It’s the “Hysterical Delusional Affirmation” Syndrome

NEW SLAUGHTERThis was pretty good from Charlie Cook’s National Journal column today …

“Driving in to work Tuesday morning while listening to WTOP, Washington’s excellent all-news radio station, I heard my friend, the extremely able congressional reporter Dave McConnell, relate a conversation he had with a Republican House member. This member told McConnell that allowing the debt ceiling to be breached might “get the leadership’s attention.” That sounded like a kid saying if he threw his mother’s priceless vase against the wall, she might start letting him do what he wants. Political judgment this bad, coming from members of Congress, is a dangerous thing for a party. When it comes to dealing with something with enormous consequences, such as intentionally creating a situation that could lead to default on our national debt, we are no longer quibbling about minor differences of opinion.

The combination of redistricting; population-sorting; and media-viewing, listening, and reading habits has created ideological and partisan culs-de-sac and incestuous thinking that are causing astonishing miscalculations on hugely consequential matters.

I consulted a psychiatrist and a psychologist on this question. Both said there is no formal term for the behavior some Republicans are exhibiting, but one described the groupthink as “hysterical delusional affirmation,” and the other named it “delusional synergy.” One said, “It entails suspension of logical intellectual processes with a selective consideration of only confirmatory input. Paranoid people typically experience ideas of influence and control where they believe that they see things that others cannot. This process is often propelled by delusions of grandeur, quite often messianic in nature.”

Certainly, delusion is not new. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the hatred and contempt for the Arkansan among many Republicans and conservatives was so great it led prominent GOP members to do some pretty outrageous things—up to and including then-Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana shooting a melon in his backyard to try to prove some harebrained conspiracy theory about the late White House counsel Vince Foster’s death. And that’s not to mention the impeachment fiasco. When hatred turns into obsession, it spawns some pretty erratic and destructive behavior.”

Oh, and a bonus Rowdy Crowd pop quiz …

Who said this … ?

“I think that remark is one of his more out of touch remarks that we’ve heard in recent days. No. What emboldened our enemies and what empowered our competitors was his promise to fundamentally transform America from being a solvent, free, exceptional country into something we’re not gonna recognize. Also, what has emboldened enemies is that he with doubling of our debt since he’s been elected, putting us on a path towards bankruptcy, and then locking up pipelines and resources that will result in us being more reliant on foreign imports for energy, and then of course he, having left behind, his administration having left behind our brave men in Benghazi to be murdered, and then of course there’s Syria, where he promised to bomb Syria because in that civil war, Syria was going to bomb Syria, and then we never heard another word again about his threat to bomb in a foreign civil war, and then of course, most recently …  he, uh, using our military, those who would fight against our enemies. Our military. Our vets. Shutting down their memorials. And holding them hostage in terms of budget deals. Uh, threatening to withhold paychecks for our brave men and women. As for economic—

Interviewer: Listen, but let me ask you — let me jump in

AS FOR ECONOMIC COMPETITORS! Corporate tax rate, the second highest in the industrialized world. Now that empowers our competitors.

37 thoughts on “It’s the “Hysterical Delusional Affirmation” Syndrome

  1. That’s easy…I can hear the “g”s droppin’ like shell casings…it’s my choice for Tea Party vice president candidate, the half-term former Governor of Alaska Sarah “Where’s My Check?” Palin.

  2. PM says:

    I have also been wondering about the bizarre thought processes on display here. i have run across the following 2 critiques, both from conservative sources, about this tea party delusion:

    Rod Dreher, in The American Conservative: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/confusing-politics-with-religion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=confusing-politics-with-religion ;
    ” I’m always fascinated by the question of how we know what we know, and was thinking this morning about what kind of mind sees what just happened as either a victory, or a defeat that happened not because the cause was hopeless, but because the cause was betrayed, its noble defenders stabbed in the back by faithless RINO traitors. Because that is the emerging narrative within the right-wing bubble.

    Can the Tea Partiers’ beliefs be falsified? I don’t think they can be. I mean, is there any evidence that could convince them that the fault here lies with themselves, in the way they conceive politics, and in the way they behaved? It sure doesn’t look like it. In that sense, they think of politics as a kind of religion. It’s not for nothing that the hardcore House members stood together and sang “Amazing Grace” as the impossibility of their position became ever clearer. They really do bring a religious zealotry to politics.”

    and then, Noah Millman, also in The American Conservative
    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/millman/persuasion-versus-conversion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=persuasion-versus-conversion
    “The narrative of acquiring religious convictions is one of conversion. Whether it happens at a stroke on the way to Damascus or through some more gradual process, we’re talking about a fundamental change from one state, and one group affiliation, to another. That process produces strong incentives to retain the new affiliation once it’s adopted. But it also raises high barriers to entry (at least if one cares about the conversion being sincere). The sorts of people who try on Buddhism one week and Kabbalah the next are not the sorts of people who any religious group is really trying to get in the pews.

    The incentives in politics, meanwhile, cut largely the other way. The median voter theorem dictates that, in a well-functioning two-party democracy, both parties will tend to earn 50% of the votes. They will constantly be competing for the most fickle portion of the electorate – because that’s where victory lies. Barriers to entry need to be as low as possible. And the goal isn’t to convert people, but to persuade them – to vote for you and your compatriots. Obviously, political parties want more rather than less loyal supporters. But loyalty is necessarily secondary to actually cobbling together a majority, because without a majority you lose.”

    Religious belief is sustained by faith–a setback only makes you believe even more strongly. Political beliefs SHOULD be informed by trial end error–when something does not work, you try something else. But that is not what the tea party is doing, is it?

    1. that’s pretty good, although she seems to avoid the gist of the Popular Science decision, which was that they were tired of informed commentary/discussion getting derailed by badly-informed ideologues.

      I liked this part …

      “At the same time, people become more likely to justify their actions in self-absolving ways. Multiple studies have also illustrated that when people don’t think they are going to be held immediately accountable for their words they are more likely to fall back on mental shortcuts in their thinking and writing, processing information less thoroughly. They become, as a result, more likely to resort to simplistic evaluations of complicated issues, as the psychologist Philip Tetlock has repeatedly found over several decades of research on accountability.”

      There is also a variation on anonymity, which is when a commenter simply invents a real-sounding name, thereby making a credibility-building claim of openness, while still operating from behind a mask. However they do it, the fundamental crisis for the vast majority of trolls is intellectual insecurity.

          1. Jim Leinfelder says:

            “Keep him,” like the hunchback in the bell tower? I reckon it’s his call and the “Goofs” win thanks in the largest measure to him, booth or sideline. I don’t read him, has Souhan tapped out anything congratulating Kill?

            1. bertram jr. says:

              So, Jim, you’re saying Country Jer’ deserves the credit for the win?

              It’s the doctors telling him he will likely die if he doesn’t stay out of the stress of the actual game – “his call”?

              He is physically unable to coach on game day(s).

            2. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Who put the team together? Who prepared ’em for the season and each game? If they were losing he’d sure as hell be getting the blame? I don’t get you conservatives. You claim to admire boot strappers? But then you vilify Kill for where he was born and raised, like it was a choice. The guy’s done well with the gifts he’s been given. And I’m not aware that HIS worldview is informed by petty resentments, but by gratitude for what he has to work with. Playing sports usually brings out the best in people. But watching seems to usually brings out the worst.

          2. PM says:

            Looks like Kill is going to follow your advice, Brian (according to today’s Strib).

            Jim, why are you always exaggerating and twisting people’s comments? Do you just have a naturally cantankerous streak? Brian makes a perfectly ordinary common sense comment (one that Kill apparently agrees with), and you twist it into something dark and nefarious–as if Brian had the ability to “keep” Kill in a bell tower! Why are you so eager to pick fights all the time?

            You posted the above article on the psychology of online comments…are you self aware enough to see your own behaviour?

            1. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Well, as Brian opined regarding the revulsion toward Souhan’s piece, how you put things matters. I found Brian’s phrasing patronizing, “keep him,” was a poor choice of phrase in the context of Kill’s disability, to my ear anyway. Coach Kill is performing well in his job, especially given that he is also trying to manage a very difficult-to-manage condition. But the point is, HE is managing it. He’s not someone to be “kept.” None of us are.

            2. I hope we haven’t reached a point where I was ever saying that Kill should fired. (The point of my original post was more that Souhan and sportswriters enjoy unusual latitude in today’s newspaper business.) What I prefer is that he not further imperil his health, if the stress of gameday is what brings on his attacks. If he functions fine upstairs in the booth, great. (How shall I say this?) “Strongly encourage him to consider that a permanent option, if he so chooses.”

            3. PM says:

              Well, one thing that I think we can all agree on, is that Kill being up in the booth seems, so far, to be working–the team is winning, and Kill is not having seizures. Optimal results all around.

              Doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever, or that this is anything other than a temporary solution–but so far a successful temporary solution. I’d suggest they continue doing it at least thru the end of the season, giving Kill plenty of time to figure out other, better ways to deal with the seizures.

              i agree that the phrase “keep him’ can be seen as being patronizing. I would not necessarily interpret it as Brian being intentionally patronizing–rather I’d interpret it as a throw away line, casually spoken–especially because of his use of “goofs” just after.

      1. bertram jr. says:

        Well, sometimes a guy has a job that sort of puts him in the public eye, and he may not want his professional life negatively affected by the vilification from the left – those that would personally do and wish harm to those who do not share their peculiar world view, their embrace of moral relativism, or their blind fealty to protecting their sacred totems – feelings over facts, outcomes over opportunities, and racial / social ‘justice’ as a some sort of literal ad figurative beat down stick.

        Bertram knows a feller or two like that.

        1. Jim Leinfelder says:

          But you criticize him for being from the country and having an illness. Did you pick where you were raised? Did you earn your lack of a debilitating illness? No and no. The guy’s a winner and an inspiration to the young men he coaches. Where’s the problem?

          1. PM says:

            He’s a winner? So far this season, yes….but only 2-2 in the conference, and the other 4 wins were, as you previously noted, against patsies. Four games left, and some pretty tough opponents (Indiana is probably the weakest of the bunch). Even a 6-6 season (the worst he can do) will be an improvement over prior years, and shows steady progress.

            Will he be a winner? Well, the only way to answer that is to wait and see. And, if he is a winner, will he stick around, or move on to another program? That has been his pattern, after all…build up a program and use it as a stepping stone on to a bigger job/program.

            I wonder about your observation that playing sports brings out the best in people, but watching brings out the worst. Fans watching the Gopher wins over Northwestern and Nebraska certainly seem to have brought out the supporters for Coach Kill. Are fair weather fans the worst?

            1. Jim Leinfelder says:

              Oh, please, compared to his predecessors, yes, I’d call him quite successful in the wake of losing season after losing season. Despite our weak recruitment appeal, Kill’s assembled and led a decent, competitive team. They upset Nebraska, for cry in’ out loud. They beat a good Northwestern team. Give ’em their props.

              I’m not a fan in the true sense of the word. My interest is pretty casual. I just haven’t liked the way Kill’s been taken after because of other’s squeamishness about his disability. You and Bertram think his chosen profession is unworthy. So you’re thoughts on the matter are tainted. In your view, he’s damned for even holding the job. Bertram is for some reason offended by the guy’s humble rural origins, something over which he has no more control than he does having epilepsy.

              Isn’t that most people’s pattern, do a good job and then when better opportunities arise out of hard work and good performance, seize them and move on? What makes Kill a special case for loyalty? What makes Kill the target he’s been for vilification at all? All I can identify is that he has an illness that makes some people uncomfortable. It’s not an issue for his players, or his assistant coaches, his peers in the conference or the officials who hired him.

              It seems to be an issue just for some fans and the scribes who write about the team. So, yeah, that seems to me be to be evidence that participation in sports is more ennobling than mere spectating and carping on sports talk radio.

        2. Joe Loveland says:

          Re: Bert Junior’s frequent assertions that The Others are all about “feelings over facts.” Feelings, nothing more than feelings.

          I might object to this broadside if it came from someone else, but this poster ALWAYS backs up all of his posts with relevant facts and credible sources.

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