Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Authoritarians

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
4. Hypocrisy
5. Blindness to themselves
6. Profound ethnocentrism
7. Dogmatism

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

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well we are not going to change human nature so what do those of us who can think but do not have power do? How do we form sub-units that work for us (say for example Mason Lodges, Moose Lodges, churches, etc).

Anonymous said...

It is Adorno's idiotic book that is RESPONSIBLE for the pliant, weak willed population that we have today, and therefore the danger of fascism, not the "authoritarian personalities" who simply are people who insist on truth as a principle of politics.

This whole report is upside down.

OldMayfly said...

I think Authoritarians evaluate actions on the basis of the actor's status, rather than on the nature or consequences of the action.

For example, if my leader is "Godly", then it follows that anything he does is good. If your leader is "unGodly" , then anything he/she does is bad.

Attacking defenseless cities and killing and wounding innocent people is wrong if it is done by "bad people", but perfectly justified if it is done by "good people," such as ourselves.

A perfect example of this kind of backward logic is, "If the President does it, it isn't a crime."

birdsong said...

I wonder if Masonic lodges, many modern churches etc are not part of the problem working through mind-numbing rituals and passive captive congregations to establish power hierarchies that are the core structure of authoritarianism.

And please note everyone, the second post here...notice the tone of suppressed rage, the contempt, the ferocious denial through REVERSAL and then PROJECTION of the whole problem onto one little book which, though it has been read only by a few specialists and students, is blamed for the entire "pliant, weak-willed population".

Unreasoning authoritarianism foaming along here in plain sight ...this is how they think, this is how angry and disturbed they are.

What a great demonstration of the authoritarian response! I

Anonymous said...

I have an "Impeach Bush" bumper sticker. A woman in a parking lot asked me why I had it. I told her that I supported the Constitution. Her immediate response,"Don't you believe in the Bible?" She said that I looked like a nice person and then recommended that I watch Fox News. I'm sure that she was a nice person too. But I would never want to go to her church. And my recent dinner/dance at an Elks Lodge, fine people which they are, eventually led to a hand-holding in a ring "ceremony" built around the song,"Proud to be an American." They continue to be caught in a time warp, never questioning that they might be losing their freedoms. Too many Americans are caught up in believing in things and never questioning, shades of cult mind control. The realities of pre-emptive war, torture and computer vote hacking are totally lost on these neighbors. BELIEVE!

Brother Tim said...

I find it amazing that the right-wing Evangelicals feel 'the end justifies the means'. I have heard it from them many times. My usual response is: Not only does the Bible not teach that, it teaches just the opposite; 'the means will justify the end'.

Dave Dubya said...

Thanks for commenting, folks.

anon #1,
We need to recapture the Democratic Party from the corporatists. Start locally, go to meetings, research the issues and speak out. It's daunting but but we can do something that's better than nothing at all.

anon #2,
What birdsong said.

oldmayfly,
Yup, they love the "with us or against us" ultimatum. Pure black and white.

birdsong,
Thanks, you took the words out of my mouth.

anon #3,
You just can't argue with a Fox-viewing little old church lady. Just smile and say, "Of course, you wouldn't understand."


Brother Tim,
It brings to mind the proverb, "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well-advised is wisdom."

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