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Communists and Conspiracies
in the news: At a speech she gave in Ohio on June 26, USA Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene called her New York Democrat colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a "little communist." MTG is a fan of the QAnon conspiracy theory (*see note 1 below); AOC is the most prominent member of Congress's left wing progressives and a fan of the Green New Deal. On the same day as this culture war skirmish occurred, The Economist published a twelve page special report about China's authoritarian rulers. The cover of its magazine containing this report featured a prominent red flame surrounding a "Power and Paranoia: The Chinese Communist Party at 100" headline. Other than occurring on the same day, these seemingly unconnected happenings both involve supposed communists and conspiracies.
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview): I say "supposed communists" because not only is AOC not a communist, but technically speaking neither are most members of the Chinese Communist Party. Using our 104 worldview themes, AOC's worldview is best characterized as that of an "Egalitarian Progressive" (theme #203B) and strong supporter of "Social Welfare Statism" (theme #49A). Not only do many Chinese Communist Party leaders NOT dislike the concept of private property ownership and NOT "want all property held in common"--something "Idealistic Socialism" (theme #49B) links to communism--but some might even support one's right to get outrageously wealthy (see "Seeking Wealth and Power" theme #43) more than AOC would! In saying this, I point to The Economist reporting how the super-rich in China "are showered with honorary titles," and, of the 5100 members of China's parliament and advisory body, "more than 140 have fortunes of at least 2 bn yuan ($320 million)." And that, by some accounts, the rich vs. poor divide / level of inequality in China equals or exceeds that in the US. And the safety net one expects a modern social welfare state to provide is no doubt thinner in China than in the US.
On the conspiracy side of our title, The Economist's headline indirectly links communists to conspiracies through use of the word paranoia. One often finds this word in psychological profiles of those who see conspiracies where they don't exist. Thus a 2013 book written by Jesse Walker and presenting "a comprehensive history of conspiracy theories in American culture and politics" is titled The United States of Paranoia. Recent Chinese history suggests the Communist Party effort to maintain absolute control is now characterized by paranoia. And its current policies hardly resemble the idealized socialism it seemingly professed at its long ago founding in 1921. Thus The Economist reports "several members of a neo-Marxist club at Peking University were arrested in 2018 for supporting strikers in Shenzhen," and--after a party journal linked communism to "abolition of private property"--Supreme Leader Xi Jinping "went on to reassure private businessmen that their property was safe." The report painted a picture of Xi's increasing consolidation of power as head of China's huge authoritarian state, and the Chinese Communist Party's 92 million members as his most dedicated "Authoritarian Followers" (choice #20B).
Other than in the two news items cited above, communists and conspiracies are linked in project Worldview's choice #38 between Idealistic Socialism (theme #49B) and "Conspiracies" (theme #36B) . To be honest, in the expansion (from 81 to 104 worldview themes) and restructuring (to pair those 104 themes so as to define 52 choices) that produced version 5.0 of project Worldview's structure for characterizing and analyzing worldviews, this pairing was the one most agonized over. And for good reason: upon initially encountering their names, you may be puzzled and think they have nothing to do with each other. But careful reading of the two theme descriptions suggests otherwise. Both start by imagining people "conspiring to infiltrate institutions." But, distinguishing who these people doing the conspiring are leads to the key difference in these theme descriptions. Those plotting socialism are "ethical, honest, altruistic," whereas those behind plotting conspiracies (like the supposed deep state, child molesting bad guys in the one known as QAnon) are "evildoers with a hidden agenda." As theme descriptions suggest, both of these groups are "deluded"--meaning not especially grounded in reality.
For the conspiracy theorists, their worldviews are typically shaped by a choice #1 preference for "Wishful Thinking" (theme #201B) over "Evidence-Based" (theme #201A,) and a choice #43 preference for "Spreading Disinformation / Tactical Deception" (theme #4). As a result, with the lies and fiction they promote as truth, and how they do this, they can be described as "unethical, dishonest, and self-serving." This is the exact opposite of how the idealist socialists might describe themselves. Yet many would charge the idealistic socialist folks with also engaging in wishful thinking: they naively discount human nature and imagine a world where people are not acquisitive, where emotions like greed, envy and jealousy do not exist, and where everyone can equally share resources held in common. The conspiracy described in the idealist socialism theme description is disturbing to those who recognize the world it imagines is not the real world we live in. That world is inhabited by flawed creatures--people who don't always behave rationally but too often make choices dictated by strong, sometimes unhealthy, unsocial feelings. The real world is not one of saints or the better angels idealist socialists seemingly imagine.
Like some of the fifty-two project Worldview choices, reasonable, practical-minded people would not have a strong preference for either of the two themes presented in choice #38. Their worldviews would not be built around either of them. But in the dispute between between MTG and AOC, the former with her support of QAnon no doubt fits into the conspiracy theory camp better than AOC fits into the extreme idealist socialist = communist camp. And AOC immediately scored a point in countering MTG's "little communist" charge by pointing out that her five foot six inch height makes her three inches taller than MTG!
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