There are certain questions that occur to many citizens, here in the former constitutional democratic republic of the United States of America. They are questions that are never asked by the corporate media. Who are these so-called neo-cons? What is there about Bush that is the exact opposite of his claims about being a “compassionate conservative” and a “uniter, not a divider”? What kind of political leadership has hijacked the US Government? Who has done more to destroy the American way of life and Bill of Rights than any terrorist could hope to accomplish? Why does the Bush Administration flagrantly act like they are above the rule of law? What is it about Cheney that makes him embrace the “dark side”?
And why is there such harsh reaction by right-wing propagandists like Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly to these questions? The shrill voices of the radical right have accused those who express dissent as being anything from insane to treasonous. Of course, the corporate media and politicians who are paid off by corporate money would prefer that these questions go unasked.
We can offer our gratitude to former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean for helping us find answers to these questions. His 2006 book titled “Conservatives without Conscience” gives us valuable insight into the dark recesses of the radical right-wing mentality that has dismantled so much of our national integrity and honor. If anyone has ever given you a Rush Limbaugh book, this is the one for you to return the “favor”. For that matter, you owe it to yourself to get the book.
Dean gives an excellent summary in a BuzzFlash interview.
“In post-World War II, a group of social scientists were very concerned or very interested to find out if what had happened in Italy and Germany under Mussolini and Hitler could occur in the United States. They initially undertook their work with a little bit of empirical study, but mostly relying on Freudian psychology. And they did conclude that there is clearly an authoritarian personality. They issued their report in a book by Adorno and others that was called “The Authoritarian Personality”.
This research has really never been totally refuted. But other social scientists were critical of it because of its Freudian basis. So they quickly began studying to see if this personality type held up based on pure empirical study, by which I mean anonymously asking people questions that would reveal their personality types, their attitudes, their dispositions, and what have you. The work on authoritarian followers showed a personality that is easily submissive to authority, be it political, religious or even parental. They submit quickly, and once they do, they become very aggressive in pushing that world view of that authority. They become submissive because they find great comfort psychologically in submitting. It helps them remove the ambiguities of life. And if they’re frightened by events, then this gives them a sense of security. And they’re typically very conventional in their lifestyle.
There are also, however, a lot of very negative traits which I’ve outlined in the book. They are very self-righteous. They are not self-critical. They have very little critical thinking about their own behavior. They are often nasty and mean-spirited. They are bullies. They are prejudiced. And the higher they test on these questionnaires and scales, the more conservative they are. You don’t find people on the left testing the same way. It’s very interesting. You cannot get even statistically significant numbers of people on the left that fall in this category of followers.
On the other side are the leaders. They are typically men whose desire in life is to dominate others and to be in charge. They are very aggressive when they do so. They are highly manipulative. They are also people who have absolutely no appreciation of equality of others. They see themselves as superior, and they are amoral in their thinking. They, too, have a host of other negative traits that are in many regards similar to the followers. It’s not a very pleasant personality type, but it is certainly there. And it has certainly been established scientifically and corroborated and confirmed, time and time again. And this is clearly the core of the conservative movement.”
Dean relied on Professor Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba for much of his reference material. Dean even includes a little tool for assessing the right-wing authoritarian personality. The Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale includes a survey of opinion concerning a variety of social issues.
We learn that features of the Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) personality include a high degree of submission to authorities, high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities, and a high level of conventionalism.
No surprises there.
Altemeyer gives us a peek into how authoritarian followers think. The characteristics of their thinking immediately conjure up images of all the notorious scoundrels of the Bush Administration. They include:
1. Illogical thinking and sloppy reasoning
2. Compartmentalized minds
3. Double Standards
5. Blindness to themselves
6. Profound ethnocentrism
I’m no psychologist, but I think I can add dishonesty and treachery to the list of characteristics, since the end always justifies the means to these arrogant jerks. And they always believe in the myth of their own moral superiority. Americans, along with the rest of the world, have now learned how dangerous and destructive these thugs really are.
However, this is my own opinion. You can see for yourself and draw your own conclusions. You can also find out where you are on The Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale.
Professor Altemeyer has generously made his book available for free online at The Authoritarians.
“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.” – Adolph Hitler