Why collective narcissists are so politically volatile

Research from my PrejudiceLab at Goldsmiths, University of London shows that people who score high on the collective narcissism scale are particularly sensitive to even the smallest offences to their group’s image.

The first issues of the German version of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo are for sale at a newsstand in Berlin. Photo credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

In 2007, a British school teacher in Sudan received a jail sentence under Sharia law because she allowed her pupils to name a classroom teddy-bear ‘Muhammad’. The day after the sentence was announced, more than 10,000 people took to the streets of Khartoum demanding the teacher’s execution for blasphemy. While alternative explanations existed – the name Muhammad was chosen by children’s voting, it is a popular male name in Sudan – the teacher faced such disproportionate hostility because some people interpreted her actions as an insult to their whole group.

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Culture & Religion

How an Anti-Intellectual Elite Are Turning the World Upside Down

The controversial author predicted the rise of Trump by placing "a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair" in his new book, written before the election. But can he explain the hate of knowledge that persists in the world today?

Well! Salman Rushdie pretty much predicted the future in his new book, The Golden House, wherein the antagonist is "a ruthlessly ambitious, narcissistic, media-savvy villain sporting makeup and coloured hair." Read into that what you will, but Rushdie here posits that he's baffled by the sudden worldwide rejection of knowledge and the elites. He says that it's not just an invention of the American right wing — that it's a worldwide problem that's helped in large part by the likes of Fox News et al — and he wonders both what gave rise to that and how it will stop. Perhaps he'll have to write a sequel.

Politics & Current Affairs

No, Not All Opinions Are Equal—We Need Elites with Expert Knowledge

Elitism has come under fire since the recent wave of populist politics. But when we don't listen to experts, we end up listening to politicians' lies, says Richard Dawkins.

You want expert pilots to fly your planes, top doctors to perform your surgeries, the finest musicians in your orchestra, and for the same reason, you should want experts leading the nation, says Richard Dawkins. There has been a backlash against expert knowledge amid the rising wave of populist politics, but Dawkins doesn't think elitism is the dirty word that people are implying. He contends that not all opinions are equal, and that the leaders of the UK were profoundly misguided in allowing a referendum on Brexit to occur. No average citizen—not even Dawkins himself—was fit to decide on whether to leave a federation of states with so much economic and political importance, and decades of complex history attached to it. And much like the 2016 US presidential election, it was a political movement fueled by misinformation. A representative democracy is one thing, where citizens entrust experts to make national and local decisions, but a referendum democracy seems to Dawkins extremely ill-advised, particularly given that the top Google search in the UK the day after the Brexit vote was 'What is the European Union?'. Dawkins isn't shy: he's an elitist, but a rational one. He affirms he would never want a world where your IQ determines how many votes you get, but he sees the clear benefit of making political decisions based on knowledge rather than emotion or misinformation, deliberate or otherwise. Richard Dawkins' newest book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.

Politics & Current Affairs

Trump and Brexit: How Cognitive Elitism Caused Nations to Divide

Populism won two big votes in 2016, while the global worldview suffered... well... "big league". But how did we get to this big discord? And can populism and globalization ever get along?

There's a schism between the idealism of globalization—i.e. that a more connected, educated, and mobile world is going to make everything better—and that of populism, which demands a more insular, community-orientated way of life and thus world at large. In 2016, both the U.K. and the U.S. made it overwhelmingly apparently that the schism had reached a boiling point: the UK voted to leave the European Union without, seemingly, any forethought as to what it would do to the economy. And America elected a reality TV star, Donald Trump, who advocated both sexual assault and violence against journalists. Good times! But David Goodhart says we should have seen this coming—that there has been a battle between "Anywhere" and "Somewhere" tribes for decades, and that the issues don't all come down to "elites" versus "non-educated". It moreover comes down to a political system that favors one over the other. So what can we do? Perhaps see the other side for who they really are: one of us, just with a different view on the world.David Goodhart's new book is The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics.

Politics & Current Affairs

Brexit and Sons: Italeave, Portugo, Nicoseeya (and More)

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the EU had better get ready for some of these exit-names

The European Union finds itself trapped in a reality not unlike the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Former friends are turning into mortal enemies at a frightening rate. 

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Politics & Current Affairs