Natural Order - Authoritarians

Conservatives have larger ‘fear center’ in brain.

In The Authoritarians (1.3 MB) - MP4 (314 MB), Bob Altemeyer explores the characteristics of those who readily follow authoritarian leaders. Like The World's Smallest Political Quiz (The Nolan Chart), which uses ten questions and three response levels to distinguish people as libertarians (100% economic and personal freedom), Right/Conservative (100% economic freedom, 0% personal freedom), Left/Liberal (100% personal freedom and 0% economic freedom) and Statist/Big Government (0% economic and personal freedom, i.e. Authoritarians), Bob Altemeyer developed, refined and used his twenty-two question four response level Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) test on various populations over three decades. He also explored variations on targeted populations to elicit more specific data.

Despite explanations and definitions of "Right-Wing" to the contrary, Mr. Altemeyer is clearly of the Left-Wing persuasion as motivated by his justifiable fear of those who would follow the likes of Adolph Hitler (Fascist extreme of Socialism). He is unaware of the brain changes that occur when someone accepts charity or is acknowledged to own something, so he believes those who advocate the forced transfer of wealth, restricted property rights and all the other Progressive bromides to be examples of good behavior. Nonetheless, his findings are instructive for all freedom lovers. He correctly identifies the fundamental problem not with would-be tyrants, but with the large number of followers necessary to make tyranny possible.

According to Mr. Altemeyer, authoritarians are not susceptible to cognitive dissonance, because they have the uncanny ability to compartmentalize concepts. Those with religious beliefs, particularly fundamentalists are doubly so capable. These are the people who believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq despite all the evidence to the contrary, including the admission of their fearless leader, George W. Bush that no WMDs were found. They cannot equate malfeasance with a chosen leader. They readily follow leaders with whom they can identify as a member of their "safe, trustworthy, loyal" group. "If you are not with us, you are against us!" Consequently, these people are easily manipulated by would-be tyrants who know how to use fear.

When confronted with logical arguments, high RWAs resort to incorrect "facts" or conservative slogans. When informed of inconsistent elements of the religious texts they profess, which few have read cover-to-cover, or those which conflict with their admonition, they resort to a favorite psalm that may have no bearing on the subject.

High RWAs typically live in rural areas where there is a dearth of government services, and independence and a broad skill set is the norm, or in secure neighborhoods where they and their children can be more easily isolated, and kept safe from others not of their kind. They have no sense of and hence little compassion for those who choose to live in decadent inner city neighborhoods. There is so much open space that abusing a little is of no consequence. Wild animals are a nuisance and edible.

They typically vote Republican or Independent.

Fear of damnation and other people is their driver. In addition to being taught to be afraid of hot things and crossing busy streets, they were taught to be fearful of people who look, dress or behave differently than they, or attend a different religious ceremony than they, or live in different neighborhoods, regions or countries than they. Consequently, these authoritarians often become racists, homophones and other bigots bent on marginalizing, controlling or killing others. In world relations simulations, they are the first to mistrust, refuse to dialog, build armies, and engage in war. They consider the death by starvation or disease of their own people as well as others to be necessary collateral damage.

Though not identified by Mr. Altemeyer, Left-Wing Authoritarians exhibit a similar ability to compartmentalize. When confronted with their economic illogic, or all the likely affects of their cause, or when reminded of the failures of past government programs like the new ones they propose, or asked how Socialism or its government create wealth, they look like deer caught in headlights or resort to ad hominem attacks, like "You're a right-winger, religious fundamentalist, capitalist goon." Within the same paragraph they can bemoan the control of government by wealthy capitalists, and demand more government. They fail to distinguish between capitalism and mercantilism. They fail to understand that rights to housing, wages, health, etcetera are mutually exclusive with rights to life, liberty and property. Equality under the law is insufficient. They desire equality in all things but self-defense; the one without which the others are indefensible. They believe the quest for equality to be the ultimate morality, but don't want the downtrodden to have as much as they. They desire diversity in all things but thought.

They typically live in cities where government and private services are readily available, and dependence and specialization is the norm. Seeing only concrete, roads, cars and people, they believe the world is over-populated, cars are evil and open space is so rare that the property of others must be seized or controlled to preserve it. "Urban Sprawl" is a disease. They don't see and hence have little appreciation for the production of the food and other products they consume.

They typically vote Democrat or Green.

Fear of right-wing authoritarians and envy of others are their drivers. They are easily manipulated by anyone who demonizers anything as big, bigoted, wealthy or anti-environment.

Brain damage research has revealed that a region in the right parietal lobe entitled the Spirituality Spot is responsible for defining "Me." It generates self-criticism, and guides people through physical and social terrains by constantly updating their self-knowledge: my hand, my cocktail, my work, etc. Deficiencies in this region result in less self and more selflessness, particularly under the influence of meditation, chanting and similar religious rituals.

At Providence Health Plans where I briefly worked, a nun was in attendance, cubicles were packed with religious paraphernailia, bulletin boards were covered with religious slogans, and bulk company email was littered with religious admonitions. Conversations with the secretary of the CEO revealed that she "God regularly spoke to her." The logical conversations normal people have with themselves, like "I should remove the slushy snow in the driveway before it becomes ice tonight" were interpreted by her to be God telling her what to do. Here spirituality spot was compromised. Many of the employees wanted to "do unto others."

All of these personality types are capable of supporting a tyrant or tyrannical legislation for the alleged good of themselves or others. To them, legislation titles are more important than content. While it may appear that results are only of interest to the right-wingers, and left-wingers are oblivious to the dependence created by their government programs, dependence is precisely what Democrat leaders want.

Logical arguments have no effect, because they do not stimulate cognitive dissonance in authoritarians. So what is a freedom fanatic to do?

Public, i.e. government education was invented by Protestants to discourage Irish immigrants from sending their children to Catholic schools, which would preserve undesirable Irish Catholic ways. Left-wingers observed its success, co-opted government education, and imposed busing to expose right-wing children to other races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations and ideas to reduce the population of right-wing authoritarians. The scheme worked. In college and elsewhere away from the clan and without a local equivalent, right-wing authoritarian children mitigated their bias after experiencing moral blacks, atheists and homosexuals, and thereby determining that their parents and preachers were wrong about some things.

I experienced this transformation first hand at California Constitution Restoration, California Militia, Barter and third-party coalition meetings involving tens to many hundreds of people. In attendance were blacks and Jews to the dismay of the right-wing authoritarians. After listening to speeches and statements from some of those blacks and Jews, the right-wingers conversed with others, and discovered they had common interests, goals and morality. Soon they were shaking hands, joking, eating and drinking with one another.

Exposing right-wing authoritarians to their fears makes them more inclined to question authority, and less inclined to support repressive legislation.

What about the self-righteous authoritarian busy-bodies who think they know what's best for other people, the left-wingers who prefer government force to friendly persuasion? Mr. Altemeyer offers no solution, and I have yet to discover one. Perhaps one solution is fewer or at least less vocal right-wing authoritarians to fear. Another may be trips to rural areas to experience the open space, the difficulty of rural life, and the care taken to preserve its environment. Similarly, exposure to the entrepreneurial enterprise of the unsubsidized production of the products they consume may mitigate their animosity toward capitalism. Of course the left-wing authoritarians would have to be reminded that the workers are not forced to work there. They chose to work there, because it was best option among the alternatives. Perhaps those left-wingers will ignore Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Al Gore and other demonizers.

Of course this is all moot in a voluntary society in which there is no government power for which to compete.

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