Laird Wilcox on extremist traits
no any ofthose points sound familiar to you?
1. CHARACTER ASSASSINATION.
Extremists often attack the character afar: opponent rather than deal with the facts or issues raised They
will question motives, , past , alleged values, personality, looks, mental health, and
so " as a diversion Elam the issues under consideration. some ofthose matters are not entirely irrelevant,
but they should not serve to avoid the real issues. Extremists omen this is done to them,
e. NAMECALLING AND LABELING.
Extremists are quick to resort to epithets (racist, subversive, pervert, hate manger, out, crackpot,
degenerate, , , red, commie, nan, huh link, liar, hight, and so on) to label and
condemn opponents in order to divert attention item their arguments and to discourage others hem
hearing them out These epithets dent have to he proved to be effective; the mere can that they've been
said is often enough.
Extremists tend to make sweeping claims or judgments on little or no evidence, and theyhave a tendency's
confuse similarity with sameness That is, they assume that because two (or more) things, events, or persons
are alike in some respects, they must he alike in most aspens. The sloppy use is a treacherous
form and has a high potential for false conclusions
INADEQUATE PROOF .
Extremists tend to he very fuzzy about what proof, and they also tend to get caught up in logical
fallacies, such as post hot has (assuming that a prior event explains a subsequent occurrence
simply because eitheir more and after relationship). to project conclusions and to
exaggerate the significance tranformation that confirms their beliefs while derogation or reparing
information that contradicts them. to be motivated by feelings more than facts, m what they want
to exist rather than what actually does exist Extremists do and fearful thinking.
5. ADVOCACY or DOUBLE STANDARDS.
Extremists generally tend to judge themselves or their interest group in terms of their intentions, which they
tend to generously, and others eitheir acts, which they tend to critically They would
We you to accept their assertions on faith, but they demand yours They tend to engage in menial
pleading on or their interests, of some alleged special status, past
or present disadvantage.
6. TENDENCY In VIEW THEIR OPPONENTS AND (names AS ESSENTIALLY EVIL.
To the extremist opponents held opposing positions because they are had people, immoral, dishonest,
unscrupulous, hateful, cruel, or whatever, net merely because they simply disagree, see the
matter differently, have competing interests, or are perhaps even mistaken
Extremists have a tendency to see the world in terms of good and evil, for them or against them,
with no middle ground or intermediate positions. All issues are ultimately moral issues ohright and wrong,
with the "righy' position cannoning with their interests. Their slogan is often “these who are not with me are
tr. ADVOCACY or SOME DEGREE or on REPRESSION
or Tarn: DEPONENTS AND/ OR curries.
This marinodude a very active campaign to keep opponents item media access and a pube hearing, as in
the case , banning or " dissident spokespersons. They may for
legislation against speaking, writing, teaming or instructing "subversive" or information or
opinions. They may even attempt to keep offending heels out restores or ea shelves, discourage
advertising with threats of repasts, and keep spokespersons for -offensive- views eithe airwaves or certain
columnists out In each case the goal is some kind control Extremists would
prefer that you listen only to them. They feel threatened when someone tans hack or challenges their views.
9. Two 10 IDENTIFY THEMSELVES IN TERMS or we THEIR ENEMAS ARE:
WHOM THEY HATE AND we THEM.
Accordingly, extremists warherome emotionally bound to their opponents, who are often competing
extremists themselves. Beams they tend to view their enemies as evil and powerful, they tend, perhaps
to emulate them, adopting the same tactics to a certain degree. For example, and
communist and groups often behave their opponents Mirna rallies often take
on much eithe character eithe stereotype mm rallies themselves, including the orgy of emotion,
bullying, screaming epithets, and even acts To behave the opposite of someone is to actually
surrender your will to them, and "op? maes" are often more We mirror images that, although they have
kotr and “ugh? reversed look and behave amazingly alike.
MT. TENDENCY TOWARD ARGUMENT BY INTIMIDATION.
Extremists tend to frame their arguments in such a way as to intimidate others into accepting their premises
and conclusions. To disagree with them is to ‘ally the devil," or to give aid and comfort to the
enemy They use a lot and pontificated& and tend to . This shrill, harsh
rhetorical style allows them to keep their opponents and critics on the defensive, cuts lines
and allows them to define the of debate
ii. USE or , BUZZWORDS, AND ; CACHES.
Far many extremists shortcuts in thinking and in reasoning matters out seem to be necessary in order to
avoid or evade awareness facts and compelling Extremists generally
behave in ways that reinforce their prejudices and alter their own consciousness in a manner that holsters
their false confidence and sense .
la. or MORAL on UPPER SEND? OVER OTHERS.
Must obvious would he claims of general racial or ethnic master race, for example less
obvious are claims of ennoblement because , a special relationship with cod
membership in a special "eh' " or “class: and a kind of aloof 'highhanded" snobbishness that accrues
because eithe weightiness eitheir preoccupations, their altruism, and their mums to sacrifice
themselves (and others) to their cause, After ah, who an hear to deal with common people when one is
trying to save the world! Extremists can show great 'tmh' when one is 'insensitive" enough to
challenge these claims.
Extremists often predict dire or catastrophic consequence from a situation or from failure to follow a
spoink reuse, and they tend to a kind of 'cris mindedness It can be a communist takeover, a
Nazi revival, nuclear war, earthquakes, floods, or the wrath . wow it is, its just around the corner
unless we follow their program and listen to the special insight and wisdom to which truly
enlightened have access. For extremists, any setback or defeat is the ' eithe and!’
BELIEF THAT ITS OKAY In no BAD THINGS IN THE SERVICE or A "GOOD" CAUSE.
Extremists may deliberately lie, distort; misquote, , defame, or ml their opponents and/ or critics,
engage in censorship or repression , or undertake violence in -special eases." This is done with little or no
remorse as long as its in the service the communists or masts or whomever Defeating an
en y' becomes an goal to which other values . With extremists, the end
some the means.
15. Mans ON RESPONSES AND, %
LESS IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO museums AND ILOGICAL ANALYSIS.
Extremists have an unspoken reverence for propaganda, which they may eah -education- or 'consciousness-
raising." Symbolism plays an exaggerated role in their thinking, and to think ' and
metamorphic ally. Harold D. Haswell, in his hook, ' and Politcs‘, says, “The essential mark
lithe agitator is the high value he places " the emotional response mm public - Effective extremists tend
to be effective propagandists. Propganda diners iron, education in that the former teaches one what to
think and thearter teaches one howto think
16. HYPERTENSION VIGILANCE.
Extremists perceive hostile innuendo in even casual comments; imagine rejection and antagonism concealed
in honest disagreement and dissent; see 'latent' subversion, antisemitism, perversion, racism, disloyalty,
and so on in gestures and ambiguous behaviors. Although few extremists are clinically paranoid,
many ofthem adopt a paranoid style with its attendant homo and distrust.
17. USE or SUPERNATURAL RATIONALE FOR BELIEFS AND ACTIONS.
some extremists, particularly those in " or extreme religious movements, such as
fundamentalist Christians, militant zionist extremists, and members and metaphysical
organizations, claim some kind rationale for their who and actions, and that their
movement or cause is ordained by cod. In this case, stark extremism warherome reformed in a “religious-
tootsie, which can have a legitimising effect for some people. It’: surprising how many people are reluctant
to challenge religiously motivated extremism because it represents "recross belief‘ or beans eithe
status aesome religions in our culture
is. PROBLEMS . UNCERTAINTY.
indeed the ideologies and we systems to which extremists tend to attach themselves often represent
grasping for certainly in an uncertain world or an attempt to achieve absolute security in an environment
that is or perhaps populated m people with interests opposed to their own.
Extremists exhibit a kind that compels them to engage in and manipulative
behavior, hem on a personal level and in a political context, to protect themselves feom the unforeseen and
unknown The more laws or “HHS, there are that regulate the behavior their
en es’ the more secure extremists feel.
19. TOWARD "GROUPTHINK''
Extremists, their organisations , and their subcultures are prone to a kind group
cohesiveness that leads to what living Janis discussed in his excellent hook Victims ' .
a tendency to to group norms and to preserve solidarity and concurrence at
the expense members. observations , ' eting evidence, and disquieting observations
that would can into question the shared assumptions and beliefs eithe group.
Cor ), for example, on only with one another, read material that reflects their
own views, and can be almost phobic about the "propaganda" of the "other side." The result is a
deterioration , rationality, and moral judgment. With groupthink, shared illusions of
righteousness, superior morality, persecution, and so on remain intact, and those who channie them are
viewed with and hostility.
TENDENCY m PERSONALIZE .
Extremists often wish for the personal bad fortune eitheir 'enemies," and when it octets. When a
critic or an adversary dies or has a serious illness, a had accident, or personal legal problems, extremists
often rejoice and mom about howthee 'deserved" t I recall seeing rightyking extremists celebrate the
assassination mum Luther King and leftists agonizing because George Wilde: survived an assassination
attempt in each instance their hatred was not only directed against ideas, but also against individual human
OFTEN FEEL THAT THE 53% IS NO GOOD UNLESS mum.
Fur example, ifthey lose an election, then itwas " If pube opinion turns against them, it was
because of 'brainwashing." hither (ohms become disillusioned, it' s because of" sabotage - The test eithe
tightness or wrongness eithe system is how it impacts upon them.