Forum Culture: Why Are the Members of Estranged Parents’ Forums Different?
Authoritarian followers also have a slippery grasp of reasoning. They compartmentalize, they avoid looking at contrary evidence, they tend to think a line of reasoning is correct if they like the outcome. They also have a loose grasp of facts. As a researcher working with authoritarian followers said,
They could not remember some pieces of evidence, they invented evidence that did not exist, and they steadily made erroneous inferences from the material that everyone could agree on.
Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, pp. 75-76
Her description could be applied to any estranged parents’ forum. Members recount events in an impressionistic style, cherry-picking details and often telling conflicting versions of events at successive retellings. The other members pay no attention to the inconsistencies, accepting the latest version as the full truth. In mixed forums where members are more likely to question one another’s stories, estranged parents have difficulty keeping all the relevant details in mind, forget inconvenient facts, add new facts, and feel confident about making judgements even when they don’t remember any of the background. When challenged, they may concede that they got the facts wrong, then keep arguing for a conclusion that relies on the facts they just admitted were wrong. In mixed forums, this leads to sulking over being misunderstood and nitpicked to death. In estranged parents’ forums, it leads to a forum culture in which members will happily argue for something one day and against it the next day. In the long run, it impoverishes the forum culture because the members don’t pool their experiences and come up with a coherent understanding of estrangement based on what works. If anything, the members declare that coherence is impossible because estrangement is beyond understanding.
These “authoritarian followers,” better described as right-wing authoritarians, sound like just about every single wingnut on the Internet. It’s a worldview that leads to delusion and dysfunction every time.