Palin As Figurehead

The other day I quoted one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers who attributed Sarah Palin’s popularity among fundamentalists to the fact that they and she are both fundamentally liars who have to refuse reality to sustain their beliefs.  I used this remark for a launching pad for discussing Nietzsche’s critique of theologians as fundamentally deceitful and for explaining my own decision to abandon Christian faith as based around an unwillingness to lie anymore.

Today Sullivan posts another reader with a different, equally likely (and not mutually exclusive) account of Palin’s magnetism among right-wing fundamentalists:

She is simply an attractive empty vessel into which her followers pile grievances.

This is why when presented with evidence of her lies, her supporters deflect by citing liberal media bias. They never address the facts because the facts are largely incidental. They immediately point to one of these nefarious forces.

A fairly persuasive theory of leadership called the ‘Social Contagion’ theory,

In order for a movement to break through to a larger audience, the followers require a figurehead. Palin is that figurehead for the aggrieved fundamentalist right.

If it wasn’t her, they’d find someone else. But her carefully constructed physical appearance, which includes her family, makes her figurehead status all the more appealing. She represents the ultimate looking glass self for the fundamentalist right at least in the sense that she looks the part. They ascribe everything else to her whether it fits her or not. That’s why she can say or do anything that she wants because in the end it does not matter to her base.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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