Voting For Chaos

Posted by accident. This is tomorrow’s post. Next one on Thursday. Sorry for cluttering your inboxes.

An intriguing–and frustrating– aspect of our current political climate is the persistent search to understand Trump supporters. What accounts for the loyalty of voters to this man who is personally repulsive and officially incompetent?

We’ve had the economic theory, which was pretty thoroughly rebutted by the data; we’ve had the “racial anxiety” theory, which–again, according to the data–clearly does account for a significant percentage of those supporters. We’ve had the “partisan identity” explanation that I shared a few days ago, which seems valid so far as it goes, but doesn’t explain the origins of the partisan divide.

In September, columnist Thomas Edsell shared another explanation, offered by a trio of scholars in a paper given at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting: a “need for chaos.” The efforts of people who display this need have been facilitated by the ease with which social media allows transmittal of “conspiracy theories, fake news, discussions of political scandals and negative campaigns.

The authors describe “chaos incitement” as a “strategy of last resort by marginalized status-seekers,” willing to adopt disruptive tactics. Trump, in turn, has consistently sought to strengthen the perception that America is in chaos, a perception that has enhanced his support while seeming to reinforce his claim that his predecessors, especially President Barack Obama, were failures.

Petersen, Osmundsen and Arceneaux find that those who meet their definition of having a “need for chaos” express that need by willingly spreading disinformation. Their goal is not to advance their own ideology but to undermine political elites, left and right, and to “mobilize others against politicians in general.” These disrupters do not “share rumors because they believe them to be true. For the core group, hostile political rumors are simply a tool to create havoc.”

We used to have a word for this: nihilism.

The authors of the study surveyed voters in the United States and Denmark, and uncovered disquieting, all-encompassing hostilities. Twenty-four percent of respondents said society should be burned to the ground; 40 percent agreed that “When it comes to our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking ‘just let them all burn’ ”; and 40 percent agreed that “we cannot fix the problems in our social institutions, we need to tear them down and start over.”

The intense hostility to political establishments of all kinds among what could be called “chaos voters” helps explain what Pew Research and others have found: a growing distrust among Republican voters of higher education as well as empirically based science, both of which are increasingly seen as allied with the liberal establishment.

Trump’s “talent,” according to another scholarly paper,  is his ability to capitalize on the fear of chaos, rather than the desire to trigger it.

“Populist movements,” McDermott and Hatemi write, “rely on inflammatory rhetoric to create a tribal ‘us versus them’ condition — this type of environment instigates neural mechanisms from the evolutionary desire to be part of the group.”

The abrupt rise of social media has played a crucial role, they observe:

In many ways, as we have technologically advanced, we have also regressed to more immediate, emotional, and personal forms of political communication. And it is only in understanding the nature of that personal political psychology that we can begin to grapple seriously with the challenges of today, including the consequences of global populism.

The common element in all of these studies and theories is the extent to which fear–fear of change, fear of the “other,” fear of the unknown–feeds hostility to “the system” and to the  “elites” that supposedly benefit from that system.

There are clearly a lot of disaffected people out there, and the Internet facilitates their expression of rage.

What we can do about it is another matter.


  1. LOL! That’s okay Sheila, I’m going to give it a whirl anyway.

    Well, it didn’t take long for sanity to unravel. When you have the lunatics, the fringe players, the conspiracy theorists, the anarchists, and the fear mongers on an equal footing with normalcy and sanity, you have a problem.

    The same people who give credence to insanity, conspiracies, and narcissistic revelations, are some of the same individuals who post their business on social media, and listen to the like-minded for their news flashes. They have no real direction, they’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on. I have cousins who are very well-off, very well-educated, extremely good jobs. Almost every one of them loves Donald Trump.

    Donald Trump embodies what they wish they could do with power. The apprentice was the mechanism in which Donald Trump infatuated everyone in the day of reality television, LOL. And social media! He personified the take no prisoners personality. The desire to be socially incorrect, the dissatisfaction of the idea to help the less fortunate, the infirmed, the foreign residents, environmental protagonists, and the mentally ill. You can also add into that, racially equality, gender equality, sexual equality of all types and the like.

    Because they feel they have been ignored, and they “don’t want to be ignored no more” and are willing to burn down societal norms to be recognized. They see themselves as marginalized even if they fit into one or more of the categories they roil against. So they are willing to follow a man, or woman, someone who says it’s okay to be angry and disrespectful, it’s okay to be shady and disloyal, it’s okay to hate, as long as this for your own personal benefit.

    That seems appealing to those who have no power but have an inflated self aggrandized view of themselves, someone who feels they should be in a position of authority without any type of qualification. Someone who would like to be an influencer and be praised for no reason at all (Kardashians) and you can see, social media loaded with this type of chicanery. An example; there is a reason why Kanye West is drawn to Donald Trump, he’s married to a Kardashian! Kanye West is mentally ill but feels he has some sort of divine mission and purpose. This confluence of technology, shoddy information, conspiracies, and narcissistic leanings, was the perfect primordial soup for what we are witnessing.

    Like a virus that has been genetically altered to attack cancer cells and other illnesses in the human body, freedom of speech has been technologically and ideologically altered to attack societal norms and freedom itself. Trump is just riding the wave on his surfboard, while chumming the waters as he goes. Self-aggrandizement is very appealing; white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, the cyclical lunatics constantly reinventing the wheel. Before social media a lot of these things would run out of steam, the 24 hour 7 day a week 365 day year never take a break stream of sewage mixing in with the clean mountain spring water is the fuel that drives all of this.

    And, they are right, what is the solution? Do you control freedom of speech? Do we block what we know is not normal? When you have individuals with an agenda, when you have those who use the informational highway to their benefit, who would you want to have their finger on the DELETE button? Yes it is a conundrum, and one that I doubt men will be able to correct, because eventually, all men have an agenda, all men self aggrandize themselves, everyone has a certain level of narcissism and self-importance. That is except me, LOL!

  2. “The common element in all of these studies and theories is the extent to which fear–fear of change, fear of the “other,” fear of the unknown–feeds hostility to “the system” and to the “elites” that supposedly benefit from that system.”

    We should add to that the flip of cause/effect in which deplorables presume that elites built the system to harm non-elites and to benefit elites, that elites existed first and the system is their product.

    Deplorables completely ignore the probability that the system existed first and that any individual becomes elite by working the system already in place.

    Plus, it has gotten worse. Deplorables see one thing rather clearly–facts, data, reality tend to favor those who are willing and able to work the system; therefore, to deplorables, facts and reality are allied with and part of the system.

    So, deplorables dream of killing facts and reality along with the system.

    Deplorables dreams may be called nihilist, but naming it is useless unless we understand the nihilist purpose, which is to CHANGE THE PROCESS FOR BECOMING ELITE; change it into an environment in which muscle and brutality win every contest, and intelligence and factual data are only useful for maximizing their killing machines.

    To deplorables, thinking is the hardest work. Abstract thinking is akin to the most brutal kind of slavery. To deplorables, delivery from the savageries of thinking is finally being FREE AT LAST, and worth every sacrifice, including you and me, to achieve.

  3. John S.,

    “Like a virus that has been genetically altered to attack cancer cells and other illnesses in the human body, freedom of speech has been technologically and ideologically altered to attack societal norms and freedom itself.”

    Fighting this man-made type of virus is much more dangerous than even the most extreme Level 4 viruses. You have to be much like a “combat medic.”

    See: “Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme” by Richard Brodie (Hay House, Carlsbad, California,1996) Also: The Political Epidemiology Institute at

  4. In Trump’s case, on top of his other problems (or maybe as foundational to them), he seems to have attention deficit disorder. He can’t read briefing papers longer than one page and even then, they must be in bullet points. He speaks in short, punchy sentences that entertain himself. He seems unable to think or speak in longer sentences, let alone paragraphs. His mind is chaotic and so is he. What holds his attention is flattery, money, and ‘dirt’ on others. Unfortunately, those characteristics make him an easy target for those who wish our country’s demise.

  5. WOW Marv!

    Thank you! I know I can be long-winded, but I don’t have the years of experience nor the education to be more compact in my comments. That being said though, I never knew who I was commenting alongside with. I found the website interesting, and I am currently getting Richard Brodie’s book. (Amazon 10 bucks) it’ll be a nice addition to my library.

    It’s nice to see someone with the CRED you have, not being full of braggadocio. You just tell what you know! Everyone should get on The Political Epidemology Institute website!
    Thanks again Marv, my new favorite combat medic.

  6. John S.

    Check out the work of Professor Lynne Tirrell, presently, at the University of Connecticut, on the internet. She’s been writing on the concept of Political Epidemiology for the past couple of years.

    She wasn’t aware of The Political Epidemiology Institute.

  7. I read about this study a several weeks and ago, and I absolutely believe that there are people out there that just feed on chaos. I don’t know what percentage of people this is, but I suspect that access to social media raises the percentages significantly.

  8. Sensing a lack of control in one’s life is highly stress-inducing. Many of those plagued with this problem can’t accept that they the problem is often self induced and so look for others who must be at fault. This leads to paranoia and further loss of control. Social media gives them a weapon to strike back at those they perceive as controlling them. Occasionally their fears are confirmed by others with similar phobias and so the downward spiral continues.

    This reminds me of the Augustus De Morgan (often attributed to Ogden Nash) poem:
    Dog have fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And fleas have smaller fleas, ad infinitum.

    De Morgen gives us a chuckle. Those other folks are no laughing matter.

  9. This is precisely what the Koch crew was hoping for when they started dumping tons of money into universities. Without governance, they think they can all be kings. And they will be until they start to fight amongst themselves.

  10. Thanks Marv, I just finished reading reading her Washington Post op-ed on the Georgia book burning. She really nailed it. Very orwellian. Or maybe Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ you have a fireman that Burns books instead of saving them in an effort to keep society illiterate and complacent. BINGO!

    Ray Bradbury is from the town that I live in, Waukegan Illinois. He also wrote the book ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes, combine those together, and you’ve got present day USA.

    Actually, I think of somebody wrote a book about today’s societal insanity and political malfeasance, no one would have believed it. It would have been a great work of fiction, who would have thunk it LOL.

    Hey Marv, what about the ‘Muscovian Candidate? Go ahead and use it when you write your next book, LOL.

  11. John S.

    My next essay will be entitled: “Closing the Intelligence Gap.” Good chance, there might be a place for the ‘Muscovian Candidate.’ Thanks!

  12. Betty,

    “How does one just refuse to answer a subpoena anyway?”

    You can refuse to answer a subpoena, but you then risk the penalty for doing so, which can be a fine or even jail time. That’s a short answer, maybe Gerald can give a more complete one.

    I haven’t practiced law since the day I filed the report in That’s about 30 years ago. I made the choice to file the report which I knew would cost me my law practice. In retrospect, I’m 100% convinced that I made the right decision.

  13. This is an interesting comment: “And it is only in understanding the nature of that personal political psychology that we can begin to grapple seriously with the challenges of today, including the consequences of global populism.”


    What about the economics of today and yesterday?

    Libertarians (the Koch influence in the GOP) want to eliminate the government completely and replace it with the market @ 100%. They insist that the “government” is the problem! They don’t even see a reason for voting…our vote will be how we spend dollars.

    I cannot understand why the Oligarchs like the Koch’s would want to eliminate government regulations. The Taxed Enough Already (TEA Party) was very easily manipulated by the Koch’s and their corporate friends.

    However, this doesn’t account for the populists on the left who want the government to represent them more by leveling the playing field for all citizens. According to Twitter last night, the Democratic Party Debates proved the left has varying ideas on how to change our society for the better. From the status quo to major changes needed. Why do these intelligent men and women differ so much from their interpretation of the problems and solutions required?

    Economic populists don’t care much about academic’s theories when they are living paycheck to paycheck because their wages are stuck in the 1990s while the costs of everything have gone up dramatically. It’s called reality.

    Populists outnumber moderates who believe in the status quo. The moderates are comfortable under capitalism which actually sides with the GOP, not the leftist populists.

    I’ll go with MLK and Paulo Friere on the reasons why populists are uprising globally. It’s called oppression or resistance against being controlled by the hands of the few. The global elites were warned at Davos by international leaders that citizens of the world were pissed off and they better find a solution before things really get out of hand.

    I would say the rising number of marches and protests globally affirms our reality vs theory by privileged psychologists who can manufacture evidence to support a broad range of theories. 😉

    If we boil it down to psychology then maybe we can just invent a pill for populists to keep them from rebelling against an unjust system of institutions oppressing their freedoms and rights.

    Of course with much more mind control (propaganda)… 😉

  14. Henry Giroux was a Paulo Friere disciple and a professor at Penn State. We were friends. He had to move to Canada, after being forced out by Penn State, in order to continue his valuable work.

  15. If we can’t find a way to effectively stand up to the oligarchy, otherwise know as the deviant elite, then we all might consider SUICIDE. I didn’t say do it.

  16. Liberals tend to think that democracy is perfect because we love our freedom so much and believe that all people deserve what we value so highly. However democracy marginalizes the marginal. While we know that decisions to hire and fire those who we conscent to govern us are the only way to have both government and freedom, those who are in persistent minorities have to accept a minority power position. It’s no wonder they grab at even the illusion of power (which is all Trumpence offers).

    The secret of Trumpence is not democracy but Putin.

  17. The first step any recovery would be reading the works of Hermann Rauschning, who at one time as the ex-president of the Danzig Senate was a former leader of the National Socialist Party and a top member of Hitler’s Inner Circle. He broke off from the Nazi regime and authored “The Revolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West”(Alliance Book Corporation, New York, 1939).

    He predicted the Jewish calamity before it even started. Why not. Everything has its beginning. And it has to start somewhere.

    In the U.S. it started with the Dupont and Bush families back in 1935. General Smedley Butler put a temporary halt to it in his testimony before Congress at that time. But after W.W.II, the neo-fascist movement, moving SUB-SURFACE, has come back, always two steps forward and one step backward.

    Are we going to let them take the step backward again, or are we going to wake-up this time?

  18. The movement in 1935, was led by Lamont DuPont. The most important Dupont was Alfred, he made his home in Jacksonville, in a magnificent mansion on the St. John’s river. Alfred died in the late 30s and his brother-in-law, Ed Ball took over management of the estate. Because of my father’s relationship with Ball, I became a protege of his, when I was eleven.

    I’m mortal like everyone else, but I had a POLITICAL OPPORTUNITY that no living American, has or will ever have. And like Hermann Rauschning I’ve been there and, also, like him I’ve been able to take successful, pre-emptive action, time and time again, because of my understanding the machinations of the OLIGARCHIC INNER CIRCLE.

  19. Revolutions mandate change and in some cases require chaos as a prerequisite. Candidate Agent Orange was revolutionary and epitomized chaos and this led to his crushing of GOP contenders in the primary. The oligarchs were uncomfortable with Candidate Agent Orange’s direct insults of opponents, the GOP base was not. Candidate Agent Orange knew the GOP base would approve of an authoritarian – macho man, his selection of Pastor Pence as a VP, brought the evangelicals into the fold.

    Candidate Agent Orange may have been an “imperfect” vessel for family values but the ends justifies the means. The oligarchs did get what they wanted with the tax cuts and the evangelicals are energized by President Agent Orange’s and Pastor Pence’s conservative theocratic appointments to the courts and of course DeVos.

    At some level the GOP base approves of and believes in all the constant chaos President Agent Orange displays. This chaos he causes is viewed as a strength -The Strongman- The Macho Man smashing the establishment.

  20. Monotonous,

    You ‘re absolutely right. What his GOP base doesn’t know is that he can’t succeed in ruling, only in destroying. And that includes their future too. To say it again: It’s FUTURCIDE. It’s that simple.


    There’s an intelligence gap. On one side is the FBI and the other is the SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER/ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE. Trump continues to march right through the GAP just like his Republican predecessors, starting with Ronald Regan.

    Nothing will change until the GAP is closed. It is much like the GAP that was created in the BATTLE OF THE BULGE in W.W.ll and eventually closed.

    See “Break Through: The Epic Story of the Battle of the Bulge” by Franklin M. Davis, Jr. (Monarch Books, Derby, Connecticut, 1961).

  22. John N, it’s adapt to the unavoidable future environment that is rapidly coming or refuse to let go of the rapidly receding past which entitled some minorities. In other words choose between reality or confirmation bias (which requires a certain amount of knowledge to do).

  23. Those candidates at the democratic debate last night filled the room with CHAOS, and you wonder why people love Trump?????? It’s NOT that hard to understand.

  24. We all know the chaos that has followed Trump all of his life. We don’t benefit from it at all. Last night we saw a true debate; an exchange of profound ideas in critical times.

    Who won? All of us because the democracy that we trust our freedom to was enhanced by transparency rather than threatened by Trump’s secrecy only broken open by patriotic whistleblowers.

Comments are closed.