Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Christian Right V 75

Synopsis of John W. Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience Chapter 2 (conclusion):

Right-Wing Authoritarians: The Followers

Altemeyer characterizes right-wing authoritarians as “especially submissive to established authority”; as showing “general aggressiveness” toward others when such behavior “is perceived to be sanctioned” by established authorities; and as highly compliant with “social conventions” endorsed by society and established authorities. These characteristics have to be significant to meet Altemeyer's definition. It helps to explain these three elements further.

Submissive to Authority

Altemeyer means that “submissive” “people accept almost without question the statements and actions of established authorities, and they comply with such instructions without further ado,” Dean tells us. Authorities include parents throughout childhood, religious officials, government officials, military superiors, perhaps even bus drivers, lifeguards, employers, psychology experimenters and others. “High-scoring right-win authoritarians are intolerant of criticism of their authorities, because they believe the authority is unassailably correct. Rather than feeling vulnerable in the presence of powerful authorities, they feel safer. For example, they are not troubled by government surveillance of citizens because they think only wrongdoers need to be concerned by such intrusions.” This submission is flavored by whether the authorities are proper or not (good and bad judges, good and bad presidents). “The decision to submit is shaped by whether a particular authority is compatible with their views.”

Aggressive Support of Authority

This represents “a predisposition to cause harm to others when such behavior is believed to be sanctioned by an authority, according to Altemeyer. Punishment is deemed appropriate, especially for children and criminals; courts shouldn't coddle criminals. It's efficient to target unconventional persons such as homosexuals. Research indicates that authoritarian aggression is fueled by fear and encouraged by remarkable self-righteousness which frees aggressive impulses.


Right-wing authori9tarians follow traditional norms, tend to be fundamentalist in their religion, reject moral relativism, regard sex other than for reproduction as sinful, embrace the traditional family, behave and dress conservatively, and believe themselves the country's true patriots. Altemeyer has a specific list of their likely conduct:

They travel in tight circles of like-minded people
What authorities have said is weightier than their own judgment
They harbor numerous double standards and hypocrisies
They are hostile to minorities but unaware of this characteristic in themselves
They see the world as a dangerous place and society teetering on the brink of
self-destruction from evil and violence
They think of themselves as far more moral and upstanding than others, a
self-deception aided by their religiosity and ability to “evaporate guilt”

Executing prisoners is not bothersome to this group. There has never been a U.S. war they did not support, they wear American flags in their lapels or dresses, they carry a copy of the Constitution.

This is the group that trusted George W. Bush's reasoning for attacking Iraq in 2003, Many thought weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq though none were discovered. They find someone else to blame for the war's costs.

Social Dominance Orientation and “Double Highs”: The Leaders

These are people who seize every opportunity to lead, and who enjoy having power over others. “Social” means the general organization of society; “dominance” means control or command over other people. “Orientation” means orientation or disposition.

Altemeyer said his “Right Wing Authoritarian scale has never been a good measure of authoritarian dominance; it was constructed more to capture the psychology of the submissive crowd.” Altemeyer looked into the work on social dominance theory done by Felicia Pratto of the University of Connecticut and Jim Sidcanius of the University of California at Los Angeles.

The Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) also measures economic conservatism and another ideological hallmark, belief in inequality. An SDO is likely to believe “Some people are just more worthy than others” and “this country would be better off if we cared less about how equal all people were” and “To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on others.” An SDO personality is more likely to be hard, tough, ruthless and unfeeling toward others rather than being compassionate, generous, caring and altruistic. Altemeyer found that high “SDO's tend to agree with statements such as 'Do you enjoy having the power to hurt people when they anger or disappoint you?' 'If you have power in a situation, you should use it however you have to, to get your way,' and 'I will do my best to destroy anyone who deliberately blocks my plans and goals'; while disagreeing with 'It is much better to be loved than feared,' and 'Would it bother you if other people thought you were mean and pitiless?'

Dominators feel little restraint. They doubt the application of right and wrong to themselves, thinking the essential result is what counts, what you can get away with. Essentially, people are objects that should be quietly and coolly manipulated for your own benefit. The end justifies the means.

Such people are relatively power hungry, domineering, mean, Machiavellian and amoral” holders of “conservative economical and political outlooks,” Altemeyer writes.

Unfortunately, there are those who score high on both tests – as authoritarian followers and as authoritarian leaders.

The Double High Authoritarians

Altemeyer accounts for double highs be explaining that they respond to questions relating to submission not by considering how they submit to others, but about how others submit to them. They inevitably see the world with themselves in charge.

Ordinary social dominators and ordinary authoritarian followers both tend to be highly prejudiced against ethnic and racial minorities. Double Highs, however, are among the most prejudiced of all groups, especially against homosexuals and women. Double Highs are very likely to have religious backgrounds, and they go to church more often than other people, “but they believe in lying, cheating, and manipulating much more than the rest of the congregation does,” Altemeyer's research shows. Double highs are also profoundly dogmatic. Altemeyer noted that when a Double High is in control of a movement, he is particularly dangerous, because the followers are submissive and gullible yet “are brimming with self-righteousness and zeal, thus fain to give dictatorship a chance.”
Both the followers and leaders can be described as conservatives without conscience – the social dominators admit on tests that right and wrong behavior is irrelevant to themselves and that a good skill to develop is the ability to look someone straight in the face and lie convincingly.

“Examining the consciences of right-wing authoritarian followers, however, is slightly more complicated than doing so for social dominators, because their actions are often different from their words, and they are not able to reflect about themselves easily because of their incredible self-righteousness,” Dean tells us. The followers say they have consciences, but they don't do well on tests that measure cheating. “The polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience of clear biblical moral demands on the part of people who allegedly are evangelical, born-again Christians. The statistics are devastating,” wrote Ronald J. Sider in The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.

Altemeyer explains this paradox by nothing they have little self-understanding. They don't realize how prejudiced and hostile they are. They have very compartmentalized minds capable of shutting off any thinking in a particular area that may be troublesome. They also shed their guilt easily when they do something wrong. Dean writes that this explains how Pat Robertson can openly call for the assassination of foreign leaders, despite the Ten Commandments that he holds so dear. Altemeyer writes that “the lack of guilt over things he has done in the past can actually contribute to the self-righteousness of the authoritarian.”

Profile of Authoritarians

Altemeyer discovered that the aggression right-wingers was instrumental (expressed for some political purpose) but also engaged in for the pure pleasure of it, for example, torture. On a less dramatic level, he found it difficult for most right-wingers to talk about any subject about which they felt strongly without attacking others. They live in an attack mode. Not only are they sure they are right, but holy and pure. They are bursting with indignation and a desire to smite down their enemies.

Dean closes this chapter with a list of traits typically found in social dominators and right win authoritarian followers. Traits with an asterisk (*) tend to be essential characteristics. Those that score high on both lists are the Double High personalities described above.

Social Dominators – Leaders

typically men
opposes equality*
desirous of personal power*
intimidating and bullying
faintly hedonistic
cheats to win
highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic)
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
usually politically and economically conservative/Republican

Right-Wing Authoritarian – Followers

men and women
submissive to authority*
aggressive on behalf of authority*
highly religious
moderate to little education
trust untrustworthy authorities
prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals, women, and followers of religions
other than their own)
uncritical toward chosen authority
inconsistent and contradictory
prone to panic easily
highly self-righteous
strict disciplinarian
severely punitive
demands loyalty and returns it
little self-awareness
usually politically and economically conservative/Republican

1 comment:

  1. HAHAHAHA! this is so brazenly obvious and the subject of so much comedy it's hard to beleive someone had to write a serious and informative book about it. Sadly it's all true....