Whence the urge to be transgressive?

I think the OP might have been better served to say contrary. I do believe many Trumpist are driven, at least in part, to bring vexation, consternation, and frustration to what they might call “libtards” or “snowflakes.” You’re right that to call something transgressive implies that they’re in defiance of norms. But I think Trumpist views are part of the mainstream norm now and I am hard pressed to think of them as transgressive. I wish that wasn’t the case.

If Covid-19 had hit in 1990 instead of 2020, I believe those who decided that medical professionals were the least knowledgeable about how to handle a pandemic would be a very, very distinct minority. I believe what is the norm has changed.

On this specific subject, the position of the trumpists only changed when their orange messiah told them to stop believing in doctors. In other words, the norm five minutes before that was to believe in doctors, generally speaking.

Given that that’s the case, I think I’ll reaffirm that they’re fighting against the norm - their own norm as of a short time before they were told to start being stupid. That a lot of them did this at once doesn’t change the fact that their new position wasn’t normal.

If it’s become normal in the time since then, that’s only because we live in a hellscape of stupidity.

That’s a bit pot calling the kettle black I think. I know a lot of Republicans, Libertarians and other pro-Trump people and none of them are inherently “evil”. Most aren’t even “stupid”. Some of them do have some stupid ideas though.

The Republican Party isn’t “people”. For example, my inlaws are pro-Trump Republicans. but they don’t have any issues with wearing masks.

Also, it’s not hard to find plenty of left-leaning “rebellious assholes”. In fact, what’s kind of bizarre to me is the idea of conservatives being “transgressive jerks”. Growing up, it was always conservatives who were the stuffy establishment types who transgressives transgressed against - the pretentious boss and his corporate drones, the douchey jock bully, those pompous jerks in the Omega house.

Trumpism is a symptom of a much greater problem IMHO. And I think that problem is that we live in a world that is vastly more complex than it was in the past. And the people living in that world have become both more isolated (if not physically, at least ideologically) and yet more interconnected by information networks providing a targeted stream of bullshit designed to illicit some action or response - anything from hating Liberals to buying dishwasher detergent.

So what has happened is that this world has made people “stupid”. Stupid in the sense that they aren’t really quite sure how the world works or why things happen or who is making those things happen. Or at the very least, I’m sure many people suspect that there are powerful forces at work whose interests don’t align with “normal people”.

I was trying to make it broader than just followers of the soon-to-be-ex president. He didn’t invent any of this, he only capitalized on something that was already there. I was hoping to have and see a discussion of that part of human nature that encourages people to act out.

And when I spoke of transgressive behavior, I was thinking more on the lines of transgressing against expectations, rather than against norms. There is a difference in emphasis there which I think is important, and which also avoids having discussions about what’s “normal,” which I always find bootless.

They’re sick of being wrong, and the cognitive dissonance is stressing them out so much that they’ve just gone into full-blown “break it all up and burn it all down” tantrum state.

They were wrong about racial integration and black civil rights destroying American society and about black people being happier under segregation.

They were wrong about women needing to stay in the home and uphold clearly defined gender roles.

They were wrong about a “moral majority” of conservative Christians launching a lasting religious revival that would “take the country back for Christ”. (Even evangelical Protestantism, after boom years in the '80s and '90s, is now declining in numbers.)

They were wrong in their vision of the US as a permanent majority-white country where comfortably small numbers of ethnic minorities might be perceived as being treated “no differently from” white people, but where English-speaking white people would overwhelmingly be the racial and cultural majority and default category in the American self-image.

They were wrong about the notion that supporting armed warfare on the part of Afghani mujahideen and Latin American right-wingers would spread freedom and democracy. Hoo boy, were they ever wrong about that.

They were wrong about Saddam Hussein having WMD, and about the Iraqis greeting Americans as liberators, and about the Iraq invasion being the pathway to freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

They were wrong about market-fundamentalist economic policies conducing to general economic stability and prosperity for ordinary people who work hard.

They were wrong about soaring stock markets and tax cuts for the wealthy meaning reliable economic security for ordinary people.

They were wrong about anthropogenic climate change being a hoax, or unimportant, or insignificant. In fact, they were wrong about the uselessness or counterproductiveness of environmental regulation in general, and the “conservationist-conservatives” among them who all along had some suppressed concerns about environmental damage are just now gaining the courage to really speak out.

They were wrong about gay people being sick or abnormal or evil, and about gay rights and same-sex marriage destroying American society.

They were wrong about the belief that resisting “European-style socialized medicine” would result in their having reliable, affordable, effective health care.

They were wrong about Muslim immigrants all being terrorists.

They were wrong about the “European socialist countries” being miserable and impoverished and sinking under their tax burdens and their envy of American freedoms.

They were wrong about identifying their own interests with those of wealthy individuals or corporations who had zero sense of loyalty to them in return.

They were wrong about Muslim immigrants committing more domestic terrorism than conservative white men.

They were wrong about labor unions being just unnecessary parasites whose absence wouldn’t make any difference to the availability of decent jobs or the protection of workers’ rights.

They were wrong about creationism or “intelligent design” or whatever being scientifically valid alternatives to evolutionary theory.

They were wrong about Trump building a border wall, or bringing peace to the Middle East, or draining the swamp, or benefiting US businesses and consumers by imposing tariffs, or bringing good blue-collar jobs back to the US, or pretty much anything else they ever believed about Trump.

They were wrong about COVID-19 being a hoax, or no worse than the flu, or a Chinese or Democratic plot, or a momentary problem that would just “vanish” soon, or that we wouldn’t hear anything more about after the election.

And most importantly, they were wrong in believing that the conservative politicians they ardently supported actually gave a shit about the well-being of any Americans if it would interfere with the increasing enrichment of the rich.

And, not surprisingly, they’re breaking down under the strain of all the disappointment and the suicidal clinging to ideologies and leaders that keep betraying them. They keep on swearing faith to a position that they’re told is right, and it keeps on turning out to be wrong, and the cumulative frustration is making them just flat-out ragey.

Of course, that’s not to say that liberals are never wrong themselves. We get things wrong all the time, and are constantly having to adjust and refocus and recognize unwelcome facts. But we haven’t been so cynically exploited as the conservatives have by an elite leadership that subjects them to being drastically in the wrong on almost every major issue of the past seventy years in order to harvest votes for policy positions that benefit the elites.

“Climate change is a hoax!” (The longer we can keep you believing that, the longer the fossil-fuel industry can remain profitable.)
“The atheists and gays and socialists are coming for your children!” (The more we can scare you with boogeymen of cultural/societal collapse, the less you’ll notice how much our economic policies are taking advantage of you.)
“Higher education is communist indoctrination and the mainstream media is all fake news!” (The more we can keep you uneducated, ill-informed, and paranoid about any data that contradicts what we’re telling you, the less likely you are to figure out that we don’t have your interests at heart.)

This is 24K gold. Bravo.

I stand firmly by my accolade, but I want to add a couple things:

They wouldn’t see themselves as being/having been wrong … on anything you enumerated. They would see themselves as having lost those battles, at great personal and societal cost.

They don’t see DJT as an authoritarian, an autocrat, an oligarch, a plutocrat, a fascist, or a dictator. They see him as a capitalist and a democratically elected leader whose every move they support without reservation.

They see him as the sole bulwark between our capitalist society and Chavez-style Socialism that Biden unambiguously represents.

They don’t see any element of the election rat-fuckery as a threat to democracy. They see it as a Homeric effort by a chivalrous, valiant, and august leader to protect democracy against the clear and present danger represented by the evil Democrats.

They are – as a pundit once said about Bush 43 – often wrong but never in doubt.

And … as always … where do we go with that ?

As @DavidNRockies says, that’s beautiful & oh so accurate. And as he says in turn:

And the reason they’ve been wrong, and wrongly see themselves having lost a battle can be laid directly at the feet of this:

They are told daily that they are in the right, and they are losing, and they are cornered. Cornered I say, and in your own country!! Of course they’re panicking. They’re being deliberately spun up to cause panic.

Everthing else @msmith537 says is IMO quite true.

I’ve often commented (though not here) “What happens if we make a society too complicated for most citizens to live in?” Not everybody is smart, not everybody is curious, and not everybody is ambitious. If it takes all those things to feel like, and to be, a good & productive citizen, then we’re screwed as a society.


There is always this fantasy by people - on the left and right - that defeating their opponents will somehow open their eyes and “show them the error of their ways.”

It doesn’t. People don’t see themselves as villains; they see themselves as heroic outnumbered/outgunned/out-cheated losers, like the Texans at the Alamo.

This is kind of brilliant. I plan to shamelessly steal.

Kimstu, I’m so glad you post here. That is truly fabulous.




That’s why what’s driving conservatives nuts right now is the cognitive dissonance, rather than any rational anger at the ways they’ve actually been exploited by their leaders and their media. Defiant conviction meets factual contradiction, and neither is able to yield.

This is why they ‘news’ sources that describe an alternate reality are so popular with the right. In actual reality they are wrong about pretty much everything. But as long as there are people willing to tell them the sweet sweet lies they want to hear, they have no reason to think they’re wrong about anything, ever.

People act out because it gives them a feeling of power and control. It’s really that simple.

But my expectation is that conservatives will prefer bad things, so they’re not defying expectations at all.

I think no matter how smart or curious a person is, it’s difficult to impossible to determine what is actual “truth”. To a certain extent, you need to trust in established institutions that they know what they are doing. Scientists and medical institutions know science and health care. Banks know how to protect and grow your money. The government knows how to run local, state, and national infrastructure. Etc.

That is what is so dangerous about Trump. Not that he supports all these conservative policies. Every Republican does that. It’s not even that he says stupid shit all the time. The real danger with Trump is that he undermines people’s faith in the institutions that people need to believe in for society to function. The Federal Government is really run by the “Deep State”. The FBI and intelligence community is out to discredit Trump. The media (except Fox) is “fake news”. The CDC and WHO are in China’s pocket. The electoral system is full of fraud.

And so what happens is that every nutjob with a crackpot theory or even just your regular suburban American dissatisfied with how their world works can say “I was right”!.

Also, these conservatives don’t see themselves as the “transgressives”. What they firmly believe is that Democrats and Liberals are pushing for a corrupt, left-wing, politically correct Marxist agenda to redistribute wealth based on a system of “wokeness”. They believe this agenda undermines American values of family, hard work, and expression of their religion. They believe liberals attack traditional institutions that defend those values such as the police and military and even traditional Americans identity with respect to sex, race, and history. And conservatives would seem to believe that the left is blowing COVID-19 far out of proportion (if not making it up entirely) in order to seize power and further their leftist agenda.

At least, that’s what their Twitter pages seem to indicate.

Agree completely. The central gotcha is that the real world always has vagaries, shortcomings in the data, tradeoffs, that can be used to pick apart the “truth” of whatever. Whereas a made-up narrative that’s designed to be persuasive need have none of those things.

It’s a bit like the complaints real world prosecutors & defense attorneys have that devotees of CSI make lousy jurors because they expect reality to have no plot holes. They’ve been conditioned that everything seen happens for a reason and all those irritating details will be neatly wrapped up before the closing credits.

That’s the deep power of the propaganda narrative dating back to Early Limbaugh. In a 60 or 90 minute broadcast, not one thing would be said that contradicts another. It all fit together tightly. Which is to say persuasively.

And once your audience tries holding reality to that same hermetic standard, they’ll be repulsed by the messiness and well, quantum uncertainty in everything.

Substantially all the quasi-trolls in the SDMB COVID threads keep arguing “Your data doesn’t prove with 0% uncertainty. Therefore it doesn’t prove anything and the very opposite could well be true!!!11!”. Granting, arguendo, for a moment that they’re sincere, as a matter of philosophical epistomology they’re right. As a matter of practice over the entire course of human history and human knowledge, they’re Lost in Space.

It’s also possible that all the molecules in my cup of coffee could all randomly move straight up at the same time and the coffee would spontaneously ascend to stain my ceiling. But that’s sure not the way to bet.

“…and into this Ring he poured his
cruelty, his malice and his will to
dominate all life.”