September 29, 2007
What, Him Worry?

You may have George W. Bush mixed up with somebody who gives a shit. John Dean knows better:

Many observers have suggested that the Bush/Cheney Administration may, in the eyes of history, be the worst ever. Yet this condemnation must seem beside the point to authoritarians, for these people simply do not care what others think of their performance. What is important, in their eyes, is simply that these leaders and their compliant followers are doing things the way they believe they must be done, and enforcing their will upon any who dare to dissent or disagree.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 29, 2007 07:41 AM
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I'll buy some of Altemeyer's arguments, but not all of them. Who was responsible for the Japanese internment camps in the US?

Certainly not Prescott Bush, who just wanted to trade with the Nazi's to make money. That made him a traitor but not an authoritarian. He might have become one though had he not been stopped. His grandson certainly developed the trait.

And you can't convince me that the DLC isn't an authoritarian organization.

Altemeyer's argument fails in some areas. For instance, he says Communists in Russia were authoritarians but communists in the US were not. Never covered Spain though. I don't buy the argument completely. I think authoritarians rise up in societies in whatever power structure exists.

Right now it's the right wingers. But a great many of those of the old right certainly weren't authoritarians. They were railing against those who they perceived to be authoritarians.

There are some other scholars in the field Altemeyer studies who disagree with him. I'm too lazy to look them up now but you can find them on the Robert Altemeyer wiki page.

Nevertheless, besides all this nitpicking, we've got a group of authoritarians in power right now the likes of which this country has never seen before now. These are dangerous times and dangerous people now rule the Republic. And run the newspapers. And own the radio and television stations and networks.

But I'm afraid we'll be chanting "God save the Queen" before too long.

Posted by: Buck on September 29, 2007 11:16 AM

Right on, Buck. Being a prick is independent of political persuasion. The best brief comment on this is the old 1960s bumper sticker, "Fuck Hate." Says it all.

Posted by: Fast Eddie on September 29, 2007 4:04 PM

Seems to me authoritarianism can wear the guise of left or right, but historically the right wing has been the more comfortable to it. Stalin was about as authoritarian as they come, and Russia has a long history of such rulers. But it's impossible to avoid categorizing FDR as an authoritarian as well, the difference being that he wasn't as crazy as his contemporary leaders (A.J.P. Taylor has some great stories about those folks in The Origins of the Second World War). Of course I'm passing over the obvious Fascist and Nazi examples, but mentioning the horrible stuff going on in Burma as a contemporary version.

I certainly think societies with authoritarian personalities, meaning all societies of any size, have power structures. In the US the power structures seem concentrated in the corporations, fronting for the super-rich, with the government as enforcer and promoter of products.

There are also plenty of folks who are revolutionaries à la Woody Allen's Bananas, much less interested in changing things once they take the reins. These, too, are authoritarian personalities, as I understand what Dean says about Altemeyer.

My main point is that social and economic structures exist in part because authoritarian personalities exist, but even without them we'd need some structures, like revolutionary Spain. All such structures attract the power-addicted, even the non-profit I work for. It's the bane of group activity. It engenders more of itself as people give up on coöperating and split off to follow their own paths.

Thus I certainly class the DLC with the authoritarians, because they want control of the mechanism of society for their own personal benefit, the A-merican way. I'm afraid I have to put my own representative, the House Speaker, pretty close to that category too. She appears to be an excellent politician who uses her knowledge to accumulate power, then fails to use the power appropriately.

But I think that's the standard temptation for elected officials: if you don't stay in power, you tell yourself, you won't get a chance to come through on all your brilliant schemes and principled stands. So you put them off for now, or compromise away everything but the idea.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on September 30, 2007 4:59 AM

My favorite anti-authoritarian bumper sticker so far is "Subvert the dominant paradigm".

I used to wear a "Question Authority" t-shirt to work at DEC. One day in the cafeteria line someone I didn't know turned to read my shirt and replied, "Says who?".

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on September 30, 2007 5:05 AM

Avedon and whoever the Suburban Guerilla is recently just did an obituary for a suburb writer in Philadelphia named Jim Cappozzola who recently died without (and probably because of) his lack of medical insurance. Jim won the Koufax award for best writing in 2002 for writing this:

I think it's required reading on this subject. Even your kids aren't too young to learn about the subject.
And Roosevelt, despite his court packing plan wasn't an evil authoritarian - he helped more people than he "hurt". I think a case can be made that some authoritarians end up doing the society they rule a great deal of good.

I think the founding fathers were probably keenly aware of this. Even though they were looking out for their own power, they wanted to make sure that one guy was never able to do to them what King George had done to them.

Posted by: Buck on September 30, 2007 6:49 AM
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