Friday, December 28, 2007

The Authoritarians

Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians:
"OK, what’s this book about? It’s about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.

“Well,” you might be thinking, “I don’t believe any of this is true.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “What else is new? I’ve believed this for years.” Why should a conservative, moderate, or liberal bother with this book? Why should any Republican, Independent, or Democrat click the “Introduction” link on this page?

Because if you do, you’ll begin an easy-ride journey through some relevant scientific studies I have done on authoritarian personalities--one that will take you a heck of a lot less time than the decades it took me. Those studies have a direct bearing on all the topics mentioned above. So if you think the first paragraph is a lot of hokum, or full of half-truths, I invite you to look at the research."


Bob Altemeyer has been good enough to share the fruits of his labor of years with everyone, for free. (If you don't like screen reading, though, he's got a bound version available for a rather modest $9.95 via Lulu.com.)

We shall probably always have individuals lurking among us who yearn to play
tyrant. Some of them will be dumber than two bags of broken hammers, and some will
be very bright. Many will start so far down in society that they have little chance of
amassing power; others will have easy access to money and influence all their lives.
On the national scene some will be frustrated by prosperity, internal tranquility, and
international peace--all of which significantly dim the prospects for a demagogue
-in-waiting. Others will benefit from historical crises that automatically drop increased
power into a leader’s lap. But ultimately, in a democracy, a wannabe tyrant is just a
comical figure on a soapbox unless a huge wave of supporters lifts him to high office.
That’s how Adolf Hitler destroyed the Wiemar Republic and became the Fuhrer. So
we need to understand the people out there doing the wave. Ultimately the problem
lay in the followers.

The sum of his book is that Authoritarian Personality Disorder is a greater threat to us than the Iraq War, terrorism, the lack of health care and a tanking economy, for all these things are in fact the result of mindlessly following those who lead cynically, mindlessly and abusively, while pandering to the worst of all common denominators.

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