Conservatives and the authoritarian personality


to a short discussion of John Dean’s new book.

Dean’s thesis is: what do conservatives believe, and why do they believe it. He says that “While not all conservatives are authoritarians, all highly authoritarian personalities are political conservatives” and authoritarians “took control of the conservative movement in the 1980s, and then the Republican Party in the 1990s.” Now, a few authoritarian leaders decide how and what the followers should believe.

The study of authoritarians began after World War II, “when social psychologists asked how so many people could compliantly follow an authoritarian leader like Adolf Hitler and tolerate the Holocaust.” Studies conducted at the University of California, Berkeley resulted in the 1950 publication of The Authoritarian personality. Since then other researchers followed the Berkeley conclusions and added empirical data. Bob Altemeyer, a social psychologist based at the University of Manitoba, has published several books on “right-wing authoritarians,” among them, Right-Wing Authoritarianism, and The Authoritarian Specter. Altemeyer has published a summary of his research online for general readers in The Authoritarians. (A printed, bound copy can be ordered for $9.77 plus shipping)

Altemeyer’s research of people being anonymously examined reveal themselves to be “frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, anti-equality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral.” That seems to be an apt description of most hard-core Republicans.

With this quote from Glenn Greenwald:

… the true radicalism of the (Bush) administration and its followers has becoming unavoidably, depressingly clear, and it is equally clear that this movement has not reached anywhere near the peak of its extremism. Dean’s central thesis explains why that is so … the “conservative” movement has become, at its core, an authoritarian movement composed of those with a psychological and emotional need to follow a strong authority figure which provides them a sense of moral clarity and a feeling of individual power, the absence of which creates fear and insecurity in the individuals who crave it.

… What defines and motivates this movement are not any political ideas or strategic objectives, but instead, it is the bloodthirsty, ritualistic attacks on the Enemy de jour — the Terrorist, the Communist, the Illegal Immigrant, the Secularist, and most of all, the “Liberal.”

When you throw in the immense and almost unopposed military might of the US, and the apocalyptic vision of being promulgated in the American armed forces, the potential for a holocaust on the scale of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia is great. We are already responsible for the destruction of a country and the death and /or displacement of millions. If the planned attack on Iran occurs, the accumulated toll may well reach many millions, and there will be no way to stop the violence.



Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Karl Rove:Bush's brain or Bush's as'hole?, Politics, religion

2 responses to “Conservatives and the authoritarian personality

  1. Pingback: Battle to Save Corporal Punishment In New Orleans School « Sky Dancing

  2. Pingback: Are conservatives a party or a cult? - Page 5

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