Recently Republican Senator Bob Corker finally said what we all know- The Modern GOP is a Cult, specifically a Cargo Cult. It’s latest incarnation sees Trump starting to eclipse Reagan as the demi-god and the introduction of some elements of the “Prosperity Minister” cultism.
Roughly 6 years after I first blogged about this in one of my earliest posts its time to look at the GOP Cargo Cult Now
The Cargo Cult-
The classic historical Cargo Cult refers to a phenomenon that arose on the isolated pacific islands various military’s built bases on during the Second World War. Looking back it seems likely the earliest Cargo Cults probably revolved around people like Captain Cook and other colonial sea captains and political figures. I guess it’s probably worth noting that the Imperial Japanese, who were fascists, simply tried to ‘genocide’ anyone on islands they occupied and inspired guerrilla resistance rather than obsessive imitation. There are no known Imperial Japanese Cargo Cults, likely due to cruelty.
It’s only in the wake of World War II that sociology and modern psychological thinking have advanced enough for the Cargo Cults to be studied or understood.
The native islanders in places like Papua, New Guinea had not had much contact with the outside world. They were isolated from the modernized humans who just had little need to go to their little part of the world until the cataclysm of the Second World War.
After the war began in the Pacific the native islanders were subject to massive culture shock. 21st Century humans are probably more mentally prepared for an Alien Invasion than these Un-contacted Tribes were for the 1940’s just erupting onto their neolithic islands. Literally overnight and literally out of the sky in the form of shiny silver airplanes (as well as great iron beasts from the sea) came the mid-20th century. They had NO context for this.
None of the previous limited contacts with outsiders provided a frame of reference for what transpired on their islands, which was the entirety of their very world, over the weeks following arrival of troops. Thousands of years of norms were simply obliterated.
I can’t stress the shock these people felt enough. To these isolated natives the idea that an internal combustion engine would spin gears and operate pistons to spin a propeller to power a vehicle capable of carrying goods or people was inconceivable. To the natives the planes were not machines at all. They were great beasts akin to hollow metal dragons. The dragons insides were full of ‘Eggs”; or as we would call it, cargo containers. When cracked open there was magical treasure, like coca cola, or candy or whatever inside. They traded with the soldiers on the bases too.
These were near stone age societies. They barely had boats, so they just couldn’t wrap their minds around mechanized flight. It had to be magic! They were convinced that they were seeing people whose gods were simply stronger. It’s the same reaction the Romans would have had if a nuclear aircraft carrier with a squadron of jets showed up in the Mediterranean! So don’t tell yourselves primitive European’s would have handled it better. This was like a Star Trek episode happening to these poor people!
To explain what they saw they looked to the natural world and their own supernatural tales. For instance they saw what we would call “Air Traffic Control” as a magical ritual rather than technical exercise. It’s kind of easy to see how. And they extrapolated conclusions from what they actually “knew”.
The way they saw it the dragons were summoned from the sky by rituals at a holy temple, or as we would call it, a Military Airfield. The “rituals” were the day to day operations of the base. Mundane military stuff like waving in incoming planes with flags and lighting runways seemed ritualistic to them. For obvious reasons, it all really impressed them. Seemed to them the rituals were directly related to the cargo. Sure seemed like a magical or religious ceremony to them. Viewed as a magic ritual it’s isn’t too far from some ways many peoples had tried to appease their gods. Lots of religions have ritual motions, including Catholicism and most other christian religions.
The difference was their rituals werent as reliable as this at all! This, it seemed, never failed! After all, a plane always showed up, so it was just a matter of doing it right. It’s not that hard to see how they developed the misconception. They LOVED the Cargo.
Just as quickly the war ends and the bases were mostly abandoned and life, for the natives, returned to ‘normal’. But things were forever changed.
They had become accustomed to the gleaming aluminum dragons. They missed the Cargo. No longer were the great beasts from the air and sea disgorging the amazing things they now desired. Gone was the supply of canned goods, cigarette lighters, flashlights and coca cola along with all other pieces of 20th century luxury and technology.
They felt that being thrown back 2000 years was punishment from the Cargo gods and the wanted to reverse that.
In a turn of events still being studied by sociologists and historians, the Cargo Cults emerged.
The Biggest one is called “John Frum”, sometimes spelled “John Frumm” It means “John from America” and theres a lot of images of him. He’s an African American US Navy Seabee.
It happened like this;
Some of the natives eventually found their way to the abandoned bases and imitated the base personnel. Coconuts were fashioned into radio headsets, bamboo control towers were created. ‘Uniformly’ dressed men ‘marched’ in an attempt to summon the cargo Dragons back.
While this didn’t work the behavior has persisted. John Frum is alive and well as a belief system today. In fact, every once in a while a really charismatic John Frum Cult Leader emerges and the whole cycle starts again. To most though, these days hes more like Santa Claus and its just about fun. John Frum is undeniably a part of the fabric of New Guinea society though.
Its should be noted that the cult mindset survives attempts by outside sociologists to dispel it as nonsense. The remaining true adherents are inoculated against the truth by the Cult leaders.
Inoculation Against the Truth ( while also telling people to only believe you), is a trait of most cults. It’s one of the strongest parallels between the MAGA Cult and the Cargo Cults.
In the Trump Cult it’s blatantly about blaming people (like immigrants) for ones own life not magically being better and eating up Trump’s bullshit. Just picture the Bull Headed MAGA hat guy who believes whatever Trump says despite evidence it’s a lie. Now you know why, he somehow has become convinced he’s going to get something out of it. Or, think of Roseanne. She was so wrapped up in it, she felt so strongly about expressing fealty to the Cult she lost her show.
Trump and the GOP Cargo Cult
How does this apply to early 21st century American Conservatism? The Republican Party is now packed with under qualified ideologues, who espouse an unrealistic image of a worry free past, in this case, the Go Go 80’s, which were sort of a result of idealizing the 50’s.
The Original Cargo Cult Republicans were those whose behavior and beliefs had devolved into a quasi-religious mindset towards Modern American Conservatism revolving around the 1980’s and Ronald Reagan in an idealized, ritualized and unrealistic way.
It seems that the whole idea is sort of tied to a feeling that in the past things were better. Movies were better, music was better. Its purely reactionary. It’s probably something to do with the fact people live longer now and there’s just more people pining for the past in general.
Then there’s a more sinister aspect where a lot of (white) people take it a little further and get into real trouble by extending the analogy too far. It ends up being: “In the past things were better because women and blacks knew their place.” This is sort of insane thing to think but somehow sort of popular. Just ask Tomi Lahren or other people in the White Grievance Political field. Tomi’s making money talking about pure paranoia all day.
Now the GOP is selling white people on some idea that they’re an oppressed minority. Then they imply (or overtly say) that everyone would be rich if we crack down on Immigration and build a useless Wall in the desert. There’s more spokes of intolerance but that’s the essence of Trumpism. Its very close to classic fascism.
We’ve all heard the term ‘Cult 45″ for the president and his Political Jonestown of Deplorables. The Right seems to be sort of prone to Cult thinking. At this point we’re at least 2 generations deep in a desire to return to the past. This generation specifically wanting to go to the 80’s like their parents wanted to go back to the 50’s. So this would be the third time around we have looked to the 1950s for an ideal and conveninetly forgotten that it was an unjust time with rampant racism and a bad interventionist foreign policy for Uncle Sam.
The members of a Cult do not heed signs they are wrong. Instead they strive to out-do eachother.
The leader tends to jerk the leash regularly to let the followers know who’s boss. Demonizing anyone not part of the Cult is also textbook cult behavior.
Denouncing people is big. Inside the cult theres a purity test and people like Mark Sanford just can’t pass anymore. The doctrine of Trumps Dangerous Ad Hocracy rules the day.
Trump, who was most successful in the 80s, when a rising tide lifted all ships, played right to this idea and still does. The Cults alive and well. Just ask Bob Corker.
The images of John Frum are replaced with some dirt cheap overpriced red MAGA hats. Trump compared himself to Reagan in a series of falsehoods about his election.
Like the Cargo Cults of the Pacific in the Trump-Reagan Cult values form above results. They could care less that theres a rational explanation or a practical way to do things, they have their coconut phony radios and their MAGA hats.
The “Ritual” these days includes stuff like Xenophobia, Open Carry, Pro Assault Weapon policy, Intolerance and UnAmerican rhetoric. Delivered already are the Tax Cuts, which were done in the face of real statistics and facts that indicated it was reckless and bound to boomerang on us. Trickle Down Economic is a scam. It’s failed under 3 presidents. This is a big part of why it’s a cult.
Outright Cruelty is also now part of the Cargo. Hating Snowflakes and Libtards is the GOP gospel. So every Travel Ban, every child we kidnap from its parents and every sick person denied care is a reward to the Republican. So they’re getting some of the cargo, the part that’s free, right now. They’re probably pretty sure that they will al be very rich any minute. When that doesn’t happen they will blame who Trump tells them to. Right now its democrats and immigrant children, but we’ve seen everyone including the pope and the our allies leaders has been hatefully bashed to whip up the greed and hate that motivate a political cargo cult.
Found this on youtube. It’s not my opinion but theres a lot of visuals. The pundit is pretty scathing and I do not endorse all of his assertions, especially his condescending attitude; but at least you can see some of these things for yourself.
This is the third dive into Cargo Cults here, I’ve covered the Reagan Cargo Cult Mitt Romney tried floating (the time wasnt right) and my post on the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action” which involves an alien race that is highly impressionable and prone to “follower” behavior.