Monday, March 03, 2008

Lyle H. Rossiter On the Liberal Mind, such as it is.

We often wonder how people can be so mentally ill and yet carry on so well in society, even so far as being our intelligentsia-- they being so obviously mentally ill! Often too, referring to the obviously mentally ill as obviously mentally ill is shouted down as an overblown and meaningless ad hominem attack. Maybe so, but let's this time back it up with an appeal to legitimate authority: a book from a legitimate psychiatrist. (H.T., Canadian Infidel, who found this and posted it at "Why the Left isn't Right", link below.)

Lyle H. Rossiter; Jr.; M.D. The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness.

To jump right in, here is an editorial review from

Are Liberals Out of Their Minds? Why do modern liberals think and act as they do? The radical left's politics and its destructive effects on our basic freedoms have provoked many to speculate on what makes these people tick. The Liberal Mind answers the question. This book is the first systematic analysis of the political madness that now threatens to destroy the West's greatest achievement: the American dream of civilized liberty. In his penetrating analysis, Dr. Rossiter reveals modern liberalism's assaults on: The freedom of adults to make good lives for themselves by cooperating with others, The ability of families to raise children to be self-reliant and mutual, and The morals, rights and laws that protect our freedoms. Modern liberalism's irrationality can only be understood as the product of psychopathology. So extravagant are the patterns of thinking, emoting, behaving and relating that characterize the liberal mind that its relentless protests and demands become understandable only as disorders of the psyche. The Liberal Mind reveals the madness of the modern liberal for what it is: a massive transference neurosis acted out in the world's political arenas, with devastating effects on the institutions of liberty.

But before we get carried away, let's ground ourselves in the critical analysis of a reviewer who isn't "editorial" or something, a customer reviewer:

John Russell

"This book is just silly and every argument he makes can easily be attributed to every Fictional Conservative I've ever met From his Nanny State BS (What do you call spending half our budget on our Military Nanny?) to his playing the victim (Gee it's not our fault no WMDs were found,Not our fault planeloads of cash are unaccounted for, not our fault 300,000 weapons are missing in Iraq)

Well you get the point, save your money and if you want to hear poorly argued Pop Psychology with a Rightwingnut twist just turn on your AM radio .."

And there is the "staggering genius" of John F. Michalski , who does it so well I include none further from that line, primarily because of the irony, which goes a long way in a little bit:

"It's ironic that I should stumble across this work at this time, because I have been working on an article of my own in which I argue precisely the opposite thesis. It is my contention that the term "conservatism" doesn't name any particular political or economic ideology but is, rather, an attitude toward ideology. It is, in fact, a personality disorder - an irrational fear of change.

What has caused the rise of conservatism in the past 30 years? It is certainly not a rational response to historical developments. Why would tens of millions of poor and working-class people ally themselves with the rich - with whom they share no reasonable interests? Why would so many of these same millions mindlessly buy into a particularly crack-brained travesty of Christianity, one which teaches contempt for the poor, hatred of the foreigner, and so many other anti-Christian values?

The reason for all this was the radical change our society saw from the 1950s on. The Old Establishment - white, rich, straight American males - had to watch their hegemony crumble. Women, minorities and gays were no longer content to stay in their place. Poor and working people were using unions and political clout to demand their fair share of the riches they were producing. New immigrants were bringing strange skin colors, languages, foods and behaviors to White, WASPY America. And foreign countries began to challenge America's imperium. It all got rather scary.

Some people - liberals - have welcomed these changes. It seemed that, finally, millions who had been held down in the name of the precious status quo were going to be given what they deserved. But others couldn't cope with this brave new world. They were threatened by the changes, and looked to any conman who promised to make time run backward and keep things as they were. These conmen have included William Buckley, George Will, Ronald Reagan, Karl Rove and George W. Bush. All their political success has rested on one skill - their ability to exploit the fears of millions of threatened people.

This book is a particularly crude example of this phenomenon."

Strangely enough, or perhaps not so strange given the vast Right wing conspiracy and so on, only 26 of 172 people who bothered to click found the above review helpful. Life, it seems, is just not fair. There ought to be a law. Hey, what a concept.

2008 WorldNetDaily

"Top psychiatrist concludes liberals clinically nuts
Eminent psychiatrist makes case ideology is mental disorder"

WASHINGTON – Just when liberals thought it was safe to start identifying themselves as such, an acclaimed, veteran psychiatrist is making the case that the ideology motivating them is actually a mental disorder.

"Based on strikingly irrational beliefs and emotions, modern liberals relentlessly undermine the most important principles on which our freedoms were founded," says Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of the new book, "The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness." "Like spoiled, angry children, they rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave."

While political activists on the other side of the spectrum have made similar observations, Rossiter boasts professional credentials and a life virtually free of activism and links to "the vast right-wing conspiracy."

For more than 35 years he has diagnosed and treated more than 1,500 patients as a board-certified clinical psychiatrist and examined more than 2,700 civil and criminal cases as a board-certified forensic psychiatrist. He received his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Chicago.

Rossiter says the kind of liberalism being displayed by the two major candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination can only be understood as a psychological disorder.

"A social scientist who understands human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation and moral integrity – as liberals do," he says. "A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population – as liberals do. And a legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which over-regulates and over-taxes the nation's citizens, corrupts their character and reduces them to wards of the state – as liberals do."

Dr. Rossiter says the liberal agenda preys on weakness and feelings of inferiority in the population by:

* creating and reinforcing perceptions of victimization;
* satisfying infantile claims to entitlement, indulgence and compensation;
* augmenting primitive feelings of envy;
* rejecting the sovereignty of the individual, subordinating him to the will of the government.

"The roots of liberalism – and its associated madness – can be clearly identified by understanding how children develop from infancy to adulthood and how distorted development produces the irrational beliefs of the liberal mind," he says. "When the modern liberal mind whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives, the neurosis of the liberal mind becomes painfully obvious."

I can't review this book because I haven't read it, but it attracts my interest. What I find interesting as well the straightforward thesis is the fact that such works are emerging from the fog of euphemisms and Orwellian double speak that floods the book shelves of the shops in this part of the world if not most places still. Yes, the times they are a'changin'. Sloooowly. Call me crazy-- oh hey, call me a kooky loony if you must, but I like it, this a'changin'. Yeah, in spite of being the misoneist that I should be but isn't.


truepeers said...

I tend to agree that liberalism, in its present incarnations, is pathological.

But to argue that "Modern liberalism's irrationality can only be understood as the product of psychopathology." strikes me as perverse. Are we seriously to believe that all the millions of liberals all have, individually, some brain disorder? A mind disorder?

I would assume not. I have documented proofs that one can grow out of insane liberalism. Clearly, the pathology in question is not a question of the individual brain/mind but of the collective, multi-person, scene which is the real source of culture and hence of the individual mind. Those who would begin their theories of the human with matters psychological or psychiatric are a few steps removed from the fundamental questions of how something becomes sacred for millions of people, more or less at once, as it were. Ex nihilo cometh Obamamania.

As for the liberal you quote, the one who reasons the poor must be hoodwinked to vote with the rich, against their own interests. Well, it's not so much a question of his inability to use logic; it's a question of his inability to see reality: the rich in America overwhelmingly vote liberal: visit Manhattan, Boston, San Franciso, Seattle, DC, if you don't believe me. The already rich often like big government and regulation, in part because it makes it very hard for anyone to compete with their established interests, and it allows them to play the paternalistic aristocrat and feel good about themselves, because they don't know better.

But then the idea that economic interests could ever explain larger political phenomena is putting the cart before the horse. Economic relations always flows from pre-existing ethical assertions/understandings. And it is the emergence of a shared ethic, however realistic or fantastic, not individual psychopathology, that we must struggle to understand if we are to learn about what really moves politics. But you have to be well grounded in both history and an appropriate anthropology to begin such work...

truepeers said...

May I add a further thought or is this tiresome?

Obama's politics may be pathological for America in the long run, but right now it works, it is bonding many millions of people together to do a job. And that is a pragmatic truth in contest with larger truths about the sustainability of demagoguery. But who has the "psychopathology"? Obama? who may use his demagoguery to become president? How is his success pathological? it works, until it doesn't... And maybe he wants to be sacrificed to the moon God when it doesn't work... And maybe his sacrifice, in future, will work for whoever carries it out... until it doesn't work anymore... I'd say the reliance on sacrifice and demagoguery is pathological. I think history has already shown that (it can no longer work effectively for long); still, my idea is a bet on history, and not a short term pragmatic truth, at this fallen time in history.

Dag said...

Hmm, I have just finished trying to add my impressions to the first comment Truepeers left, and now I see another. That has to wait.

I suspect that at bottom most psychiatry is pharmacological voodoo dressed in a lab coat to give it heightened authority in the modern West; however, there are unchanging realities that flow through time and Man, psychologies, as it were, that are universal, anthropological, if you will, that are more or less constant regardless of "social conditions" if one accepts Humanness as individual first and then allows for groups later. I think I mean that person X is going to be much the same in any given setting regardless of how the world works around him, even if all it means is that the skeptic will be so in a crowd or alone, and so on.

But there are those who are the crowd as personality, I think. There is public opinion and mass-mania, and there is conformity. I might argue that perfectly normal people in a mad environment will conform to insanity as a normal thing to do. ; hence, many will become pathological out of sociableness and common decency, like our Left today. But that's not the problem, the great mass of those who go alone and get along. It's those who set the agenda, the social activists, the ones who move the masses to opinions contrary to reality and decency, who concern us. That there are manipulators and psychotics in positions of leadership and power is empirical and objective. That we have such today, as we have had in all other times, is pretty clear. Obama, is one fine example. Those who are the crowd as personality are those who swoon over this man. Individually they might be fine people, but as crowd people they are psychotic, in my unqualified judgment. So, no, not individuals with individual brain disorders: individuals who are undivided as persons from the mass, as I read in Erich Fromm's account of fascism. Those are individuals who abandon their personhood in favor of the safety of belonging to the greater whole of the group, or the group-think. It's not just the natural and positive conformity of Man to his family, friends, and fellows but a rush to abandon the self in favor of Power and the rush to flee personhood in favor of safety in anonymity within the confines of the protective Power, the flight from freedom, as Fromm calls it, that is too frightening for the lone person. That is individual as Mass Man. What he joins as personality is whatever is available. It might even be good in some sense, like joining the army or a corporate law firm. It might be co-operative and productive. Or it might not be.

Then yes, I might agree that millions of people in America, for example, have a collective psychosis, having joined the Democratic Party, for example. They are not, as individuals, insane, given that as individuals they function quite well in the greater world. but morally and epistemologically, insane hardly covers it. Obamamania ex nihilo is not likely, I agree, not one person in his right mind finding a skateboard kid a serious contender for the presidency of the USA. As a collective disorder, as a "liberal" disorder, yes, I find it attractive. It is so because not one individual ever can be a "liberal," that being a collective endeavour per se.

"Clearly, the pathology in question is not a question of the individual brain/mind but of the collective, multi-person, scene which is the real source of culture and hence of the individual mind. Those who would begin their theories of the human with matters psychological or psychiatric are a few steps removed from the fundamental questions of how something becomes sacred for millions of people, more or less at once, as it were."

The quotation above sums up for me the reason I struggle constantly to organize weekly meetings in pubic for the public: to create the place and the time and the people who will make the spontaneous combustion of the new in the collective mind. People moving within the time move according to the genius of the time, whether it comes in the form of The Tyrant or The Book or the The Idea, and to meet in public is to give the chip of the flint in the tinder of the collective mind. It doesn't come ex nihilo, obviously, as there is no nothing and is something only with the collective dialectic, ours having, according to me, come to a greater awareness of something else at this time, i.e. not liberalism, or, as I prefer it, Left dhimmi fascism, and as yet, something undefined and undifferentiated. There is, I argue, an intuition among the masses that the liberalism of our day is insane. But it is not the norm to say so. Most, being normal in crazy times, conform to the insane. An alternative to insanity gives the masses a hope of a better norm to be announced at a later date. How and what isn't of great concern to me at this time, given that the emergency of our time today is to stop the immediate harm of Left dhimmi fascism before concerning ourselves with the good of later efforts. Could an alternative be worse? It can be and it is certain to be if we don't, as rational agents, take control of the agenda from the greater lunatics who wait in the wings, the BNP, for example. Thus it is imprortant, essential, that people meet in public to reify the Good as it is in daily living, Good without preset ideological programmes, an artificial construct of some dead philosopher who grasped the complete works of God and has delivered us to it, a la Marx as corrected by Lenin. No thanks to ideologies, I prefer to think the organic movement of the masses freed from ideologues will provide a better understanding of the way than the thinkers who agitate for their particular visions of how it should be, must e, and damn well will be. And having said that, I still argue that it requires the seriousness of a Lenin to provide leadership to the people in the struggle to free themselves from the ideologues. What great good? I opt for common sense. I'll find the definition of it later on that scrap of paper I have somewhere. for now, it matters only that people are able to see that they can meet in public to speak out against the insanity of the Left and from there they can concoct some new way of organizing society more freely, preferably with fewer taxes at lower rates.

Whatever possesses people to vote for "The Rich" in opposition to their class interest is beyond any interest to me. Economic determinists leave me open-mouthed and stupid-looking. I just don't get it. The Left isn't providing a model of reality based on wealth or poverty, it's providing a world-view based on morals, true or false. I think I can put it as based on Morals or moralisms. What makes the Left insane isn't anything more than a corrupt vision of the Moral. People organize themselves around the moral, as I've seen it in life. They don't necessarily organize around the sentimental, which is what our insane Left tries to do, the moralistic, but around the meaning of life as the moral of the story of life.It is the detachment from the moral of the story, broken free from the Authority of the moral that leads to insanity that we live with today. Like philosophy or economics, no one person has it, none can make it alone, it being a reification of the intuitive longings of masses as perhaps articulated by the activists, ours today being corrupt, our masses being deluded from lack of authority to turn to. In such as case as this, any bullshit will do, Barak Obama or ecology movements, or what have you. No moral, no real Moral, then only sentimentality and moralism, a pretense to The Moral, a bad give-away that things are not sane. And without the anchor of the Moral and the Authority of the Moral, then we drift from one nuttiness into the next till we are clinically insane as a collective, being without the Moral not possibly anything else.

The moral of the Human story is not more ideology but less, and from less is sanity. The letting go of false collective and collectivist ideas is more likely to give us a normal vision than is more falsity. But one must have a place to go to hear reason and to let it grow in the mind as one hears it from him and says it to her and so on. The echo chamber of the inauthentic that is the Left is insane as w live it. We have to make an open space for people to hear themselves and each other voice their pinions and to give others the sound of sweet reason. That voice will be a voice of calm and sanity, and it contradicts the foolish sentimentalities of the Left we take for granted and accept as part of our sociableness as people. If we listen long enough to crazy people we will think ourselves insane for disagreeing with them. We can provide an alternative to the madness of the Left. We do. Thursdays, 7-9:00 p.m., VPL, atrium near Blenz coffee shop.

truepeers said...

I think we're born with a certain animal temper, that we have some innate characteristics. But even in the infant these have already become nature-culture hybrids that reflect our human biological co-evolution with language. And it is language that makes us fully human. The greater part of what we are as human individuals is a distillation of the originally public scenes of language.

If we can see the same personality type in Shakespeare as we see in life today, it's because history is not so much constant change as a gradual evolution of new possibilities that don't simply erase the old. We can recognize Shakespearian figures, but could he have recognized all of ours? He could have imagined an Obama, but could he have imagined a Hillary? I'm not so sure. On the other hand, we would have a hard time recognizing and differentiating the personality types of a primitive tribe. Go far enough back and the past is a foreign country.

I don't think it's right to say the mass man abandons his individuality to the crowd. Rather, the individual has to struggle to be formed by abandoning the crowd. The crowd, the tribal unanimity, comes first in human history. For primitive man, the mask is much more important than the individual performer du jour. As one progresses through life, one inherits ritual roles, one is initiated into rites, but one doesn't become an individual in his own right. That possibility of becoming an individual is quite recent, only available to any large number of people in the last few centuries in the West. It takes the development of high culture, which is what I think you imply when you talk about the moral of the story. For example, the achievement of a Freud is that he allows every bourgeois to have an Oedipal complex, a figure no ordinary Greek would have dared to emulate as he watched, with awe and fear, the first Oedipus on stage. Man first comes to know himself, as individual, via his image of the gods who are the unknowing projection of the group. It is only very recently in history that we can directly make the human our model. The moral of the story evolves from "don't ever think of being like that Oedipus" to "now I know why I've messed up my life, like Oedipus..."

Tribal unanimity may look pathological to the man who has gained some individuality and reason. We can't look, say, at Aztec mass human sacrifice with anything but horror. Yet at the end of the day, it worked for the Aztecs, whose civilization survived for centuries. It didn't work for the Nazis whose Third Reich lasted thirteen years. It is only when that kind of thing fails any longer to work that it becomes evidently irrational. As you say, the moral of the story has become lost. The ultimate test of the viability of a culture is not in its degree of violence or ritualistic "irrationality" but in its ability to maintain order and to reproduce itself. Being able to distinguish such pragmatic truths from more fundamental ones that come with individual awareness, without simply dismissing the former, is important.

We can call the left insane, but of course they do exactly the same in respect to us wingnuts. To the outsider, the other group's pragmatic bonding rituals (and even relatively free individuals have to share in a covenant, a bond, to defend their free individuality) look weird, possibly insane. The only real arbiter of who is the truly insane party, is history and reason; but it's not really reason (as opposed to resentment) that we are using to judge the other guys, unless we take fully into account and show due respect for the necessity of their pragmatic bonding rituals. It's not really irrational to go with the crowd, most of the time. That's the safer and time and energy efficient choice, most of the time for most people. Still, all crowds like all forms of culture and civilization have a best before date and the march of history waits for no one. To call the left simply insane, end of story, is a bit like a Hitchens or Dawkins calling Christianity simply insane, nothing serious there to talk about. It is to ignore the human truths inherent in any successful religion just because you don't appreciate the irrational mumbo jumbo in which they are packaged.

Still I can't disagree that in its current incarnations the left is insane; but that's just my hopefully informed bet on the direction history is taking and who it's leaving behind...

VinceP1974 said...

I think Tammy Bruce's observations about Left vs Right are very pertinent... being a former radical Leftist herself from inside the leadership of NOW , she knows exactly how the Left operates and why it is different than the Right.

Anyone with two hours to kill should watch her lecture she gave at a University

There's a great part of the video during the Q&A when a nitwit college Leftist confirms everything she just spent an hour describing about the Left, narcissism and Groupthink.

To skip directly to that point, look at the comments on the video webpage and choose the link in the most recent comment made by me (Vince) on Jan 15 2008