MAGA views on Russia’s Ukraine invasion speak volumes about 'right-wing contrarians': conservative
According to a Yahoo News/YouGov survey released in mid-March, Democrats are much more likely to favor helping Ukraine during the Russia-Ukraine war than Republicans. The survey found that 76% of Democrats believed the United States should back Ukraine during the conflict compared to only 57% of Republicans.
Never Trump conservative David French, in a think piece published by The Atlantic on March 18, argues that the GOP/Democrat divide on Ukraine speaks volumes about the childish mentality of a certain type of MAGA Republican: the “right-wing contrarian,” who he slams as childish reactionaries who are guided by emotion rather than by facts or logic.
French compares the results of that Yahoo/YouGov survey to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey from February, which found that 92% of Democrats had been vaccinated for COVID-19 compared to only 57% of Republicans.
“Vaccines have nothing to do with Russia, and Russia has nothing to do with vaccines,” French writes. “So, why are those two numbers so similar? The answer lies with a phenomenon that afflicts a substantial minority of the right, including a substantial minority of my neighbors. It’s a constant, intense contrarianism rooted in deep antipathy against perceived ‘elites’ or against the ‘establishment’ on the left or the right.”
"don\u2019t for a moment mistake contrarianism for critical thinking. A true critical thinker holds all sides accountable for their mistakes." @DavidAFrench in @TheAtlantichttps://newsletters.theatlantic.com/the-third-rail/6234aa276c90860020516e75/republican-conspiracy-russia-ukraine/\u00a0\u2026— Peter Wehner (@Peter Wehner) 1647789878
That childishly “contrarian” mentality, according to French, also shows itself with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
“The overlap between various conspiracy theories is simply extraordinary,” French observes. “Find someone who believes Trump truly won the 2020 election, and the overlap with anti-masking activism —
especially pre-vaccine — and vaccine skepticism is almost guaranteed. Find someone who believes in the basics of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and you’ll find an election conspiracist and likely a Ukraine skeptic.”
French continues, “Indeed, contrarianism and antipathy also present a crucial explanation for Trumpism. What’s a key reason the right likes Trump? Because the mainstream media doesn’t. When would they boo Trump? When he conforms to what the establishment wants, including by getting a COVID-vaccine booster.”
French views MAGA “contrarians” as people who will gladly cut their nose to spite their face.
“If you spend any time watching Tucker Carlson or following the rhetoric of popular far-right voices, such as Candace Owens, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and many, many others, you’ll see a consistent theme: They’ll find what they call ‘the narrative’ —
another word for the perceived conventional wisdom in the media or in the political establishment — and simply argue the opposite,” French explains. “We saw the pattern throughout the pandemic. ‘The narrative’ was that COVID was serious, and so, right-wing figures minimized the virus, claiming that it was like the common cold, or that it was merely the flu — or that it would claim only 500 or 5000 lives.”
French adds, “‘The narrative’ claimed that masks could help limit the spread of the disease. So, far-right figures mocked masks, sometimes even referring to them as ‘face diapers.’ Then, as the narrative moved to full-throated support for vaccines, the same cohort held back. If ‘they’ want me to take a vaccine, then something must be wrong.”
French stresses, however, that “right-wing contrarians” are not critical thinkers.
“Don’t for a moment mistake contrarianism for critical thinking,” French warns. “A true critical thinker holds all sides accountable for their mistakes. Those who underplayed the COVID threat would be rejected just as decisively — if not more, given the staggering toll in lives — as those who overplayed it. Those who said there were no contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign would be rejected just as decisively as those who said there was active collusion with the Russian government. The critical thinker is universally skeptical.”
French adds, “The contrarian commits a double error — he’s both excessively cynical and excessively credulous. He’s too quick to disbelieve one side and too quick to believe the opposite. For example, he’ll reject an avalanche of evidence of the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine while jumping quickly on fad treatments, like hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. He’ll reject overwhelming proof that the January 6 insurrection was a Trumpist attack on the Capitol and respond immediately to speculation that the FBI or Antifa instigated the riot.”
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