Professor Robert Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba collaborated with John Dean on Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience (CWC), which I have referenced often. Professor Altemeyer has also written an on-line book about authoritarianism in the Tea Party.
Here are some excerpts:
Tea Partiers are “Authoritarian followers:” “They are happy to let Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin do their thinking for them. It has gotten so bad that their leaders casually say preposterous things that are easily refuted, because they know their audience will never believe the truth, or even hear about it.”
Tea Partiers are fearful and fearful people do stupid things: “The people who orchestrate the Tea Party movement know well what button to push first and hardest among social conservatives, and they work it overtime. And they know spreading fear “works” with others as well. Sometimes it seems they are all trying to out- boogie-man each other.”
Tea Partiers are self-righteous: “Theirs is the holy cause. They believe they are the only ones who can save the country.”
Fearful self-righteous Tea Partiers are hostile: “If you look at some of the videos of last August‟s protests, you can see veins bulging in the necks of some of the Tea Partiers as they vented their fury.”
Critical thinking is abhorrent to Tea Partiers: “Authoritarian followers have more trouble thinking logically than most people do. In particular, they tend to agree with sayings and slogans, even contradictory ones, because they have heard them a lot.”
Tea Partiers are always in fear of the next biggest problem: “Thus it was not hard to get Tea Partiers worked up about, of all things, a plan to improve health care to the levels found in other industrialized countries. Yet Tea Partiers believe the passage of the health care bill marks the end of liberty.”
Compartmentalized thinking comes naturally to Tea Partiers: “Ideas exist independently of the other ideas in their head. Their thinking is so unintegrated because they have spent their lives copying what their authorities say, without examining whether the ideas fit together sensibly.”
For Tea Partiers, double standards, or hypocrisy, are the standard: “It’s pretty clear that many, many Tea Partiers aren’t really against the things they say they’re against. For them, it‟s OK when Republicans do these things. But that is pure hypocrisy, which one finds in abundance among authoritarian followers. And in their leaders, such as the various governors who condemned the stimulus package, said they would refuse such funds, but then accepted them and had their picture taken at project announcements that followed.”
Tea Partiers thrive in mobs: “But experiments have shown that authoritarian followers are highly conforming. When they are in a group of like-minded persons they are much more likely to do things, especially aggressive things, that they would not do alone.”
Tea Partiers cannot be convinced they are wrong: “Experiments show that nothing (aside from their authorities) can convince them they are wrong. If overwhelmed by logic and evidence, they simply “castle” into dogmatism. This is probably because they don‟t really know why they believe what they believe. They didn’t figure it out for themselves; they Xeroxed what their authorities said.”
Tea Partiers need isolation from those not like them to maintain their beliefs – group think on a national scale: “Authoritarian followers are notably ethnocentric, constantly judging others and events through “Us versus Them” lenses. They largely choose their friends according to their beliefs. They stick to news outlets that tell them what they want to hear. They live in a polarized world, divided into their in-group, and out-groups consisting of everybody else. They stress in-group loyalty, and try to keep their distance from the out-groups.”
Tea Partier self-isolation both nurtures and hides there strong prejudices: “[T]hey really do not realize how prejudiced they are, compared with others, because they associate so much with other prejudiced people. So their prejudices seem normal and perfectly justified to them”
Still and all, I was just amazed by the Tea Party protest movement. It seemed as if the demonstrators had read the research findings on authoritarianism and then said, “Let‟s go out and prove that all those things are true.” Whatever else the Tea Party movement has accomplished, it has certainly made the research on authoritarianism look good.
Professor Altemeyer’s article continues with analysis of libertarians as authoritarian social dominators.
Note that Professor Altemeyer’s authoritarian studies are part of decades of research into what caused European countries to become fascist regimes. The authoritarian personality is one of the prerequisites.
In October 2010, another blog posting about the Tea Party by Sara Robinson of Cognitive Policy Works, discussed the Tea Party and what its success in the 2010 election could mean for our future – the coming fascist America:
They’ve already promised us that if they take either house of Congress, the next two years will be a lurid nightmare of hearings, trials, impeachments, and character assassinations against progressives. (Which could, in the end, backfire on the GOP as badly as the Clinton impeachment did. We can hope.) Similar scorched-earth harassment awaits officials at every other level of government, too. And casual violence against immigrants, gays, and progressives may escalate as the Tea Party brownshirts become bolder, confident that at least some authorities will either back them up or look the other way.