The Cult of the Anti-Personality

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies, Human Condition

Published on July 20, 2011 with No Comments

Houston, errr, no, America, we have a problem!

The concept of the “cult of personality” has become well-known in the general public in recent years, having become a part of the “ordinary knowledge” of the average person, which means that when such cults are mentioned most people have at least a vague idea of what is being talked about. This is probably because such cults, whether positive or negative, have emerged in every walk of life—politics, economics, religion, music, culture, science, and even in industry—for decades or even centuries.

Some cults emerge from society without outside manipulation. Others are manufactured top-down for ‘branding’ purposes by those who want to be at the center of a cult. Doubtless, psychologists have published books exposing this or that theory on such cults of personality. Sadly, I am ignorant of those writings, though my lifetime has been awash with media references to this or that personality cult. Examples abound.

China’s Mao Tse-Tung was the center of a personality cult as was Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe. Kim Jong Il of North Korea was, too. Elvis Presley also had a cult of personality—though dead for almost thirty-five years, his cult still lives on! Ross Perot was the center of a political cult and movement in the 1990s, and today Sarah Palin, too, is a cult figure to at least a small segment of American society.

As cult figures, their followers unquestioningly follow them, suggesting a “follow the leader” mentality among the members of such cults and, because of their dynamics, most likely a lemming-like attitude of “my leader, right or wrong.”

The term ‘cult’ can be seen in either a negative or a positive light, though most often it is used negatively by those who oppose such cult personalities. Cult suggests something secretive, isolated, and even nefarious.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion (1687) states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I believe that there is a social equivalent to this law. By this, I mean that for each cult of personality there is likely to be an opposing “cult of anti-personality,” at least this is what seems to have happened in contemporary US politics in the last few decades. Such an equivalent cult-type may have always existed.

Recent US presidential elections, especially since 1980, illustrate what I mean by such negative cults. Anti-personality cults are driven now more by ad hominem dislike or excessive incredulity than by reasoned disagreement. And they have grown in number and intensity in the past two decades, having become increasingly more vociferous, unbending, and intransigent in their opposition to the cult of the political personality.

One example is the personal attacks of a cult of anti-personality (and anti-greens) against former US Vice President Al Gore. Today, anything Gore says, regardless of content, is immediately attacked by this virtual cult. Scientific facts noted by Gore, for example, are continuously challenged, and his reasoning and even his facts being distorted even though those cult member(s) responsible for such distortion know what Gore’s message meant and knew as well the validity of the “science” behind his statements.
George W. Bush was both a cult and an anti-cult figure.

Obama is now the focal point of a significant cult of anti-personality. Attacks on him have been steady in flow and increasingly angry and hostile in content. Radio talk show hosts on the extreme right of the political spectrum are among the worst perpetrators of the anti-personality cult, whether for alleged entertainment value or for other psychological reasons (Obama is the first black president… and then there are the “birthers” who in all futility continue to question his citizenship status, even though the national media have produced the legal documents). They continue to foster unreasonable hatred for the sitting president as well as for the presidency itself.

When I was a kid, it was an honor to listen to a President telling us to study and to work hard to become good citizens. Now, to hear a talk by Obama, various schools require permission slips from parents to let their kids listen to the President telling them to study hard and to stay in school. This current situation is unreasonable.

And radio “personalities” like Glen Beck, Mike Savage, and Rush Limbaugh have continued to raise the intensity of their derogatory comments about the president and the presidency, angry distorted interpretations that I have not heard before. I don’t know if these millionaire radio personalities can see that their hatred of the sitting president is undermining the faith of their listeners in the American political system that they claim so vehemently to defend.

Such anti-personality cult figures, from both the political right and the left, prompt strong negative (more correctly, hostile) reactions from those who, for whatever the reason, just don’t like them … and never will like them. Nothing, and especially not “facts” contrary to what they already believe, will ever alter the negative opinions of these people, especially in these times of modern media when the effects of group polarization push people to only pay attention to news outlets and sites that uphold the correctness of their own unreasonable opinions, encouraging them to become even more extreme in their positions. There is nothing positive to be found in a “cult of the anti-personality” because objectively innovative ideas are automatically ridiculed and rejected.

I am not immune from feeling this way toward the current politicians in the US Congress who failed to challenge many of President Bush’s controversial policies, including deadly and costly wars on two fronts.

Sadly, there is a third war underway and it is in the USA between political ideologies. This domestic guerrilla war has fostered a polarization of political parties that have fallen into voting as blocks (to support the other political party is viewed as disloyal to party principles and, to those on the right end of the political spectrum, as even being unpatriotic). At present we seem to have a party of proposers of legislation and a party of “opposers,” people who oppose willy-nilly anything proposed by President Obama. Some opposing congresspersons have proudly admitted to the public that they hadady opposed Obama’s programs that they never even read.

This behavior reminds me of an adage from the Revolutionary War era, taught to us as school kids: “United we stand. Divided we fall.” It seems that the three branches of government as well as the 50 States have forgotten this guiding American polity’s rule of thumb. In my view the cult of the anti-personality—here I am referring specifically to ideology-based block opposition to anything proposed by President Obama—is destroying the country, turning people against each other in very hostile and potentially violent ways. There is a third-front war going on—and it is inside America.


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