Cruelty As Ideology: The Mo Brooks Edition

A while ago, I noted that cruelty is not just a character flaw, but an ideology. Like all ideologies, cruelty is a force which gives people meaning:

…consider, instead, healthcare. A fair number of conservatives don’t have a problem with our current system. Why? Because they believe those who have problems paying for it likely deserve it. If they worked hard, saved more responsibly, were better liked by their neighbors, and had a church that would help them, then healthcare wouldn’t be a problem. If they were good people–and good people, oddly enough, seem to be disproportionately white evangelical Christians–then they would not be receiving this misfortune (or, at least, would have the previously mention support systems). Besides, we know how those people are. This is an abhorrent melange of Ayn Randian libertarianism, Prosperity Gospel, and racism.

Put another way, what many people see as cruelty, they see as a just order. Like racism (and in part, derived from it), the cruelty provides a powerful organizing principle for understanding the world around them. Someone can’t afford healthcare? It’s their fault.

Well, Republican Congressman Mo “taking the -e out of moe” Brooks said the quiet part out loud (boldface mine):

During an interview with CNN on Monday, Brooks acknowledged that, under the American Health Care Act, insurers could discriminate between the healthy and sick ― in some cases, by charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.

This was OK, Brooks went on to explain, because that would mean lower premiums for healthy people who “have done the things to keep their bodies healthy … who have done things the right way.”

Brooks then recognized that some people have medical problems “through no fault of their own” and that society should take care of them, although he didn’t explain how to do that and suggested the matter was “complicated.”

Brooks may have been speaking for himself. Or he may have blurted out what many Republicans think but are loath to say explicitly ― that people with pre-existing conditions should pay more for their health insurance because in many cases their health status is a by-product of their behavior.

Cruelty is an ideology which provides all of the necessary ingredients: villains, ‘good people’, and internally consistent explanatory power. To view this as a character defect, lets them off the hook for taking responsibility for the consequences of these beliefs. It also lets us off the hook because it’s too easy to write this off as a broken person and not an ideologue. In other words, we avoid asking the question “Where was he radicalized?”

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