Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - Reactions to Social Justice Activists

Growing sense of social status threat and concomitant deaths of despair among whites


Background: A startling population health phenomenon has been unfolding since the turn of the 21st century. Whites in the United States, who customarily have the most favorable mortality profile of all racial groups, have experienced rising mortality rates, without a commensurate rise in other racial groups. The two leading hypotheses to date are that either contemporaneous economic conditions or longer-term (post-1970s) economic transformations have led to declining economic and social prospects of low-educated whites, culminating in “deaths of despair.” We re-examine these hypotheses and investigate a third hypothesis: mortality increases are attributable to (false) perceptions of whites that they are losing social status. Methods: Using administrative and survey data, we examined trends and correlations between race-, age- and, education-specific mortality and a range of economic and social indicators. We also conducted a county-level fixed effects model to determine whether changes in the Republican share of voters during presidential elections, as a marker of growing perceptions of social status threat, was associated with changes in working-age white mortality from 2000 to 2016, adjusting for demographic and economic covariates. Findings: Rising white mortality is not restricted to the lowest education bracket and is occurring deeper into the educational distribution. Neither short-term nor long-term economic factors can themselves account for rising white mortality, because parallel trends (and more adverse levels) of these factors were being experienced by blacks, whose mortality rates are not rising. Instead, perceptions – misperceptions – of whites that their social status is being threatened by their declining economic circumstances seems best able to reconcile the observed population health patterns. Conclusion: Rising white mortality in the United States is not explained by traditional social and economic population health indicators, but instead by a perceived decline in relative group status on the part of whites – despite no actual loss in relative group position.

I don't think that the perception of losing status is false. Whites are discriminated in elite education and employment and constantly vilified in mass media and entertainment. Any attempt to organize as other communities is vehemently denounced and swiftly suppressed. With whites expected to become a minority at national level the future looks really bleak.

I believe that a large subgroup of any low status ethnic group feels the same sense of fear and despair, even when they have higher wealth and education than the politically dominant ethnic group, and I also believe that equality is not actually possible, so the best solution is having ethnically homogenous nation-states where this is possible.

I'm not convinced that we're going to see any meaningful change that matches the perceptions, so I think yes, they're misconceptions....

But at the same time, I recognize that this is a problem on both sides. One of the things that annoys the hell out of me is the idea that if someone has a misconception of something, the error is always 100% on the listener. I'm like, No, sometimes the problem is a lack of clarity in the speaker.

I think with this loss of social status, I think people can forsee a world where their kids are unable to get good jobs because the jobs are being given to other identity groups in order to make up for past wrongs. Just to put it bluntly what I think a big part of the concern is here. Now, I don't think this will happen. I don't think enough people want this to be actually implemented in this fashion. They speak a much more extreme game for what the want is something more liberal. (Less bias in hiring, as an example)

But I can't exactly blame people for believing this. This is the kicker. I think if you were to listen to the state of left-wing and even centrist media (I think right-wing media feeds into this as well but I'm focusing on the left here), I don't think this is an unreasonable conclusion.

I think one of the most important and unknown concepts in both culture war and political analysis, is the old Slashdottian notion of FUD. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. It was originally used in terms of advertising campaigns that would inject FUD in terms of Linux usage. That it was of dubious legality, that it had big security flaws, etc.

But I think politically, there's a concept of FUD as well. And sometimes it's an external weapon...but I'm thinking of it here as an internal mistake. And I think at it's core, this is an issue of injecting FUD into certain groups, either intentionally or unintentionally. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I do think there are people out there who really do want to scare the pants off of out-group white people. Not everybody, of course. But I do think they exist.

But I think if one sees this as an issue, and I do, as I think it drives a lot of the resurgence of White Nationalism, then the question is how to fix it? Like I said, I think we need to see a sort of anti-FUD internal campaign. I think I've injected into this place a rule for speaking clearly. I'm going to take credit (or blame) for that. And I'd like to see that in our discourse more broadly.

Say clearly what you want, and what you don't want. That's what I would advise activists/media people to do. Understand that FUD is a thing, and do your best to tamper it down. Put clear limits on the costs you are willing to have other people pay.

But I think this effect...and I think it's real...is driven by a lot of the strict results-based discourse that exists post-Great Awokening on the left. Now this might be controversial, but I am directly saying that in the 00's, this simply wasn't really a thing for the most part. The trend, especially among activists, was towards the opposite. Very direct policy-driven advocacy. It's not that you don't see that at all. You still see it on occasion. But generally speaking, I feel like so much energy is put into enraging the out-group. I mean, that's the definition of clickbait, isn't it?

Why are we shocked when they're actually enraged?