Tuesday, May 15, 2007

read this

I recently finished reading John Dean's book Conservatives Without Conscience. I thought it was excellent and informative and it cements my view that if you want to read a book about the problems with some group or other, read a book by a member of the that group. Al Franken is funny and all, and I dont doubt much of his information, but one cannot deny his bias*.
Another thing I've decided is that I will no longer try to write book reviews. It seems like anytime I try to convince people to read, watch or listen to something, I always seem to have the opposite effect. So I'll just give you a quote:
What has driven this book is the realization that our government has become largely authoritarian. It is run by an array of authoritarian personalities, leaders who display all those traits I have listed - dominating, opposed to equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating, and bullying; some are hedonistic, most are vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, nationalistic, and two-faced. Because of our system of government, those dominators are still confronted with any number of obstacles, fortunately. Yet authoritarians seek to remove these complications wherever thay can. They are able to do so because the growth of contemporary conservatism has generated countless millions of authoritarian followers, people who will not question such actions. How, then, can authoritarainism be checked?


"Probably 20 to 25 per cent** of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, ans so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds,"
[Bob] Altemeyer told [John Dean]. He added, "They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result. The problem is that these authoritarian followers are much more active than the rest of the country. They have the mentality of 'old-time religion' on a crusade***, and they generously give money, time and effort to the cause. They proselytize; they lick stamps; they put pressure on loved ones; and they revel in being loyal to a cohesive group of like thinkers. And they are so submissive to their leadership that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going to go away."
Scary? Perhaps. Maybe, as a nation, we need to be scared. Not in the fear-mongering manipulative way that King George and his Cabal use, but in a oh-shit-what-have-I-done? kind of way, the kind of fear that makes people get up and work to make the world a better place, rather than hunker down and hide behind the coat-tails of a Big Daddy. As Dean says, "Democracy is not a spectator sport that can be simply observed". This nation has started down a dangerous path, one which may result in the destruction of the very ideals that those who destroy it are claiming to be saving. Time to get busy people. Maybe it will be inconvienient, maybe it will be unpleasant. So what? If it doesnt get done, I believe the alternative will be much worse.

*dont think I'm saying that bias is bad, either, but when trying to persuade others, it's more convincing if the arguement comes from a neutral party, and more so if the arguement against something comes from a member of the group the arguement is against.
** does this figure seem familiar to anyone?
*** or a jihad, perhaps?


S. Holster said...

Caught a documentary on the History Channel last night on the history of the KKK, made the head swirl with comparisons (tactical) to what's going on today, and subject matter in this here post. Blows my mind ... our collective inability to reognize comparisons in/to age old practices of divisiveness.

daveawayfromhome said...

I have no doubt that the KKK is made up in large part of authoritarians. One of the primary characteristics of an authoritarian is prejudice. Of course, all bigots arent necessarily authoritarians... are they?

Let me give you a complete list of frequent characteristics of what Altemeyer (and so, Dean) call "right-wing authoritarians" ,the term "right wing" refering to a tendancy to be "especially submissive to authority" rather than to being a Republican. That the conservative movement is where you'll tend to find authoritarians in America is partially because that's where the Big Daddy mentality is - in Communist Russia they might have been "leftists" (and it's still possible here). Anyway, the list, on which all points dont necessarily apply:

- made up of men and women
- submissive to authority*
- aggressive on behalf of authority*
- "conventional"*
- highly religious
- moderate to little education
- trust untrustworthy authorities
- prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals, women, and followers of religions other than their own
- mean-spirited
- narrow-minded
- intolerant
- bullying
- zealous
- dogmatic
- uncritical toward chosen authority
- hypocritical
- inconsistant and contradictory
- prone to panic easily
- highly self-righteous
- moralistic
- strict disciplinarian
- severely punitive
- demands loyalty and returns it
- little self-awareness
- unually politically and economically conservative/Republican

All these points arent necessarily bad, but you can see how combined they might be. These traits were determined through extensive, empirical testing, not philosphizing or anecdotal evidence.
If you think that the above is worrisome, try this list of characteristics of what Altemeyer calls "social dominators" (i.e., leaders, though these traits are not necessary to lead, they just tend to appear):

- typically men
- dominating*
- opposes equality*
- desirous of personal power*
- amoral*
- intimidating and bullying
- faintly hedonistic
- vengeful
- pitiless
- exploitive
- manipulative
- dishonest
- cheats to win
- highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic)
- mean-spirited
- militant
- nationalistic
- tells others what they want to hear
- takes advantage of "suckers"
- specializes in creating false images to sell self
- may or may not be religious (but see above - Dave)
- usually politically and economically conservative/Republican

The worst (scariest, perhaps) are the individuals who combine the asterisked characteristics of the two groups; these people are called "Double High" authoritarians , and are to be watched most closely as they often have no moral sense, and are extremely willing to "lead people who are unwilling to think for themselves". Think Hitler.
Or maybe you can think of someone else who fits this description (wink, wink).

rev. billy bob gisher ©2005 said...

thanks for the quote i lifted.