Why such aggression lately. Aggression such as carrying a gun so near the President of the U.S. Aggression such as seen during the health care reform debates in Congress and at the town-hall meetings. The list goes on and on.
Have you ever noticed that groups basically are made of the followers, submissives, and the leaders or dominators.
Dr. Altemeyer explains that in his books on authoritarians he is mostly discussing extremely submissive “followers” of established authorities, “attacks others in their name, and is highly conventional.”
He lists 3 of the personality traits of the “followers”:
1)a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate, authorities in their society;
2)high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3)a high level of conventionalism.
“The RWA scale is a personality test disguised as an attitude survey.”
the mid-point of the scale is 100. The higher the score the more the tendency to be an authoritarian follower.
Why the name “right-wing”:
The use of the word right as used here is “an adjective, right, lawful, proper, correct...”
Social Dominators who also score high on the religion, fundamentalism, scale but the why is interesting. These people go to church more often than most but they go to “project a good image...”
and “It is more important to create a good image of yourself in the minds of others than to be actually be the person others think you are.”
Remember submission to “their” authorities and highly conventional. So keep in mind we are not always talking about political conservatives.
Now on to Question 2 Why are some so aggressive...
(I think it still pertains to being led and believing false “facts”.)
Lets start with more on the compartmental mind to help us understand why many can be led to an aggressive state.
The compartmental mind had no trouble in “believing that America stands for international cooperation and the peaceful resolution of conflict on one hand, while on the other hand insisting it has the “right” to attack whomever it wants...” (from The Authoritarians)
Here is a quotation from another source which I think fits nicely:
“Meanwhile a newly powerful states’ rights movement is demanding that the federal government not intrude into our affairs—a nice illustration of what Orwell called “doublethink”: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in mind while believing both of them, practically a motto for our times.”
From the same story:
“But in a brilliant exercise in doublethink, people are led to hate and fear the deficit. That way, business’s cohorts in Washington may agree to cut benefits and entitlements like Social Security (but not bailouts).
At the same time, people should not oppose what is largely creating the deficit—the growing military budget and the hopelessly inefficient privatized healthcare system.”Chomsky
And according to Mr Dean in his book Conservatives Without Conscience, “Many conservatives, particularly those who are clearly authoritarians, are not aware of their illogical, contradictory, and hypocritical thinking. If made cognizant of it, they rationalize it away, neglect to care or attack those who reveal their human weaknesses.” (page 27)
Now back to aggression and prejudice.
First let us examine more from Mr. Dean as regards the “followers”.
In Conservatives Without Conscience, Mr Dean discusses Stanley Milgram'swork “...on obedience to authority.” (Milgram's experiments were set up to study delivering electrical shocks to “learners” in obedience to an authority figure.) Milgram uses the term “agentic state” to describe how a person can ignore their normal conscience “...when the individual becomes part of a group, with the individual's conscience often becoming subordinate to to that of the group or to that of its leader.” But Mr Dean does not think that the behaviors of some can be explained in this manner. (see page 44 discussion of Gordon Liddy and see pages 78-81 on I. Scooter Libby)
According to Milgram, "the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person's wishes, and he therefore no longer sees himself as responsible for his actions. Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow." Thus, "the major problem for the subject is to recapture control of his own regnant processes once he has committed them to the purposes of the experimenter." (Milgram, 1974, pp. xii, xiii). In addition to this presumed agentic state, Milgram goes on to explain, a variety of factors lock the subject into the situation. These include situational factors such as politeness and awkwardness of withdrawal, absorption in the technical aspects of the task, the tendency to attribute impersonal quality to forces that are essentially human, a belief that the experiment serves a desirable end, the sequential nature of the action, and anxiety.A Cognitive Reinterpretation...On Obedience to Authority
Further into chapter two of Conservatives... Mr Dean paraphrases and quotes Dr. Altemeyer concerning our RWA and aggression thus; “...as showing “general aggressiveness” toward others when such behavior “is perceived to be sanctioned” by established authorities...” (John Dean page 53)
In his book Dr. Altemeyer does discuss and study the religious beliefs of the RWA but as I have, at this point, some disagreement with him I will go back and restudy the chapter. Then perhaps at some point write a post on just the religious questions involved.
However, I can see Dr. Altemeyer's points about the RWA self-righteousness and their feelings that they are “guardians of the public morality”. He also mentions their view of the “...world as a dangerous place...” (Dean page 55)
If you back a dog into a corner while threatening him. Watch out now as you are facing “fight or flight”. By backing him into that corner you are interfering with his ability to flee the source of his fear so he will fight or he will submit depending on his place in the pack order. Well yes, there is the issue of his genealogy but for most dogs you will get one of these responses.
Back to Conservatives Without Conscience:
“By and large these Americans have never been troubled by the execution of a prisoner,,,, and there has never been a war in with the United States engaged that they did not support.” (John Dean page 55)Here Mr. Dean is writing his own thoughts on the church-going authoritarians and their politics.
In the last section of chapter 2, Mr Dean begins with questions of his own and some answers he gleans from Dr. Altemeyer's studies.
“...why are right-wingers often malicious, mean-spirited, and disrespectful of even the basic codes of civility?...
Here are some of the answers he found:
“This heightened level of aggressiveness has a number of psychological roots. Right-wing authoritarians, as we have seen are motivated by their fear of a dangerous world, whereas social dominators have an ever-present desire to dominate. The factor that makes right-wingers faster than most people to attack others, and that seems to keep them living in an “attack mode,” is their remarkable self righteousness.”
(John Dean pages 66, 67)
As to the leaders of these authoritarian followers with a little on prejudice:
(Remember Double High Social dominators score high as both leaders and followers. They answer the follower questions as they would have others follow them not as true “submissives.)
(Dean, page 60)
“Experiments reveal that right-wing authoritarian followers are particularly likely to trust someone who tells them what they want to hear, for this how many of them validate their beliefs. Social dominators, on the other hand typically know exactly what song they want to sing to followers.
Ordinary social dominators and ordinary authoritarian followers both tend to be highly prejudiced against ethnic and racial minorities.
Double Highs, however possess “extra-extra unfair” natures, and they can be ranked as the most racially prejudiced of all groups. It seems that two authoritarian streams converge in them to produce a river of hostility, particularly regarding rights for homosexuals and women.”
In describing more of Altemeyer's observations concerning Double Highs and the seriousness of their threat to society, Mr Dean gives us the idea that the followers are “uninclined to think for themselves...” while the Double High leaders may well lead the intensely dangerous movements. (Dean page 61)
In both books Hitleris mentioned as, I guess, the ultimate Dominator. I would say the most obvious Dominator. I can think of some milder ones. Does anyone but me think of McCarthy and the Red Scare. Or should I say Red Scares Of course, Mr Dean relates much of his early chapters to President Nixon and reasons for Watergate. I think too of recent political leaders and their use of fear and knowledge of the followers' needs. Here is a link to an article I read this morning that pertains to some recentillogical thinking.
In this post mostly using these two books we see some answers to our questions about aggression and prejudice as well as little on who their leaders are and why. We have lots of fear in these authoritarians.
We have lots of prejudice, though I don't cover all of it. The leaders are devious and mostly out to fulfill their needs for power. The followers are deceiving themselves when they consider themselves on the moral high-ground. While the followers need leaders, they fear leaders that challenge their beliefs, not just religious beliefs either. I think their beliefs about the world too.
We now have a glimpse into some reasons,theories, behind the“group dynamics” we discussed in the first post (April 13). I am trying to give the gist of the books while trying to keep the posts relatively short. As mentioned previously, I have some disagreement with Dr. Altemeyer's analysis of religion, fundamentalism, and “ineffective consciences”. I shall go back and reread his chapter on it before commenting further. Maybe I have misread.
Anyway we have spent some time with these two books* and maybe it is time to move on to other theories. Social Darwinism and Just World? I will let you know.
*Bob Altemeyer; The Authoritarians,2006 and see website
John W.Dean; Conservatives Without Conscience,Penguin Books, 2007 or visit
Mr. Deans' blog