Channeling Chansley
November 15, 2021 11:00 AM   Subscribe

What all four have in common is the knee-jerk suspicion that all government and establishment-media narratives, all expert opinions are “propaganda.” This wariness is coupled, paradoxically, with a willingness to believe any “counternarrative,” no matter how dubiously sourced or implausible. In raising doubts about public-health authorities like Fauci, the CDC, and the WHO, Kennedy, Wolf, and Miller seem to see themselves as standard-bearers of the 1960s activism whose bumper-sticker slogan was Question Authority. Conspiracism is a counterculture—a counterculture of counternarratives. From A Close Reading of the QAnon Shaman’s Conspiracy Manifesto by Mark Dery

Mark Dery previously
posted by chavenet (63 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Very interesting article. I love the term - "ConSpirituality"! I wish the author had explored more deeply the "theology" aspect. I agree that QAnon believers are confident they are fighting an epic, global battle between good and evil. But he doesn't really examine how QAnon folks have been led to believe that nonsense. I was hoping for more info about the unscrupulous con-men whose most primal desire is to establish an All-White, "Christian" Theocracy where only white men get to vote, get to own businesses, get to work at good paying jobs, get to go to college, get to work at jobs like Policing, etc, etc. Newt Gingrich + Murdoch + Bannon + Hannity + Tucker, et al -- know that to establish their dream version of America they have to make people deathly afraid of those of us who believe the sexes and races are equal and that poor people are not inherently lazy or evil. How else could QAnon believers claim that liberals are actually blood-sucking, baby killing, pedophiles and that ONLY THE (rich) WHITE MAN can save us without Fox News, Facebook, Newsmax and OANN delivering that message every day?
posted by pjsky at 11:41 AM on November 15, 2021 [12 favorites]


I encounter a lot of people who parse "question authority" as "automatically and unthinkingly reject all authority." At twenty-three or so, I was about as defiant of established mores as I have ever been, but even at the zenith/nadir of that phase, I was still pretty sure that there were things that established wisdom said were true that were nevertheless true.

I have never been to the Grand Canyon, yet I continue to believe it exists, based on consensus being that it is there, as well as numerous photos, maps, and video I have seen and many many first-hand accounts of people I know who have visited. Perhaps that makes me a glassy-eyed puppet of the narrative.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:48 AM on November 15, 2021 [52 favorites]


Here is an essay/review as a parallel to Dery's point, and it is not a joke although it may seem like one, note the first two laws. In these cases, we are always really talking about struggling with common sense and the inability to moderate the swarms of feared beliefs around us, which can form a monolithic adversary.
posted by Brian B. at 12:10 PM on November 15, 2021 [7 favorites]


Thanks for the post!

Readers might also like the Conspirituality podcast.

The idea "everything is connected and the universe wants to help me" is not far from "everything is connected and the universe is out to get me".

Hearing that was a conceptual leap I don't think I'd be able to make on my own. Because aren't the spiritual people supposed to be all love and mung beans?

(please note I am a Buddhist and wish I could be more love and mung beans!)
posted by plasmatron7 at 12:25 PM on November 15, 2021 [8 favorites]


Lucky for the planet, when I was in my youthful rebellion the conspiracy manifesto I read was, Rachel Carson's. "Silent Spring," followed by Francis Moore Lappé's, "Diet For A Small Planet." Those two books directed my efforts of the next, rest of my life.
posted by Oyéah at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2021 [13 favorites]



I have never been to the Grand Canyon, yet I continue to believe it exists, based on consensus being that it is there, as well as numerous photos, maps, and video I have seen and many many first-hand accounts of people I know who have visited.

If you actually go to the Grand Canyon on a beautiful day and stand on the edge it breaks your brain such that you can't believe it is real and so vast.

In any case, reading about conspiracies these guys 'believe in', I just don't get much out of it. It's nothing more than tribal affiliation. It's just made up cliches to support the in-group and denigrate the outgroup. They don't actually need to be tied to reality, any more than jokes or sports affiliations, favorite brands, or favorite foods are.

They obviously believe in the federal government enough to be sad their guy lost, even the anti-vaxxers believe in medicine when they need it. These just aren't deeply though-out or deeply held beliefs for them to reject the idea all together.

I think the guys who spend their day making up Q-Anon conspiracies are not that different than people who spend their day making up a new slogan for Coke or pick your own favorite advertising gig. The old ones get stale, so the options are repeating your old material or making up some new stuff. Making up new stuff is more fun.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2021 [20 favorites]


As always the sensation of roller coaster and machine gun funny sans focal point smacking mendacious socities scism unfurled makes the article hum.

"Trump, our first conspiracist president, sailed into office on a wave of conspiracist bilge"
Hard to argue, nice citations.
Though hatching them as opposed to manipulate conspiracy is a thin line brooked.
"Henry, there is a conspiracy. You understand?”
posted by clavdivs at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2021 [3 favorites]


I did find it hard to argue with my covid denying relatives that like no, *this time*, they're not trying to kill us *outright*, they are still trying to kill us, yes, but the lockdowns and masks and vaccines are ONE thing they're doing to NOT kill us. it sounded hard to believe coming out of my mouth.
posted by bleep at 12:56 PM on November 15, 2021 [6 favorites]


Comic Sans focal point
posted by y2karl at 12:57 PM on November 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


Believing is always far easier than taking the trouble to know...
posted by jim in austin at 12:59 PM on November 15, 2021 [7 favorites]


This was informative in some ways but the title is a bit of a stretch. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the use of "close reading" but this really seems like a summary of the guy's influences and looking at a handful of sentences and concepts from the text.

I'm not saying I want to read a 50-page critical takedown of his quantum illuminati screed though! Just thought the title was a curious choice.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:17 PM on November 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


Reminds me of the flat-earthers who insist they've done 'research' (ie: watching youtube videos and photoshopping lines onto jpegs) but if you mention that you've actually been to the arctic circle start to demand 'proof' or just accuse you of lying.
posted by signal at 1:47 PM on November 15, 2021 [7 favorites]


And somewhere, at the edge of the 1/6 mob, came the sound of a man singing "We can't go on together/With suspicious minds" as his Cadillac pulled away from the insurrection.

More seriously: The Paranoid Style in American Politics, By Richard Hofstadter (Harper's, 1964). "American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind."

Fever dreams are exploitable, and grifters gonna grift. "These are bedtime stories, meant for childlike minds. Or, more to the point, they are in the business of producing childlike minds. Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep." Old story, new scale.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:51 PM on November 15, 2021 [23 favorites]


A lot of the Q stuff, Infowars, and, given it’s most mainstream “just asking questions” outlet, Rogan speaks to me of a great and abiding insecurity, of a need to broadcast to the world that one is not a mark, or a rube. Scratch a Rogan bro and you’ll almost certainly find some moment where they realized they were wrong about something, or they believed in a thing that was later shown false, and that shame of having been taken in, it’s turned into a replacement for any actual engagement with the world. In their mad rush to make sure they never “fall for the man’s lies” ever again, they’ll latch on to anything that promises to show them some sort of hidden truth.

The problem is, yeah, there are a ton of things to reference, actual coverups and government plots over the years that these folks can point to where, yes, the government shouldn’t have been trusted. Long ago, I realized the key to any good lie, and really, all you have to do is give your listener one kernel of truth, one connected bit of popularly accepted fact. You give them that, and start building from there until they trust whatever bullshit you’re trying to spin. Reference the Tuskegee experimentation, and you’ve got a platform to start spreading vaccine hesitancy. Reference Epstein’s little black book, and the names in it, and you have a solid base for your conspiracies about wealthy circles of pedophiles and satanists. It would be a lot harder to convince people that there was some sort of giant conspiracy if the world (and also the government) wasn’t so deeply shitty.

This is not, in any way, to excuse this shit. Under the guise of skepticism, these people have latched onto their prophets and abandoned all capacity for critical reasoning. It’s like a guy in high school reading a blurb about A People’s History and deciding that everything is a lie without actually opening the book. It’s all a conspiracy to get him, but he sees the truth now, or so he’ll tell himself. People like this will cite historical oppression of minorities, but never in any kind of solidarity, as the only “oppressed” person they are interested in liberating is themselves.

You have one of these people sitting by themselves, and you quickly realize it’s a bad idea to engage them in any kind of conversation, so you leave them muttering to themselves about MK Ultra. You get two together and they’ll spend all day trying to outdo each other by spitting out more and more bizarre conspiracies in an effort to show they are the least duped. Of course, now we’ve got podcasts and Facebook, and you get yourself an attempted overthrow of the government, an anti-science, anti-vaccine lunacy at the height of a pandemic. It’s like having a lunatic living in our apartment building setting his unit on fire because someone told him that shelter is how the man gets you, and we’re all outside, watching our home burn down along with his, as the snow is starting to fall.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2021 [47 favorites]


What I wasn’t prepared for was just how closely One Mind at a Time harmonizes with the worldviews of public figures like ...

I'm reminded of Max Horkheimer's "Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda": "The similarity of the utterances of various agitators, from much-publicized figures such as Coughlin and Gerald Smith to provincial small-time hate mongers, is so great that it suffices in principle to analyze the statements of one of them to know them all." FWIW there's more there that's relevant, but the more empirical stuff he's working from is Leo Löwenthal & Norbert Guterman's study of 21 common themes in the rhetoric of fascist agitation, Prophets of Deceit (archive.org).
posted by Wobbuffet at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2021 [12 favorites]


Is this the show Bible of the Netflix animated show "Inside Job"? If so, good jorb.
posted by someothercraig at 2:08 PM on November 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


In any case, reading about conspiracies these guys 'believe in', I just don't get much out of it. It's nothing more than tribal affiliation.

Yes indeed, and tribal affiliation detached from basic reality in many cases. Here in Canada, we get a lot of American media, and many people commenting on Canadian new stories seems a little baffled about, you know, which country they live in. There is more than a little invocation of and reference to first and second amendment rights (that's the US Constitution, of course) and some speak -- without apparent metonymy -- of people who voted for this or that prime minister or provincial premier.

Of course, in a Westminster-style parliament, the voters do not elect the head of government directly but their local representative and barring extraordinary circumstances* the leader of whatever party has the most representatives elected is the head of government. I doubt a week goes by without my seeing some reference to "I didn't vote for [Prime Minister] Trudeau and I don't know anyone who did." Well, yes: about 23,000 people in the Montreal riding of Papineau voted for him, and unless you asked someone there, then no, you wouldn't have met anyone who did. I really think people either have to recall what that ballot you filed in like six weeks ago looked like or else program these bots better.

*This is where I might mention that a century ago the upstart party the United Farmers of Ontario won the 1921 provincial election. They had not even been founded at the previous election, had managed to win all of, iirc, one by-election in the interim, and when they were called on to form the government they did not even have a party leader. Yes, 100 years ago the UFOs were in charge here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2021 [20 favorites]


Is this the show Bible of the Netflix animated show "Inside Job"? If so, good jorb.

I can't decide if I like that show or if it's just another replacement-level Netflix original that, despite being created by real people whose previous work I've enjoyed, feels like it was written by an algorithm (see also Space Force).

Like, a little Futurama, a little Archer, a little Rick & Morty, a pinch of BoJack Horseman, and, uh, there's your show.
posted by box at 3:41 PM on November 15, 2021 [8 favorites]


I'm glad to see that others beside myself think that QAnon is merely rehashed Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
As for Inside Job, my only problem with it is that its topic has become profoundly unfunny.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:49 PM on November 15, 2021 [7 favorites]


Ugh, this stuff really puts the "Weaponized Exploitables" in "WE the People."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:00 PM on November 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


Because aren't the spiritual people supposed to be all love and mung beans?


A lot of what passes for spiritual is a belief in a supernatural resource much like running water and electricity, which you can harness for your own purpose by building up some mental ability to tune into it, and then use for worldly benefit.

There's some parallel with the mental training that Buddhist practitioners seek, but of course Buddhists train specifically by renouncing and detaching from the desire for worldly benefit. So the form is similar, but the substance is entirely different.
posted by ocschwar at 6:38 PM on November 15, 2021 [10 favorites]


"Like, a little Futurama, a little Archer, a little Rick & Morty, a pinch of BoJack Horseman, and, uh, there's your show."

I hear your critiques and they are fair, but to be fair, it is an animated workplace comedy, so having stuff in common with other workplace comedies like Futurama and Archer isn't unreasonable.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and try to give this series a little bit more of a shot than I usually would be inclined to however, due to:

Out of all those shows you listed, only Inside Job is the only show of this type created and helmed by a woman (that I'm aware of anyway.).

I actually feel like it has a lot more in common with Gravity Falls, which makes sense as the creator of Gravity Falls is involved and does a few voices.

It's also the first adult-aimed animated comedy series to be made entirely in-house at Netflix.

Yes, it's an imperfect first try, but these things make me want to give it a chance and see if they can find a more cohesive voice if given more seasons. I want to see women succeed in animation and comedy, I want to see Netflix grow their talented animation wing, and I'd generally just like to see more of this kind of thing, however imperfect.

But for real Brett is basically Fry.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:39 PM on November 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


Not sure why I'm slogging through this article about CHanseley, because the common thread in all this is his loserdom. Before Jan 6, he was showing up in his getup at Fridays For Future protests. And when a man of his age shows up in a shaman outfit to a protest organized by teenaged girls, one might surmise that his motives are not tainted by politics.

So I doubt Chansely took this stuff much more seriously than the author of the article. It's all just his ticket to a club where everybody knows his name and he is not a loser.
posted by ocschwar at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


Alot of these "conspiracy studies" people and "alt-right trackers" are making the same dumb mistakes the anticult ppl made 40 or 50 years ago. I'm surprised no one has floated brainwashing theories, yet
posted by ServSci at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2021 [2 favorites]


ServSci, you've piqued this old recluse's curiosity -- any recommendations on where one might read up on those dumb mistakes?
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2021 [6 favorites]


I’m also genuinely curious. I’m aware of some criticisms of the anti-cult movement and I can kind of grasp the contours of what you're suggesting - I don’t know about “brainwashing” but I definitely feel like I’ve seen an interest in “deprogramming” the alt-right which is probably not much less of a grift now than it was then.
posted by atoxyl at 7:42 PM on November 15, 2021 [3 favorites]


So, I like a lot of what he's saying, and agree with it, but there are at least two HUGE omissions:

Nowhere in this essay does the author use the words race or racism (though he does use the term conspiracism), nor are the words white or black used as racial terms -- only in the phrases "epistemological black hole" "omnipresent white light" and "black-and-white theology."

Nowhere in this essay does the author use the words sex, gender, woman, women, or female, and only a couple passing, insignificant uses of man; the two uses of feminist are both in reference to Naomi Wolf.

I mean, you can only talk about this shit for so long before you come up against the reality that toxic masculinity and white supremacy are two fundamental pillars of the whole Q anon movement.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:09 PM on November 15, 2021 [41 favorites]


Perhaps that makes me a glassy-eyed puppet of the narrative.

You're in the pocket of Big Canyon.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:39 PM on November 15, 2021 [12 favorites]


It kind of saddens me that this idiot has become the face of the insurrection and is now a shorthand caricature symbolizing the whole mess, rather than being framed as the outsider he is. Putting him in the center allows the less colorful true bad actors of the event hide in the shadows.
posted by St. Oops at 10:16 PM on November 15, 2021 [7 favorites]


"question authority"

A pattern that I've seen is better parsed as "question authority - that one objects to, and frame it as objecting to the authority, not the actual subject that one objects to when doing so makes one look dumber than stupid."

But I do get some of the root cause; authority relies on the letter of something. The letter may not match the spirit, and the letter can be abused because they're words and while words should have meaning, meanings can be (re)interpretted differently.

But the excuse of rejecting authority qua authority is childish, regardless of whether questioning and then rejecting flawed authority ought to be an ethical imperative.
posted by porpoise at 11:32 PM on November 15, 2021 [4 favorites]


If the ConSpirtuality people are all about the narrative that really means that everything in the modern USA would seem to be a spin on either The Prague Cemetary or Baudolino but the truth is that we are all living in Foucault's Pendulum.

We are all stuck a state of deep misreading. It really truly sucks to realize that we are in an Umberto Eco universe full of people who think Dan Brown is where it is at.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 11:32 PM on November 15, 2021 [11 favorites]


Ok, sorry - context is important here.

To me, anti "authority" in the US has deep cultural background of the 60's/70's as a backlash against McCarthyism/ anti-Communism of the 50's, and Reagan's 'Evil Empire.'

Now these dumbass fascist fucks (and the money supporting them) are adapting and corrupting the language and meaning of words to equate reason and science as something as worthwhile to challenge and reject as much as McCartyism/ Reaganism/ Thatcherism rightfully was.

Equating science and reason to oligarchic xenophic facism, as something to reject.

Fuck us all.
posted by porpoise at 11:48 PM on November 15, 2021 [11 favorites]


This was good! Especially for not being just about the stupidity of the QAnon guy but going beyond it to look at its roots:
Bratich, a professor of media studies ... believes that the legitimate skepticism inspired by historical events like the assassination of JFK (and the Warren report’s open-and-shut verdict on it) has mutated into a toxic skepticism that is not only hostile to government institutions but has turned on ... the press, scientists, and medical authorities, provoking an epistemological duel to the death over facts and alt-facts, truth and truthiness.
And the effect of that is what could be called epistemological vertigo—the pervasive sense of not knowing how to sort fact from falsehood; of being unmoored from the truth. It’s what makes so many grab onto the reassuringly black-and-white theology of conspiracism.

Like, "epistemological vertigo" is a great band name.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:42 AM on November 16, 2021 [5 favorites]


It really truly sucks to realize that we are in an Umberto Eco universe full of people who think Dan Brown is where it is at.

I was thinking more Robert Anton Wilson than Eco, but similar.
posted by acb at 2:42 AM on November 16, 2021 [4 favorites]


To me, anti "authority" in the US has deep cultural background of the 60's/70's as a backlash against McCarthyism/ anti-Communism of the 50's, and Reagan's 'Evil Empire.'

Oh, it goes way, way deeper than that... back to the American Revolution, which, in throwing off the authority of a king and replacing it with a republic, was pretty novel in the world at the time.

And to take it yet a further step backward: Protestant Christianity was deeply anti-authoritarian, and has deeply colored the culture of this country from before it was even a country.

I like to say that pretty much all of us -- whether left or right, religious or secular -- are culturally Protestant. Think about what the word literally means. We define ourselves by what we protest against.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 9:40 AM on November 16, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm reading the Graeber/Wengrow book "The Dawn of Everything" right now (the publisher's best selling book this year, based on preorders alone), I'm about 200 pages in, and I think the authors would argue that being anti-authoritarian is a human instinct. Actually having, over a long period of time, a consistent authority with consistent rules and consistent mechanisms to enforce those rules is the weird thing.

But obviously there are temporily closer reasons why so many people in the US don't seem to understand science reporting, trust newspapers, trust TV news, or interact regularly with a doctor they trust.
posted by subdee at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]


epistemological vertigo

Man I really feel this right now.

I was vax hesitant early in the pandemic because I had zero trust in US institutions under Trump because we had just seen four years of bullshit from the appointed institutional leadership (still ongoing with DeJoy's DeStruction of the USPS). As a Canadian expat I just opted out of trusting US authorities and decided I would get the vaccination if the Canadian government approved it. Fortunately, they did before I was eligible so I faced no real quandary other than the mad scramble to find a dose. I'm by no means anti-vax, anti-science or anti-medicine but I still feel and felt justified in making my own decision.

Then came the big "Trust the Experts" push from the Democratic politicos and influences to try and socially pressure the hesitant into getting vaccinated. Meanwhile the experts continuously fucked up just about every other decision - masks, mandates, personal behaviors, on and fucking on. Those same "experts" have fucked up and continue fucking up. The groupthink in every direction has been astounding, unnerving and exhausting.

So I ended up "doing my own research". Fortunately, I have some general research interpretation training - thanks to my stupidly expensive degree collection - and have hopefully made sound judgements (so far so good I think). As a result I stockpiled supplies in Dec & Jan, Locked down a week before everyone else. Got vaxed (J&J) as soon as I could get an appointment (thanks govt for making it near impossible for about the first month of my eligibility in a city without a car!). Never took my mask off in public until I was vaccinated, still haven't socialized or eaten indoors, noticed the early paucity of data on J&J well after it should have been available & the subtle propagandistic terminology shift in vaccine discourse from infection prevention to severe disease prevention and booster bandited a shot of Pfizer many months before boosters were approved (and after being turned away by my GP but not until they collected their copay), and now that boosters are official I got an additional booster.

I believe I have mostly made the correct decisions - I probably should have trusted US FDA officials more (I am just relived it was a Biden admin and not a Trump one when the time came). I think I may have been overzealous about outdoor mask wearing on the city streets but I am not sure of that either. I am still not confident we know how low outdoor risk is - particularly with how damn loud Americans can be! All I know is that I have avoided an obvious symptomatic case of Covid-19 (I am not confident I avoided it altogether because as an old man allergy sufferer with sporadic asthma I have things that could be symptoms so often that mild symptoms would just blend into the huge crowd).

But the kicker is that I now feel a bit like a lunatic conspiracy theorist putting printed out tweets on a wall and connecting them wool. I feel completely abandoned by every level of American government because I live in an apartment building, in a city, without a car, without concierge medical treatment to get me monoclonal antibodies, antiviral pills and whatever else is the hot covid-19 treatment of the moment. I feel like I have to sort this shit out for myself because maybe my GP wants to protect their license more than my health, my levels of government wants to restore the economy and tax base more than keep me alive and my neighbors want brunch back so badly they'll wickerman me for it.

It's fucking dizzying to realize, so harshly and suddenly, you are in many ways either on your own or at the mercy of dumb people, lying people and people who don't have your interests at heart.

So I have some sympathy for people who fall down into the wacky conspiracy abysses because they are dumb or scared or something like that because I think every smart person is standing right on that edge as well unless they have opted out of thinking.

But fuck the racist and fascist shit. No matter how fucked up things get that is not even remotely an answer to anything.
posted by srboisvert at 11:28 AM on November 16, 2021 [14 favorites]


"epistemological vertigo" is a great band name.

The band is Semiotic Handgun. Epistemological Vertigo is their third and most challenging album.
posted by philip-random at 11:34 AM on November 16, 2021 [10 favorites]


So I ended up "doing my own research". Fortunately, I have some general research interpretation training -

this is key for me. The whole notion of a functional democracy gets by on people being able to do their own research using skills they learned before graduating high school. Obvious stuff like seeking out more than one source, being wary of one's own biases and (a winner for me) building a network of people who know their shit in particular fields and, when in doubt, consulting with them. Two in particular did a good job of setting me straight on not vaccines (I was already in favour, I've been getting them all my life) but on the overall efficacy and safety of what was being offered for Covid 19. In fact, I just met up with both of them the other day. The good news if you're a Canadian living in Vancouver -- Covid-19 isn't really a driving concern anymore as long as we keep paying attention to the various safety protocols, due mainly to the vast majority of people being vaccinated.

Which isn't to say we don't have a killer epidemic going on. It's just that for whatever reason, we can't seem to get folks committed to taking it on.

More than 1,500 people have now died in 2021 due to B.C.'s illicit drug supply: coroner

fuck this shit.
posted by philip-random at 11:47 AM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Protestant Christianity was deeply anti-authoritarian

Ack, no, not really. I mean, yeah, "priesthood of all believers" and individual consciences and stuff, sure, that all sounds very egalitarian, but in theory AND practice, most strains of Protestantism (which, incidentally, was initially a label given them by their opponents) are pretty deeply hierarchical. I mean, there's so much I could go into here, but unless you're talking about the Levellers and Diggers and such... no. Luther denounced peasant revolts and sided with the aristocracy; Calvin set up a rigid theocracy in Geneva; Henry VIII was wooed to Protestantism in part because Tyndale's theology strengthened the claims of the secular monarch. Herbert Marcuse writes better about it than I do in A Study on Authority.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2021 [9 favorites]


The band is Semiotic Handgun. Epistemological Vertigo is their third and most challenging album.

But definitely an improvement over their sophomore slump, Deconstructed Signifiers
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2021 [5 favorites]


Saxon Kane, I was talking about Protestantism in relation to existing monarchical and religious authority in Europe. Sure, many Protestants set up their own authoritarian regimes when they got the chance. But in that, they merely prefigured the modern left, which is often antiauthoritarian, but also sometimes has embraced authoritarianism when it has gained sufficient power.

And the DNA of Protestantism really is antiauthoritarian. The "priesthood of believers" idea is not something that can be hand-waved away -- it's a fundamental attitude. We may forget how deeply embedded the ideas of hereditary, traditional, and ecclesiastical authority were in Europe (and in many parts of the world) -- precisely because those ideas never got as much of a foothold in the Protestant American colonies and their successor, the U.S.

Americans' furious refusal to recognize any authority over them, other than that of their own conscience and/or God, persists broadly across the political spectrum. And it absolutely comes from Protestantism. That doesn't mean that the same people will not paradoxically embrace authority of their precise preferred flavor, when it suits them -- and that authority may be quite heavy-handed. But the idea of being part of a larger collective or tradition, in which one's own needs and imperatives and beliefs need to be subjugated to a degree for the sake of the group, and impulses toward radical change are tempered by a sense of value rooted in long traditions, is alien to many Americans.

(Here we could talk about the codependent relationship between Protestantism and capitalism. Capitalism benefits from a society of people who don't retain much of an attachment to traditions, and throw themselves into new ideas and beliefs with vigor, only to move onto other ideas in due course. Capitalism can help mediate -- and sell -- these trends as they come and go, without interference from any other significant social institutions or traditions. But that's a whole other topic.)
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:22 PM on November 16, 2021 [5 favorites]


Regarding Inside Job, I created a post over on FanFare to discuss Season One, if people are interested in taking the sidebar over there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Well, my point is that ideas like "the priesthood of all believers" were never grounded in, nor intended to support, any sort of democratic or individualistic ideologies, and I would bet that any of the prominent reformers would be horrified if (and were horrified when) someone took their ideas to support anti-authoritarian (or anti-authority) beliefs. Despite whatever antagonism there may have been between early reformers and particular religious and secular authorities at the time, the principles of protestantism were never intended as support for the individual rejection of authority per se. Nor did they mean that everyone was automatically capable of interpreting the bible on their own, no matter what some of their statements may imply to modern ears. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, all the major reformation writers acknowledge the need for proper authorities to teach the masses how to read and interpret scriptures. Nor do any of them think that there are infinite ways to interpret the text -- they all still believe that there is a True Meaning to scripture that can only be discovered when read the Right Way. Yes, there is the rejection of the external, centralized spiritual authority of the Pope and the Roman Church, but in favor of more localized, dispersed authority -- usually embodied by the emerging nation-state. Rather than the external submission to a distant human figurehead, Protestantism inculcates a sort of internal, psychic submission to an ideology of divinity that itself is grounded in the submission to worldly authority. Or as Marcuse puts it, the notion of "outer freedom" was replaced by a notion of "inner freedom" that abjured worldly agency: "What remains [in bother Luther & Calvin's writings on Christian Freedom] as a positive definition of freedom is freedom in the sense of freedom to obey." (A Study on Authority p. 27).
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:56 PM on November 16, 2021 [6 favorites]


Which is not to say that there weren't tensions and contradictions in Reformation theology (in Luther especially, more so than Calvin who is pretty authoritarian) that people could (and did) interpret to support the rejection of particular authorities. But Luther spent a lot of time trying to write away any anti-authority tendencies suggested by his theology.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:08 PM on November 16, 2021 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. I think I'm looking more at how Protestant ideas played out, particularly in this country.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:01 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


I did find it hard to argue with my covid denying relatives that like no, *this time*, they're not trying to kill us *outright*, they are still trying to kill us, yes, but the lockdowns and masks and vaccines are ONE thing they're doing to NOT kill us.

Speaking only domestically, the people who delight in killing the citizenry are the ones who are refusing to get vaccinated, refusing to enforce restrictions, or otherwise lift a finger to protect people.

Government isn't a monolith. Some parts are trying to help while others are trying to hurt.
posted by wierdo at 4:17 PM on November 16, 2021 [3 favorites]


The band is Semiotic Handgun. Epistemological Vertigo is their third and most challenging album.

But definitely an improvement over their sophomore slump, Deconstructed Signifiers


I prefer their polka record, "Glassy Eyed Puppets of the Narrative"
posted by Lyme Drop at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2021 [4 favorites]


Band is Semiotic Handgun.

Paper bag Revolver.
The textual clack of small arms fire.

posted by clavdivs at 7:42 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


...beaten to death with a stick.
posted by y2karl at 8:39 PM on November 16, 2021 [2 favorites]


Sorry, can’t link but CNN just now reporting that Chansley sentenced to 41 months.
posted by sundrop at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2021 [3 favorites]


CNN just now reporting that Chansley sentenced to 41 months

This is the sort of shit that drives people to distrust the government, and they are right to do so.

Prosecution asked for a 51-month sentence for Chansley bc his acts "made him the public face of the Capitol riot."

That's why he deserves a longer sentence? While the most violent perpetrators, planners, and organizers of the event skate?

I'm kinda with srboisvert. I mean, I know these people are full of shit and doing harm, but they're not wrong that the pharmaceutical industry acts immorally, and that government officials are corrupted by money. They're not wrong that the government arrests and executes innocent people. They're not wrong that the real power lies in corporations and extreme wealth.

They're making things worse and railing against imaginary abuses, but there's lots of reasons for them to believe what they do.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:44 AM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]


The idea "everything is connected and the universe wants to help me" is not far from "everything is connected and the universe is out to get me".


The daily new case count in Ontario has gradually been trending upwards through the mid-three figures lately. A few days ago the case count was 666.

Please, don’t try to imagine the comments on the news stories. Whatever you are thinking they might be, they were 60% dumber than that.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:54 PM on November 18, 2021 [2 favorites]


I'm kinda with srboisvert. I mean, I know these people are full of shit and doing harm, but they're not wrong that the pharmaceutical industry acts immorally, and that government officials are corrupted by money. They're not wrong that the government arrests and executes innocent people. They're not wrong that the real power lies in corporations and extreme wealth.
Problem is, they then conclude it's the Jews who did it and we're back to bogstandard antisemitism cloaked in pseudo leftist language.

At best, their anger isn't about the government and business opporessing people, it's that they're not the ones doing the oppressing.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:22 AM on November 19, 2021 [7 favorites]


the "conspiracy" I see and more or less accept is the one where they're useful idiots -- their absurd actions and beliefs being encouraged by the "conspiracy" because they do such a great job of discrediting the notion that there is a "conspiracy" (that big biz, big pharma, big military, big gov, big bank, big religion, big whatever are up to odious/evil stuff that ultimately only benefits shareholders and/or billionaires -- ie: the elites).

The resolute foolishness of the "conspiracism counterculture" enthusiastically serves the ends of those who (as Noam Chomsky would put it) have always despised democracy.
posted by philip-random at 7:18 AM on November 19, 2021 [1 favorite]


Sorry, reclusive_thousandaire, I didn’t see your reply to my comment until just now.

Just to clarify where I’m coming from: I studied religion at Concordia University in Montreal in the late 1990 early 2010, and our department had a lot of people focused on some important local new religious movements. My dissertation was about the use of secrecy in religious conflicts so up in the original post when the author begins talking about the hermeneutic of suspicion, he wandered into my area.

The anticult movement is pretty well described in the Wikipedia article of the same name, so I won’t go too far into that. My main concern is the growth of watchdog groups that don’t understand the way conspiracy beliefs arise or how membership works in particular groups they identify and then present flattening or erroneous interpretations to the general public. I think it’s normal for people to be interested in these beliefs and the people who hold them, I just wish they wouldn’t try to explain something they don’t understand to other people.

The “hermeneutic of suspicion” argument in the article is where the author, I think, wanders out of the realm of meaningless speculation and into more of a problem area. The original post's contention that once you begin to see everything as a narrative, you become unmoored from “reality” and “facts” suggests to me a kind of moronic Ben Shapiro like insistence that there is one correct way of seeing the world which is the knowledge of facts, and other false worldviews which are a spectrum of to-some-degree tolerably wrong beliefs about things that aren’t proven real.

Although it’s pretty common for someone who isn’t interested in religious studies to see different worldviews that way, it is not a serious or interesting way to explain differences in belief or worldview. It’s just polemic to reassure people with more mainstream beliefs that the q shaman guy is crazy.

The anticult movement used the idea of brainwashing to explain how anyone could believe the weird ideas of UFO cults or guru movements. Deeper research into most groups revealed a more complicated reality than charismatic leaders and impressionable teens. But those watchdogs didn’t want to really discuss why or how alternative beliefs or worldviews appealed to people. I’m seeing the same tendency to reduce or explain away difference in these new antihate watchdogs and “radicalization” narratives that focus on scandalous aberrant individual and their descent into Error in a way that reassuringly buttresses narratives about legitimate beliefs, legitimate social action, etc…

Sorry this was too long.
posted by ServSci at 7:56 AM on November 19, 2021 [9 favorites]


This is the sort of shit that drives people to distrust the government, and they are right to do so.

Prosecution asked for a 51-month sentence for Chansley bc his acts "made him the public face of the Capitol riot."


The problem here isn't with the sentence this one guy got. The problem is the deference with which the instigators are being treated. Some may end up being charged, but so far all they're getting is time to continue their project and rile up the next round of fodder.

Literally any action the government takes would reinforce distrust for the government among the rioters, so that's not really a good argument against prosecuting the people who ransacked the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of the electoral vote count.
posted by wierdo at 8:04 AM on November 19, 2021 [3 favorites]


Thank you, ServSci –– fascinating, and not at all too long.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 3:41 PM on November 19, 2021 [1 favorite]


ServSci: " Sorry this was too long."

Your comment and others like it are why I love this site.
posted by signal at 4:36 PM on November 19, 2021 [3 favorites]


ServSci: "he original post's contention that once you begin to see everything as a narrative, you become unmoored from “reality” and “facts” suggests to me a kind of moronic Ben Shapiro like insistence that there is one correct way of seeing the world which is the knowledge of facts, and other false worldviews which are a spectrum of to-some-degree tolerably wrong beliefs about things that aren’t proven real."

I usually refer to this as Naïve Realism.
posted by signal at 5:16 PM on November 19, 2021 [1 favorite]


You (the general you, not anyone specific) get to choose a narrative or even make up your own. You can't make up facts and remain part of the reality based community. You can decide they're unimportant or irrelevant. You can decide what they mean. You can even discover new facts or disprove things previously thought to be facts. In the end, though, facts are facts.

Sometimes there aren't enough facts available to draw a meaningful conclusion. That's where narratives come in, so long as they comport with the facts that are known. If your narrative doesn't do that you have become, at least in part, unmoored from reality.
posted by wierdo at 2:42 AM on November 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


If your narrative doesn't do that you have become, at least in part, unmoored from reality.

which is absolutely okay if you're filing your stuff in the fantasy (or perhaps satire) section. Once more, I'm left wondering if perhaps librarians should be in charge.
posted by philip-random at 8:09 AM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


The anticult movement used the idea of brainwashing to explain how anyone could believe the weird ideas of UFO cults or guru movements.

Fraud is a more useful term to describe initial recruitment by most types of cults, because imagined threats and rewards are presented as facts to the proselyte, often done gradually as thought reform that controls outside information and communication. The so-called brainwashing happens to the kids from the earliest moment, often more intense than anything the normative culture is prepared to acknowledge because of a religious freedom that helps keep the peace in society, but also allows groups to do anything to mold a child's mind as long as they aren't harmed physically.
posted by Brian B. at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


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