Empathy Resistance Training

Empathy Resistance Training May 13, 2020

So here is a charming screenshot:

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This rather characteristic display of spite from the MAGA “prolife” Cult can be supplemented by many similar displays:

From death threats again Jimmy Kimmel’s three year son to this expression of naked contempt for the lebensunwertes leben:

to Laura Ingraham’s comparison of crowded children detention centers as summer camps to this deeply beloved mockery of the disabled by the most prolife president in the history of ever:

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One of the standing marks of Trump and his Cult is that their humor always punches down at those who are suffering or weaker than they are.

Now I think there is a real place for satire and humor in politics.  But true satire must always punch up, not down.  Sometimes it can punch up gently, sometimes it can and should punch up savagely.  But it should always be up, not down.  Otherwise, it is nothing but bullying and its sole effect is to harden the heart and ready the soul for hell.

Which brings me to this:

Time was, the gospel was about consoling and healing the sick.  But in the hands of superstar right wingers, both conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants, that gospel has been transformed into an antichrist cult doing their best to lie to, sicken and kill their brainwashed audience by fighting sane public health policy and mocking CNN personnel who have contracted COVID.

It’s the mockery I want to focus on here.  Among the infected were Chris Cuomo and his wife and 14 year old kid. Super duper prolife Catholics Ingraham and Arroyo led their mob of orcs in laughter over CNN sickness and possible death.

That is not satire, because it is punching down, not up.  Indeed, it is punching down at a 14 year old kid.

Not that punching down at kids is new for the Cult.  They’ve been doing it since Rush Limbaugh called a barely adolescent Chelsea Clinton a “dog” on national TV in the early 90s.  They got a refresher last year when they spent several weeks mocking Greta Thunberg.  Similarly, Limbaugh’s “Homeless Updates” mocking some of the most wretched suffering in our society have been a popular feature of his show for decades.  Cruelty is a feature, not a bug, for the Cult of Trump.

But cruelty takes training and conditioning: What Deacon Steven Greydanus describes as Empathy Resistance Training.  Children can be cruel to each other.  But typically childish cruelty is, curiously, a product of innocence.  Sometimes it comes of not knowing one’s own strength.  Sometimes, it comes from not being able to govern emotion, or being carried along by the snowball effect of a group of children out of control.  But the really calculated sadism and cruelty of a lynch mob of adults takes a kind of “maturity” children lack in planning and calculation. And it takes even more wilful malice and calculation to cover it up: as for instance in the case of the cold-blooded murder of Ahmaud Arbery. For that, you need training and conditioning and a systematic effort to extinguish the better angels of one’s nature in order to muscle down the protests of conscience.

That’s what we see going on in that Ingraham/Arroyo video: the training of a population to savor the suffering of the sick, to enjoy it, to laugh at it, to mock it.

And the way to do that, judging from history, is to paint support for grave evil as courage.  Like this:

Over and over again through history, those who do immensely selfish evil lie to themselves and those around them that they have guts, that they are willing to do the hard things that lesser mortals are afraid to do–for the greater good of course. As I point out here, the lie that deep evil is courage is the thread that unites everything from defenses of the SS to celebration of abortion to celebration of Hiroshima.

The troubled conscience, to fend off the sense that all is not well in its choice to do evil, will often lie to itself that the anguish it feels is just the fear cowards feel and acclaim itself for its heroism. That takes training. Ingraham and Arroyo, teaching their audience to laugh at the suffering and possible deaths of the sick, are two of the many trainers in Right Wing Lie Machine Media. So is Reno. So are many, many others. And the fruit they bear is death of both body and soul.

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