the authoritarians

Posted on 17 April 2010

I’ve only gotten 30 pages into this book (The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer), but am already deriving a great deal of pleasure from it. Sure, I could wait to write about it until I’d finished it and then make some kind of coherent overall comment but what I’d much rather do is get some of you folks reading it too. Then we can babble about it together. Here’s a quote that may pique your interest somewhat:

Finally, just to take this to its ludicrous extreme, I asked for reactions to a “law
to eliminate right-wing authoritarians.” (I told the subjects that right-wing
authoritarians are people who are so submissive to authority, so aggressive in the
name of authority, and so conventional that they may pose a threat to democratic rule.)
RWA scale scores did not connect as solidly with joining this posse as they had in the
other cases. Surely some of the high RWAs realized that if they supported this law,
they were being the very people whom the law would persecute, and the posse should
therefore put itself in jail. But not all of them realized this, for authoritarian followers
still favored, more than others did, a law to persecute themselves. You can almost hear
the circuits clanking shut in their brains: “If the government says these people are
dangerous, then they’ve got to be stopped.”

Now, to properly interpret that quote, it’s important to understand that Bob doesn’t mean right-wing in the traditional political sense here, but right-wing in the sense of “supporting current orthodox establishment” which is rather a different thing. Anyway, it’s eminently readable and full of good humor. Give it a bash.

Here’s a link to the PDF – get cracking!

Edit: It’s 3am, just finished. Well, that certainly has given me a bit of a different perspective on a few issues. One in particular, I’m now really sure that despite how entertaining Hitchens and Dawkins are, they’re going about what they want to achieve very much the wrong way.

And I think I’m better placed to understand how a few people I’ve known have been so able to wander around with several conflicting and completely contradictory beliefs without seeing a problem.

Phew. Sleep time.


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