Reiner and the totalitarian mindset

I’ve been thinking about Adam’s main opponent Anthony Reiner, specifically what makes him such a willing exponent of prohibition? As I pondered in the comments of my previous post, “I’m trying to figure out the mechanism of his adherence to the cause. Why does he react so violently to Adam’s need to save Christine?”

Reading back over it I realised, Reiner reacts to Adam’s decision to help Christine as a betrayal of the cause, a reaction rooted in Reiner’s totalitarian mindset, a mindset that has no tolerance for ambiguity.

When he encounters the kind of complexity offered by Adam’s willingness to help Christine, he tries to impose his pre-existing frames of reference on the decision, reducing it to an us or them ultimatum.

Going back to Alfonso Montuori paper “How to make enemies and influence people” it’s interesting to note the kind of personality the totalitarian mindset attracts. Consistent attempts to suppress “complexity through maladaptive simplicity is characteristic of the closed-mindedness of the authoritarian personality”.

Montuori’s characterisation of the totalitarian mindset, as an authoritarian personality, fits perfectly with description I have of Reiner. For Reiner ambiguous situations cause anxiety, a stress he copes with by adhering to “a clear set of rules and regulations… imposed by whoever is in charge”.

While this might be described by John Truby as his psychological weakness, a weakness hurting only himself, it doesn’t describe his moral weakness, the weakness that is hurting at least one other person. It is clear to me now that Reiner’s moral weakness is explicit in his framing of drug users as an external threat. As Montuori notes “the perception of an out-group as a threat and an enemy is the glue that holds this (totalitarian) mindset together”. A distinction that’s at the very core of Carrion.

In this fiction, as in reality, drug users are universally defined as a threat, blamed for everything from social unrest to criminality. The prohibitionist routinely reduces the drug issue to a simple black and white choice, “if we sort out the drug problem everything will be all-right”.

In Carrion the threat from users becomes even more acute when they are attacked by the insects. It’s no coincidence that the government are behind the release of the insects. It serves two functions, first it’s an attack on the drug using population, uniting people against an identifiable enemy. Second it creates a crisis that allows drug users to be targeted for persecution.

In Carrion users are not only a threat to public order, now they’re a threat to public health, a threat that needs to be dealt with in the expedient, harshest, terms possible. Although it’s interesting to remember that when Hitler was asked whether he thought Jews should be annihilated he replied no. If we didn’t have them “we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.”

In trying to answer the question, what makes Reiner such a willing exponent of prohibition, it’s become apparent that his willingness to persecute drug users is his moral weakness, a manifestation of the totalitarian mindset, embedded in the authoritarian personality, that is his psychological weakness.

Now all I have to do is work out his need, what he “must fulfil within himself in order to have a better life”.

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