It has long been known that certain types of jobs and professions attract certain personality types. The entertainment business attracts shallow people, who crave attention and adulation. Cops tend to be belligerent bullies. It does not mean all entertainers are shallow airheads or that all cops are jerks, just that these fields tend to attract those types. In fact, shallow airheads and belligerent bullies may have some advantages in these fields over average people.
Modern mass democracy seems to attract a certain personality type as well. The person we tend to see in politics and the associated media, large and small, is someone, who takes great pleasure in admiring himself. His vanity is not rooted in accomplishment or even proven skill, but rather in an idealized version of himself, which is often quite different from his actual self. The world of mass democracy, especially the media, is a world dominated by narcissistic nitwits.
Just look at some of the people that were in the Democratic primary field. Pete Buttigieg is a man of no accomplishments. In fact, given all the advantages he has had compared to most people, he has been a failure. Yet, he spent a year sashaying around the country, carrying on like he was doing the world a favor. Think about the level of self-regard it takes for a small-town mayor to think he can be President. You have to like yourself a whole lot to do what he did this last year.
The political media is where this is most obvious. David French is a great example of the narcissistic nitwit. The only reason to notice him at all is due his many idiotic things he has posted on-line over the last decade. Tucker Carlson called him a buffoon and “one of the least impressive people he has met.” Carlson is in showbiz now, which means he is around feckless airheads all day. That means he ranks French below the bubbly weather girls and the addle minded jocks he meets.
French is a pretty good example of what has come to dominate the world of non-profit conservatism over the last couple of decades. This is guy, who exaggerates his own trivial accomplishments and spends an enormous amount of time telling the world about his wonderfulness. He is a moral nullity that spends his time on line lecturing us about the moral failings of public figures. How is it possible for such a nothing person to have so much self-regard? It should be impossible.
Another good example of the narcissistic nitwit is Tom Nichols. That would be “Five Time Jeopardy Champion” Tom Nichols for you commoners. He is fond of telling everyone he meets that he is really good at remembering pointless trivia. He is also fond of being wrong about everything, but carrying on as if he is an expert on everything. He is, of course, always disappointed in the rest of us. So much so he writes long essays explaining why the world does not deserve Tom Nichols.
The thing is, guys like David French and Tom Nichols are not unusual. The political media is full of people posing in front of empty trophy cases, grinning like they are the champions of everything. Their careers are a mix of pointless credentials, timely obsequiousness and idiotic public pronouncements. Yet, they strut around as if they are doing the rest of us a favor by remaining on the planet. The gap between self-perception and reality is breath taking.
It is not just the mainstream either. Mass media, especially low-barrier to entry stuff like video streaming, has loaded minor politics with narcissists too. Look at the e-celebs that have become a staple of the dissident scene. Many are dumb girls, who flash their boobs on camera, but there are plenty of men that think they are Tom Nichols. Think about some of the fringe people, who have been born on third base, but ended up on first base, yet carry on as if they are world changing figures in history.
Again, it is not the self-regard. Lots of men are cocky, especially when young, thinking they are all that and a bag of chips. It’s a form of peacocking. Women, of course, naturally seek attention. The difference between normal vanity and what we see with these narcissistic nitwits is the massive gap between their self-perception and the reality of their resumes. They are so delusional that they may as well be imagining themselves to be entirely different people. Their life is a larp.
Now, the most likely explanation for this is mass media. Nowhere has mass media had a greater impact than politics. Turning it into a game of attention seeking, like the entertainment rackets, means it will attract the attention seekers. That’s certainly true, as politics at all levels has been turned into entertainment. Politics, especially fringe politics, is as much of a hobby as a real effort to change things. The general lack of seriousness means the un-serious can run wild.
That said, this seems to be a feature of modern democracy. Since the game is winning the crowd, at any cost, people willing to do anything, even humiliate themselves, to win the crowd become major figures. Two types of people are willing to humiliate themselves for the pleasure of others: those with no self-regard and those with infinite self-regard. The former has no pride and the latter has no shame. Shameless is the word that best describes people like David French.
There have been many technical explanations for why democracy is a system that eventually destroys itself. Those explanations are sound, but one reason seldom mentioned is that democracy selects for the worst people. You cannot run anything with feckless airheads and narcissistic nitwits. That’s democracy though. It elevates the vain and stupid into positions of authority. It elevates narcissism and boasting over prudence and caution. It makes the people reckless and stupid.
There is another aspect to this that helps explain the dominance of narcissistic nitwits in modern liberal democracy. Empathy and compassion are rooted in self-interest. When done so publicly, they become a form of status seeking. The narcissist is bets equipped to display what appears to be a heightened sensitivity to suffering of others. They are willing to rend their garments and sob in public on behalf of everyone. They put on a great show, that allows the public to vicariously empathize with the suffering of man.
Self-preservation is the natural limit on compassion. In a healthy society, this limit scales up to be the limit tolerable to maintain social order and continuity. Democracy not only unleashes the narcissistic nitwits; it crumbles the limits on compassion that these narcissists feed on like maggots. Democracy murders itself not just because of the low-quality people it attracts, but because it indulges in limitless compassion to the point where it can no longer defend itself.
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