Extremism and Hyper-Reactionaryism

/()43 |_|K19, Going Postal
Illustrative example of personality traits

/()43’s man-in-the-pub theory of life, the left and the right

In my previous unreconstructed rant, I took the unwilling reader though the formation of life out of the primordial soup all the way to the reason lefies see the world as one big happy family (in spite of ample evidence to the contrary) and why they see the right as sociopathic when in reality all the right want to do is regulate socially disgusting behaviour. At that time, though I didn’t spell it out, I was mostly talking about the moderate left and right.

In order to understand extremism, we must first take a look at the nature of personality spaces. This is a bit maths-y, but don’t worry, we will soon get to the real, concrete details of the extremists and what they’re like. Then we’ll do hyper-reactionaryism if I remember to add that bit before clicking “send”.

Consider a single personality characteristic – say extroversion – and imagine all the people are standing on a line, positioned according to how they measure on this characteristic. Introverts on the left, average people in the middle and extroverts to the right. Let’s suppose that the “middle half” of this range are the “normal” people, very roughly speaking. Now, take the distance between the most introverted and most extroverted person – that’s the “length” of the “space” of extroversion. Next we take the whole length, divide it by two, and place it centrally to take in the middle portion of the line.

So for example if two extremes are at -100 and +100, this new section goes from -50 to +50. Roughly speaking, we’ve circumscribed the “normal” or “moderate” people, and we can see that the “normal” part of the line takes up 50% of the total personality space, with the “extremists” taking up the other 50%.

Now, let’s look at two characteristics of personality. To extroversion let’s add neuroticism. We now need a surface, with two axes (say that extroversion is horizontal and now neuroticism is vertical). We can define the space by drawing a circle around the origin that encloses all the poeple. Again, we draw a smaller circle, with half the diameter and the same centre, enclosing the “normal” people. But now we see that only one quarter of the area – and hence of the “space” corresponds to “normal” people.

Try adding a third characteristic and you have to do it in 3D – using standard formulas, you get that one eighth of the space is “normal”. It seems to become a smaller and smaller proportion. At some loss of intuitive visualisability, we can try all five of the “big five” personality dimensions (extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and open-mindedness) and indeed the trend continues giving us one thirty-twoth part of the space as “normal” (why did that remind me of a visit to the dentist?). It’s rather a small portion, wouldn’t you say?

Now, this does not imply that only 1 in 32 people are normal, because the people will be bunched up near the middle. But there is, in some sense, 31 times as much “room” in the personality space for different personalities at the extremes. So even if there aren’t many of them, they are spread across a large range of different personality types. And that’s all I wanted from the math, really – just the idea that extremes of personality are not covergent as some assume, but in fact highly divergent.

Admittedly dimensions that mostly affect political orientation are only conscientiousness and open-mindedness as mentioned in the first article. However Jordan Peterson has been suggesting that agreeableness may be a factor in certain cases (there may be agreeable and disagreeable variants of political correctness). So we have 4 to 8 times as much space in the extremes of political disposition as compared to “normality”. As more is discovered about personality and its relationship to political orientation, this is likely to increase.

From here, it’s easy to see that within “normal”, where the moderate left and right live, this portion of the space may be small enough to allow for only two “clusters” of orientation: centre-left and centre-right. Most people within the “normal” space are close enough to one of these to be pulled into it, identify with it and adopt its ways. But out near the extremes there is room for many more profoundly different political orientations. This means that there is little reason to assume that the set of extreme orientations must be exactly {extreme-left, extreme-right}. There should be lots more, in fact. We can expect to see moderate left and right orientations bifurcate as we amplify the personality traits into multiple, well-differentiated extreme orientations, as well as extreme orientations that don’t really correspond to left or right at all. Let’s start to work though them.

Very high openness; very low conscientiousness

These are the hard-line environmentalists. At the most extreme, we get Gaiaists, Malthusians and Luddites. These people mostly can’t obtain conventional power except in the achedemic and media institutions because their extreme low conscientiousness prevents them from even being able to orgainse themselves (except in environments that favour fantastical thinking). Gaiaism is a religion that priviledges earth as God – an extreme result of placing the outermost virtual boundary at planet level. Malthusians have the biggest idea of all – reduce the human population on a massive scale just for the sake of reducing it. Both Malthusianism and Luddism are hyper-reactionary which is not at all like plain reactionary. I’ll come back to that.

We also learn that environmentalists are liars (to themselves) because their low concientiousness means they could not give a monkey’s about what eco-disasters may befall society in the future, and they’re not at all bothered about “mega-coproations” or “big oil”. The post-Glastonbuty mess reveals no disgust impulse, social or otherwise. They are using the earth as a canvas for their big ideas, and to foist them on others, they have to pretend to be concerned. But… ask a catastrophic climate change believer how they would feel if it were all proven untrue, and relief is the last emotion they will express (until you point this out).

Very high openness; lowish conscientiousness; highish agreeableness

Politically Correct Snowflakes. I mean the ones who obsess about it, the ones who need safe spaces and are offended by everything. Beware: as soon as these people start to organise, they get infested with communists. So any given organisation will tend not to remain here very long before being pulled around into the next category. These are the people who genuinely never want to upset anybody, but due to being low conscientious/high openness can easily be talked (or talk themselves) into causing much more harm than mere offence. (As a note, JBP points out that agreeable behaviour can be threatening eg when a mum protects her young, but I can’t quite square that in my mind because it feels like a game of opposites, so for now I think SJW agression is coming from communist infiltrators).

Very high openness; lowish conscientiousness; lowish to very low agreeableness

Communism. Yay! In an article about extremism we finally got to those God damn reds. Their ideas are just as big as the environmentalists’, and similarly fantastical. But these guys can organise themselves, and they can arrange organised manipulation of society’s structures as well as out-and-out violence. See Saul Allinski’s “Rules for Radicals” as the application of a little conscientiousness in forcing your big stupid ideas onto people. If only they had enough consientiousness to see how many people were going to get genocided (they genuinely don’t intend this when they’re getting started, even though it always happens).

Why do communists kill? Because the plans are so big, they must be brought to fruition at any cost, because their bigness means they aren’t just correct in a technical sense (to the communist) but they are more profound than any other idea. Think that through to its natural conclusion, and the idea of “don’t kill people” just can’t get a look-in. Of course, those who co-operate won’t get murdered… but under these circumstances, it’s the less agreeable people who come to the fore and just brush all the intellectuals out of the way. And they don’t care what you think; they only want the power.

Why do they war when they are not nationalists? Because their plan is big enough for the world. Very very soon, it becomes clear to them that in order for the plan to work, because it’s so big and special and magical, all the nations have to play along with it. Invading them and taking them over is one way of doing this (though other means of taking control will do, such as via espoinage or supra-national bodies with sprawling tentacles).

Very high openness; highish conscientiousness

This may be where the liberatians live; the minarchists, the Randians. Not too sure about this one. Basically, there are big ideas, but a healthy conscientiousness compells them to retro-fit their ideas around known-working systems like classical liberalism and free market capitalism. So, while the centre-right say “we do it becuase it’s the least worst option”, libertarians create a moral code around ideas like “the fruits of a person’s labour are an extension of their body”. The problem is, and this is why I’m unsure, I think some centre-right just adopt libertarianism as a way of meeting the left with their own style of thinking, which doesn’t really work – a proper genetic personality-based model that shows underlying differences in the way left and right think is more powerful (even if parts of it are still work-in-progress). For sure, the left have no problem detecting libertarianism as extreme, and they’re right about that.

Very high openness; very high conscientiousness, low agreeableness

Hitler! Bingo! We finally got to the guy with the small moustache and the big reputation for extermination! Is very high conscientiousness a bad thing? Well yes, all personality traits can get bad when they are extreme. As opposed to intelligence, which only gets better the higher one goes. When we get to super-high conscientiousness, the social disgust response is triggered by all sorts of things. So, while the centre-right may accept capitalism or Christianity as reasonable attempts to codify social disgust in a way that can be applied consistently, Hitler thinks they both stink. Jews, Roma and the disabled – they disgust him too. His openness lets him invent big ways of dealing with such things: massive armies in massive formations leading into the implementation of thousand-year plans. And of course, industrial grade killing to effect permanent change in the human genome.

Hitler was open-minded enough to place his virtual boundaries far out from himself or his family, but his hyper-conscientiousness meant those stinky non-Germans could not be inside. It’s not unreasonable for a person to allocate some part of their limited boundariness at their national border, but Hitler put damn near all of it there, making him a nationalist of the bad kind. With everything outside the national border being threat or exploitable opportunity, war was pretty much inevitable.

This helps to explain the argument about whether Hitler was on the left or the right. Firstly, why does he have to be on either? “Normal” people are split into left and right not because there is a single axis measuring left v right but because in the moderate(ish) region, there’s only enough personality space for two groups to form. Out on the extremes there’s ample room for variety. The left see Hitler’s nationalism and racial intolerance, as well as his talk of genetic superiority and call him right-wing. The right see Hitler’s state control over the individual and big ideas for society as evidence that he is left-wing. He is neither. He’s very much his own lunatic.

Let’s press “pause” for a moment to ask, why are all these examples high or extreme in open-mindedness? Well, I think it’s simply that extreme politics requires extremely big ideas and/or an obsession with the new and the future – all of which are open-minded characteristics. As we go to extreme high openness, an individual experiences first fantastical thinking, then dissociation, and finally “positive” schizophrenic symptoms (this isn’t “positive” in the sense of being “nice” – it’s a mental illness!). In politics, we’re looking at communism and fascism as well as a few other dubious orientations. Let’s take quick a look at a few places in the extremes of personality elsewhere.

Very high conscientiousness; average openness

These people are workaholics. They probably vote Tory (but not UKIP) and are simply too busy for polls (“Sorry, I don’t have time for surveys, and I’ve got 2 calls on hold, gotta go, bye”) which might explain the “shy Tory” phenomenon. And of course, some of them are serving on Her Magesty’s forces.

Very low open-ness

Utterly disinterested in politics and indeed suspicious of it, but probably votes anyway (because you “should”). They probably vote the same way as their fathers, even if this is Labour. Part of what UKIP have been doing recently is to appeal to those Labour voters and persuade them that Labour is not what it used to be and now represents some unsafe political experiment based on “big new ideas”.

Very low agreeableness

These people aren’t very nice, and will participate in any extreme political movement if it gets them ahead. It is unclear to me whether sociopathy lives here. If it does, that would contradict what I said in the first article about sociopathy not being a personality trait. Let’s leave that undecided for now.

It’s time to get on to hyper-reactionaryism. Reactionaryism is a resistance to change – but to define it properly we need to know what the change is from. What is “now”? Is it today, or this year, or this century? Well, a typical reactionary is really resistant to change from their experience of life, i.e. the way things have been during the time they have been alive. This is concrete experience, as opposed to any proposed scheme which just an idea. So, obviously, reactionaryism is linked with low open-mindedness. “Closed-minded” sounds pejorative, so let’s only use it for “too low in openness” which a typical reactionary may not be. And sure enough, we see more of it on the right.

Hyper-reactionaryism refers to wanting to resist change from (and maybe return to) some norm from further in the past. I’m going to suggest that this be 100 years or more, since that doesn’t overlap with the time most people have been alive.

I grew up in a time of pop-pseudo-pychotherapy; everyone seemed to be playing at it; it always seemed to boil down to one “insight” that could be played out over and over and would make you look knowlgable to other 10-year-olds. It’s the game of opposites. Ask your buddy “Are you confident”, they say “yes”, and your analysis is “un-confident, subconsciously tries to compensate by acting confident”. It can be done with other traits too. You sometimes see it pop up in internet debates even now. I grew to be suspicious of this, because it’s too easy, and it tempts one into forming theories that contradict themselves. In these articles, for example, I’ve tried to tease out the differing character of competing or conflicting factors, and give a clear reason for why an outcome seems to reverse when you amplify an input. Here, I may seem to be playing opposites, but hopefully I can show why this is not merely self-contradictory. Let’s give it a try.

Having said that reactionaryism is low-openness and hence associated with the right-wing, I will go on to argue that hyper-reactionaryism is actually left-wing, and associated with high openness (and possibly low conscienntiousness). Firstly, we can see that an interest in or desire to move toward the future is compatible with open-mindedness; quite simply, the future is, to us, made of concepts. There’s little else there apart perhaps from some simple Newtonian predictions that are pretty much facts, like a ball in flight which will certainly land. But otherwise, there is so much uncertainty that the future starts to resemble a canvas on which the open-minded can paint their big ideas – these may be more or less fantastical but the appeal to the left is obvious. It’s where the word “progressive” came from. It’s also why futurology always seems to be the purview of lefties even though it is arguably conscientious people in industry and enterprise who actually create the future.

Now, I suggest that the distant past – more than 100 years ago – can actually serve a similar purpose for such lefties as the future. They can paint their ideas onto it, insist that that’s how things were, and then say we should go “back” to it. But what happens at 100 years to cause this big change? From being something the right advocate to something the left advocate? Well, I suggest that the only reliable history is the human memory. If neither you nor anyone else can remember it, then nobody knows what the hell happened. I’m saying that history is more story-telling than facts of the past. I suggest that revisionism kicks in while the last witness’s body is still warm, and before long the facts are all buried under slanging matches between historians with competing agendas.

At the time of writing this, the process is well-underway with the Great War (100 years on). Revisionism resembles decay in the way that subtle and complex structure of reality is gradually replaced by less sophisticated ideologically-motivated interpretations.

There is or was an area of study called “histriography”, which attempts to be objective about history, by treating it like science (see Britannica, not Wikipedia). Guess what? You never hear about it because it got nowhere. There’s nothing you can do that resembles an experiment, and the data you can get is not in an easily analysable form (scientists already got to work on all the old data sets they could analyse; that’s just called “science”). Mostly, though, the problem is that the info you can get your hands on has mostly already been distorted by people acting in a decidedly non-scientific fashion. What little you can find in terms of writing and recordings requires context to interpret it (this is the one and only thing post-modernists are right about) and no-one is alive that has that context in their minds.

So, history is so useless that at about 100 years our knowledge of the past transitions pretty rapidly from solid and tangible to almost as uncertain as the future. Now you know why, for example, born-again ranty leftist Baldrick is into archaeology programmes. Sure, the bits of pottery they find are tangible evidence of the past, but he (and viewers) are free to fantasise about what life was really like in those past days. And if that fantasy feels nice, well, now you can use the tangible parts to lend authority to your ideas, making them more, shall we say, foistable. I hardly need go into historical dramas like “Downton Abbey” and the way they “clean up” the past by imposing new ideas onto our rather weak historical knowledge; succeptable viewers might start thinking we should bring some of that stuff back. Which is dangerous. Kids, just say “no” to hyper-reactionary lifestyle fantasy.

Thanks for reading and I apologise for how dreadfully long this one has turned out to be. I promise part three, “The Great Personality Shift”, will get to the point much more quicker.

/()43 |_|K19 ©

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