Annnnnd we have a winner! MIFs! OK, let me explain. A while back a friend of mine asked if we could come up with a name for a certain type of person which infests discussions involving politics and morality. We've come up with MIFs: Moral and Ideological Fanatics. As it happens I'd been arguing with […]

Annnnnd we have a winner! MIFs!

OK, let me explain. A while back a friend of mine asked if we could come up with a name for a certain type of person which infests discussions involving politics and morality. We've come up with MIFs: Moral and Ideological Fanatics.

As it happens I'd been arguing with some fanatics. I'm not a masochist, I really want to know how they think. Or maybe I am, because it's a lot like self-flagellation.

These ranged from Progressives to religious conservatives, anarchists to communists, and the subjects covered police and the military, abortion, and socialism.

This is useful because they represent of pretty broad spectrum from left to right, and as Eric Hoffer observed they have more in common than their differences would suggest.

Among those things they have in common are:

– Moral certainty. They have the moral high ground and nothing will shake that conviction. One of the ‘certainties' of moralistic thinking is you don't need to know anything else" you believe you have all the important bits already.

– They do not argue, they make assertions certain it is their due to be believed. When the assertions are challenged, they don't defend them they simply repeat them, often word for word. And when repeating doesn't work, they go on the attack. (Typically after the second or third repeat.) By personalizing it they do not have to expand on or use alternative explanations for what they've asserted. This hides the fact that they do not know anything else about the subject than the soundbite they've just parroted.

In fact they do not seem to know what an argument is in the formal sense, (A set of propositions one of which, the conclusion, is said to necessarily follow from the others. Logic is the study of the proposition “follows from.”)

– Labeling/Name Calling. Attaching labels to people which purportedly explain why they are so wrong. It's because you're a fascist, a sexist, an immoral libertine, an Old White Guy.

And yes, labeling and name calling are what professionals call 'pre-attack indicators.' That attack could be a screaming hissy fit, but these days there is an increasing likelihood of it turning physical.

– Jargonizing, using language specific to their in-group – and often giving a specific in-group meaning to a common term. Think of Mansplaining and Privilege.

– Disdain for experience. Very often when one party is describing what they've seen or done, MIFs treat it as opinion rather than observation. Neither can they cite personal experience and draw a line from what they've seen or done to the conclusions they've drawn from them. Perhaps because their beliefs are so often context-free.
When there is ‘experience' it is commonly:
a- extremely limited, but expanded to universality
b- absolute in interpretation; it was _______. Alternative possibilities/ factors/ interpretations are categorically rejected.
c- carefully edited to omit any wrong doing on their part
d- their ‘experience' trumps all other evidence.

– Simplification/ intolerance for ambiguity. No ethical problem is complex or nuanced for them. It has to be a straightforward one-size-fits-all answer and you're “an idiot” if you think it might be more complicated than that.

– Hostility to questions. They can handle a contrary opinion and be pretty smug about disagreement. But in response to questions they either ignore them, or become unhinged. They typically respond with either sarcastic counter-questions containing a straw man fallacy, or simply becoming enraged and start hurling insults.

There you have it, MIFs. I didn't have space to give specific examples, but then again I didn't have to, did I?

Homework:
Try and tell a MIF he/she isn't
A- making a credible argument
B- providing supporting and/or credible evidence for what he/she is asserting
C- presenting anything even close to ‘truth' outside a very specific ideology/ belief system (i.e., what is a self-evident, unquestionable truth to one group isn't universal).

A collection of Steve Browne's essays and newspaper columns, 'The View from Flyover Country: A Rural Columnist Looks at Life in the 21st Century' is available on Amazon Kindle.

Crusty Old Guy contributed to this article.