Fanatical Fundies Fear Freedom

Linus' behavior is a-pauling

Wouldn’t making people spin in mid-air when
you yell at them be a great superpower?
(Image from Done with Mirrors)

[Note: If you're reading this in a feed reader, you may need to visit my website to see the audio players.]

I discovered a good interview program on the local low-power NPR affiliate. It’s called Your Call. From what I can tell, it’s like Fresh Air, but liberaler.

Friday’s program featured an interview with Max Blumenthal, who wrote Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party. One of the best parts of this interview is Blumenthal gets into the heads of the fundies and tries to figure out what makes them tick. He bases his explanations of their behavior mostly on the psychological theory of Erich Fromm.

Psychology works best when it describes behavior. When it tries to explain the reasons behind that behavior, it can get into some really tenuous territory. Keeping that in mind, Blumenthal’s explanations nonetheless seem like they could at least partially explain some of these wackos’ motivations. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

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Blumenthal mentions Erich Fromm’s book Escape from Freedom. Wikipedia says:

Fromm distinguishes between “freedom from” (negative freedom) and “freedom to” (positive freedom). The former refers to the process of becoming emancipated from the restrictions placed on humanity by other people or institutions. This has often been fought for historically but is not of much inherent value unless accompanied by a creative element, “freedom to”; the use of freedom to behave in ways which are constructive and respond to the genuine needs and wants of the free individual/society by creating a new system of social order.

Right off the bat, you can see that “freedom to” leads people away from the dictatorial decrees of God and replaces them with some sort of man-made morality and social structure. Can’t have that!

The Wikipedia article describes Fromm’s ideas of escaping freedom:

As “freedom from” is not an experience we enjoy in itself, Fromm suggests that many people, rather than utilizing it successfully, attempt to minimise its negative effects by developing thoughts and behaviors that provide some form of security.

They then list those three approaches. See if you can guess which approach fundies use (hint: it’s #1!):

  1. Authoritarianism
  2. Destructiveness
  3. Conformity

Here’s how they summarize Authoritarianism:

Fromm characterizes the authoritarian personality as containing a sadist element and a masochist element. The authoritarian wishes to gain control over other people in a bid to impose some kind of order on the world, they also wish to submit to the control of some superior force which may come in the guise of a person or an abstract idea.

So take that for what it’s worth. I definitely agree that the authoritarians want to gain control over other people and impose their sick and twisted view of reality upon them.

Here they talk a bit more about Fromm and how his ideas relate to the fundies:

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Bingo! Look at those last sentences again:

[W]hen they rely on their individual wills, they feel like they can’t moderate their behavior. They can’t control themselves.

You’ve probably heard arguments against atheism that go like this:

He wants to kill you, because he's an atheist

Projection is typical fundie behavior. Fundies seem to run amuck and indulge in all their baser desires whenever there is nothing to hold them back.

Get on your knees and 'pray'

(Actually, Ted Haggard probably had the benefit of a reach-around to hold him back.)

Just because they can’t be trusted without a punitive authoritarian God hanging over their heads, the fundies assume that no one else can either.

It appears to me that individuals with Fundie Personality Disorder™ require blind adherence to a god-like figure. We would be doing society a grave disservice if we somehow found a way to eliminate religion from America. Sufferers of FPD would find an even more destructive substitute. (Probably fascism. That seems like the closest political structure, and it seems to be the natural direction it flows.)

There’s a lot more good stuff in this interview. You should go to the Your Call website and listen to the whole thing. I’d love to grab more excerpts and comment on them, but I’m out of time. It looks like this book is worth buying. I’ll add it to the pile of other great anti-fundie books that I can never find time to read. (I’m Burgess Meredith; I just know it!)

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Here are some additional links:
Max Blumenthal’s website
Fresh Air interview
BuzzFlash review

That last one says:

Republican Gomorrah is a 365-page exposé into the ironic fact that those who wrap themselves in the flag fear freedom the most because of their own personal demons and insecurities, making them pathologically supportive of an authoritarian state that can provide them with the emotional security of being a cog in a … white Christian hierarchical machine.

9 Responses to “Fanatical Fundies Fear Freedom”

  1. FSM_Ed Says:

    Very good post, thank you for the new podcast.

  2. mu Says:

    Speaking of authoritarianism, here’s Prof. Bob Altemeyer’s wrote a book on it:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

  3. mu Says:

    This one, The Nightmare of Christianity, might also be relevant here:

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090921/blumenthal

  4. Another Steve Says:

    Wow! I don’t know what to say. It’s so hard to have an argument when someone says something you agree with 100%. Knock that off!

  5. sue blue Says:

    Spot-on post! It’s like the Unified Theory of Fundamentalism; it sums fundie behavior up under a single theme – insecurity. They are like kids who can’t go to sleep at night without the binky or the thumb or the blankie, and, like babies, they can’t even conceive of a world that exists without a need for these things. And they need an external Provider of these things, because, after all, they are just babies.

  6. Jeff Eyges Says:

    NPR also had an interview recently with Sam Tanenhaus, author of The Death of Conservatism:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112416502

    as did Bill Moyers the other night:

    http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/09182009/watch.html

  7. KennyCelican Says:

    Very well thought out, very well commented. The only point I’d debate is really entirely tangential, and that’s Fromm’s conflation of domination with sadism and masochism with submission. S&M and B&D are different beasties entire, and most Fundies fall in the ‘need to control’ more than they do the ‘pain fetish’ category.

    Not that some aren’t both, I’ll grant.

    And not that the whole discussion is a tangent on a peripheral point.

    I would say to sue blue’s comment that it’s more than insecurity, or that it’s a particular variety. It’s also a complete lack of self control, of even the concept of self control. Without a concept of self control, the idea of life wihtout an external controller for themselves and the other human animals must be absolutely terrifying.

  8. Steve Wiggins Says:

    Having been an early victim of Fundamentalism myself, I always supposed that it was based on fear. I just posted a podcast on my blog giving a brief history of Fundamentalism and suggesting that these people are very much afraid of just about anything after the first century of the common era.

  9. Jeff Eyges Says:

    Steve, the link’s wrong. You meant to type http://sawiggins.wordpress.com/