Social Identity

Threat to national survival: sexual prejudice in times of COVID 19 prejudice in Poland — Psychology @ Goldsmiths

We’ve known for a long time that a scared population tends to vote conservative and make more cautious decisions in general. Thus, all the GQP fear mongering that we’ve seen since the Republicans threw over the abolitionists and freed slaves in favor of big business and monopoly capitalism and all that sweet sweet lucre they were willing to lavish upon them. They realized that creating fear and anxiety in the white population was the only way to win majorities. Nowadays, they realized that they can still win with just 40% of the vote. They don’t need no majority when they KNOW they’re right and by right I mean getting that sweet sweet lucre from the lobbyists and corporate donors as long as they do their bidding.

White Identity Politics

For the GQP the formula has been clear and consistently followed, dog whistle up racial animosity by demagoguing crime — implying them Blacks are going to come sneaking around raping, burglaring, and murdering innocent white folks — debt, deficit spending, and socialism — them lazy no good for nothing Blacks is taking too much in welfare from all the taxes all the pure good white folks is working hard to pay — and cultural change — all the Blacks is having too many childrens so they are going to replace us good white folks. As long as they are consistently beating that drum of racial animus, they could count on 60% of the white vote and that is enough to win as long as you never needed any more than 40% of the overall vote.

The demographic erosion of the Republican base has gotten to the point where not even 40% of the vote may guarantee their wins, but — good news, right? — they have rigged the elections so that they are not in danger of ever losing again. Not only can they suppress the vote of likely Democratic voters, they can nullify the votes that they don’t like, and appoint the winners of the elections. And, if that doesn’t work or the Blacks get too uppity about it all, they can rely on MAGA Nation’s Second Amendment solutions.

The Authoritarian Power Grab

We’ve covered the Republican efforts in creating single-party pseudo-democratic minority rule right here in the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid where they transfer the nation’s wealth to the 1% as quickly as possible while we all live in Cancer Alley, drinking Flint Water, paying for Texas utilities, receiving crisis standards of medical care until we can no longer contribute more than we cost when we can die quietly and quickly.

The Republicans thought they had died and gone to hog-authoritarian heaven when the #COVID19 arrived on shores and begun killing people by the score, then hundreds, then thousands. They realized that all they had to do encourage people to do the exact opposite of what needed to be done and hundreds of thousands of real live Americans would become real live dead Americans and millions would become real live sick Americans, and if they did that, they would have naturally occuring waves of terror to further racicalize and guilliblize their base with. If they could do that, they were shoe ins for full-on authoritarianism because millions of iNdEpEnDeNt VoTeRs would be willing to throw away their fReEdOms for their strong-arm rule in order to protect them from the failures of science, government, and Democrats as long as they could ensure that science, government, and Democrats failed at everything they tried to do.

That is until the good folks over at the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths College — um… that’s Goldsmiths at the University of London, you know THE University of London and not some fly-by-night organization that thought using gold in their title would make the sound classy or sumpthin’. Anywho, that is until they went snooping around how real people reacted to “populists” shortchanging them on government services that might could protect them from #COVID19.

As it turns out the US isn’t alone in facing its authoritarian moment. We’ve got more friends than just Hungary and Brazil, too. Poland, for example, has been having a rough go of it since the authoritarians got themselves elected to office.

National Unity and National Cohesion

As they write the pandemic will likely cause an increase in national cohesion and national identity since threats generally cause populations to emphasize their group identity. The well known rally round the flag response. This tendency cause an increased emphasis on conformity reducing critical thinking and objections to objectionable decisions, you know, like groupthink does. When the majority begins to emphasize conformity and similarity and the ties that bind, it can put the minority populations at great risk.

Think here about how MAGA Nation are targeting anyone who isn’t like them or one of them: Blacks, Browns, immigrants, women, progressives, liberals, non-Christians, and anyone else they don’t like. That’s quite a list, isn’t it? It is this tendency that the authoritarian right is counting on to help them “win” in the 2022 elections whether it is “winning” a majority of votes in each district or appointing the winner in the places where they didn’t win a “majority.”

Support for Populist Authoritarian Gov’t during #COVID19

For their purposes, de Zavala and Keenan, recognized that women’s rights are often targeted during these times of crisis when a nation or community is trying desperately to demonstrate its unity in the face of calamity, so they went to Poland and began surveying the population as the government enacted their first #COVID19 lockdowns in 2020. They collected their data four times over a six week period from 28 February until 15 April.

The authoritarian populist government began attacking women’s rights by holding parliamentary hearings on abortion and proposed a presidential election on 10 May. They used the willingness to vote in the presidential election as a proxy for approval of the government and its actions. In February and March during the first wave of #COVID19, support for the election was overwhelmingly high (about 80% support) but by April it had lost half of its support (about 40%) suggesting that enthusiasm for the conservative authoritarian populism that preferred attacking women’s rights over #COVID19 mitigation had waned.

Their data suggests that national cohesion increased at the beginning of the pandemic with people supporting the government’s crackdown on women’s rights when fear of the unknown was high and people sought safety in unity. But, as people began to learn to cope with the pandemic, compassion and empathy replaced their sense of withdrawal and hostility. The anti-women policy started out as unifying the country, but eventually began to be divisive causing widespread rejection of such policies. It is possible that as governments continue to mishandle the pandemic, electorates will turn against them and support governments that are handling the crisis better. This gives us some hope heading into the 2022 elections and as we steer our way through the “baffling” stance of Manchin and Sinema as they threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, Joe Biden’s agenda, and any ability of our federal government from effectively governing, which is the GQP’s trick.

Threat to national survival: sexual prejudice in times of COVID 19 prejudice in Poland

Agnieszka Golec de Zavala & Oliver Keenan 22 April 2020

Authoritarian shift and national cohesion

With the global spread of coronavirus came a similarly disturbing spread of authoritarian power grabs made by right-wing populist leaders. This came in time with warnings that the pandemic provides a prime opportunity for authoritarian leaders to use emergency legislation to consolidate and extend their power. Notably, Hungary’s parliament voted to allow the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree—allowing executive powers to be concentrated under one party with a leader known for extreme illiberalism, these powers were endowed indefinitely. Policies which made attacks on civil liberties were introduced by populist leaders in countries such as the UK, Poland, Iran, the United States, China, and Israel.

It is well established within political psychology and political science that crises which increase perceptions of threat cause a ‘conservative shift’ within the population (Bonanno & Jost, 2006; Nail & McGreger, 2009). Populist leaders can exploit this shift in attitudes to their own ends. This increase in conservative attitudes is driven by increased motivation to manage feelings of uncertainty and threat—social hierarchy, order, and security take precedence over individual rights and freedoms (Hetherington & Suhay, 2011; Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003). Individually, this is expressed by right-wing authoritarianism which involves commitment to traditional norms, willing obedience to the leader, and the endorsement of aggression against those who deviate from norms or break the rules. This allows for authoritarian governments to enact policies which will downgrade requirements of democracy such right to vote, freedom of speech, due legal process, and a lively electoral system (Hogg & Adelman, 2013; Kessler & Cohrs; 2008; Moghaddam, 2012).

Authoritarian governments dominate in regions with a high prevalence of infectious parasites (Murray, Schaller, & Suedfeld, 2013). Since pathogens (at least, until very recently) pose an inexplicable threat, human responses to their management have involved strict adherence to social norms relating to prevention of transmission. Experimental studies have also shown that exposing individuals to a threatening disease stimulus increased group conformity (Murray & Schaller, 2012). As this response plays out within nationalities, we can expect that this pandemic will increase concerns over national cohesion and an accentuation of national identity. This is in line with research that shows existential threats causes people to emphasise their collective group identity which meets basic human needs and provides feelings of safety and security (Smeekes & Verkuyten, 2013). This is represented by perceptions of national cohesion which involves seeing one’s group a tightly knit and highly similar, often at the cost of maintaining individuality (Waytz & Young, 2012).

Continue reading on Psychology @ Goldsmiths: Threat to national survival: sexual prejudice in times of COVID 19 prejudice in Poland

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Image Attribution

“violence. sexism. exclusion. fear.” by zieak is licensed under CC BY 2.0

13 replies »

  1. So, when an authoritarian government obviously, grossly, and apologetically mishandles something like a pandemic, or actually militates against effective measures (weirdly, even when in power, not just as the out of power party), a group identity is likely to form around doing the right things (The Vaccinated, The Mask Wearing). That makes a lot of sense, and can expand into opposition to the attempted distraction with unrelated issues like attacks on women’s rights and minority rights. There is cause for hope in that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      That’s the finding. Once people have had a taste of democracy and are accustomed to having some input into their governance, they don’t necessarily roll over and let it be taken from them. Hopefully, without Trump as an animating force in the ’22 elections, the frustration of the vaccinated will be voiced in the vote.

      If the Dems don’t lose the messaging war, we might could pull this off and be the stronger and better for it.

      The problem is, I don’t have a good feel for what the “average” American is thinking about all this. Polling hasn’t been terribly off during the past few elections, but it has been off. And, white folks have been reluctant to punish the GQP for not enacting the policies that they tell pollsters they really really support.


      Liked by 1 person

      • That reluctance to punish the GOP is what needs to be overcome. One trend that may help is the increasing discomfort among both the creators and consumers of news/opinion content in the mainstream media with false equivalency.

        So much of polling depends on how questions are structured and framed, including the order of the questions, that manipulation (conscious or out of unconscious bias) is almost unavoidable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Even though the folks over at Five Thirty Eight don’t think so, I think MAGA Nation either avoids polls or deliberately lies to them. I don’t think you can really trust polls any more for that reason. And, then there are the framing issues that you cite. People are against the Build Back Better Plan when you cite the cost, but for it when you cite the programs, for example.

          The malfeasance and refusal to govern, though, may be catching up to the Republicans. I don’t think they quite realize just how impassioned women are about abortion, for example. I don’t think they understand how frustrated and fed up the vaccinated are with the unvaxxed. I think 2020 will be similar to 2018 in turn out and proportions. The only question is whether or not the voter suppression and nullification laws change the outcome.


          PS Biden’s meeting with the House Dems seemed to go well and reset the frame around the BBB Act.

          Liked by 1 person

          • One thing clear about the MAGAs comes out in their reactions to interview attempts by “liberal” media (like NPR) reporters. The hostility and mistrust is expressed openly and clearly. That they would avoid or lie to pollsters seems very credible. Of course, I don’t get counted in polls either because I don’t answer robo calls. Maybe there is a bit of balance there.

            In a recent interview, the CEO of Planned Parenthood commented that there is no state in the union in which a majority favors banning abortion. She is, admittedly, a possibly biased observer, but may be right. But, on what issues will the majority of voters vote? That is the unknown, and a lot can happen in the next 13 months.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              It is just increasingly clear that the MAGA movement and their puppet masters mean to burn it all down. They are trying their damndest to squeeze some real violence out of MAGA Nation and intimidate any and everyone who would speak against them to back down and shut up. Unfortunately, it seems to be working when you look at elections officials in various states.


              Liked by 1 person

              • The attacks on election officials are especially telling. The loss of institutional knowledge is huge. If you can get incompetent people (however much they may agree with you) running elections, there will be more errors and screwups to point to to prove the process can’t be trusted.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  Institutional knowledge is a good point and another form of collective knowledge. They really do mean to destroy our democracy, and they know what they’re doing. Somehow Steve Bannon is a big part of their effort. Even though he fell from grace from Trump World, he never completely disappeared and people still listened to him.


                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Yep. When the Republicans talk about “The Deep State”, that’s what they mean, ousting the holders of the institutional knowledge and values and replacing them with loyalists and ideologues who don’t actually know how any of it works. Come to think on it, that appears to be exactly what the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan. We’ll see how that works out there.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I don’t think they care if any of it works. They want to dictate the outcome of every election regardless of the voting. They merely need enough window dressing to keep the gullible believing that the election was fair.


                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Once they establish in a sufficient number of minds that the proof of a fair election is them winning (which may already be accomplished), it won’t matter how screwed up the process gets.

                      Liked by 1 person

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