Eccentric Musings (jakaEM)

"I have undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy." Emily Brontë


still figuring this place out - Jen W

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Friend of My Youth
Alice Munro
Progress: 115/288 pages
Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood

The Authoritarians

The Authoritarians - Bob Altemeyer A random set of notes on this book, in descending date order. And everyone must read this book. Resistance is NOT futile. I may be low RWA, but I'll be damned if I'll go down without a fight.

I have to stop reading now. Now, it's personal. Now, it's my country, my democracy that is under direct attack by Double High Religious Right-wingers who -- incidentally -- have been insidiously, directly, deliberately advised by GW Bush strategists.

Less than 40% of less than 60% elected the current government in Canada. But the mandate, as Altemeyer noted with Bush, doesn't matter to a Double High elected leader. It's power and domination at all costs.



June 11/11:

OH. MY. GOD. Canadian politics, in 2006 when Altemeyer published (likely, the RWA scores and party affiliation stuff remains true, it's just who's in power that has changed and the INCREDIBLE polarization that has emerged - both on party and RWA lines, it is clear - out of the 2011 federal election. This is INCREDIBLE. (my emphases):

"If you look at just the New Democrats’ and the conservatives’ scores on the RWA scale, party affiliation correlated .82 on the average with authoritarianism, which is one of the strongest relationships ever found in the social sciences. The RWA scale divides these two groups almost as cleanly as a vote in the legislature would. Nothing else, so far as I know, correlates so highly with left-wing versus right-wing politics, anywhere. In Canada at least, when you are talking about the “left-to-right” political dimension among politicians, you are talking about the personality trait measured by the RWA scale."

And NOW what we have is that polarization all the clearer and more oppositional, now that there is no centrist party remaining in Canada. The Liberals are gone. It is left against right; low RWA versus high RWA in Canada. To me, the only question is - will the NDP be strong enough (esp. since they've *never* been in official Opposition power before) to exert a moderating influence? Or, will their lack of experience and, frankly, credibility enable the RWA/Right to stomp all over them - and the rest of us?


June 10/11: Aye, and now we come to it. The key differences between authoritarian despots and their followers:

"huge differences exist between these two parts of an authoritarian system in (1) their desire for power, (2) their religiousness, (3) the roots of their aggression, and (4) their thinking processes." (p. 162)


The Exploitive Manipulative Amoral Dishonesty Scale (p. 166) (hey! I had three, count 'em, three bosses like that!) -- still not sure what the difference is here with psychopathy.


"social dominators might incite authoritarian followers to commit a hate crime, but the dominators and followers probably launch the attack for different reasons: the dominator out of meanness, as an act of intimidation and control; the follower out of fear and self-righteousness in the name of authority." (p. 169)

Police-reported hate crimes up 42% in 2009, Toronto Star, June 8, 2011.

Correlation is not causation. But it doesn't have to be the direct influence of a dominator that inspires hate crimes. I think it can happen almost by osmosis - by a general loosening up of the constraints on intolerance that leak out from, in this case, Parliament Hill. This is not a stat to be taken lightly.


He just missed an opportunity to explore the role of bullying in producing high social dominators. He's not a clinical or personality psychologist, so I forgive him. But I would have liked a quick detour into the research on how being bullied turns one into a bully within the context of his "social dominance" construct.


And there's my answer on the relationship between psychopathy (which he calls sociopathy - the two notions are commonly treated as synonyms, but there are differences in the clinical definitions) and high social dominator authoritarians:

"There even seems to be a whiff of the sociopath about the social dominator. Somebody do the studies and see if any of these hunches is right." (p. 180)


June 9/11: Religious fundamentalism correlates highly with authoritarianism - but its chicken-and-egg. On the diffs between US & Cdn religious fundamentalists:

"... how much [do] Christian fundamentalists in Canada differ from American fundamentalists.... Both modern nations were founded by Christian immigrants from Western Europe. But Protestants settled almost all of the thirteen original colonies, whereas in Canada two Christianities took root from the start, Catholicism and Protestantism. Some Christian fundamentalists came directly to Canada from Europe ... but a lot also came up from the United States, and the biggest difference between fundamentalists in the two countries today may not involve theology or brand names, but strength. A much greater percentage of Americans than Canadians could be called Christian fundamentalists." (p. 143)


This is only marginally comforting to me. Most of them live and/or are from the western provinces - AB, SK, MB, including our illustrious PM Harper, who is a card-carryin', gun-totin', bible-thumpin' member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

See: Stephen Harper and the Theo-Cons, The Walrus, Oct 2006

June 8/11: "No other group comes close to being as zealous [as religious fundamentalists]. Feminists usually come in second in my studies, but way behind the religious fundamentalists, and one finds far, far fewer of them." (p. 132)

I don't know whether I should be more upset that there are far, far fewer feminists than fundamentalists, or that they come in second in the zealotry sweepstakes.

June 7/11: Explaining why high RWAs are so easily led because they do not evaluate ulterior motives if they already agree with the person:

"So (to foreshadow later chapters a little) suppose you are a completely unethical, dishonest, power-hungry, dirt-bag, scum-bucket politician who will say whatever he has to say to get elected. (I apologize for putting you in this role, but it will only last for one more sentence.) Whom are you going to try to lead, high RWAs or low RWAs? Isn’t it obvious? The easy-sell high RWAs will open up their arms and wallets to you if you just sing their song, however poor your credibility."

Right - and this is what makes the high RWAs - even though they are a very small minority - such a powerful (and threatening) political force. Probably also explains to some extent the Liberal implosion in Canada's May 2011 federal election. (although obviously there was much more to it than that.)

June 6/11: I'm going to capture some bits and pieces here that particularly resonate with me. Doing it in the status updates seems cumbersome.

So, logical reasoning capacity of RWAs:

"In both studies high RWAs went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:
All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea.
Therefore, sharks are fish.

The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right. Or to put it another way, they don’t “get it” that the reasoning matters--especially on a reasoning test."


I just keep gasping out loud at this stuff, thinking of high RWAs I know and how this explains exactly how their minds work. You know it, when you talk to them. But it's nice to have it confirmed with empirical data.

I'm still not sure having an explanation for it is ultimately going to make me feel any better or make my brain less likely to explode while engaged in these conversations, though.