Skip to main content

View Diary: Authoritarians at the Gate (146 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Nice job researching this. I have a few thoughts (13+ / 0-)

    that I believe can dig even deeper.

    This diary's description of RWA followers are more accurately descriptive of hard-core RWA followers. In reality just about any of us, given the right mix of circumstances, could be swept up by an authoritarian tidal wave. Think of how popular Bush was from around the 9/11 attacks through the lead-up to the Iraq War. Opposition the that agenda found often found you in a lonely place. I say this not to "blame the victim" but to point out that all of us have an innate desire to have solidarity with our fellow human beings, but sometimes that desire can just misfire and lead us into social relationships and situations that aren't healthy. Just the same many people were brought up in environments where their curiosity and ability to think critically is drummed out of them (or "churched" out of them). Some of them have their potential rekindled, however, when they get out in the real world. Authoritarian leaders know this. That's why there are leaders such as Bill Gothard who teach many fundamentalist Christians to tightly control what media their children are allowed to be exposed to.

    How tight can that control be? A couple in the church I went to in the early 90s made her daughter throw away an Amy Grant cassette tape (Amy Grant is a well-known Christian artist, BTW) because in one song the subject matter was incest (never mind that in the song Grant sang of crying out to God asking why this happened). Thus you have some parents making sure their kids go to a Christian "university" where the things they're allowed to do are strictly controlled and enforcement is tight. Often those charged with enforcing rules at those schools act like Stasi informants. But they're resourceful in a way. Many will allow their kids to go to a "horrible evil secular school" but there are plenty of fundamentalist Christian groups like Campus Crusade for Christ or Navigators (mine was the Baptist Student Union, now named "Christian Challenge") to keep them from going astray.

    On the other hand, as progressives our desire for solidarity can bring us into healthy relationships. I've been involved in the Denver chapter of Drinking Liberally since this last July.

    Sara Robinson describes how some who may succumb to authoritarian movements or environments are more likely to escape than others here, here. and here.

    Hell, I had the look of a hard-core follower in some respects in the 1990s, but as it turned out I was much more soft-core, once I moved out of my parents' house and got out on my own, and even more once I got married and lost a couple of jobs, seeing the harsh realities of corporate life.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 10:13:15 AM PST

    •  'cept the muting of oppo to Bush was bc of LIES by (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Larsstephens

      BushCo.  Once the lies were exposed, the support evaporated like water in sunshine.  (BTW, I say muting bc imo most did not 'support' him, they rallied round the flag and CinC bc the nation - all of us - was attacked.  And, to his credit, Dumbya did make some nice noises about not blaming Islam, muslims, arabs etc.  Not that Cheney et al believed any of it...)

      And as for how significant your proposed distinction bt RWA and 'hard-core' is...  estalishment Thugs have been telling rank-and-file they can't believe anything anyone but them tells them (the 'librul media') for 50 years.  The fundies just fetishize it - and yes, that term is deliberate as imo fundie-ism is often at heart a serpent of sexual perverse and self-loathing.  But that's just my opinion.)

      •  I am evidence of a (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, peregrine kate

        "soft core" who could be swept up in authoritarian movements but do so in a moment of weakness. Given the right (or wrong) circumstances anyone could potentially fall prey to it. Just the same, some who are ensnared in it can, under the right circumstances, escape from it. Did you read the articles I linked to?

        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

        by RockyMtnLib on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 07:56:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  re: evidence of a "soft core" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          You are right on both counts. All it takes is one of those "life-changing experiences" to clarify one's thinking . . . :-)

          Haven't had time to read the articles yet, but I will before the end of the day tommorow.

          "The water won't clear up 'til we get the hogs out of the creek." -- Jim Hightower

          by lartwielder on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 10:47:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Re: 'cept the muting . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        Good comments about W., I think. Part of me wants to think that he was just a pretty nice guy in way over his head . . . Cheney definitely was the voice behind the curtain . . . and then I wonder how he let the neocons talk him into Iraq . . .

        "The water won't clear up 'til we get the hogs out of the creek." -- Jim Hightower

        by lartwielder on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:40:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Re: a few thoughts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RockyMtnLib, Larsstephens, lotlizard

      Hola RockyMtnLib - I owe you a couple of "thank yous" for your comment. You raised a couple of points that are very important to the discussion . . . which I did not address but really should have.

      Firstly, yes, this discussion focused on the behavior of what Altemeyer called "high RWAs." For his purposes, a high RWA was someone who scored in the upper 25th percentile of the RWA scale. It was my bad that I did not make it clear that "authoritarianism" is a dimension of our worldviews . . . and, depending upon the level of threat the individual perceives at the time, where they come down on the dimension changes.

      High RWAs, by default operate at a high perceived threat level, so they end up being on the high end of the scale. By default, nonauthoritarians come down on the very low end of the scale. However, the greater the threat perceived by nonauthoritarians, the farther up the scale they go. (There is a lot behind this, I'd highly recommend reading Haidt to get an understanding of the evolutionary significance of all this).

      The point is that there is a good evolutionary reason for the existence of the authoritarian dimension. It's just that, as Haidt shows, there are other dimensions to our worldview that are important also, so the critical issue is where one falls along all of those dimensions in the "ground state." Again, this is a pretty deep subject, but the main point is that, yes, when a nonauthoritarian perceives a valid threat, it is an evolutionary adaptive response to fall back behind the castle walls and form up a defensive squad. The problem for the authoritarians is that their ground state is Condition Red with the klaxons going off . . .

      To your comment that in the 1990s you had the look of a hard-core follower: again, this is an involved topic, but I'll throw this out: Although there is some evidence that some of the tendency towards or away from authoritarianism is genetic, there is much experimental and anecdotal data to suggest that the major factor in determining a person's trajectory along the authoritarianism dimension is the environment in which one grew up. Chapter 2 in The Authoritarians by Altemeyer is a good starting place.

      It seems that there are two factors that carry the most weight. One is the amount of rigidity and dogmatism to which one is exposed and the other is the degree to which the child is allowed/required to make personal decisions by themselves without dogmatic requirements from the parents. This will lead back to the "Big 5" attribute of openness to new experience.

      I have been dealing with exactly this question myself. I grew up in a very (soft) authoritarian environment myself, and until I had a life-changing experience, at one level, I was an incubating high RWA. Think the movie Animal House. One minute I was an Omega Theta Pi and the next minute I was a member of Animal House. The point I am making is that, without any experimental data to back it up, I might have had a genetic predisposition to be nonauthoritarian but I was brought up in a very high RWA household. It took a life-changing experience for me to wake up and see what had happened to me and that I was what people had taught me to be.

      So, I think that it truly is a nature-nurture issue. But I don't think it's bidirectional, in the sense that it is just as easy to go from a "nurture RWA" to a "nature nonauthoritarian" as it is the other way around. If one is not high on the openness to new experience scale, there's no way one can be  nonauthoritarian.

      This has gone on way longer than I intended and is way past the realm of data into hunch. So I'll stop here . . .

      Great comment! Thanks!

      "The water won't clear up 'til we get the hogs out of the creek." -- Jim Hightower

      by lartwielder on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 08:46:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site