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Right Wing Authoritarians

Like most people these days, I don’t read as many blogs as I used to. But I still read some that I think are important. One of those is Ian Welsh’s blog – www.ianwelsh.net. One of his posts, on the famous Milgram experiments, led me to pick up and read, again, Robert Altemeyer’s The Authoritarian Specter. The book is quite heavy on explaining methodology and has a lot of slow-going statistical data, so if you aren’t familiar with statistics and research methodology, you might want to read one of Altemeyer’s other books, The Authoritarians, or The End of Freedom. In this post, I am re-publishing Altemeyer’s Summary of Scientific Research Findings regarding High RWAs as it appears on pages 300-302 in The Authoritarian Specter.

Keep in mind that this was written in 1996 – much has changed, for the worse, since then.

Read over this list and see how many of these items apply to politicians in this country, Democrat or Republican. Alternatively, see how many of these items apply to people that you know or have had encounters with. Right Wing Authoritarians are everywhere, not just in government. That is what makes them so dangerous. Walt Kelly, the creator of the Pogo comic strip, famously observed, on a poster created for Earth Day in 1970, that “we have met the enemy and he is us.” About 30% of a given population are Right Wing Authoritarians, according to Altemeyer, so it is critically important that we learn their characteristics and do our utmost to prevent them from dominating the conversation. We allow them to rise at our peril – just ask the survivors of the Holocaust or any other genocidal convulsion (Rwanda, Cambodia, Israel, Iraq/Iran) about that.

Here are Altemeyer’s conclusions:

Compared with others, right-wing authoritarians are significantly more likely to:

Score on the “Hitler” end of the RWA Scale.

Accept unfair and illegal abuses of power by government authorities.

Trust leaders (such as Richard Nixon) who are untrustworthy.

Weaken constitutional guarantees of liberty, such as the Bill of Rights.

Punish severely “common” criminals in a role-playing situation.

Admit that they get personal pleasure from punishing such people.

But go easy on authorities who commit crimes and people who attack minorities.

Not hold responsible the authority who caused the attacks in the “Milgram experiment.”

Attack “learners” in and “electric shock” experiment.

Be prejudiced against many racial, ethnic, nationalistic, and linguistic minorities.

Be hostile towards homosexuals.

Support “gay-bashing.”

Volunteer to help the government prosecute almost anyone.Be mean-sprited toward those who have made mistakes and suffered.

Insist on traditional sex roles.

Be hostile towards feminists.

Conform to opinions of others, and be more likely to “yea-say.”

Be fearful of a dangerous world.

Be highly self-righteous.

Strongly believe in group cohesiveness and “loyalty.”

Make many incorrect inferences from evidence.

Hold contradictory ideas leading them to “speak out of both sides of their mouths.”

Uncritically accept that many problems are “our most serious problem.”

Uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs.

Uncritically trust people who tell them what they want to hear.

Use many double standards in their thinking and judgements.

Be hypocrites.

Help cause and inflame intergroup conflict.

Be bullies when they have power over others.

Seek dominance over others by being competitive and destructive in situations requiring cooperation.

Believe they have no personal failings.

Avoid learning about their personal failings.

Use religion to erase guilt over their acts and to maintain their self-righteousness.

Be “fundamentalists” and the most prejudiced members of whatever religion they belong to.

Be dogmatic.

Be zealots.

Be less educated.

Sometimes join left-wing movements, where their hostility distinguishes them.

But much more typically endorse right-wing political parties.

Be Conservative/Reform Party (Canada) or Republican Party (United States) lawmakers, who (1) have a conservative economic philosophy; (2) believe in social dominance; (3) are ethnocentric; (4) are highly nationalistic; (5) oppose abortion; (6) support capital punishment; (7) oppose gun-control legislation; (8) say they value freedom but actually want to undermine the Bill of Rights; (9) do not value equality very highly and oppose measures to increase it; (10) are not likely to rise in the Democratic Party, but do so among Republicans.

2 Comments on “Right Wing Authoritarians”

  1. #1 Beth
    on Jul 31st, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Wow. Well, this certainly doesn’t surprise me. It depresses me, but it doesn’t surprise me. I know a lot of people like this, and most of the time, there is no changing their mind. I used to feel some degree of compassion because—let’s face it—-some of them were, shall we say, a little intellectually challenged. But now I just feel disgusted with them. They feed their minds on reality shows and Rush Limbaugh and the BS that the Republican party constantly cranks out to obfuscate. They are capable of real thinking, I’m sure, but they don’t because it’s easier not to. Their ignorance is just plain willful, and I’m fed up with them.

  2. #2 Debi Kelly Van Cleave
    on Sep 6th, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    He really described all the Republicans I know. In my world we call them hateful fuckers.

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