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October 6, 2005

The Just World, the Authoritarian Personality, and Proto-Fascism

-- by John Emerson

A fascistic streak of violent anger lies very close to the surface in one faction of the contemporary right wing, and is openly expressed on many of the most popular winger blogs. This faction often seems more interested in venting than in details of policy or political results of any kind, and despite their militaristic obsessions, they often seem to hate liberals more than they hate any of our nation's foreign enemies. The citations and links below give some insight into the roots of this kind of politics.

The Just World

"Zick Rubin of Harvard University and Letitia Anne Peplau of UCLA have conducted surveys to examine the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. They found that people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to 'feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.'
Ironically, then, the belief in a just world may take the place of a genuine commitment to justice. For some people, it is simply easier to assume that forces beyond their control mete out justice. When that occurs, the result may be the abdication of personal responsibility, acquiescence in the face of suffering and misfortune, and indifference towards injustice." (Link; via Respectful of Otters)

The Authoritarian Personality

"In the June 19, 2005, issue of The New York Times Magazine, the journalist Russell Shorto interviewed activists against gay marriage and concluded that they were motivated not by a defense of traditional marriage, but by hatred of homosexuality itself. 'Their passion,' Shorto wrote, 'comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: It seeks to spread itself.' It is not difficult to conclude where those people would have stood on the F scale.

Not all opponents of gay marriage, of course, are incipient fascists; the left, to its discredit, frequently dismisses the views of conservative opponents on, for example, abortion, church-state separation, or feminism as irrational bigotry, when the conclusions of most people who hold such views stem from deeply held, and morally reasoned, religious convictions. At the same time, many of the prominent politicians successful in today's conservative political environment adhere to a distinct style of politics that the authors of The Authoritarian Personality anticipated. Public figures, in fact, make good subjects for the kinds of analysis upon which the book relied; visible, talkative, passionate, they reveal their personalities to us, allowing us to evaluate them." (Link)


An example of proto-fascism, with a Democratic response.

"Do Democrats want a Civil War?
Many more examples would be easy to find. Note that it's the prosecution of Tom Delay for massive corruption which has called forth this bloodthirsty language.

Hunter responds on the Daily Kos
I think that Hunter responds quite appropriately. The savage nature of the contemporary political world is something we have to deal with. This has been going on for more than ten years (at least since "Free Republic" and Rush Limbaugh showed up) We can't pretend it isn't happening.

(Cross Posted at Adam Kotsko)

Posted by John Emerson at October 6, 2005 2:31 PM

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Comments

"Not all opponents of gay marriage, of course, are incipient fascists; the left, to its discredit, frequently dismisses the views of conservative opponents on, for example, abortion, church-state separation, or feminism as irrational bigotry, when the conclusions of most people who hold such views stem from deeply held, and morally reasoned, religious convictions."

Sorry, but I don't agree that these views are "morally reasoned." Most were established in the first place for political reasons, and, of course, the hysteria about them is encouraged for political reasons. The people holding them are following their leaders like blindfolded sheep rather than examining the history behind them or any kind of religious or moral reasoning.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2005 4:20 PM

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