An Analysis of the Thinking of Contrarians, Conspiracy Theorists and Right-Wingers

The need to wear masks during a pandemic has unmasked old ideas again. Suddenly, terms from the Nazi era, which seemed to have been disproved long ago and to rest on the garbage heap of history, are becoming socially acceptable again. There is talk of “folk body contamination”, of the “healthy body of the people”, of social Darwinism and of social thinking that has gone too far when it comes to protecting the sick, the weak and the old from the virus. Suddenly, these become simply negligible collateral damage, by which “one does not want to be restricted”.

Interestingly, however, it is precisely these people – contrarians, Nazis, conspiracy theorists, vaccination opponents, mask refusers, esotericists, energeticists, whatever they call themselves or are called – who demand consideration from others (for their freedoms), access to the best medical treatment (if the virus should catch them after all – and it catches them mercilessly), and claim to be particularly sensitive and connected to the world. But only as long as it affects them. Sensitivity to other people? They’re not even an afterthought.

Even before the pandemic, in October 2019, Twitter user @lawen4cer (in German) made an interesting summary in a series of tweets about the kind of discussion with AfD supporters that correspond to discussions with trolls of any kind. And the way we see the discussions since the beginning of the pandemic corresponds to this picture and worldview.

@lawen4cer followed the discussions in relevant forums and once discussed for a while with a few “concerned citizens” and members of the AfD and made the following experiences (I quote his tweets and summarize them here):

  1. These people find it normal to first insult a discussion partner with every answer and to insinuate that he has no idea about the topic and is an idiot anyway. The concept of different opinions as the basis of a discussion is completely unknown.
  2. There is often a lack of any factual knowledge of how, for example, the economy, states or energy supplies function, or how political decisions are made. Instead, naïve childlike faith reigns supreme.
  3. Although they live in a rich country with a low crime rate, they imagine themselves to be in a crisis area on the brink of civil war, with a constantly rising number of victims of foreigner crime and an economy that could collapse at any moment because of climate protection.
  4. At the same time, climate activists are “hysterical” from their point of view.
  5. They cannot follow more complex arguments, they do not understand comparisons. Knowledge of history is practically non-existent.
  6. The entire view of the world is characterized by the search for personal advantage, therefore every opponent is automatically assumed and accused of acting according to the same principle.
  7. Towards others (weaker ones) they welcome a social system that functions according to the law of the strongest, but at the same time they complain about having been shortchanged in the system and about being deprived of their deserved good by evil forces.
  8. If one arrives at a point in a discussion, which they cannot refute, they leave the place under insults and the statement, one may not understand them simply obviously from stupidity and malice.
  9. In any case, in-depth discussions are rarely possible, because these people really only want to reel off their buzzwords and then don’t know any more.
  10. When it comes to taxes, on the one hand, people are obviously very proud of paying them, which is why they like to put that in their bio, next to the information that they are German. At the same time, taxes are seen as robbery by selfish politicians.
  11. The same contradictoriness with the topic economy. On the one hand, people would rather drown in climate change than “damage the German economy”, while at the same time assuming that all politicians and activists are just bought puppets of influential lobbyists anyway.
  12. On the subject of buzzwords: These people often necessarily expect a certain course of conversation. If it comes to deviations, they are irritated and want to force it themselves (“You’re going to accuse me of being a Nazi again!!!”).
  13. For political opponents, a negative narrative is created without further justification (climate change activists are hysterics, Greens and Leftists are “filthy”) and then used consistently.
  14. These are often crude people with a penchant for cruelty to others and snivelling for themselves. They find the idea of a wolfish system theoretically super, but somehow also suspect that they themselves are not the strongest and cleverest in such a system.
  15. They solve the dilemma in two ways. They demand harshness against even weaker people and special rights for themselves.
  16. The complexity of the world overwhelms these people. They think in monocausal contexts with a short planning horizon.
  17. They are incapable of understanding the views and goals of other people. This leads to the fact that they can only perceive their “opponents” as decals: Saint Greta, climate hysterics as a cult, knifemen who want to kill us all and rape “our women”.
  18. Climate protection is rejected throughout, but with different positions:
  19. Climate change is normal
  20. Climate change does not exist
  21. Others (“China”) should do something against it
  22. Climate change is not sufficiently researched, therefore wait and see
  23. Economy takes precedence over climate protection
  24. It is also interesting that the production of renewable energies is apparently not part of the important economy for these people, although all major energy suppliers are now active there and money is earned and jobs created.
  25. There is often a lack of knowledge about what irony actually means. Therefore foreign irony is not recognized and the alleged own irony is announced extra large (“Attention irony”). The designation irony is often used thereby only as free designation for insults. The same applies to satire.
  26. Fact-based discussions – if one comes so far at all – often fail then because one finds already no common starting point. Every factual discussion lives from the common trust in sources, from which one then draws one’s conclusions.
  27. Although one rejects “leftists”, they are constantly used without being asked as a reason why one supposedly has to accept certain behavior (“But the leftists are EXACTLY as bad / even worse”) or as a self-justification: (“I am the result of leftist debate culture!”).

If one goes through this list, it is frightening how close this analysis is to the thinking of all these groups subsumed under “lateral thinkers”. Especially the fact that they themselves see the weak and old as removable on the one hand, but recognize themselves that they would have no chance in such a system and therefore demand special rights for themselves, shows the inconsistency of their thinking. If these demands were really applied as they demand, they would have no chance at all.

A final tweet shows how the twisted thinking of these people (dis)works:

I have never understood why people who are afraid of “mass migration” from Africa reject climate protection at the same time. Actually, they should be the biggest climate protectors.

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