Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Top Monkey

The Democrats are always complaining that they are the victims of a vast right-wing smear machine and that their problem is they aren't aggressive enough. This doens't make any sense to me. I don't see any evidence for any such machine and the Democrats look far more aggressive and nasty than the Republicans from where I sit. The Democrats own the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, USAToday, the AP, Reuters, etc. How can they feel like they are losing?

This post from Catherine on Roger's blog explains a lot.

There is a famous study of dominance, aggression, and serotonin in vervet monkeys, done by Michael Raleigh & others at UCLA. I heard Raleigh talk about it.

He found that the dominant monkey always has the highest levels of serotonin.

AND: the dominant monkey does not have the highest levels of aggression.

The lower-ranking monkeys are more aggressive.

(I don't know whether this is true of other animals, but I wouldn't be surprised.)

Also: at this point I'm having to rely on memory, so take this with a grain of salt. But I'm 99% sure I'm remembering correctly.

The dominant monkeys were high in effective, targeted aggression.

If someone threatened the troop they responded rapidly, forcefully, and effectively.

But the rest of the time the dominant monkeys were cheerful and good-natured and peaceable, which is consistent with having high serotonin.

The lower-ranking monkeys showed a lot of impulsive aggression. They lashed out at other monkeys, got in fights, got hurt, hurt others, and so on, all without good reason.

And they never moved up in the ranks.

The Democrats think they have a problem with "aggression."

What they really have a problem with is "dominance."

The dominant animal in a group of primates uses aggression sparingly, effectively, and only when he has to.

The subordinate animal flails out wildly and unpredictably.

Last night I heard two men on NPR discussing the Democrats' meanness deficit.

The interviewer sounded weak and almost foppish (I'm not using "foppish" as code for gay). He used phrasing like, "Kerry supporters do not feel pleasure in Kerry's campaign. So what can be done to increase the pleasure Kerry supporters feel in Kerry's campaign, or to decrease the lack of pleasure they feel?" He must have said the word "pleasure" about 10 times.

That's not guy talk.

The guest's answer was, and I could have written this out on an index card for him, "When Kerry gets hit he has to hit back hard."

Democrats are obsessed with that.

"Hitting back hard."

Well, of course, that's the exact problem we all had with Kerry's convention speech: If attacked I will respond agressively, or whatever it was he said.

The point being: I'm giving the bad guys the first swing.

Democrats seem to have almost no concept of staying on the offensive. To them, aggression is defensive.

And they seem to have almost no idea how to use aggression effectively.

Even the Clintonistas don't have a clue, ultimately.

Look at Susan Estrich's column.

If she were a male vervet monkey, she'd be at the bottom of the troop. Her column is the ultimate example of impulsive, unpredictable, and ineffective aggression.

She even starts out that way: "My Democratic friends are mad," she says. "So we're going to get nasty."

That's not a dominant animal talking.

It's entirely possible that a dominant animal doesn't really get mad, but instead uses a kind of rational, or cool, aggression. (This isn't fully established, but there is research showing that "intermale aggression" doesn't activate the rage circuits in the brain.)

The Democratic notion of aggression is akin to a tantrum. You get furiously angry, you pick up your machine gun, and you just start shooting.

That's why we keep seeing so much collateral damage in the Democratic campaign.

Smear the bloggers!

Smear the Right Wingers!

Smear the experts!

That's a whole lot of folks to smear in one story cycle.

CBS is flailing.

Terry McAuliffe is flailing.

Bush is way at the top of the dominance hierarchy, and he's using aggression the way the dominant animal uses aggression.

Sparingly, and effectively.

I haven't found a good link for Raleigh's study, but this discussion isn't bad.



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