The Great White Culture War

Discussion of American cultural conflicts has to take place alongside pivotal conversations about race, not instead of them.

With each passing year, I grow more convinced that Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy represent two of the best vehicles for understanding our times. Though they’re not specifically political, they help us understand the profound differences between different white American communities — differences that are often exacerbated in our polarized age.

.. Consider, for example, the extraordinary faith gap between white Republicans and white Democrats. According to recent Pew data, fully 72 percent of white Republicans believe in the God of the Bible. Only 32 percent of white Democrats share that same faith. To take another important cultural issue, gun-ownership rates vary wildly between white Americans, with whites in blue America far less likely to have a firearm at home.

Now, what does this have to do with race and condemnations of “whiteness”? Earlier this week, my colleague Reihan Salam wrote a fascinating piece in The Atlanticmaking the point that white-bashing is actually a way in which the progressive white elite distinguishes itself from “lower” white rivals, a form of “intra-white status jockeying.” Here’s Reihan:

It is almost as though we’re living through a strange sort of ethnogenesis, in which those who see themselves as (for lack of a better term) upper-whites are doing everything they can to disaffiliate themselves from those they’ve deemed lower-whites. Note that to be “upper” or “lower” isn’t just about class status, though of course that’s always hovering in the background. Rather, it is about the supposed nobility that flows from racial self-flagellation.

Given the awesome power these “upper-whites” exercise in elite American institutions, there are incentives for other people to bash whites as well:

In some instances, white-bashing can actually serve as a means of ascent, especially for Asian Americans. Embracing the culture of upper-white self-flagellation can spur avowedly enlightened whites to eagerly cheer on their Asian American comrades who show (abstract, faceless, numberless) lower-white people what for. And, simultaneously, it allows Asian Americans who use the discourse to position themselves as ethnic outsiders, including those who are comfortably enmeshed in elite circles.

.. the GOP’s revulsion at the message that white people’s day is done isn’t grounded exclusively (or even mostly) in racial resentment and fear. Because we know full-well that the white people who so gleefully make that claim fully expect to emerge victorious, their status and power intact, in a post-white-majority America.

.. consider California and Texas. Both states are firmly majority-minority. Yet the leaders of both states are still disproportionately white and male; they’re just culturally very different kinds of white males. Conservative white Americans eagerly move to majority-minority Texas. Those same people would be far more reluctant to live in majority-minority California, because of its profoundly different treatment of religious freedoms, gun rights, and of course tax rates.

.. Discussion of American cultural conflicts has to take place alongside, not instead of, pivotal conversations and debates about race. Indeed, the legacy of American racism (including the sad prevalence of outright racists in the GOP) is one reason why white conservatives struggle to form alliances with black voters who are actually more culturally and religiously similar to their rural and exurban white neighbors than to their white progressive allies.
.. it’s important to understand that when conservatives confront a political coalition that seems to be cheering the decline of “whiteness,” they often experience it as an attack on “white people the Left doesn’t like.”

As for the rest? They roll on, enjoying the same power and the same privilege. They’ve sacrificed little and stand to gain a lot: nothing short of victory in the great white culture war.

The 7 Different Types of Narcissists

1. The Narcissistic Winner

– These narcissists derive their sense of self by feeling superior to others. As a consequence, everything becomes a competition. This behavior is not confined to naturally competitive areas such as sports, career achievements, and academics. This type of narcissist must also “win” at seemingly collaborative activities, such as parenting, driving, friendship, and even spirituality. A narcissistic winner is rarely happy for a friend’s good fortune.

In their eyes, another person’s success is their own failure. When they “lose” – in reality or in their own perception – their self-esteem takes a huge hit. They may become antagonistic, or try to overcompensate by belittling the achievements of others.

2. The Victim Narcissist

– The victim narcissist is the sneakiest of the bunch. These people are master manipulators who use affection and emotion to keep you close to them. They are very skilled at playing the underdog, and will often create or seek out situations in which they can do so effectively. A victim narcissist will have perfected their sob story. They will easily convince you that the world is out to get them, and that none of their misfortune is their own doing.

3. The Know-It-All Narcissist

– This person is convinced that they are more intelligent and well informed than those around them. They treat their opinions as fact and become deeply offended when faced with disagreement. To the know-it-all narcissist, you are either right or wrong – with them or against them. There is no in between. They often preach, but rarely listen. They are known to offer unsolicited advice to friends, family members, and even strangers.

However, they will become offended if someone does the same to them. The know-it-all narcissist feels that they have nothing to learn from others. Unfortunately, this causes them to miss out on quite a lot in life.

4. The  Narcissist Puppet Master

– These narcissists can absolutely not cope when things do not go as they’d like. To compensate for this, they find ways to manipulate everyone around them. The puppet master narcissist has learned to control others through several different tactics, and is skilled at finding an individual’s weak spot. They have no concept of integrity or empathy. A narcissist puppet master will liecheat, seduce, and withhold affection from loved ones to get what they want.

They are not above playing friends against one another or using innocent people as pawns. This type of narcissist will seek out your insecurities and vulnerabilities, and exploit them without even a trace of remorse.

5. The Narcissist Antagonist

– This type of narcissist always seems to have an enemy. They scream at other drivers, berate wait staff at restaurants, and leave nasty notes for neighbors who play their music too loud. This expression of their righteous indignation helps them to feel superior and in control. Unfortunately, it also keeps them from maintaining healthy relationships. They likely have few – if any – friends at work, and may even have lost jobs due to office disputes.

Their personal lives are in constant turmoil. If they are in a relationship, their partner is likely a very submissive personality with low self-esteem. The narcissist antagonist may be estranged from one or more family members, often with no hope of reconciliation.

6. The Status Narcissist

– To this type of narcissist, self-worth is only real if it can be proven in a concrete way and validated by others. They have little to no internal sense of self. Instead, they put all of their energy into accumulating money, power, and social status. They use these things to give themselves a value, and they assign value to others by the same measure. This type of narcissist knows how much you paid for your house and whether or not you hired the “right” interior decorator.

They are president of the PTA and their local homeowner’s association. A status narcissist is often very smart and accomplished. Unfortunately, this is where the depth of their personality comes to an end.

7. The Royal Narcissist

– This type of narcissist feels that they are always entitled to the best. They don’t believe in earning special treatment – they feel that they deserve it simply by birthright, much like royalty does. A royal narcissist will break rules, and will refuse to abide by societal conventions like taking turns or waiting in line. When faced with consequences, they will react as though they are being persecuted or treated unfairly. The royal narcissist, after all, is above things like speeding tickets.

They will also treat others – equals or even superiors – as inherently lesser than themselves. The world is their kingdom, and everyone within it is their servant.

“I am in love with you’, I responded.
He laughed the most beguiling and gentle laugh.
‘Of course you are,’ he replied. ‘I understand perfectly because I’m in love with myself. The fact that I’m not transfixed in front of the nearest mirror takes a great deal of self-control.’
It was my turn to laugh.”

Is Nothing Funny, Mr. President?

Donald Trump almost never laughs. The leader of the free world frequently displays a tight-lipped smile, but mirth-wise, that is as far as he will go.

.. For the first time in recent memory, we have a commander in chief without a sense of humor — and America is paying the price.

.. For most presidents, humor is a tool for building bridges, especially with voters who may not be persuaded by their policy goals.

.. With no talent for gracious one-liners, he finds himself ill at ease in front of all but the most adoring audiences.

.. Surrounded by followers at rallies, he uses his well-honed sense of timing as a cudgel. He jeers. He mocks. His goal is to insult, rather than to entertain.

.. It should come as no surprise, then, that Mr. Trump governs the way he delivers a punch line: consolidating support among the hard core while alienating everybody else.

.. politicians use humor to identify, and ultimately to uphold, unwritten norms.

.. Peter McGraw, founder of the Humor Research Lab, has called “benign violation theory.” We laugh when something breaks one of life’s many rules.

.. By stepping up to the line without crossing it, a commander in chief tacitly acknowledges that a line exists.

.. President Trump does not possess the sense of nuance a well-told joke requires.

.. This refusal to recognize the unwritten rules that govern us, so evident during Mr. Trump’s failed attempts at humor, is a central feature of his presidential tenure thus far. If a leader does not understand the idea of benign violations, blatant violations inevitably occur.

.. Thanks to the power of the internet, there is proof that our president has indeed laughed at least once. This was during a campaign rally in January, when Mr. Trump’s speech was interrupted by a barking dog.

“It’s Hillary!” an audience member shouted. And the candidate tilted his head back, opened his mouth wide and laughed without reservation, quite possibly for the first time in his political life.

.. they reveal a president who is constantly, endlessly preoccupied with status.

Thresholds of Violence

But Granovetter thought it was a mistake to focus on the decision-making processes of each rioter in isolation. In his view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them. Social processes are driven by our thresholds—which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them.

.. riots were started by people with a threshold of zero—instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two.

.. Next to him is someone with a threshold of three, who would never break windows and loot stores unless there were three people right in front of him who were already doing that—and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyonearound him was grabbing cameras from the electronics store.

Granovetter was most taken by the situations in which people did things for social reasons that went against everything they believed as individuals. “Most did not think it ‘right’ to commit illegal acts or even particularly want to do so,” he wrote, about the findings of a study of delinquent boys. “But group interaction was such that none could admit this without loss of status; in our terms, their threshold for stealing cars is low because daring masculine acts bring status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy.” You can’t just look at an individual’s norms and motives. You need to look at the group.

.. the way to explain the school-shooting epidemic

.. think of it as a slow-motion, ever-evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before?

.. Then came Columbine. The sociologist Ralph Larkin argues that Harris and Klebold laid down the “cultural script” for the next generation of shooters.

.. Harris said he wanted to “kick-start a revolution.”

.. Larkin looked at the twelve major school shootings in the United States in the eight years after Columbine, and he found that in eight of those subsequent cases the shooters made explicit reference to Harris and Klebold.

.. Larkin says six were plainly versions of Columbine; of the eleven cases of thwarted shootings in the same period, Larkin says all were Columbine-inspired.

.. The kid who wants to be a chef and hears “non-specific, non-violent” voices requires a finely elaborated script in order to carry out his attack. That’s what Paton and Larkin mean: the effect of Harris and Klebold’s example was to make it possible for people with far higher thresholds—boys who would ordinarily never think of firing a weapon at their classmates—to join in the riot.

  • Aguilar dressed up like Eric Harris.
  • He used the same weapons as Harris.
  • He wore a backpack like Harris’s.
  • He hid in the changing room of the store until 11:14 a.m.—the precise time when the Columbine incident began—and then came out shooting.

.. Between Columbine and Aaron Ybarra, the riot changed: it became more and more self-referential, more ritualized, more and more about identification with the school-shooting tradition.

  • Eric Harris wanted to start a revolution.
  • Aguilar and Ybarra wanted to join one.
  • Harris saw himself as a hero. Aguilar and Ybarra were hero-worshippers.

.. “My number one idol is Eric Harris. . . . I think I just see myself in him. Like he would be the kind of guy I’d want to be with. Like, if I knew him, I just thought he was cool.”

..“He appears to lack typical relational capacity for family members. . . .He indicates that he would have completed the actions, but he doesn’t demonstrate any concern or empathy for the impact that that could have had on others.” The conclusion of all three of the psychologists who spoke at the hearing was that LaDue had a mild-to-moderate case of autism: he had an autism-spectrum disorder (A.S.D.), or what used to be called Asperger’s syndrome.

.. When should he attack? April made the best sense, “because that’s the month that all the really bad tragedies happened like . . . Titanic, Columbine, Oklahoma City bombing, Boston bombing.”

.. He was even more scathing about the Boston bombers’ use of pressure-cooker bombs. He thought they made a “crappy design of it.”

.. In the world before Columbine, people like LaDue played with chemistry sets in their basements and dreamed of being astronauts.

.. The idea that people with autism-spectrum disorders can stumble into patterns of serious criminality has a name: counterfeit deviance. It has long been an issue in cases involving A.S.D. teen-agers and child pornography. “They are intellectually intact people, with good computer skills but extraordinary brain-based naïveté, acting in social isolation, compulsively pursuing interests which often unknowingly take them into forbidden territory,”

..  But the riot has now engulfed the boys who were once content to play with chemistry sets in the basement. The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.