it depends on how you define the “left”. If you equate the “left’ with the Democrat party, which I think is the case here, then they are guilty as charged. Personally I would characterize the vast majority of today’s Democrat party US Congresspeople as Reagan Republicans, but that is not how the mainstream corporate world sees it when they use the left and right terminology for propaganda purposes.

        Also if Alexander Hamilton was so concerned with the government being overthrown, perhaps he shouldn’t have supported a military uprising against it. Hamilton didn’t acquit himself very well during the Whiskey Rebellion either, suppressing the rural population to assist his wealthier friends, trying to keep the fledgling US safe for crony capitalism. William Hogeland has an excellent account of Hamilton’s actions in his book on the subject.

        I’m not sure why we have this 21st century rehabilitation of Hamilton among the “left” – the man who gave us Wall Street and made sure the US would be a capitalist country is one who would normally be celebrated by the Republican business class, which sort of makes my point about how the ostensibly “left” political party is full of Reagan acolytes. I do still remember how Obama spoke so fondly of St. Ronnie on many occasions, to name just one example.

        1. Tony Wikrent

          Hogeland is a libertarian agitator and propagandist. When poor misled Matt Stoller’s “Hamilton Hustle (s)hit piece came out a few years ago, I dug into some of the sources, and was led quickly to Hogeland and the Mises Institute he is (or was) affiliated with. If you’re not familiar with the Mises Institute, they’re the Austrian (economics) libertarians who declared Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln were the first national socialists. And if you have any doubt about the agenda Hogeland and the Mises Institute are pushing, they believe that when the Confederate States of America omitted mention of the General Welfare in the CSA Constitution, it was a major improvement over the US Constitution.

          As for the Whiskey Rebellion, I think of it as a model for Ammon Bundy’s 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

          Claiming Hamilton wanted to make sure the US would be a capitalist country is ahistorical, because the term capitalism as we understand it today did not come into general usage until the 1850s, over half a century after Hamilton designed his supposedly nefarious design. Find a copy of The Federalist Papers online that you can search, and look for the word “capitalism.” It’s simply not in there.

          Having read and reread Hamilton’s four major papers he wrote as Treasury Secretary, I am convinced that Hamilton would have been a promoter of Occupy Wall Street. In his report to Washington on the First Bank of the United States, Hamilton wrote that no shareholder should ever have more than 30 votes, no matter how many shares they actually owned. Such a system of corporate governance would have made it impossible for private equity, leverage buyouts, and corporate raiders to operate as they do today.

          Moreover, look at what Hamilton’s financial system did to the power of the old financial powers of Europe. What was the only source of financing at the time? The old, established rich of Europe. Hamilton’s nationalist financial system obliterated the stranglehold on international finance by the rich European elites (oligarchs, every last one of them). Put it another way, Hamilton democratized international and national finance.

          Crony capitalism? Then why did Hamilton not act to save his friend William Duer in the panic of January / February 1792? In fact, Hamilton approved comptroller Oliver Wolcott Jr’s order to the New York district attorney to press Duer for payment on the government loans he held, or file suit against him. Duer pleaded with Hamilton to intervene, but Hamilton refused.

          Hamilton was also strongly against free trade, and explicitly refuted Adam Smith’s arguments for free trade and laissez faire. I doubt the Republican business class, if they actually knew the truth about Hamilton, would celebrate him.

          As for “the left” I am convinced that misunderstanding Hamilton and mistaking him as some protocapitalist villian is a grievous strategic blunder that blinds otherwise good people to what were the stakes and results of the American Revolution and the founding of USA as a republic, and how the oligarchs of the world have never ceased their efforts to cripple and corrupt USA as a functioning self-governing republic.

          1. Anthony K Wikrent

            The fight is over “the firmness and efficiency of government.” Will the national government of the United States have the power, firmness, and ability to impose the rule of law, such as Brown v. Board of Education? It is instructive to note that abortion was ginned up as an issue by white supremacist christianists angered that the federal government was refusing tax-free status for their private segregated schools and colleges. Or to note that the “law and economics” movement was launched by white supremacists seeking to undermine enforced desegration, as detailed by Nancy MacLean in her book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. Hamilton clearly designed a government powerful enough to take on these fights. Hogeland is attempting to destroy that legacy, without ever getting into the sordid details of why, hiding instead behind a “specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people.”

            1. lyman alpha blob

              Hamilton designed a government to take on white supremacy?!? The concept barely existed in the 18th century. And even if “anti-racism” were a subversive twinkle in Hamilton’s eye as he was helping to frame the new government, judging by the actions of current US police forces, and its civilian and military leadership who in recent decades haven’t found a country full of brown people they didn’t want to bomb, it would seem that Hamilton’s efforts, if they ever even existed, have fallen drastically short.

              I much preferred Jefferson’s take – if we really wanted to get this right we would have had several revolutions by now to keep that Tree of Liberty watered and growing.

          2. AGR

            >”Find a copy of The Federalist Papers online that you can search, and look for the word “capitalism.” It’s simply not in there.”

            Also interesting, the words “democracy” and “corporation” are simply not in the U.S. Constitution. Yet corporations control and dominate the “economy”, of-times transnationally, i.e., no national accountability…and “democracy”, in all of its abstract vagueness, dominates the political rhetoric…

            I still can’t understand why something as basic as healthcare, can be viewed outside a context of general welfare…

          3. lance ringquist

            its hilarious to watch clintonites like robert rubin worship hamilton. the clintonites are everything hamilton was against.

          4. lyman alpha blob

            Just because the word ‘capitalism’ doesn’t appear in his writing doesn’t mean that isn’t the system he created. Lots of words that exist today didn’t exist then or have completely different connotations. The word “privacy” comes to mind which had a very different definition 250 years ago than it does today, to name just one. And is it really better that a few corrupt multinational banks with a license to print money now control the financial system as opposed to a few corrupt oligarchs? Aren’t those bankers oligarchs too?

            The specific crony capitalism I had in mind was Hamilton putting the screws to the smaller rural whiskey producers while exempting the larger ones, something described in Hogeland’s book and a practice that often continues today.

            Also, I wasn’t aware of any libertarian affiliation for Hogeland and when I did a search for him and the Mises Institute, which I am quite familiar with, I came up with nothing. When I searched for his name and “libertarian”, I came up with a website or two that had picked up an article of his. The third search result for “William Hogeland libertarian” on DDG came up with this: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/04/william-hogeland-created-equal-founding-era-tensions-on-economic-fairness.html

            Perhaps Naked Capitalism is a libertarian website now too?

            I remain unconvinced that your understanding of Hamilton is correct and will continue to be thankful for Aaron Burr.

      2. John Emerson

        In 1955 Bill Buckley was a lone voice and people laughed at him. But after 1968 the Democrats lost support in every direction in a sort of worse version of 1948. — the Great Society, the Civil Rights Act, and the War in Vietnam were just too many things to do at once. It was around that time that the right wing started playing to win, and in 1980 they did win. I have also read that it was around then that Big Oil switched from the Ds (LBJ) to the Rs (Nixon, Goldwater, Reagan), and that the “oil crisis” was a set up for political reasons. (Unconfirmed). . Abortion and gay rights were Only brought in later.

    3. lance ringquist

      the soviets sent the fruit cake ayn rand to america, because they knew she would destroy our economy, and she did.

  21. Lexx

    George Carlin has been dead for 14 years now and I think I’ve never heard his name evoked so much as in the last couple of years. Certainly not while he was alive. Usually something along the lines of ‘Carlin was right!’, by way of saying he was ahead of his time, a prophet. Perhaps Lambert would say ‘a realist’.

    There’s a two part documentary playing on HBO Max about Carlin’s life – ‘George Carlin’s American Dream’. He was raised in his early life as the youngest son of a violent, alcoholic father and a narcissistic mother, each with a lot of public charms but privately a nightmare to live with. George spent his whole life with a distrust for ‘groups’, and a fondness for individuals that deepened with age. Individuals he understood, but for him something ugly, something dark and dangerous happened in any human gathering much over 3-5 people. The individual in a group was always expected to give over who they were to the identity the group had or was forming.

    George tried hard* in his early career to be the conformist populist kind of comic that was expected of him. But his schtick got old, it was killing his career… and it was the 70’s. So George began to tell people on stage what he really thought, with that funny twist on human absurdity that comics are so good at, so that we could laugh at ourselves and our many foibles. He died at age 71 as popular and beloved in his career as he had ever been, and sorely missed.

    Meanwhile comics are under attack – now physically! – from the growing mob in their own audiences. We no longer seem to think that our common humanity is all that funny any more. See Sardonia’s comment above. I think it’s spot on.

    *Ask anyone in entertainment… comedy is very difficult to do. An ensemble series that impressed the hell out of me was ‘The Good Place’. George would have happily told you he wasn’t good at collaboration. He would have sucked in that show.

    1. Angie Neer

      Lexx, thanks for making that point about individuals vs. groups. I’ve slowly realized that’s a very important factor in my interactions with the world too. I like talking to people, and listening to them, even about contentious issues, but as soon as a “group” dynamic starts forming, I can’t deal with it. This little exchange from the movie Men in Black always resonated with me:

      Edwards : Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
      Kay : A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

  22. Dr. John Carpenter

    “Put simply, our mobs are manufactured, especially the ones on the Right (though liberals are catching up)…”

    Oh, after four years of Trump, I’d say they’ve caught up, especially when one considers the tacit lib approval of Biden’s continuation of almost all of Trump’s policies that had them foaming at the mouth a few years ago.

    I agree with Noone from Nowhere. There’s a crucial element being missed, perhaps intentionally. People aren’t being whipped into mobs starting from nothing. There are legitimate complaints and issues being exploited here. It’s not an issue of shaming people into acting right. People, right and left, have been failed by the government and failing to address that doesn’t fix anything and leaves them open to further riling up.

  23. lyman alpha blob

    It’s never been perfect by a long shot – just look at the Buckley/Vidal debates from the late 60s. What I didn’t realize until fairly recently was that the debates were ginned up deliberately as sort of a publicity stunt for ABC, because the network was a distant third in ratings at the time. ABC put two men who had already professed a strong distaste for each other on the same stage hoping for some fireworks to give them a ratings boost, and they got it. Ratings = dollars, and it was all about the Benjamins. An excellent documentary on those debates came out several years ago for anyone interested.

    But things really took a turn for the worse with the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine (which required networks to give time to discuss both sides of an issue) by the FCC during the Reagan administration, which led to the rise of Fox News. It was during the years after Fox began that we started hearing the “Volvo driving, latte sipping liberal” caricatures (which really annoyed me, since I considered myself to be on the left and that didn’t describe me at all, being a tea drinker who didn’t own a car at the time). But that crap got eyeballs and ratings and thus dollars too, which didn’t go unnoticed by the other networks who decided “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, to the point where the rhetoric coming from the “left” these days is just as bad as what’s coming from Sean Hannity.

    I’d be willing to bet half the newsreaders these days don’t believe any of the nonsense they’re spouting, but it makes them a much better than average living and makes the networks billions. The “Two Minutes of Hate” style simply sells way better than a reasoned debate moderated by Bill Moyers on PBS.

    I doubt it will stop until capitalism does, so in the mean time go long on bulletproof vests.

    1. Tater

      IMO Reagan’s recission of the New Deal’s Fairness Doctrine was/is a keystone to the current project.

    2. Fraibert

      I have to disagree for the simple reason that the legal underpinning of the Fairness Doctrine means that it was never applicable to cable TV. The idea is that airwave bandwidth is limited so the government had more freedom to regulate broadcast networks (TV and radio), even though such regulation definitely could create First Amendment issues.

      In contrast, that kind of rationale never applied to cable (much more bandwidth) and hence the doctrine would never have application to Fox News. Instead, under general First Amendment law, the fairness doctrine would be per se unconstitutional for a cable news channel.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        But the Fairness Doctrine was also recissionised for Radio too, which gave Radio Limbaugh room to run wild and free.

        1. Fraibert

          By the 1980s, the way that First Amendment case law had developed made the doctrine untenable, and it would have been found unconstitutional in some Supreme Court case or another, likely by the mid-1990s at the latest in my opinion. The airwave scarcity theory isn’t a great theory for justifying the regulation of the content of broadcasts (it was subject to significant scholarly criticism for years), though the rationale is sufficient (i.e., consistent with First Amendment law) for giving government the power to allocate the usage of frequencies to avoid interference (so long as no consideration is given to the content of the broadcasts).

          To draw a kind of analogy, the logic upholding the Fairness Doctrine was kind of a _Roe v. Wade_ for First Amendment doctrine–the rationale was created to justify the outcome even though it isn’t defensible from a legal perspective. I think the Justices knew this from the start–5 years after the case upholding the Fairness Doctrine (_Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC_), the (unanimous!–including Justices Brennan, Douglas, and Marshall) Court in _Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo_ struck down on First Amendment grounds a Florida law that required a newspaper publishing criticism of a political candidate to also print a reply provided by the subject of the criticism.

          Legally speaking, the Fairness Doctrine, had it not been revoked anyways, eventually would have failed to survive a First Amendment challenge because the doctrine is a content-based regulation of speech and possibly compelled speech (this second point is a bit less clear under the cases) and therefore is subject to “strict scrutiny” (aka the “compelling state interest test”). Under this test, the government (not the challenger) must prove that the regulation of speech furthers a compelling state interest and that the means chosen to further that interest are narrowly tailored to achieve that interest (sometimes phrased as requiring proof that the state has adopted the “least restrictive means” of accomplishing its desired end). As you might imagine, government rarely can satisfy these conditions.

          My guess is the Supreme Court (and this is actually true regardless of composition given the nature of the law by the 1980s and 1990s) would have primarily focused in on the means-ends fit component of the test. Because government could create its own news channel if it felt that certain kinds of speech were not fairly represented, requiring news stations to carry varying viewpoints is not narrowly tailored to an (assumed, for the sake of argument, but not decided as a matter of law) compelling state interest in ensuring fair news. A 9-0 decision finding the doctrine unconstitutional would not have been surprising.

          The same basic framework makes it pretty much impossible to reestablish the doctrine today in any real form. Nor would the Supreme Court cite _stare decisis_ because the legal environment has changed, the original case itself is too flimsy, and the factual reality is different then when the airwave rationale was adopted (i.e., it’s inexpensive for government to establish its own news station via online streaming if it wants to present particular viewpoints).

          1. lance ringquist

            we own the airwaves. under the fairness doctrine speech was not limited, you had to give others the chance at speech.

            a free market of the airwaves, means as usual, monopolization.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            This comment knows all kinds of details of law and doctrine which I can hardly even understand. But I suspect this begins to be covered under the concept of ” the cleverness of lawyers”.

            I agree with Lance Rinquist. The radio audience is a technologically captive audience. Radio station license holders are supposed to uphold some sort of “pubic interest” as a condition of being permitted to hold our peoples’ license to operate a radio station on one of our peoples’ frequencies. The Fairness Doctrine prevented the politically motivated ( usually fascist propertarian conservative) license holder from excercising complete and utter domination of access to scarce speechfront property.

            It could be re-imposed on all the holders of licenses to operate radio stations on our peoples’ airwaves at any time. The other law about other technologies seems irrelevant to me, though I have every confidence that the fascist propertarian conservative Supreme Court would practice every Shyster Lawyer trick in the book to rule the Fairness Doctrine unconstitutional in the case of Public Airwaves radio stations.

    3. Angie Neer

      My major objection to anything like the Fairness Doctrine is that in practice it solidifies the counterproductive idea that there are exactly two sides to every story. Most stories have more than 2 (what is the correct amount of government spending?), and some have only 1 (should we commit genocide?).

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        So expand it to forcibly cover and give access to all of the many sides of a story.

    4. Questa Nota

      Honorable mentions after Fairness Doctrine:
      Citizen’s United

      On the graph, show all three as vertical bars the way that recessions are portrayed.

  24. Pookah Harvey

    “To escape the rich, we must escape their mobs, and encourage others to escape them with us.”
    I consider Russell Brand’s YouTube channel as doing a great job in trying to unite the populist right and left in defying the oligarchs. A large, if not the majority, of his audience are Trumpers. He concentrates his discourses on the evil of oligarchs and corporations which blends in well with ideology of the populist right. The amazing thing is he does it often by reading articles from the socialist Jacobin magazine. He makes it clear he is a leftist but has many of the same beliefs as they do. Currently has 5.6 million subscribers and seems to be still growing.
    Interestingly if/when you find right wing commenters disagreeing with Brand it almost always is in a very civil manner.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      In my deep red rural enviro s, i run i to the same thing.
      So many people out here are shocked to learn that i consider myself actually far left.
      Early on i endeavored to leave the labels for lsst…or if they asked.
      Holding forth on what i think is how i evangelised so successfully for bernie…nut im just one guy, and cannot compete woth the 2 great wurlitzers of confusion and hatred

  25. Wukchumni

    It wasn’t uncommon in LA for neighbors not to know one another in my experiences with many I knew in the City of Angles.

    Imagine how awkward that would be in the immediate aftermath of an 8.8 centered in Monterrey Park, and you or your neighbor needs help and although you’ve seen them often raising and lowering the castle door on their garage mahal, in order to make good their escape or re-entry, but the awful truth is you only really know them from the shoulders up, and asking the compleat stranger next door for assistance would have more meaning if neighborhoods weren’t so polarized, but they are.

    1. HotFlash

      Indeed. I spend a lot of time working on my friendships with my neighbours. Come the apocalypse, neighbours are the only things that can save one another.

  26. Daniel Raphael

    Democracy means the common people–the 99%–rule themselves. Is there anyone in a state of sobriety who truly believes the USA has anything even approaching this? Are you truly unaware of the constant, ongoing pruning, blockading, and pay-walling of the electoral casino both corporate parties have engaged in, precisely to ensure that no third voice has a realistic chance of more than token power? I hope there’s no need to go into detail about how major media are privately owned, etc. As Occupy discovered, even the public spaces are ruled off-limits and out-of-bounds…move along, move along…

    This isn’t incidental or cosmetic–it’s systematic. Democracy? Say, maybe I’ve got a bridge you’d like to consider buying…

  27. Rod


    I am no more familiar with Earnest Gaines than I am with Adam’s house cat, but I know he speaks truth, to me, with his above observation.
    eg: the Climate Crises
    How we are constantly by-passing that salient is the issue.
    The NC comments and Yves intro above, do more to grapple with the cause than the article prompting our engagement-imo.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      Similarly….written on the wall at the wilderness bar: ” what is most personal is most universal”

      I snagged it from ram dass

      1. Duke of Prunes

        I will be the first to admit that I never really understood Jung, but, yeah, reading the Jung discussion in the comments above is what reminded me of this link.

  28. hk

    One important addendum is that in order for mobs to form, there has to be some “core myth” that binds a tribe together. Whether it is actually “true” or not does not matter: what matters is that tribal members in good standing are forbidden from questioning them, so that once the instigators’ appeals revolve around that myth, especially if the claim is somewhat credible, things spiral out of control fast.

    I do think United States is unusually susceptible to this in part because we are, by construction, a land of fables. To create a “nation” out of many tribes, we created a lot of creation myths of our own, which are often inconsistent with one another but not unacceptable as long as we don’t look at them too closely and, well, if some of the tribes who got the short end of the stick are marginalized enough. I’ve always wondered if the “political correctness” is a continuation of the same trend: certainly, the process is analogous–it is built around narratives, both factual and fictitious, building a tribal identity that tribal members (and it’s allies) may not question. Hardly unique to US: it seems like narratives like how Vilnius (or Jerusalem, or Lwow, or Dokdo, or Crimea) is, has always been, and always will be part of Lithuania (or Israel, or Poland, or Korea, or Ukraine). The (slight) difference, though, is that politically correct myths are often built around individual “ethnic groups” (and I count “working class whites” as its own ethnic group) competing against the prevailing “national myths,” and if elites try to co-opt some of them as part of the national myths–by making them narratives that may not be questioned by tribal members in good standing–it subverts unity.

    I don’t think the existence of myths, or that US is more of a “mythical” nation than we’d like to believe, is itself a problem. But a better understanding of what these myths do could help. Not that I think it is doable easily–if we can craft and maintain myths to our liking, they wouldn’t be credible as myths, I suppose. Still, we could use a better awareness of the more toxic myths.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Very true. I’d offer an amendment here:

      “if we can craft and maintain myths to our liking, they wouldn’t be credible as myths, I suppose.”

      The Hebrew Bible from Genesis to II Kings is an example of myths crafted to create a people where war and exile had destroyed a nation. It begins with the first Genesis story that seeks to establish that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not one god among all the national gods (henotheism) but THE GOD of the universe. It then moves to the second Genesis story which attempts to explain why, if there’s an almighty God in charge of the universe, then why are things so fucked up, and it points to the answer that it’s the humans fault. It then moves on to establish the historical relationship between this God and the people of Israel, a people who no longer exist, but explains this tragedy as a history of betrayals of God by His people. Finally, it places hope in restoring that relationship through loyalty to the tribe and to YHWH.

      When was this put together and by whom? By Ezra, an exilic priest returned to Jerusalem under Cyrus’s decree. He and his school were faced with the problem of how to recreate an “Israel” that had been scattered by two different empires, first the Assyrian and then the Babylonian. What they created was so successful, despite the continued military and political impotence of Ezra’s new nation under Cyrus or Alexander or Caesar, that we are still dealing with the impacts of these myths today.

      I know very little about Leninism, but I’d be surprised if he and those around him didn’t engage in some deliberate mythmaking to create a glue for the new USSR. It seems to me that Putin even got into that a little in a speech prior to the SMO. And your American example had plenty of contributors with their goals and purposes, even though it was stretched out over time. Then there are attempts at deep revisions like those made by the Radical Republicans. “John Brown’s Body,” and it’s offspring, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” are examples of mythmaking, aren’t they?

      I’ve been arguing for some time that remaking our myths, changing our worldview, changing the paradigm as Meadows counsels, is an essential project right now. One of the most prescient visions of our near future is the Parable series by Octavia Butler. In a burning and insane California of the 2030s, those novels’ protagonist invents of new religion called Earthseed partly as a personal means of coping with the uncopable, but also as a way of countering a Gliead-like Fundamentalism. I think that what will be the biggest battle in the coming brouhaha will not be wars over resources or between political ideologies but a struggle over worldview/myth/paradigm. I’ve been interested to see the commenters on sites like The Saker refer to the war in Ukraine not as being between Russia and NATO but between two different civilizations (where China fits into this is somewhat unclear in these comments).

      There is a lot of ferment in this area from Harari to Lent to Smaje. It’s where the action is as far as I’m concerned.

  29. Tim

    No Mention of social media as the vehicle for all this? The whistleblower at facebook stated such quite clearly and eloquently. Look at the time line on the chart in this article. It really went off the rails in line with the level of usage of the internet as a form of communication, via message boards, then the smart phone and Facebook 2007-2008.

    I had a thought yesterday when I hopped out of bed. What would happen if we allowed propositions at the congressional level? Interesting thought experiment. Good to be able to end around congress with a supermajority of voters, bad to be able to bypass the construct of the founding fathers to potentially pass something we shouldn’t have wished for. Still able to be manipulated by private industry adds to vote against our interests..but interesting nevertheless.

  30. Starry Gordon

    Since we in the U.S. have a class-based social order, and have had since its inception, and since the function of a ruling class is to rule, and since polarization and balkanization are failures to rule in the broader sense (that is, not only to command by force but to ‘engineer consent’ — and even enthusiasm for the regime and its principles) I’ll suggest that the deterioration of the social order is caused by the deterioration of the ruling class. And I think this deterioration is visible, indeed, obvious: compare our World War 2 ruling class (Roosevelt, Truman, Marshall, Acheson, Kennan, and so on) with the kind of ‘rulers’ we have seen in the U.S. in the last few decades up to the present.

    The most likely reason for this deterioration must lie, I would think, in the failure of the existing ruling class to replicate and maintain itself. The earliest versions of the U.S. ruling class were made up of people selected by nature, war, colonization, and the rigors of capitalism, but as the environment of the rulers became more stable and less demanding, selection changed to luck and inheritance, because people inevitably favor their children, close relatives, the well-connected, and the accidentally charismatic, as opposed to the competent and accomplished. With a weaker form of selection now taking place, we observe regression to the mean, and we see a ruling class which is progressively less competent, less informed, less intelligent than its predecessors. It is incapable of doing its job — it may not even know what its job is, going by such excursions into insanity as the comments above list. I believe this sort of thing has often occurred in history, so it is not surprising to observe it in our present case.

  31. Thomas McBride

    Another factor that has greatly contributed to polarization is the long-term campaign, turbocharged in the late 1960s-early 1970s, to move America’s value to the right.

    Or: The population stayed where they were but the media shifted to the left.

    This very leftist website considering itself a critic of established left views when it is a cesspool of vulgar Marxist class warfare is a perfect example.

    A centerpiece was to attack government as inefficient and untrustworthy, and individuals as the only sensible locus of power and decision-making. Of course, atomized individuals, excerpt for the very wealthy ones, are powerless.

    So you’re either totally alone or part of a collective, a strawman so obvious it’s comical, implying the only way to “de-atomize” is government.

    Because take a look around kids, government actually is trustworthy and efficient!

    When you push the flake this hard it breaks up like a moon mission re-entry gone wrong.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Its only class warfare when the lower class fights back. Right now it is still one-way upper class oppression and aggression and exploitation.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I wrote a book and have the goods on the orchestrated and well funded campaign to move this country to the right. Read ECONNED, Ch. 4. Lots of footnotes.

      And I assume unlike you lived through this period. The media most assuredly moved to the right. If you didn’t notice you were clearly not paying attention.

      You by contrast are talking out your ass, or as we call it here Making Shit Up. That plus your name calling in lieu of an argument is a fast track to blacklisting. I trust you will find your happiness elsewhere on the internet.

  32. Boshko

    “The fact is, we’re as divided as we are because the division is funded and manufactured”

    …and PROFITABLE. Manufacturing us vs them, and the engagement part alludes to, is good business.

    Taibbi’s Hate Inc. is an excellent, irreverent and fun survey of this depressing landscape.

  33. Gulag

    It also seems more and more likely that on a personal psychological level we may be collectively experiencing a profound cultural shift in the inter-psychic balance between our inhibitions and impulses, no matter what our respective political affiliation (for examples, see the decades of mass shootings as well as such recent incidents as Will Smith charging the Oscar stage).

    The hope that simply a shift in political authority and/or the introduction of radical programs of economic redistribution can constrain our accelerating cultural craziness seems quite naive.

    I am becoming more and more convinced that a type of deep cultural brokenness is what is now bubbling to the surface of our society and that we may be incorrectly labeling such phenomenon as simply more traditional political or economic crises.

    1. hunkerdown

      The over-disciplined hyper-rationality of the Puritan ideology ranks high among candidates for that “deep cultural brokenness” masquerading as particular crises. In fact, without that hyper-rationality, we wouldn’t even see mere divergence as a crisis.

  34. Phil in KC

    Bonhoeffer’s Theory of Stupidity has some purchase here. Bonhoeffer thought stupidity was worse than evil. This is because we can identify, isolate, and fight against evil men and women. Stupidity, however, is near-impossible to combat because stupidity refuses to recognize facts, logic, and reason. Stupidity flourishes in crowds and mobs.

    In short, thoughtful, reasonable people –nice people!–avoid mobs. Think about it: mobs of nice people doing nice things over and over again are so rare as to be non-existent.

    The street-fighting mobs are the ones I fear the most: The Portland wackos and the Insurrectionist wack jobs of the recent past. When politics moves to the streets, as it did in late Weimar Germany, do not expect good things to emerge. Either one extreme or the other will prevail, or a strong man will come in and restore public order in very violent ways.

    What the people who stoke these mobs and incite their anger want to accomplish is beyond me.

    1. Questa Nota

      What the people who stoke these mobs and incite their anger want to accomplish is beyond me.

      Keep people anxious and divided. That is a time-honored ritual since divide et impera. Today’s version has more tools and acts in a battle space with more weaknesses like stretched supply chains, limited competitors and many more opportunities for bad actors to wreak havoc.

      Witness the arson fire map that showed concentrations along the west coast but essentially none in Mexico or Canada. Some perps got caught, just not enough.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well . . . . they want their preferred choice of strong man or strong junta to come in and restore public order to the particular benefit of the mob stokers.

  35. Adam Eran

    No mention of Rick Perlstein’s recent histories..?…all of which point to the slicing and dicing of the electorate in the service of discrediting any authority whatsoever. Both D’s (LBJ) and R’s (Reagan, Nixon, Karl Rove) are culpable here.

  36. Dave in Austin

    A bit late but there is simply no explaination of how the chart was created. The website is “deep data” so maybe the professional statisticians can tease out the truth.

    The closest I can come is the reference document at https://www.v-dem.net/static/website/img/refs/methodologyv111.pdf . The index sends us to page four for “What we measure”. The definitions of what they track are semi-rediculous and boil down to a Swedish university group saying “Be more like us”. Read it yourself and decide if this is what it seems to me- Idiological GIGO; Garbage in. Garbage out.

    With little relation at all to the question of what causes polarization.

  37. Soredemos

    As part of work I have to travel for a bit in a truck with a guy twice a week. He’s always listening to right wing talk radio. It’s almost 100% bile and abject, brazen stupidity (did you know the current inflation is because Brandon printed two trillion dollars, and literally no other reason? Such is the wisdom inside the right bubble). This guy thinks, (or thinks he thinks, because Lars Larson or someone similar told that this is what he thinks), that the problem with the Biden and the Democrats is that they’re basically raging Bolsheviks, unwilling to offer ‘sensible’, ‘non-divisive’ politics we can all agree on.

    I wish! Aside from the considerable fact that real politics is inherently divisive, because it’s about competing power blocs, guys like this one do not grasp that even if that weren’t the case, their imagined ideal world of ‘balanced’ politics wouldn’t be anything they like either. They don’t get that most of their positions are a minority, often an extreme minority. They live in a bubble where they’re told constantly that they’re the sensible, sane ones.

    And of course, Biden’s policies, do the extent that they’re coherent at all (and I keep hearing anecdotal evidence that his administration may be the mostly ineptly staffed and run since, I don’t know, Coolidge or something. Trump’s guys were all evil, but they were at least mostly vaguely competent at being evil) are already ‘non-divisive’, eg, give elements on the right 99% of what they want.

    Liberals are the exact same, it’s just not radio that they get most of their propaganda through. Just as this guy wouldn’t know a commie if he ever met one (I know: he has; he didn’t), liberals have no idea what a fascist is (as the Azov saga so brutality demonstrates).

  38. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Not sure why the following is not mentioned here, as I first read this paradigm shifting insight in an NC post. The true polarization in the ever more or less Manichean America (ever since the pilgrims landed, NOT to find religious freedom, but because they HATED religious freedom, cf. the Quakers who were hung for their beliefs) is not liberal vs. conservative, left vs. right, Democrats vs. Republicans, but the divide between those who live and work in the physical world, the people who grow our food, build and manufacture everything, deliver us our energy, etc., i.e., the people Hilary Clinton called “the vast basket of deplorables,” vs. the people who live and live in the virtual world of information, coding, tethered to their computers and phones. (Guilty here).
    When I was kid, almost every red blooded [White, unfortunately] American male worked summer jobs in construction, at gas stations, etc. and hung out with people from every social stripe, gaining not only very useful technical skills but social ones as well.
    Nowadays, the Ivy League-bound would not be caught dead on a building site with a tool in their hand.
    The schism probably will never be bridged, as these worlds increasing coalesce into separate. realms, divided not by ideas and beliefs, but by the two very different realities that each side dwells in and cannot fathom the world of the “other”.
    AS the future is looking bleaker and bleaker for the vast basket of deplorables, no wonder they are fertile ground for beliefs that those who dwell in the virtual world find incomprehensible..

  39. Sound of the Suburbs

    Inequality exists on two axes:
    Y-axis – top to bottom
    X-axis – Across genders, races, etc …..
    The traditional Left work on the Y-axis and would be a problem when you want to increase Y-axis inequality.
    The Liberal Left work on the X-axis.
    You can increase Y-axis inequality while the liberal Left are busy on the X-axis.

    As long as they are doing nothing about Y-axis inequality, this is a result.
    We need to keep the debate on the X-axis.

    It’s all very heated on the X-axis
    It ensures no one strays into thinking about Y-axis inequality.

    The two axes of inequality ……
    All upper class people are privileged.
    Many white people aren’t privileged.
    Things make a lot more sense on the Y-axis.

  40. drumlin woodchuckles

    I remember once either hearing or reading about how Patrick Buchanan said during the early Nixon period that . . . . ” we are going to divide the nation in half, and we will try to make our side the bigger half.” Kevin Phillips was involved in spray painting some academic-respectability perfume on this Buchananite pig. He also worked out some details about how to do it.

    Aside from the various polarised population blocks, there is also a huge mass of disengaged people who struggle their hardest to stay disengaged and try their hardest to keep the political noise tuned out. The various polarisers are trying to win recruits from this huge anti-engagement mass.

    As to the polarised ourselves, I will offer a quote from Representative Rohrabacher of California. ” Hug a nazi, make a liberal just doesn’t work.” We can repurpose that quote. The Republicanazi Fascistrumpanon Sharia Law Christians can either be crushed or submitted to. They can’t be won over. They can’t even be reached. One side will march to victory on a road of the other side’s bones.

  41. podcastkid

    If you look at the undifferentiation aspect (Rene Girard), it seems like those closest to you on issues but then who won’t go two steps more…are the ones that really tick you off. This is not an example of the former, but find an anthropologist ignorant of politics, or a sociologist ignorant of politics…ask her/him how different are the ones that say jabs are dangerous and masks ineffective from the Fauci followers? Maybe she’d say they’re very much alike. They’ll both call each other names, but they’ll never come together for a joint session hounding Geert Vanden Bosch until they both understand exactly what he’s talking about (if they would, could he stay long enough?). They’re both very concerned about health, and threats to health. BTW, they both are convinced Putin might as well be the devil incarnate.

    How are they alike besides this? Well, there is no authority around either one can trust [when I write “one” I mean a “mean” type member of the set]. There’s no Church Committee like back in Carter years [even then there was no one to explain to the masses what the “Carter Doctrine” would end up doing]. The weirdest thing is they all get their info from the same devices. A great deal from phones and a great deal from social media. Say what you want, from a distance differences between phones are not like BMWs vs Fords. My thesis: it’s not polarization as the social analyzing wonks usually think of it. By virtue of the phones the two camps are really too much alike! Hence, the rivalry. That guy over there has a phone (he’s checking things out), but he still won’t put a Ukraine flag on his porch! What’s the matter with the dude! Besides the phones there are the soundbyte critiques. Like tulips during the tulip craze, everyone has too many. In that realm no one can even get to lower middle, much less to upper.

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