Friday, February 08, 2013

The Pain Party (Part II)


Yesterday at this time we promised a Part II, although this part isn't going to be about the GOP plan for Sequestration. This is just about the Party of Pain. How did the GOP, and conservatives in general, get to the point where their core belief is, basically, sadomasochism? Max Blumenthal covered it better than anyone in his classic study on what makes the GOP tick, Republican Gomorrah. For anyone confused as to why the Party is offering up a platform of pain-- cutting jobs, a healthcare plan that insists you go die, reduced wages, reduced benefits, an end to Social Security and Medicare, an end to public infrastructure projects-- you have to get a glimpse into the mind of the kind of people who self-identify as Republicans and then run for office under the GOP banner.

We don't need to-- but we will-- go right to Louisiana Senator David Vitter, reelected by evangelicals with 57% of the vote, immediately after being exposed for-- and then offering teary contrition-- decades of hiring prostitutes who he paid to dress him in diapers and spank him while he soiled himself. Sexy? Only to evangelicals, America's self-loathing, self-righteous pornography-addicted special interest. Blumenthal cites a 2007 survey that shows that "50 percent of evangelical men and 20 percent of evangelical women are addicted to pornography; 37 percent of evangelical pastors who responded to a 2001 survey in Christianity Today magazine called porn addiction a "current struggle." Now meet the granddaddy of the modern Republican mind, James Dobson, a deranged child psychologist, masquerading as a prophet of a right-wing anti-Jesus God-figure. Viewing obscene material, he warns his millions of followers, inevitably leads to "sex between women and bulls, stallions or boars." So that's why Michele Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Lynn Westmoreland, Virginia Foxx and Diane Black always look so uptight and on edge!

Dobson's first claim to fame was his 1970 sick and twisted child rearing book, Dare to Discipline, which he hoped would make him a fortune while displacing the 1946 more sober "hippie book" that Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote, Baby and Child Care, and which does not urge parents to beat their children. Dobson's manual, which has earned him the sobriquet, "the King of Pain," reads "like a manifesto for domestic violence." (He even added some advice about using corporal punishment on unruly household pets: "threaten him with destruction," he wrote. "Nothing else works." Dobson was upset-- even unhinged-- by the turmoil of protest he saw on American campuses and streets as students protested against racism, war and patriarchy, targets that were ideals for Dobson and other right-wing white unreconstructed Southerners. "His advocacy of corporal punishment," wrote Blumenthal, "was carefully intended to channel the violent backlash in the streets [i.e.- Nixon thugs beating up protesters] into a coherent grassroots movement with himself as its guru.
Dobson's teachings resonated on a profound level with the backlashers. By 1976, Dare to Discipline had been reprinted eighteen times and sold over a million copies. His success propelled him into the rapidly expanding evangelical broadcast industry. Dobson's new radio show and ministry, Focus on the Family, became immediately popular as well, Now, the followers eager to implement his harsh methods had grown into a belt-wielding army of millions. Corporal punishment was back with a vengeance.

...In his incisive book, Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse, [Professor Philip] Greven analyzed Dare to Discipline in detail, concluding that Dobson's violent child-rearing methods served an underlying purpose, producing droves of activists embarked on an authoritarian mission.

"The persistent 'conservatism' of American politics and society is rooted in large part in the physical violence done to children," Greven wrote. "The roots of this persistent tilt towards hierarchy-- so evident in Germany earlier in this century and in the radical right in America today-- are always traceable to aggression against children's wills and bodies, to the pain and the suffering they experience, long before they, as adults, confront the complex issues of the polity, the society, and the world."

But the infliction of pain on young children, social deviants, and other weaker beings is only one half of a binary solution Dobson has prescribed to his followers for curing America's social ills. As Dobson has consistently made clear to his flock, they must first purify their own souls of sin before striking out, literally, to purify the land.

Dobson's self-purification process, adapted from his father's Nazarene faith, compels his followers to confess their darkest transgressions before pleading for forgiveness. Finally, to attain what Dobson and others in the evangelical culture call "holiness," a permanent state of spiritual perfection, followers must submit their individual wills to the order of a higher power-- either God, or men of God such as Dobson. Every sinner who submits must be convinced that, as Dobson has insisted, "Pain is a marvelous purifier."

Dobson's emphasis on pain, simultaneously inflicted on weaker beings and the self, reflects the sadomasochism at the core of his philosophy, As Greven noted, books such as Dare to Discipline that urge parents to beat their children are hardly distinguishable from S&M manuals such as Larry Townsend's The Leatherman's Handbook," which advise men on erotic techniques of "discipline" and "punishment." The principle distinction between the two is that the methods Townsend advocates are applied to adults who have chosen to participate, whereas Dobson's techniques are wielded against the wills of small children.

"Wherever children suffer from painful physical punishments and humiliating submission [as Dobson claims he did when he was growing up in Mississippi] to more powerful authorities, sadomasochism will be present," Greven wrote. "Sadomasochism is thus one of the most enduring consequences of coercive discipline in childhood."

Erich Fromm, in his book Escape From Freedom, insisted that sadomasochism was more than a sexual kink. It was, he claimed, a defining characteristic of the authoritarian personality, finding its most dangerous expression in the political sphere. "These essence of the authoritarian character," Fromm wrote, "has been described as the simultaneous presence of sadistic and masochistic drives. Sadism was understood as aiming at unrestricted power over another person more or less mixed with destructiveness; masochism an aiming at dissolving oneself in an overwhelmingly strong power and participating in its strength and glory."

Dare to Disclipline and several of Dobson's subsequent tracts are little more than how-to guides for the cultivation of sadomasochists. As Dobson's own personal history shows, many of those raised on a steady diet of corporal punishment demonstrate a tendency later in life to reenact the painful experiences familiar to their childhoods, through either radical-right political activism or cruel impersonal behavior, or both. The appeal of illicit, even macabre sexual behavior to some social conservatives [again, David Vitter is a perfect example]-- a trend that has produced no end of colorful scandals-- further reflects their sadomasochistic tendencies.

The sadomasochism that is latent in so many figures of the new radical right is often activated by a traumatic personal crisis. As Fromm explained, "Both the sadistic and the masochistic trends are caused by the inability of the isolated individual to stand alone and his need for a symbiotic relationship that overcomes this aloneness."
And serious political players expect President Obama to compromise and work things out with this pile of irretrievably damaged human refuse? This is today's Republican Party and this is why the country is so dysfunctional and unable to evolve with the changing circumstances of rapidly advancing times. They need their own country. I suggest Mississippi.

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At 11:37 AM, Blogger John said...


This quote is revealing: ""Both the sadistic and the masochistic trends are caused by the inability of the isolated individual to stand alone and his need for a symbiotic relationship that overcomes this aloneness."

Yet, every individual in this "pile of irretrievably damaged human refuse" will constantly spew the rugged individual myth ... presumably to hide from themselves.

John Puma

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Dennis Jernberg said...

I know (from Alice Miller) that Stalin was the product of a savagely abusive father, and he reenacted his painful childhood through both radical-left activism (including terrorism) and cruel impersonal behavior. Ayn Rand just happens to be his mirror image, tailor made for the American "Rugged Individualist". And have you noticed how many ex-Communists are now radical rightists in the GOP? Stalinism became radical conservatism in Russia itself and the former Soviet bloc. I like to describe the current US-China conflict as a factional squabble between ex-Trotskyist neocon corporatists (the US) and ex-Stalinist neocon corporatists (China).

Of course, left-wing extremism is dead these days (the US embassy bombing in Turkey? The left-wingnut bombers' message? "We're relevant, dammit!"); most liberals and socialists these days are "wimpy" realists of the Reality-Based Community. These days, most extremism is on the Right, and James Dobson and his child-abuse manuals are one big reason.


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