At Scientific Blogging, Dr. Randy Borum of the Univ. of South Florida considers a typology of extremism. The whole thing is worth a read:
- Polarized: The essence of which is an us vs them mindset, or what some would regard as in-group – out-group conflict.
- Absolutist: The beliefs are regarded as truth in the absolute sense, sometimes supported by sacred authority. This squelches questioning, critical thinking, and dissent. It also adds moral authority to framing us vs. them as a competition between good and bad (or evil).
- Threat-Oriented: External threat causes in-groups to cohere. Good leaders know this intuitively, if not from reading social psychological research. They persistently remind adherents that the “us” is at risk from the “them.” Because the “us” is seen as being good or right in the absolute sense, this works not only to promote internal cohesion but external opposition.
- Hateful: Hate energizes violent action. It allows principled opposition to impel direct action. It also facilitates various mechanisms of moral disengagement – such as dehumanization – which erode the social and psychological barriers to engaging in violence that one believes is “justified” (an important point, since many more people endorse the justification for extremist violence than actually commit such acts).
Looks at lot like a formula for success as a wingnut talk radio host, does it not?