There’s an interesting phenomenon, in religion, called left-hand path religions.
Most religions have something Bad to define themselves against. Maybe there are evil spirits going around tricking people into sin. Maybe the only way to reach Nirvana is to give up all attachment. Maybe psychiatrists are an evil conspiracy, older than man, dedicated to our enslavement (I’m looking at you, scientologists.) These are usually real, on some level, in the sense that you can hold witch hunts against them and so on; maybe what you’re attacking isn’t exactly what it sounds like in the pulpit, but whatever.
But the thing is, there’s nothing so awful, so laudable when fought, so filled with negative connotations, that you can’t argue in favour of it. You may not be right, of course, but the handy thing is that you can claim it as a subset of something that really is useful and then argue in favour of that instead.
And so your bogeyman takes on a life of it’s own. Some people – not most people, not a lot of people, but some – decide they rather like the sound of this “Satan” guy. He gave us the knowledge of good and evil, and knowledge is good, right? And I sure don’t like the priests, they say XYZ are bad, and I like XYZ; and they say Satan wants XYZ ‘cos it’s bad. Hey, he’s a rebel angel, right? They’re probably just badmouthing him because he rebelled against their stupid dogma! Yeah!
This is where real Satanists come from. And every major religion has it’s equivalent – . They generally have a somewhat different view of everything from their parent faith – they don’t believe all the same stuff but throw their lot in with the villains, although they may phrase it that way; they construct a narrative in which the “villains” are heroes with bad publicity. Of course, without people getting suspicious of the official story, they wouldn’t be able to attract them to their alternate view of events.
So now you know.
But then, don’t other movements construct bogeymen?
I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of progressivism-as-religion. You have your tenets, like “all men are created equal”, and the various things people derive from that. You have evangelists preaching to homophobes to repent and vote for gay marriage. You have your heretics and your minor schisms, where someone says something that, if subjected to lengthy analysis, is sexist or racist or something and everyone freaks out about it.
Progressives go on about how X is totally sexist/racist/etc and it’s old white men trying to screw people over and cling to power. How we need to fight (minor thing) because it’s technically sexist/racist/etc, and thus Bad. Because of all the political nonsense involved, there’s usually somebody, even if they’re just a vocal minority, claiming that the actual right choice is sexist/racist/etc and must be fought.
Now, in point of fact, there are people who define themselves as the “conservatives” liberals talk about. They’re often from liberal backgrounds themselves. The standard term is “reactionaries”; many seem to stem from Moldbug’s long-winded blog Unqualified Reservations, but in the grand tradition of Left-Hand Paths there are plenty of unrelated groups with only their origin (progressive strawmen and other poor arguments) in common … although this is where it gets confusing, because you get people who belong to more than one of these movements at once (MRA PUAs, for example, I ran into just the other day) and usually they treat them as kind of the same thing (we see through the feminists’ lies!); and there are people who the original bogeyman was derived from, like Stormfront. I haven’t seen it yet, but I don’t doubt somewhere, there’s somebody busy appropriating the terms of one or more of these movements for use by original-flavour conservatives (who, of course, wouldn’t touch most of this stuff with a twelve-foot pole.)
One cannot but wonder – how many communists sprang up under McCarthyism? A lot, I’ll wager.
The mechanics of the so-called sexual revolution’s success are still disputed, but I note with interest that free-love type movements show up with amazing regularity right up to the one that caught on. Early feminism contains a lot of fascinating nonsense that mostly straightened out when it became a mainstream political movement, like advocating converting to lesbianism. Does this happen to any ideology that becomes popular enough?
What examples have I missed? Or is my brain seeing patterns that aren’t there?