Friday, April 10, 2009

Gun-toting Nazi Lemmings

It's long and kind of lame, but if you'd like to read it, here it is in full:

Congressional Quarterbag: Gun-toting Nazi Lemmings


There is a delicious irony in the fact that one of the most important insights into American politics was inadvertently revealed by the Bush Administration.

Apparently without the knowledge of the higher-ups, the National Science Foundation funded a psychological study which was published by the American Psychological Association in 2003 as the paper, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway.

That paper built upon a long series of previous papers published since the 1950s on the study of "right-wing authoritarianism" (RWA), a subject of much interest in the wake of the fascist movements throughout Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, which in turn led directly to World War II.

The right-wing authoritarian is very much alive and well in America, and statistically identifiable. When John Dean examined the mystery of President Bush's thirty-percent "basement" of approval below which he rarely drops, statisticians explained to him that 23 percent of all Americans are right-wing authoritarians whose approval of this President will never waver (the remainder of his approval is explained by the less-than ten percent of Americans who are getting filthy rich off of Bush's policies, but even those supporters have withered away in recent months). A recent study showed that 76 percent of Americans feel America is ready for a black president. RWAs can easily account for almost all of those who don't.

The right-wing authoritarian exhibits behaviors almost too hilarious to countenance, until one recalls that they're running the country. They're recognized by faulty reasoning (including espousal of contradictory ideas like support for the death penalty and opposition to abortion); hostility to outgroups (such as ethnic and religious minorities); an array of character attributes such as dogmatism, zealotry, absolutism, hypocrisy, and bullying; and an inability to recognize one's personal failings and the failings of the leaders they follow.

Or, as John Dean described it, they're "over the cliff" followers, like goose-stepping lemmings. They're also extremely hostile to attacks on their world-view, which should make the mailbag entertaining.

RWA leaders are double winners of the social lottery, because in addition to their belief system, they're also high scorers on social dominance tests. One previous study of American and Canadian legislators found the following:

"High RWA lawmakers also score higher in prejudice, and wish they could pass laws limiting the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of assembly, and other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. They want to impose strict limitations on abortion, they favor capital punishment, and they oppose tougher gun control laws."

The paper by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway endeavors to discover why conservatives return over and over to these core issues. Their study indicates that the motivating factors behind conservatism are surprisingly familiar to anyone who watched Karl Rove work his evil magic on the masses.

The study proposes that political conservatism has its roots in two environmental stimuli: fear and uncertainty.

Creating these two stimuli are a central chapter of the Rove play book. After Tom Ridge left the Department of Homeland Security, he confessed that it was not he or his Department which was arbitrarily raising and lowering the "terror-o-meter" to Code Orange throughout his tenure, particularly in election years:

"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it…Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' " (USA Today , 10 May 2005)

The reason why a climate of fear was created rests in what happens to conservatives when confronted with these two stimuli. They create nine identifiable motivations to the right-wing authoritarian, described by Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, and Sulloway:

1) Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity. (Defining the "Axis of Evil.")

2) Uncertainty avoidance. (Iraqis may be our enemy, so it's best to destroy them.)

3) Need for order, structure, and closure. ("Mission Accomplished.")

4) Self esteem. ("They hate us for our freedoms.")

5) Loss prevention. (The doctrine of "preemptive war.")

6) Terror management. (In this case, a response to fear of death, not the neoconservative relationship with actual terrorists discussed in previous CQ articles.)

7) Rationalization of self-interest. (For the above reasons, getting filthy rich off of invading Iraq is a good idea.)

8) Group-based dominance. (Our God is better than yours, and so forth.)

9) System justification. (We're still winning that war that we won in 2003.)

The result of these nine motivations is political conservatism. Couched deeply in the ideology are two final, easily identifiable results: endorsement of inequality and resistance to change. These two concepts are richly embodied in a simple phrase familiar to virtually everyone in the American South: "keeping down." That's what conservatism is all about: keeping down the other so they can't do to you what only you are actually doing.

The evil genius of the neoconservatives is seen in the discovery that right-wing conservatism rides on a sliding scale of fear and uncertainty: the more of both that you have, the more conservatives you have. They don't just spring from the cabbage leaf as conservatives. Conservatives can be temporarily created if otherwise reasonable people are scared enough.

Do you think you might be a conservative? According to a recent study published by political scientist John Hibbing in the journal Science, people who are easily startled tend to be conservatives. Shown frightening pictures and subjected to loud noises, those who visibly flinched tended to also ring the RWA chimes.

Still another study approaching publication by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, reported on in the Washington Post, shows RWAs at work. Delving into the time-tested political adage, "you can't get ahead of a good smear," they found that people of all political stripes could be affected by political disinformation. But conservatives in particular do something truly astounding: if someone attempts to refute the disinformation they are being fed, they are almost twice as likely to believe the disinformation!

In other words, when confused with conflicting information, RWAs return to the authoritarian sources they trust--the ones who are lying to them.

So, by playing on their fears and shouting out outrageous untruths, Right Wing Authoritarians can be programmed, by Fox News and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and by the right-wing schutzstaffeln on the AM radio dial. In fact, the entire mainstream American news media is complicit in creating an alternate reality in which the right-wing authoritarian thinks he lives.

The Washington Post article which describes the study by Nyhan and Reifler is a nice example of subtle programming itself. The article is front-loaded with an example of Democrats also being snookered by political disinformation, but there is a huge difference: when the bullshit is exposed, fewer Democrats support the bullshit, which is just the opposite of what Republicans do.

Not even harsh personal experience can unravel the ideology of some right-wing authoritarians.

In Knoxville, Tennessee in July, Jim David Adkisson killed two Unitarian churchgoers and wounded seven others before being disarmed and subdued by the congregation. He told lawmen that "all liberals should be killed," according to one investigator's notes.

In Adkisson's surreal world, it is the liberals who are "ruining the country," aided by the liberal media. (It's worth noting that during George Bush's malevolent tenure the Democrats have never controlled the Senate by more than one vote, and that one vote, Joe Lieberman, is busy campaigning for Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.)

What CNN failed to mention in its blessedly brief coverage of the event, and which virtually no major news source other than the Knoxville News Sentinel mentioned on July 28, was that when Adkisson's home was searched investigators found three books: Liberalism Is a Mental Health Disorder, by Michael Savage, Let Freedom Ring by Sean Hannity, and The O'Reilly Factor, by the vibrator-using Papa Bear himself.

Adkisson was a truck driver down on his luck, no doubt thanks to our Texas oilmen leaders and their fine foreign and economic policies, and he apparently flew into a rage when he discovered his food stamps were about to be discontinued. Seriously. I can't make this kind of shit up.

So naturally, Adkisson found a church that dares to welcome gay worshippers, and shot it up.

And this is only the beginning. There are many millions of right-wing authoritarians still in the process of losing their treadmill battles against blossoming mortgages, credit card debt, and rewritten bankruptcy laws. Unless the election is stolen again, chances are they'll have an African-American President to look to as their misery compounds. How many of them will pop off like Adkisson? How many of them will line up behind the first jingoistic fascist who dares to offer a final solution against proponents of tolerance and rational thought?

Like it or not, we're about to find out.

It wouldn't be fair at all to conclude this article without pointing out something which really shouldn't need to be said: right wing authoritarians are not bad people at all. They are our family members and friends. The politicians they follow often excepted, they are among the first to volunteer to serve our country--an exceptionally brave thing to do in light of the fear which drives them. Many are outstanding members of their communities and their churches. They are our fellow Americans.

The people who are bad are the ones who have taken advantage of these citizens. It would be a boring world indeed if we enjoyed freedom from fear, but nobody deserves to be manipulated through fear, a tactic the Republican leadership has turned into a fine art. We must call out these tactics for what they are: dishonest, despicable, and--dare I day it?--un-American.
source: sofa king http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x5415300

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