Thursday, April 20, 2006

Road Rage and the Rise of the Right

Jane Hamsher's excellent post about her encounter with a Dittohead has inspired some thoughts:

Back in our nasty, brutish prehistory, the sort of rage that begins in the hypothalamus, taps into our endocrinology etc., was probably a useful adaptation. It prepared our ancestors for the sort of aggression, or display of aggression, that gave access to scarce resources, food, water, mates and whatnot. Nowadays, in a sort of maladaptive vestigial reflex, that sort of rage still bubbles up when we are jostling for limited resources -- especially for space on the highway. This being the case, I have long wondered if there is some sort of Pavlovian nexus in our political predicament.

Look at it this way: millions and millions of white males spend a fair portion of every day feeling and fighting road-rage. While they're doing this they're quite often being bombarded with rhetoric about how evil the Libruls, Moslems, "minorities," gays, secularists, feminazis, tree-huggers, French et cetera are. Here, perhaps evolutionary psychology meets Skinnerian. Could it be that Joe Dittohead gets classically conditioned to associate his road rage with the straw persons Rush et alia denigrate all day long? How much Republican ressentiment is just generalized or displaced road rage?

As Jane points out, the Reich Wingers may yet be hoisted on their own petard. When Joe Sixpack comes to understand how much of the treasury has been looted by Bush cronies, how much more simply sent up in smoke to cover their thefts and power-grabs, the primal rage over finite resources may come around on the junta. Or Rove may be able to lay it off on the Vichycrats in some sort of Dolchstosslegende.... We'll see.


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