Tribalism pp 171-191 | Cite as

Barricade and Throw Grenades: The Entrenchment of Tribalism and Fear Politics



The tribe, defending itself, creates “truths” that fit their emotional responses. If feeling attacked, the “others” must be attacking us, evil, un-Godly, and deceiving. If the “others” say we are racist, they perhaps are the ones who are the real racists. Humans not only are good at self-deception, it is an evolutionary necessity as the illogic of the culture and how we live our own lives must be rationalized, not rational. A major thrust of this self-deception is to make the group to which we belong appear superior and the “other” to appear inferior. Psychological studies have shown that merely placing one group in blue shirts and another in red shirts, or making one group of students mock-jailers and the other mock-prisoners, will result in quickly emerging prejudices, distrust, and denigration of the out-group and elevation of the in-group.

Trumpism and European White nationalism will not necessarily migrate to fascism, but the seeds of fascism are planted and propelled by tribalism, as the genetics of tribalism propels it with its own energy. We mistake this argument to be extremist as if fascism is rare and democracy widespread, when fascism is the most common representation of government, and actually mainstream for much of the world. Democracy is fragile, has only a brief history in the world of a few hundred years, and is not well-represented in the world at any time. We also mistake the argument that Trumpism and European White nationalist movements are not fascism because we look at fascist endpoints, whereas fascism always begins by making small inroads. So, where are we on the tribalist path to fascism? The answer is scary, and more downstream on this course than even what has been called the liberal media has outlined. It is instructive to look at what fascism is and how it is orchestrated in its early moments. The tribe increasingly entrenches itself and becomes increasingly aggressive to outsiders and the forces that challenge it, including the free press, opposition parties, the courts, and the immigrant “outsider.”


  1. 1.
    Franklin, B. (1755, November 11). Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor. Benjamin Franklin Papers. Retrieved February 13, 2018, from
  2. 2.
    Northwestern Institute for Policy Research. (2014). The Great Recession: Over but not gone? Northwestern Institute for Policy Research. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from
  3. 3.
    Kusisto, L. (2015, April 20). Many who lost homes to foreclosure in last decade won’t return—NAR. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from :
  4. 4.
    McCall, L. (2013). The undeserving rich: Americans beliefs about inequality, opportunity and redistribution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Case, A., & Deaton, A. (2015). Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(49), 15078–15083. Scholar
  6. 6.
    Department of Defense. (2015). Department Of Defense Suicide Event Report Calendar Year 2014 Annual Report. National Center for Telehealth & Technology and Defense Suicide Prevention Office. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from
  7. 7.
    NPR. (2016, October 13). Transcript: Donald Trump’s speech responding to assault accusations. NPR. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
  8. 8.
    U.S. Census Bureau. (2016, December 8). New Census data show differences between urban and rural populations. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from
  9. 9.
    Halbfinger, D. M., & Holmes, S. A. (2003, March 30). A nation at war: The Troops; Military mirrors a working-class America. NY Times. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from
  10. 10.
    Public Poling Policy. (2016, February 16). Trump, Clinton continue to lead in SC. Public Poling Policy. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from
  11. 11.
    Trivers, R. (2011). The folly of fools: The logic of deceit and self-deception in human life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ledoux, J. (1998). The emotional brain: The mysterious Unerpinnings of emoptional life. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bump, P., & Blake, A. (2016, July 21). Donald Trump’s dark speech to the Republican National Convention, annotated. Washington Post. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
  14. 14.
    P2016 Race for the White House. (2016, October 13). Remarks on the Clinton campaign of destruction. P2016 Race for the White House. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
  15. 15.
    Farley, R. (2016, November 29). Trump landslide? Nope. FactCheck. Retrieved March 8, 2017, from
  16. 16.
    Miller, G., Jaffe, G., & Rucker, P. (2017, December 14). Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leave a Russian Threat Unchecked. The Washington Post. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from
  17. 17.
    Hananoki, E. (2016, December 19). Trump ally and news source Alex Jones regularly pushes CIA conspiracy theories. Media Matters for America. Retrieved December 21, 2016, from
  18. 18.
    Finnegan, W. (2016, June 23). Donald Trump and the ‘amazing’ Alex Jones. The New Yorker. Retrieved September 12, 2017, from
  19. 19.
    Eco, U. (1995, June 22). Ur-Fascism. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from
  20. 20.
    Madison, J. (1787, June 29). Madison debates. Retrieved February 13, 2018, from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behaviorial SciencesRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations