Friday, August 13, 2021

Ten years ago at the blog -- Conservation of Cynicism


It's all really the same thread. Back in 2011, we were talking about the consequences of the conservative movement cultivating craziness and manipulating the base through disinformation. We just have more examples now. 

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011

Overly-trusting Straussians

There is a strong strain of Straussianism in the conservative movement. Of course, not all prominent conservative intellectuals believe that you have to lie and oversimplify to move the masses in the best direction for society, but pretty much all have accepted and, more importantly, internalized the fact that many of their colleagues do believe in the need for these noble lies.

Once you've internalized the idea that people in your circle are smart and sane but occasionally make ludicrous statements for the benefit of the crowds (call it the Elsinore strategy -- feigning madness), it becomes easy to ignore craziness in your own party, particularly when there's a penalty for suggesting the alternative (see Bartlett and Frum).

In other words, we have something like conservation of cynicism. The Straussian assumes the worst about the masses, but has an excuse to assume the best about allies, even when they give every indication of being crazy and/or stupid. The result is that it has taken smart, sane conservatives far too long to acknowledge what's going on with House Republicans.

The consequences of this lack of cynicism is spelled out in detail in excellent posts by Jon Chait and Paul Krugman.

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