In Power and Absolute Power – What Concerns Me Most, I expressed my concerns about political power being concentrated into one party, either Democrats or Republicans, “… what is taking us back to the really good ole’ days is that the Republican conservatives are being controlled by the evangelical/fundamentalist Christians who want to replace our democracy with a theocracy.” According to the CIA’s The World Factbook, the only Theocratic Republic currently in existence is Iran. Why would citizens in the U. S. want to emulate this?
In Fool Me Once Shame on You, Fool Me Twice … No, Not This Time, I pointed out how this power is being used to continue the ” ‘massacre’ on our constitution” started by Cheney and Rumsfeld under President Ford and continued with Cheney and Rumsfeld under President Bush. I concluded that article with, “As all this indicates, history is repeating itself. And as it was with President Nixon then, it’s time now for President Bush and the bully duo to go.” In Unitary Presidency, Dysfunctional Congress and Judicial Petitions – Is It Too Late to Stop the Redacting of the Constitution?, I continued the description of this massacre and gradual transition to a new form of government, “How much more of this abuse can our system of government take? Has the damage to our rule of law reached the point of no return? Will the rule of opinion dominate our future?”
A confirmation of this attack is the recent ruling by the U.S. District Court in Detroit that, “the National Security Agency’s program to wiretap the international communications of some Americans without a court warrant violated the Constitution”
In Failed Single Party Nations of the Past – Where Are We Going Now?, I summarized a chapter from an old college political science text about what contributed to the creation of Nazi Germany, “This is some of what happened in Germany and Italy before and during WWII. Could it happen here? Maybe, maybe not. Is there a way to judge if it is or isn’t happening? Maybe, maybe not.”
I have now learned that, based on empirical research data generated since WWII, the answer, according to Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarian Specter is, “I’m afraid so.” Professor Altemeyer’s work and the work of many since 1950 and the fall of Nazi Germany, is referenced extensively by John W. Dean in his latest book, CONSERVATIVES WITHOUT CONSCIENCE. Chapter 2 of Mr. Dean’s book deals with psychological aspects of “obedience to authority” and the “thinking and behavior of authoritarian personalities.”
Most of his information on obedience to authority comes from the work of Stanley Milgram. Milgram’s work started in 1961 and the results were published in 1974 under the title of “Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.”
According to John Dean, “this experiment was designed to test … the willingness of those administering electrical shocks to obey the authority figure.” The result of the experiment was that 65 percent of the ‘teachers’ instructed by an authority figure to shock an unseen ‘student’ for incorrect responses were willing to apply up to a 450 volt shock while ignoring their conscience. In reality no one was hurt, but the ‘teacher’ applying the shock could hear the faked screams of the ‘student’ and would still do as they were instructed.
Ten years before Milgram’s work on obedience without a conscience, a study, The Authoritarian Personality, was started at the University of California in Berkeley. Since that study (which has it’s critics) was completed, the understanding of authoritarianism has been extensively updated and validated with empirical data.
The primary contributor to this refinement is Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba. According to John Dean, Professor Altemeyer “not only confirmed the flaws in the methodology and findings of The Authoritarian Personality, but he set this field of study on new footings, by clarifying the study of authoritarian followers.” Professor Altemeyer has been researching and publishing on the spectrum of authoritarianism since 1981. He has written three books and numerous articles for various professional journals.
According to John Dean, Profession Altemeyer has identified three types of authoritarians: The Followers, The Leaders and the Double Highs. The professor has developed psychological tests to identify individuals as either part of a “submissive crowd” or as a social dominator. Those who score high on both tests he calls double highs.
The Followers, as characterized by Altemeyer in John Dean’s book:
- are “especially submissive to established authority“
- show “general aggressiveness” toward others when such behavior “is perceived to be sanctioned” by established authorities
- are highly compliant with “social conventions” endorsed by society and established authorities
The Leaders are characterized in Dean’s book as scoring high on Altemeyer’s social dominance orientation (SDO) test in:
- economic conservatism
- belief in inequality
Here is a more complete list of the “key definition traits” for authoritarian Leaders and Followers from John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience:
|Authoritarian Personality Traits|
|typically men||men and women|
|dominating*||submissive to authority*|
|opposes equality*||aggressive on behalf of authority*|
|desirous of personal power*||respectful of those with power|
|manipulative||trust untrustworthy authorities|
|exploitive||uncritical toward chosen authority|
|takes advantage of “suckers,”
tells other what they want to hear
moderate to little education
|fear-mongering||prone to panic easily|
|specializes in creating false images to sell self||inconsistent and contradictory|
|may or may not be religious||highly religious|
|knowingly cheats to win||highly self-righteous but little self-awareness|
|intimidating and bullying||bullying|
|highly prejudiced against race, women, and homosexuals||prejudiced against women, homosexuals, and anyone of a different religion|
|nationalistic||demands loyalty and returns it|
|militant||strict disciplinarian, , dogmatic|
* – Denotes those authoritarian Leader and Follower traits that Double High authoritarians always score high on. Those (and there are some according to John Dean) who score high on more of both sets of traits than just these, “are likely to be the particularly alarming Double Highs.”
There is one last trait that is common to most psychologically aggressive authoritarian types that I did not list above. (Keep in mind that authoritarian is a psychological term not a political one.) Until I read John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience I did not understand, as well as I do now, what brought me to doing this blog and creating the posts referenced above. I have always felt more concern for power shifting to the right than when it shifts to the left, and now I know why. Anyone who takes Professor Altemeyer’s psychological authoritarian surveys and scores high as a Follower, Leader, or Double High, usually turns out to also be politically and economically a conservative Republican. This is why Altemeyer refers to one of his surveys the right-wing auhoritarian scale.
I think the authoritarian Followers are of least concern. Take away their enemies and they lose focus. The real problem is with the authoritarian Leaders who keep the fear and manipulation going. So, who are these Leaders that we need to get out of public office before they turn this country upside-down? I will be providing that information in a later postings (Part 1a, Part 1b, Part 2, Part 3). If you are now too worried to wait, I suggest to purchase and read Conservatives Without Conscience.