Saturday, September 8, 2007

Interesting John Dean Column

Understanding the Contemporary Republican Party: Authoritarians Have Taken Control - appears to be the first in a series that summarize in brief Dean's recent book (Conservatives Without Conscience) as well as the work of psychologist Bob Altemeyer. An admittedly lengthy excerpt:

Authoritarian Republicans: Understanding the Personality Type

While not all conservatives are authoritarians, all highly authoritarian personalities are political conservatives. To make the results of my rather lengthy inquiry very short, I found that it was the authoritarians who took control of the conservative movement in the 1980s, and then the Republican Party in the 1990s. Strikingly, these conservative Republicans - though hardly known for their timidity -- have not attempted to refute my report, because that is not possible. It is based on hard historical facts, which I set forth in considerable detail.

Authoritarian control continues to this day, so it is important to understand these people. There are two types of authoritarians: leaders (the few) and followers (the many). Study of these personalities began following World War II, when social psychologists asked how so many people could compliantly follow an authoritarian leader like Adolf Hitler and tolerate the Holocaust. Early research was based at the University of California, Berkeley, and it focused primarily on followers, culminating in the publication of a The Authoritarian Personality (1950) - a work that broadly described authoritarian personalities. The book was quite popular for decades, but as the Cold War ended, it had been on the shelf and ignored for a good while.


Professor Altemeyer's Findings

Altemeyer's study addressed flaws in the methodology and findings of The Authoritarian Personality, and he then proceeded to set this field of study on new footings by clarifying the study of authoritarian followers, people he calls "right-wing authoritarians." The provocative titles of his books -- Right-Wing Authoritarianism (1981), Enemies of Freedom (1988), and The Authoritarian Specter (1996) -- and of a few of his many articles found in scholarly journals -- such as "Highly Dominating, Highly Authoritarian Personalities" in the Journal of Social Psychology (2004) and "Why Do Religious Fundamentalists Tend to Be Prejudiced?" in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (2003)--indicate the tenor of his research and the range of his interests.

Working my way through this material, with the help of a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Statistics, for Altemeyer writes for professional peers, I realized that, since I do not have a degree in psychology, I should get guidance to be certain I understood the material correctly, because it seemed to me that the information he had developed was exactly what I needed to comprehend the personalities now dominating the conservative movement and Republican Party. Altemeyer, who is the preeminent researcher in the field, graciously agreed to tutor me in his work. I introduced him to FindLaw readers in an earlier column, when I thought it would be interesting to get his take on the writings of the very authoritarian Tom DeLay, as he explained himself in No Retreat, No Surrender.

At the outset of Conservatives Without Conscience, I provided a quick and highly incomplete summary of Altemeyer's findings, explaining that his empirical testing revealed "that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, anti-equality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral." To be clear, these are not assessments that Altemeyer makes himself about these people; rather, this is how those he has tested reveal themselves to be, when being anonymously examined.

Altemeyer has tested literally tens of thousands of first-year college students and their parents, along with others, including some fifteen hundred American state legislators, over the course of some three decades. He has tested in the South and North of the United States. There is no database on authoritarians that even comes close in its scope to that which he has created, and, more importantly, these studies are empirical data, not partisan speculation.

About a year after I published my outline of his work, Altemeyer prepared a digest of his research for general readers, The Authoritarians, which he has posted online for one and all to examine at no cost. In his book he walks readers thorough his research in a manner that requires neither an advanced degree nor a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Statistics.

Great Mos Def Comeback at Bill Maher

Via Madman at the Marketplace:

Mos Def on Maher, after Maher brings up the supposed “cell” of “terrorist” (who the hell knows?) in Germany:

Maher: … This German cell was broken up this week .. (Mos Def grimaces) … WHAT?”

Mos Def: … I’m sorry …

Maher: Well, you have to admit that there are people who do want to kill Americans …

Mos Def: Yes, some of [them] are called the police …

brings up [that] George Washington was a terrorist from the monarchy’s POV.

Yeah, and Santa Claus is Real Too

Video shows Bin Laden "in false beard". Yup. Reminds me of my childhood when I noticed that Santa at the Wonderland Mall had a fake beard. That pretty well shattered that particular childhood fantasy. Parents use "Santa" as a form of psy-ops to influence their kids' behavior, perhaps terrorizing them into doing a few chores while simultaneously training them to be good little consumers. Is our government's use of the image of Osama bin Laden really all that different? I think not.

I still think a graphic by my friend Nezua is quite appropriate any time "Osama" makes an appearance.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

By all means, let's call things by their real names

IOZ sez:
To the extent that we continue to bear political responsibility, I'll argue that it has mostly to do with calling things by their true names and seeing them truly.
While we're at it I've a few things to get off my chest:

1. Let's make note that what often passes for "left" or "progressive" often isn't.

2. Ethnic cleansing is ugly and intolerable, no matter who does it (such as the perps portrayed in the picture at the top of this post at Marisacat's place.

3. Although the word genocide should never be used lightly, there are indeed far too many contexts in which its use is all too appropriate (including post-Katrina New Orleans).


Someone else found the Anbar/Gettysburg comparison to be amusing - along with a whole slew of authoritarian missives.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Katie Couric: "I am a pro-war propagandist"

The cheerleader who was responsible for saying at the start of the Iraq War that she thought "Special Forces rock" didn't quite say it that brazenly, but she did come pretty damned close:

Transcript can be found here.

Four score and seven years ago

A decaying British Empire was bogged down as it tried to occupy Iraq. Today a decaying US empire is bogged down trying to occupy Iraq. And we're supposed to believe that Anbar is the "New Gettysburg"? Those neoconmen keep grasping at straws.

Who are the real clowns?

I'm a huge fan of street theatre, especially when used to make nativists and other white supremacists look like the assholes that they are. Clowns can be especially effective, whether it be to mock MinuteKlan or the KKK, who prefer their marches and rallies be free of humor (as terror is not supposed to be a laughing matter) as laughter - especially at their well-deserved expense - tends to get their white sheets in a knot.

White Flour! indeed.