Why are Conservatives So Mean?
Right-Wing and Left-Wing Authoritarian Followers
Authoritarian followers usually support the established authorities in their
society, such as government officials and traditional religious leaders. Such people
have historically been the “proper” authorities in life, the time-honored, entitled,
customary leaders, and that means a lot to most authoritarians. Psychologically these
followers have personalities featuring:
1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in
2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3) a high level of conventionalism.
Because the submission occurs to traditional authority, I call these followers rightwing
authoritarians. I’m using the word “right” in one of its earliest meanings, for in
Old English “riht”(pronounced “writ”) as an adjective meant lawful, proper, correct,
doing what the authorities said. (And when someone did the lawful thing back then,
maybe the authorities said, with a John Wayne drawl, “You got that riht, pilgrim!”)
1 (Click on a note’s number to have it appear.)
In North America people who submit to the established authorities to
extraordinary degrees often turn out to be political conservatives, 2 so you can call
them “right-wingers” both in my new-fangled psychological sense and in the usual
political sense as well. But someone who lived in a country long ruled by Communists
and who ardently supported the Communist Party would also be one of my
psychological right-wing authoritarians even though we would also say he was a
political left-winger. So a right-wing authoritarian follower doesn’t necessarily have
conservative political views. Instead he’s someone who readily submits to the
established authorities in society, attacks others in their name, and is highly
conventional. It’s an aspect of his personality, not a description of his politics. Rightwing
authoritarianism is a personality trait, like being characteristically bashful or
happy or grumpy or dopey.
Authoritarian Submission. Everybody submits to authority to some degree.
Imagine a world in which people ignored traffic laws and sped through red lights. The
cost of auto insurance would shoot through the roof (although the line-ups to buy it
would become much shorter). But some people go way beyond the norm and submit
to authority even when it is dishonest, corrupt, unfair and evil. We would expect
authoritarian followers especially to submit to corrupt authorities in their lives: to
believe them when there is little reason to do so, to trust them when huge grounds for
suspicion exist, and to hold them blameless when they do something wrong. We don’t
expect absolutes here; people are much too complicated to completely, always, blindly
submit, no matter what. But IF the RWA scale truly measures the tendency to be an
authoritarian follower, those who score highly on it should tend to do these things,
right? So do they?
Well, they will tell you that people should submit to authority in virtually all
circumstances. If you give them moral dilemmas (e.g. should one steal an absurdly
expensive drug to save a life?) they’re more likely to say, “The law is the law and
must be obeyed” than most people are. High RWAs also say they would bow more to
show respect for their fathers, the president of companies where they worked, and so
on, than most people indicate. (An astronomer suggested I ask about the bowing,
which I thought was silly, but he was right. “Social scientists are such blockheads!”)
High RWAs trusted President Nixon longer and stronger than most people did
during the Watergate crisis.11 Some of them still believed Nixon was innocent of
criminal acts even after he accepted a pardon for them.12 (Similarly the Allies found
many Germans in 1945 refused to believe that Hitler, one of the most evil men in
history, had ordered the murder of millions of Jews and others. “He was busy running
the war,” Hitler’s apologists said. “The concentration camps were built and run by
subordinates without his knowing it.”) To pick a more current example, authoritarian
followers believed, more than most people did, President George W. Bush’s false
claims that Saddam Hussein had extensive links to al-Qaida, and that Iraq had
weapons of mass destruction. And they supported the invasion of Iraq, whereas less
authoritarian Americans tended to doubt the wisdom of that war from the start.
As has often been acknowledged by conservative writers, one of the fundamental traits of the conservative attitude is a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such, while the liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead. There would not be much to object to if the conservatives merely disliked too rapid change in institutions and public policy; here the case for caution and slow process is indeed strong. But the conservatives are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change or to limit its rate to whatever appeals to the more timid mind. In looking forward, they lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment which makes the liberal accept changes without apprehension, even though he does not know how the necessary adaptations will be brought about.
When I say that the conservative lacks principles, I do not mean to suggest that he lacks moral conviction. The typical conservative is indeed usually a man of very strong moral convictions. What I mean is that he has no political principles which enable him to work with people whose moral values differ from his own for a political order in which both can obey their convictions. It is the recognition of such principles that permits the coexistence of different sets of values that makes it possible to build a peaceful society with a minimum of force. The acceptance of such principles means that we agree to tolerate much that we dislike.
Did you watch the video?
Also, are you saying that no liberal is different from any other liberal? You are all the same?
And NO, you are not even close.
No, you and your ilk are just too ignorant.
It was the "atavistic throwback" part, wasn't it? Too soon?
I'm trying out a new style...the gunga-H2O-Genoves-CJ style which is polluting all political discourse on a2k threads...how I long for the golden days when conservative minds here posted intelligent, persuasive arguments