Both Feet!

I have posted before about the protest that is going on in the NFL (especially) by a number of players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem. It is a hot topic, indeed a large pond of hot mud, since there is a great deal of pointing of fingers and angry cries of “foul” but very little seems to be happening. The problem is the focus of attention is directed to the protests themselves and not to the problems that have brought on the protests — namely, the civil unrest, especially in large cities and most especially in poor neighborhoods where there have been numerous clashes between police officers and citizens who see the police presence as a threat.

This issue, as I say, is very muddy indeed and a number of the players — not only in football but in other professional sports as well — are actually working with those in the ghettos to help resolve the tensions that exist there between the citizens and the police who patrol the streets. What is needed is dialogue, of course, between the two sides so that an understanding can be reached between two groups of folks who simply see the world differently.

But of recent note is the insistence of our Fearless Leader to jump into the mud feet-first, throwing mud in every direction and generally making a mess of things. He sees things in black and white terms, as so many of us do. And he insists that the NFL Commissioner simply demand that the players stand or fire them. I kid you not! Simple solutions to complex problems: that’s in the man’s DNA. It’s the sort of thing that will appeal to a great many Americans who are offended by the protests and refuse to see beyond them to the real problems the athletes seek to draw attention to. But it is not going to help matters one bit.

This country was founded on protest. Those who ignore that are really not in a position to call the protests “un-American,” or “un-patriotic.” They are the very heart and soul of America. But the protests themselves should not be the focus of attention, as I have noted. We need to ask ourselves why certain individuals, many of them after deep soul-searching and at the risk of hatred and derision at the hands of those in the stands, would choose to disrespect the flag of their country. Is it possible that there is something amiss? Something that should be addressed? To be sure, there is.

We do love simple solutions and we find those who suggest simple solutions to complex problems reassuring. I give you Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh. It helps us avoid the exhausting effort of trying to figure things out for ourselves. Donald Trump is not the first to suggest a simple solution to a complex problem and he will most certainly not be the last. But the issue is there and it will not go away until people start to talk seriously with one another, to make a concerted effort to understand the other’s point of view. And shouting “Fire the bums! is taking this in precisely the opposite direction. To mix metaphors a bit, it is throwing gasoline on the fire. Or, to stick with my original metaphor:  jumping in with both feet simply makes the mud pile deeper and more smelly.

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Demagoguery

With the vast improvement in the transmission of pictures and words quickly to more and more people, the always present threat of demagoguery increases. We have seen a number of such (whose names will not be mentioned), but all learned their  techniques, directly or indirectly, from Adolph Hitler. And in order to understand the man’s success no one has studied Hitler more closely than Hannah Arendt, a Jew who was forced to leave Germany in her childhood and later became a teacher and writer of international fame. She wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism, a large book that established her reputation firmly as one who had a penetrating insight into some of the most important events of the past which she was convinced should enable us to better understand the present and anticipate probable future events. In a lengthy footnote in that book she reflects on the success of the depressingly ordinary Adolph Hitler “who during his lifetime exercised a fascination to which allegedly no one was immune.” Indeed, anyone who has seen films of Hitler before a crowd, even if he is not fluent in German, finds himself swept up in the emotional theater and inclined to agree with whatever the little man is saying. What is it that makes this possible? As Arendt notes:

“Society is always prone to accept a person offhand for what he pretends to be, so that a crackpot posing as a genius always has a certain chance to be believed. In modern society, with its characteristic lack of discerning judgment, the tendency is strengthened, so that someone who not only holds opinions but also presents them in a tone of unshakable conviction will not easily forfeit his prestige, no matter how many times he has been demonstrably wrong. Hitler, who knew the modern chaos of opinions from first-hand experience, discovered that the helpless seesawing between various opinions and the ‘conviction . . .that everything is balderdash’ could best be avoided by adhering to one of many current opinions with ‘unbending consistency.’ The hair-raising arbitrariness of such fanaticism holds great fascination for society because for the duration of the social gathering it is freed from the chaos of opinions that it constantly generates.”

There are a number of features of this comment that invite our attention. Clearly, Arendt has studied her subject closely and asked key questions about how it is that such a person as Adolph Hitler could hold vast numbers of people spellbound and convince them that black is white. To begin with, as she says, he grabs one of the many opinions floating out there and presents it with absolute conviction as the only possible truth, bringing order out of chaos. Repetition, conviction, and consistency, with the assurance that people will believe what you say if they hear it said often and without doubt or hesitation. This is key. Please note that it doesn’t matter in the least whether the opinion is true or false. What matters his whether or not the speaker says it with conviction. Hitler never doubted himself; he never second-guessed. He simply asserted what he wanted people to believe, knowing they would believe what he said if he said it often enough and without any hint of uncertainty.

But as Arendt points out, it matters also that this opinion must be asserted in a group where there is confusion about what matters and what is true. They seek release from the bewildering array of opinions on every side: they want something firm to grab onto in a world filled with conflicting opinions. In Hitler’s day when the mass media were just aborning, the situation was less chaotic than it is in our day when we are overwhelmed with numberless opinions on every subject. We are bombarded on every side by claims and those who presume to be experts about things we may know little about. We all have opinions, but we also are easily persuaded by one who seems to be certain of the truth, even if that truth runs counter to what we ourselves believe. And even if it is blatantly false. The appeal is always emotional, not intellectual., This is not philosophy; it is rhetoric. The demagogue knows how to “work on” the emotions of his or her listener. And as Arendt points out, when the audience evidences ” a characteristic lack of discerning judgment,” as it does in our day especially, the job is made so much easier.

So we should not be amazed that folks like Rush Limbaugh and, in his day, Paul Harvey are immensely popular: they make complex issues simple by  stating “with unbending consistency” and without wavering an opinion (any opinion) that floats in the air and assert it with smug confidence. Their listeners seem to be sitting at the feet of wisdom itself. How could we not have seen that before? It seems so clear now. The demagogue doesn’t know any more than we do. He simply appears to do so and he does so with swagger and with firmness that seem to make disagreement impossible. So we buy what he is selling, whatever that might happen to be. And we feel a sense of relief in doing so, because by agreeing with the demagogue we are ourselves now also wise. Where we had doubts before, we now have certainty — even if we are “demonstrably wrong.”

Holistic Education

I have written several blogs that refer to the rise of anti-intellectualism in this country. If the attitude, which is now widespread, did not start with the religious enthusiasts in the colonies, then it certainly did with Andrew Jackson and pals like Davy Crockett, the sporadically schooled men of action who regarded intellect as “effeminate” and distrusted experts. But, as I have noted, the movement was more recently given a powerful thrust  forward by Senator Joseph McCarthy whose hearings in the early 1950s centered on artists, poets, writers, college professors. and even the President of the United States as the source of Communism and everything that was evil in this country. Bashing anyone who seemed the lest bit thoughtful became the fashion.

The movement had gone underground briefly during the Progressive era and the days of FDR’s “brain trust,” as it did again, despite the effects of the McCarthy hearings, during the post-Sputnik era in the early 1960s when America in a panic wanted more scientists, and during the brief presidency of John F. Kennedy who loved to have intellectuals around him and in his cabinet. But after Kennedy’s death the movement recovered its strength and gained momentum and is now a powerful force in this country — as attested to by the fact that people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are today taking center stage and being applauded left and right (mostly right). The scum also rises.

Ironically, anti-intellectualism is especially prevalent in the schools where the battle has taken the form of an attack by many teachers themselves against traditional (“aristocratic”) education with its emphasis on developing the mind of young people and a (“democratic”) defense of an education directed at developing the “whole” child. Nowhere was this fight more pronounced than in San Francisco in the early 1960s where a committee was formed to determine how the school system could improve in light of Russia’s apparent superiority in sending a rocket successfully into space. The committee came back with a report that the schools should return to a more traditional approach to education and seek to set higher standards in the classrooms, emphasizing science and mathematics, especially. The reaction to this report by six educational organizations [!] is especially noteworthy: they came together with a printed rebuttal of the report and defended the child-centered, “life adjustment” educational system that was by then taking the country by storm (and which is now firmly entrenched in our schools in the form of the “self-esteem” movement). As  Richard Hofstadter notes in his study of anti-intellectualism in this country:

The groups attacked the San Francisco report for “academic pettiness and snobbery” and for going beyond their competence in limiting the purposes of education to “informing the mind and developing the intelligence,” and reasserted the value of “other goals of education, such as preparation for citizenship, occupational competence, successful family life, self-realization in ethical, moral, aesthetic, and spiritual dimensions, and the enjoyment of physical health.”

Now one must wonder why developing the child’s mind does not lead to “preparation for citizenship,” since we would certainly want informed and thoughtful citizens in this democracy. It is certainly what the Founders envisioned. Further, a person who can think will be a much more valuable employee than one who cannot, one would think. Despite the bogus arguments of the advocates of “life adjustment” for the kids during the early part of the last century, numerous psychological studies have shown that liberal learning has a good deal of  “transfer” value: studies of great literature, properly pursued, can pay off in the business world, for example. Job preparation should therefore not be viewed in a narrow focus, but in a focus broad enough to allow that the minds of those who work need also to be developed and nurtured along with specific job skills.  But to take the rest of the goals the group put forward as the proper object of education, one hastens to ask why the schools, specifically, should concern themselves with such things as ethics and morality and the development of “spiritual dimensions”? One would have thought such things were the purview of the family and the church.

Indeed, this has always been one of my main quarrels with progressive education: the concern for the “whole child” and the attack on those (like me) who think the goal of education should be on developing the child’s mind ignore the fact that the schools cannot possibly be expected to do everything at once. It is enough to ask the schools to focus their attention on developing the minds of the children placed in their charge. Developing character and establishing ethical and moral principles in the hearts and souls of the children are extremely important goals, but they should not be part of the objective of the schools. The schools have enough to do if they simply focus on what they are able to do and seek to do it more effectively.

I suspect that a large part of the fact that the schools in this country have fallen behind other developed nations is precisely this — that since the 1930s, at least, we have sought to make the schools responsible for raising the children and not simply educating them. Far too much has been heaped on the plates of this nation’s teachers — and then we add insult to injury by refusing to pay them what they are worth. To be sure, part of this goes back to this nation’s distrust of those who use their minds and the notion that such people are somehow twisted and deformed because the rest of their personality has been undeveloped while their minds have been allowed to take over their lives. But this is a caricature and as such ought to be accorded the ridicule it deserves. The schools should not and indeed they cannot develop the “whole child.” That is the job of families and the churches, in conjunction with the schools — a point that has been too long ignored.

Breaking Rules

One of my favorite novels is John Barth’s The End of The Road. In that novel Jake Horner — who suffers from “cosmopsis,” the inability to choose among alternatives — finds himself teaching English grammar at a Community College on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. At one point a recalcitrant student in one of his classes objects to grammar rules and insists that it’s all hokum. A person can say anything he or she wants and it really doesn’t matter how you say it. This leads to a fascinating confrontation between the student and his teacher.

Jake engages the student in a dialogue in which he notes that what separates us from “savages” are the rules we follow, including grammar rules. “. . .once a set of rules for etiquette or grammar is established and generally accepted as the norm — meaning the ideal, not the average — then one is free to break them only if he is willing to be generally regarded as a savage or an illiterate.. . .You are free to break the rules, but not if you’re after intelligibility. If you do want intelligibility, then the only way to get ‘free’ of the rules is to master them so thoroughly that they’re second nature to you.. . .Who’s more free in America?. . . The man who rebels against all the laws or the man who follows them so automatically that he never even has to think about them?”

(Bill Watterson put the point somewhat differently in his “Calvin and Hobbes” Comic:)

Now despite the fact that we are now politically correct and eschew such terms as “savages,” there is a modicum of truth in Jake’s comments to his student. Our ability to use language has deteriorated to an astonishing degree in the past 50 years. In tests during the late 1950’s there was concern over the reduced vocabulary of supposedly “educated” students from some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities. Since that time, estimates reveal that vocabulary has fallen off by 72% among the students at those same schools. Much of this is due to the fact that foreign languages (especially Latin) are no longer taught to all college bound students. But there are also the related facts of excessive TV watching, increased use of electronic devices, and the decreasing number of books being read.

I blogged in March about the increasing tendency of students to tweet one another rather
than correspond with one another in complete sentences. English teachers around the country have complained in increasing numbers about the growing inability of their students to write a complete sentence. As I said in March, referring to an incident involving Rush Limbaugh and his chastisement of a young woman who testified before Congress about the use of contraceptives:

“The recent debacle surrounding Rush Limbaugh’s trashing of a young woman for having the gall to approach Democratic members of a Congressional committee and suggest that health insurance plans should fund contraceptives to help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies is well documented. Less well documented is actress Patricia Heaton’s leaping to Limbaugh’s side in lashing out at the young law student. Both have apologized. While Heaton’s twitter-trashing was fairly intelligible, her apology was more typical, buried as it is in the usual twitterese:

‘re @SandraFluke Mea culpa Sandra! Wasn’t being respectful 2 u re my tweets as I hope people wd b w/me. Don’t like you being dissed -so sorry.'”

In a word, what we have here is a new language that may or may not express complete thoughts. We must bear in mind that our thinking depends on our ability to use words, whether we like it or not. And as our inability to use words increases along with our tendency to replace words with grunts, gestures, sentence fragments, and spacers such as “like,” and “you know” we must grudgingly admit that we are perhaps at the dawn of a new age of barbarism, if not savagery.

The solution, of course, is for parents to grab their kids from in front of the TV and spend more time with them telling them stories, reading to them and having them make up stories themselves. They should also resist the movement toward more electronic devices in the schools — especially in the early grades. The more the kids use language and hear others around them using it correctly the more likely that they will be better able to express themselves and order their thoughts as they grow older. That, it seems to me, is rather important.

The European Purse

[An earlier version of this blog was supposed to be saved in draft form and went out by mistake previously: my bad!  It may or may not be worth reading again. I leave that up to you!]

In one of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld,” Jerry has been convinced by Elaine that he should put all his stuff in a European carry-all that Peterman sells. After he does so his friends all accuse him of carrying a purse, to which he responds repeatedly: “It’s not a purse, it’s European!” Fun stuff. But it’s also what logicians call a “false dichotomy,” as though the object couldn’t be both a purse and come from Europe.

Not a big thing in this case, but it’s one of those fallacies we commit on a fairly regular basis and it can have painful repercussions — as when one says in an angry voice “America, love it or leave it,” as though one can not both love America and leave it. Or one can love America and stay, which seems to be ruled out by the angry remark. The implication is that one cannot love one’s country and criticize it at the same time. This is absurd. Many people think uncritical acceptance of the status quo is the heart and soul of patriotism, but in fact it is jingoism, which is an altogether different thing. The true patriot loves his or her country and also sees the mistakes it makes and wants to try to eradicate those mistakes, or correct them somehow. The jingoist is blind to faults and follows blindly wherever his leaders take him. You can usually spot the latter by the flag waving in his front yard or the decal pasted to his car window.

Another common example of this mistake, as I mentioned in a recent blog, is the notion that we either save jobs or we save the environment, we cannot do both. Of course we can: we can both create and save jobs and save the environment at the same time by investing in clean energy.

Time for a brief lesson in logic. The above mistake derives from our ignorance of what a dichotomy, or a disjunction, happens to be. Disjunctions take the form of either/or and they can be exclusive or inclusive. The mistake we often make comes from confusing the two, thinking that an inclusive disjunction is exclusive, that we must have either toast or tea when we can have both; we either save the environment or we save jobs when we can do both.  Very few disjunctions are exclusive — even the disjunction between life and death (either you’re alive or you’re dead) can be confusing when a patient lies deep in a coma and the families are discussing whether or not to “pull the plug.”

There are almost always grey areas when people shout either/or. But it’s how demagogues like Rush Limbaugh make a living: they ignore the shades of grey; they reduce complex issues to simple black and white making their listeners think things are much simpler than they are (and the speaker much smarter than he is). Paul Harvey used to do the same thing. To many, it’s a breath of fresh air, leading them out of the confusing maze of complex issues where there appear to be no obvious paths into the light of day where they can see clearly what was confused before. But that leads us into a false sense of security and it glosses over many a tough problem by deluding us into thinking an issue is clear-cut when it is not. We need to be wary of the false dichotomy: the purse can be both a purse and European, Jerry!

Uncivil Discourse

One of the distressing things about our present cultural morass is the low level of civil discourse. Even more troubling is the growing inability of people in this society to express themselves at all. What we have, then, is the felt-need of many to lower the level of discourse to the visceral coupled with their inability to say what they mean! Rather than deal with issues and agree to disagree with one another in a civil manner, we have become a nation of interrupters, shouters, mud-slingers — and tongue-tied tweeters.

The recent debacle surrounding Rush Limbaugh’s trashing of a young woman for having the gall to approach Democratic members of a Congressional committee and suggest that health insurance plans should fund contraceptives to help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies is well documented. Less well documented is actress Patricia Heaton’s leaping to Limbaugh’s side in lashing out at the young law student. Both have apologized. While Heaton’s twitter-trashing was fairly intelligible, her apology was more typical, buried as it is in the usual twitterese:

“re @SandraFluke Mea culpa Sandra! Wasn’t being respectful 2 u re my tweets as I hope people wd b w/me. Don’t like you being dissed -so sorry.”

One of the more interesting things here is the gibberish that is beginning to take over as language in a language-impoverished society. Vocabulary has dropped off precipitously and teachers are already complaining that their students cannot write complete sentences. Technology is simply making matters worse. (It is sobering to consider that Shakespeare wrote with a quill pen!) We not only don’t have much to say in the first place, we can’t even say it in an intelligible way. This is especially problematic since our inability to express ourselves directly impairs our ability to think. In any event, the lower level of discourse that substitutes an ad hominem attack for a well-reasoned argument is now coming in the form of dissing on twitter.

People have always disagreed, and the disagreement has often taken a nasty turn. The ad hominem fallacy in logic that rests on the fact that a person himself or herself is being attacked rather than that person’s argument has been around for a long time. It is tempting to commit it on purpose — and even fun. The English are very good at it, as we can see by tuning in to a debate in Parliament. It makes for good entertainment and those in the public eye have long relished the humorous effect their personal attacks can have. Rush Limbaugh is simply one of the more recent champions of this sort of discourse, though he takes it to a lower level with intent to cripple. And Patricia Heaton is free to join him if she chooses to do so. We do have freedom of speech in this country. But one despairs over the fact that typically these attacks show little imagination and seem to lower the level of discourse even further into the mire of personal vilification.

When a young woman is pilloried in public for having the audacity to testify before a political group on behalf of a legitimate concern — a concern that should be shared by those who claim to be “pro-life,” since abortions would be less common if pregnancies were prevented in the first place — we have clearly sunk to a new low. One can only hope we have learned something from all this. But even if we have, the chances are we haven’t learned how to express ourselves more clearly or how to raise the level of discourse above the mire. And in an election year we can expect more of the same.

Hate-Mail On The Web

A piece of hate-mail making the internet circuit these days expresses strong feelings  about the change in wording as a flag is presented to the family of a Korean War veteran. The wording has been changed from “On behalf of the President and a grateful nation …” to “On behalf of the Secretary of Defense and a grateful nation …” This seems a minor change in a ceremony designed to honor the fallen veterans of past wars. But not so for the 85 year-old uncle of a man who was obviously outraged by what he was hearing.

The nephew’s long and somewhat incoherent tirade is being read by millions of readers on the internet as I write this, though the thoughtful response to his diatribe is largely ignored. The nephew in incensed and tells his readers “Obama has taken off the gloves,” and he (the writer) is “ASHAMED” of his country. In the end he hopes the readers will “listen to the voice of reason” (!) which is a “welcome change from the insanity plastered across the country by the liberal media.”

The response to this diatribe comes from a trainer with the Army National Guard who carefully explains that the order to change the wording in the burial ceremony did not come from President Obama, but came in 2007 at the behest of then-President George W. Bush. So apparently President Obama still has his gloves on. As the trainer explains, “It was not a conspiracy to undermine the honors given to veterans, but to protect the oaths we are sworn to uphold.”  While the clarification is most interesting, the letter itself is not worth wasting time on except as a symptom of something deeper. What are we to make of this?

To begin with, of course, the internet makes it possible for all sorts of crazies to reach thousands, if not millions, of readers in minutes. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, harangue from the fingers of an out-of-control “victim” of what he or she perceives as a conspiracy to deprive them of their due. The “liberal media” will doubtless be blamed many times, even though the media are hardly “liberal” and might even lean a bit to the right, sponsored as they are by the corporations that are keen to capture and hold the minds of the buying public.

It is sad that the writer of this diatribe feels ASHAMED (his word in caps) of his country. But then as one of his readers I am ashamed (lower case) of this man’s uncontrolled rage — and his unwillingness to track down his sources and ferret out the truth of the matter before he goes public. But this sort of thing will be more and more frequent as we near elections in November. Hate-mongering, along with fear-mongering, is the name of the game. It works, as Rush Limbaugh has shown us again and again. It’s all about appeal to raw emotions. This letter might not even be the genuine article. It may be a hoax written to support a political candidate (any political candidate) who opposes President Obama in the coming election.

We should expect more of this vitriol, not less. The internet is open to this sort of thing, just as it is open to careful thought and precise expression. We need to learn to dismiss the former and welcome the latter. It is the price we pay living as we do in a day of instant communication, weak-minded citizens, and political candidates with unlimited funds and no moral scruples whatever.

Politics Left and Right

I once read that the psychological profile of a policeman and an habitual criminal are remarkably similar. This says something important about policemen or about criminals — or about psychological profiling! It may be the latter, but I have always thought there is a  resemblance in so many ways between the types of persons who are attracted to either end of the political extremes — right or left. In reading about those on the far right recently, I was struck once again by their resemblance to those on the far left.

In an article he wrote to distinguish political conservatives from those on the far right of the political spectrum, Mike Lofgren paints a rather frightening picture of right-wing personality types. Those on the far right “lack compassion.” Further, they are single-minded to the point of blindness. As Lofgren notes, “their minds appear to have no more give and take than that of a terrier staring down a rat hole.” That is, their thinking (such as it is) tends toward what logicians call “bifurcation,” all issues are either black or white — and of course their own view is white. This, coincidentally, explains the popularity of such ideologues as Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. In this regard, they are anti-intellectual to a fault, suspicious of anyone who uses their mind, and while many call for the dissolution of government in the name of “freedom,” they really want protection and, of course, laws that prohibit things they find distasteful. As Lofgren notes in this regard, “Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. [Ironically] freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.”

We might tend to think attitude toward authority is one point that separates the anarchist from the right-winger, the former rejecting out of hand anyone who is in a position of authority, the right-winger clinging to those strong leaders who will protect them. But not so. Both exhibit what psychologists characterize as “the Fascist personality.”

The fascist personality was described by Wilhelm Reich in 1933 as one who “craves authority and rebels against it at the same time.” This could describe folks on either extreme of the political spectrum: they follow blindly any ideologue who seems willing to lead them where they want to go — wherever that might happen to be.  Most, if not all, of the personality traits attributed to right-wingers by Lofgren can be applied to those on the far left as well. While we tend to think of those on the far left as “loners,” psychologists such as Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman who have studied the anarchistic personality point out that these people exhibit “an inverted form of authoritarian personality.” They both crave and hate authority. One begins to see indications of the narcissistic personality here.

Most interesting is the consideration that while right-wingers are “joiners” and those on the far left tend to be loners, both are attracted to strong personality types and willingly follow orders unthinkingly. In fact, the word “unthinking” applies equally to both types of personality.

While those on the political left wing seem preoccupied with a single political issue, usually what they call the “right to bear arms,” those on the far right focus on one narrow political issue as well, namely abortion or what they call “the right to life” — while they cheer speeches that promote executions of those on death row or “the prospect of someone dying without health insurance.” Consistency is not a feature of the mindset on either political extreme. Once again, we are back to the fact that neither personality type thinks at all: they just follow their emotions wherever they lead, and attach themselves to the nearest authority figure who pledges to deliver them to the promised land.

Estimates vary as to how many of these types occupy the political stream, but those on the far right could be as high as 40% of those who identify themselves as “Republicans,” though “in some key political contests, such as the Iowa caucuses, the percentage is closer to 60%.” Whatever the percentage, they are very well-organized and have considerable political clout. Those on the far left are anything but organized and tend to withdraw from the political stream altogether and become reclusive, banding together in small, anti-social groups (but note, once again, the inconsistency. In this case the  tendency to reject social groups while becoming a member of a group).

In a word, the people at both ends of the political extremes of this country resemble one another more than they differ. And, despite the fact that we tend to use words like “conservative” and “liberal” without really knowing what they mean, we should not confuse those on the political extremes as belonging to either group. They are a breed apart — or together, if you prefer.