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The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer
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Jun 15, 11

bookshelves: will-be-regretted-on-my-deathbed
Read from June 11 to 15, 2011

Warning: I could only bear to read about the first 50 pages of this in depth. The rest I skimmed through. Far be it for me to say that merely because something is a belligerent ranting diatribe, it doesn't have merit. After all, I have written this....

Permit me, if you will, to counterpoise the RWA with the HPA. That is the Harry Potter authoritarian. It suddenly and obviously struck me yesterday, that it is a perfect example of how you can’t actually talk about the RWA like it is some special breed. It isn’t, and nothing makes that more blatantly clear than watching the belligerent, hostile, illogical and irrational behaviour of Harry Potter devotees, as witnessed on this site. Some of the comments I’ve received illustrate the point, though I dare say they are scattered about.

So we have this group of people, who I wouldn’t mind betting all think they are small ‘l’ liberals behaving like thugs. Equally we see probably small l liberal scientists behaving in the same hostile angry way when faced with people who don’t share their beliefs. This book carries on the tradition and I, for one, find it offensive. I’m disappointed that nobody else on goodreads has this issue and equally disappointed that part of the justification for excusing the author’s abusive proselytsing is that he uses statistics.


p55 What did the high RWAs say? Nothing very logical, I’m afraid. Nearly half (48 percent) said they’d return the Golan Heights if the odds for peace were 3-1 against. Increasing the odds for a successful outcome to 50-50 made highs less willing (41 percent) to make the gesture. When the odds got to 3-1 in favor of peace, 60 percent said “Go for it.” The authoritarian followers thus didn’t seem to pay much attention to the odds for success, and they proved to be the ones who’d take a foolish chance for peace in this situation. So who’s the peacenik?


Never mind the language, which is straight from the worst type of let’s get ‘em media, I keep thinking Fox TV news shows, the stats are completely meaningless without at the very least being told what the sample is and who and how they are measured. What does ‘nearly half’ mean? One? Two? This gentleman’s an academic, which makes me really nervous. He may be able to put on another hat, but I don’t know if I trust the idea that he can be an impartial observer of the facts when he has such an ax to grind.

He reminds me more than anything of Sarah Palin on a bad hair day. I bet they both like magic and wands. And really short people.


p.15 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.


How hilarious is this. I’ve spent so many years now trying to tell small ‘l’ liberals that they can’t keep voting for politicians whose practices in power bear such passing resemblance to their campaign promises. Either small ‘l’ liberals have the IQs of lemmings or they are pretty much happy to vote for people who are, not to beat about the bush, liars. They are then willing to spend a lot of time either apologising for their leaders’ post victory turnabouts or do a lot of mea culping how were they to know.

If I may paraphrase Chomsky: question them, about everything all the time. Small ‘l’ liberals are quite diligent at this when the other side is in power. Otherwise, they are incredibly similar to the accusation levelled above of their political and social foes.

I can’t think of anything which doesn’t come out as an English understatement to describe how I am about this book, but let’s say incandescent with rage.


p. 16 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.


Huh? Does this guy not understand that bowing is an act of great cultural significance in much of the world? He makes it sound like it is something to be disgusted by. If I may speak in the measured way this book inspires what the fuck is he thinking of, putting this word in italics? Don’t answer that. If you know to ask the question, then you know what the answer is and it isn’t pretty. If you don’t know to ask the question...well, you probably think this book is great. People who aren’t RWA are easily led to water and made to drink, you just have to do it in a slightly different way.


p.30 Here’s another one of my measures, which I call “Posse,” that you may find so ridiculous that you’d say no one would ever buy into it. Humor me, gentle reader.


Oh, my aren’t we preaching to the very converted. Or otherwise intending to influence them to answer in particular ways. This is what one is supposed to answer and, like every such questionnaire in this book to the point I stopped reading, is – oh, let me borrow the author’s word – ridiculous. I’m pretty sure that in saying as I wish to, that I want detailed information on the cults before deciding this, I would be considered to be a right wing fascist pig. So be it:


Suppose the federal government, some time in the future, passed a law outlawing various religious cults. Government officials then stated that the law would only be effective if it were vigorously enforced
at the local level and appealed to everyone to aid in the fight against these cults. Please respond to the following statements according to the following scale:

-4 indicates the statement is extremely untrue of you.
-3 indicates the statement is very untrue of you. etc. to:
+4 indicates the statement is extremely true of you.
1. I would tell my friends and neighbors it was a good law.
2. I would tell the police about any religious cults I knew.
3. If asked by the police, I would help hunt down and arrest members of religious cults.
4. I would participate in attacks on religious cult meeting places if organized by the proper authorities.
5. I would support the use of physical force to make cult members reveal the identity of other cult members.
6. I would support the execution of religious cult leaders if he government insisted it was necessary to protect the country.


And this:


p.61 For them, gay marriage is not just unthinkable on religious grounds, and unnerving because it means making the “abnormal” acceptable. It’s yet one more sign that perversion is corrupting society from the inside-out, leading to total chaos. Many things, from stem cell research to right-to-die legislation, say to them, “This is the last straw; soon we’ll be plunged into the abyss.” So probably did, in earlier times, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, sex education and Sunday shopping.


There are such obvious reasons to be doubtful at the very least, about stem cell research and legalised euthenasia, that to read such a dogmatic opinion that these things are ‘right’ because – what? Small ‘l’ liberals think they are right??? I know. RWA think these things are wrong, THEREFORE, if you are a HPA (do you mind: generic term for people who think they are really different from RWA), you think they are right. Nothing to do with the research you have done, the academic studies you have immersed yourself in.

This is straightforwardly hilarious in that context:


p.98 But the leaders don’t have to worry, because their followers are also quite dogmatic. By dogmatism I mean relatively unchangeable, unjustified certainty. And I’m certain that is right, beyond a doubt. So that establishes how dogmatic I am. If you want a hint as to how dogmatic you are, simply answer the items below—completely ignoring the fact that if you strongly agree with them it means you are a rigid, dogmatic, and totally bad, bad, bad person… It’s easy to see why authoritarian followers would be dogmatic, isn’t it? When you haven’t figured out your beliefs, but instead absorbed them from other people, you’re really in no position to defend them from attack. Simply put, you don’t know why the things you believe are true. Somebody else decided they were, and you’re taking their word for it. So what do you do when challenged? Well first of all you avoid challenges by sticking with your own kind as much as possible, because they’re hardly likely to ask pointed questions about your beliefs. But if you meet someone who does, you’ll probably defend your ideas as best you can, parrying thrusts with whatever answers your authorities have pre-loaded into your head. If these defenses crumble, you may go back to the trusted sources.


I’ve never read anything as blindly dogmatic as this book in my life – yeah, sheltered upbringing. The author isn’t a chance to ever change his mind about anything is my impression from reading this book.

So when he pops in this bit:

p. 95 Before I close this chapter I want to remind us that none of the shortcomings we have discussed is some mysterious illness that only afflicts high RWAs. They just have extra portions of quite common human frailties. The difference in their inability to discover a conclusion is false, in the inconsistency of their ideas, in their use of double standards, and so on are all relative, not absolute. Almost everyone rationalizes, thinks he’s superior, etcetera. When high RWAs condemn “political correctness” and we say they are “kettles calling the pot black,” we should bear in mind the darkness of our own kettle.


it has all the gravitas as a rice bubble for me. He has made it an illness, he has made a mountain out of it.

I came across this today:


Lubos Motl
I have also tried to reverse-engineer their thinking a little bit. In my guess, they decided that there were "circles" in the WMAP picture at the beginning, and then they were trying to find them by slightly more quantitative methods described in the article. http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/11/wha...


It seems to me this is a case in point. This author has a bunch of very fixed ideas which he wanted to measure so that he could convince small ‘l’ liberals, who have a faith in statistics that is mind-boggling – I mean, statistics that suit their beliefs – of the correctness of them. It reminds me of discussing abortion with a couple of people close to me recently. Small ‘l’ liberals, who made some decisions about their beliefs sometime and have never changed. We were looking at pictures that came out a couple of years ago of foetuses at a legally abortionable age: they were doing very live human things, I can’t recall what, exactly. Smiling maybe? Point is that was fuel for the pro-lifers. Quite clearly, in killing these foetuses one is killing something that is a living human being. Now, I can quite see that abortion will continue to be as well as a necessity, a convenience in our society, irrespective of how one defines these foetuses. There’s no getting around the elevation of convenience in a world where we have life styles, not lives.

But boy, were these two viputeratively hostile and belligerent at the idea that these foetuses were ‘human’ or that killing them was the same as if they were a few weeks older…or a few weeks older again. Me, I don’t really understand why we think there is any difference between the high tech convenience of killing them early, compared with the low tech solution in China of killing them (girl thems, I mean in that case) when they are born. We are only quibbling about what makes us feel cozy with what we are doing. But tell that to somebody who is convinced that abortion is different in one week from another and they get pretty mean about it. I sat there listening to them telling me what a great thing abortion was and how much better it would be for children who were orphans and became adopted. Ummm. Huh? I asked a few of my friends who were adopted if it would have been better for them not to have been born and, how’s this for a statistic, 100% of them, even the one who had a childhood he didn’t like, would prefer not to have been aborted.

Which brings me, now that I think of it, to Freaking Economics….review coming a little later in the evening.

In brief: think for yourself. That is the very opposite of what this guy wants you to do.
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Reading Progress

06/11/2011 page 33
13.0% "Am I the only one infuriated by the prejudicial, partial, propagandish nature of this writing? It is plain insulting, and if it transpires that he has good arguments to make, they will be sorely compromised by a writing style which seems more befitting of Fox News than of a supposed-academic. Can I say 'Lord save me?' Without being accused of fundamentalist religious tendencies?" 3 comments

Comments (showing 1-40 of 40) (40 new)

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Whitaker My only serious beef with Altemeyer is that the work has the explanatory weight of astrology personality types. It's a little like, oh, he/she is a RWA, therefore... There is a certain danger of stereotyping--as Ian F's experience shows, once a RWA not always a RWA--and the corollary of that, smug condescension along the lines of, "Oh, what can you expect, these people are like that." His last chapter does go a fair way to redeem these faults though.


message 2: by Manny (last edited Jun 15, 2011 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Heck, I'll even give you a vote!

Okay, I understand the nature of your criticism, and I'm not saying it's groundless. But before you write him off completely, please consider the following points:

1. Bowing, etc. He's not saying there's anything wrong with bowing. He's just saying that a tendency to bow is one of the things that correlates with a high RWA score. I don't find that hard to believe, and I would say as much for the majority of the things he says correlate with high RWA.

Are you saying you doubt him when he claims to have found these correlations? Some of his evidence, like the role-playing games, is anecdotal. But a lot of it seems to be based on substantial amounts of data.

2. The core question he's addressing is that of trying to characterize the people who support and lead right-wing authoritarian regimes. He's done a fair amount of research and come up with some reasonably plausible theories. He isn't claiming to have the final answer here, just that it's in this general direction.

Again, are you saying that you think a different kind of person tends to become a blind supporter of an authoritarian leader? If so, what type of person do you think is more likely? Or do you think that anyone is equally likely to fit this role, and if so why?


message 3: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 15, 2011 09:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker NGE, I get where you’re coming from, and to a qualified extent I agree. But this is to ask something from this book that it was never intended to be.

Altemeyer is unapologetically upfront about his motivations for writing the book:
“...to present the case in this book that the greatest threat to American democracy today arises from a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation.”
He is also upfront about the fact that he’s not writing something that is intended to have the same level of rigour of an academic review:
“I am going to tell you about my research on authoritarianism, but I am not going to give the kind of technical scientific report I lay on other scientists.”
This is a guy whose research and whose view of current affairs has worried him substantially, and is banging the drum about a cause. It’s not intended to be impartial, and it’s clear that he’s seeking to gather momentum for a movement.

Within the context of that cause, he’s willing to concede that blind mulish followers are not limited to conservative Christians but cross the political spectrum:
“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.”

“You could have left-wing authoritarian followers as well, who support a revolutionary leader who wants to overthrow the establishment.”
However, because he’s essentially a person with a cause to trumpet, he chooses not to discuss the behaviour of those who are left-wing radicals. I’ve tried to be more balanced in my own review, but I think to berate him for this is to miss the point. He’s not seeking to convince people of the need for them to be more reasonable and open to different points of view; he’s trying to convince people that there is a certain element in the US that is not going ever to be won over by reasonable argumentation, and that this is a movement that is organised and strong.

It might be better as a best practice if he were more impartial. But, as a political/practical point, radical left-wingers as a movement have since the Reagan/Thatcher years been pretty much discredited and have little to no support in society to speak of. Seeking to beat up on them is like, well, stomping on an ant.

On the other hand, right-wing conservatism, at least around the time of Bush-bis, was waxing strongly. Currently, if the US enters a deep recession—which looks likely—I think that there is a good chance that it will gain ground again. Currently, even after the Obama administration released Obama’s long-form hard copy birth certificate—a feat that required the Hawaii administration officials to bend the laws of the state—20% of Republicans still believe that Obama was not born in America. And currently, these same people still believe that there were nuclear weapons in Iraq.

This is all bewildering especially if you are one of those who believes that all it takes in a democracy for good sense to win the day is open debate with impartial weighing of facts and evidence. Altemeyer is addressing those people; he’s saying, "Not gonna happen." I, for one, don’t believe that people are rational and reasonable; we let our reptilian brains rule our actions more often than not. So, for those people who think that all it will take is a nice, reasonable chat over a cup of tea (or a game of golf such as that to be played between Obama and Boehner) to iron out differences in views, I think Altemeyer’s book is nice little kick in the butt. That’s what his agenda is, and on that basis, I think he does a pretty good job of it.


message 4: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 15, 2011 09:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker BTW, on a separate but related note, does anyone have any idea how democracies should deal with rising radical politicians? Say, a politician--as happens in some countries--whose platform of ethnic hate resonates with the majority. Or a politician whose platform is religious chauvinism. Should a democracy allow this to happen even if the end result is genocide on the basis that the people deserve to get what they vote in? I'm curious. I've never heard a satisfactory practical response. It seems to be one of those things that democracy is inherently incapable of dealing with.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "NGE, I get where you’re coming from, and to a qualified extent I agree. But this is to ask something from this book that it was never intended to be.

Altemeyer is unapologetically upfront about..."


I'm sorry, I can't see how being unapologetically upfront helps. Sarah Palin and Fox commentary are as well.

He’s not seeking to convince people of the need for them to be more reasonable and open to different points of view; he’s trying to convince people that there is a certain element in the US that is not going ever to be won over by reasonable argumentation, and that this is a movement that is organised and strong.

It might be better as a best practice if he were more impartial. But, as a political/practical point, radical left-wingers as a movement have since the Reagan/Thatcher years been pretty much discredited and have little to no support in society to speak of. Seeking to beat up on them is like, well, stomping on an ant.


It is the small 'l' liberals I want to take to task, ie the people this guy doesn't have to convert, but nonetheless speaks to. For him to say, for example, that RWAs will be against legalised euthanasia just like they would have been against Sunday shopping, should be utterly offensive to anybody who reads it. It should be offensive not because RWAs would have been for or against women's equality, for example, but because it is completely fucking ignorant and unreasonable or, more chillingly, deliberate, to make people think if they question euthanasia, that this means they are some sort of dumb ignorant right wing thugs.

But small 'l' left wing liberals do think it would be best if they could shop on Sundays and that being against this idea is sorta fascist and they do think that euthanasia is a no-brainer. Sic.

Ditto stem cell research. I don't understand how one can consider oneself a member of the human race and not have deep misgivings about issues like this, abortion, euthanasia. But for small 'l' liberals all these decisions are about making their life style more convenient. You are all part of a club which pats this guy on the back as you figure out who to bump off next to make your own life more convenient.

We live in a world where we are ludicrously trying to extend the natural life span of people, while frantically trying to undo that by legislating the killing of people who aren't quite coming up to scratch, whether at the unborn stage or the end one. Don't tell me that legalising euthanasia won't end up with chilling consequences. I don't want to have to say later that I told you so.

The implication of what you are saying, that it is all about some people who are never going to be won over by reasonable argument, that this is very straightforwardly something that could be applied equally well to the small 'l' liberal.

Nothing will ever change my friends' views on abortion. They are cast in stone. They are not even willing to open their minds to the very obvious argument that it is all killing human beings and that we are only quibbling about when. The Chinese wait until they can take a look and make an educated decision. Small 'l' liberals have the technology to be able to decide that early on, thus convincing themselves that they are doing something qualitatively different.

To me they are either as dumb or as hypocritical as the others and I find this disappointing as I expect them to be better.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "BTW, on a separate but related note, does anyone have any idea how democracies should deal with rising radical politicians? Say, a politician--as happens in some countries--whose platform of ethnic hate resonates with the majority. Or a politician whose platform is religious chauvinism. Should a democracy allow this to happen even if the end result is genocide on the basis that the people deserve to get what they vote in? I'm curious. I've never heard a satisfactory practical response. It seems to be one of those things that democracy is inherently incapable of dealing with. "

(1) As Plato pointed out, democracy only works if everybody has enough. It doesn't have to be equal, but near enough for people not to be fussed. That is why democracy is a failed institution in most of the world, including America where so much of the population lives in 3rd world conditions.

(2) It is the plight of the small 'l' liberal. He is somebody who thinks the important thing is not to judge and by doing so has no need to take responsibility. But, of course, that means a world of contradictions where he can't actually meaningfully partake. In being tolerant, for example of other cultures and religions, that means that the small 'l' liberal is forever having to condone things that would otherwise be unconscionable. I once read a particularly well-rendered account of how this makes the small 'l' liberal incapable of meaningful action. No idea where, unfortunately.

I wish I had a better answer, but I think Plato nailed it.


Manny !!!

As Plato pointed out, democracy only works if everybody has enough. It doesn't have to be equal, but near enough for people not to be fussed. That is why democracy is a failed institution in most of the world, including America where so much of the population lives in 3rd world conditions.

Weren't you just quoting Angell to the effect that there was absolutely enough to go around, but it wasn't being divided equitably?

And as for the US, surely this is putting the cart before the horse. As has been pointed out ad nauseam, the US are taking far more than their slice of the global pie. The country is so unequal because democracy isn't working, not the reverse.

It is the plight of the small 'l' liberal. He is somebody who thinks the important thing is not to judge and by doing so has no need to take responsibility. But, of course, that means a world of contradictions where he can't actually meaningfully partake. In being tolerant, for example of other cultures and religions, that means that the small 'l' liberal is forever having to condone things that would otherwise be unconscionable. I once read a particularly well-rendered account of how this makes the small 'l' liberal incapable of meaningful action.

But then how do you explain the success of people who campaigned for the abolition of slavery and child labor, votes for women, a minimum wage, universal health care, the removal of the death penalty, etc? Surely at least some of these achievements were primarily due to liberals?


Manny It is the small 'l' liberals I want to take to task, ie the people this guy doesn't have to convert, but nonetheless speaks to. For him to say, for example, that RWAs will be against legalised euthanasia just like they would have been against Sunday shopping, should be utterly offensive to anybody who reads it. It should be offensive not because RWAs would have been for or against women's equality, for example, but because it is completely fucking ignorant and unreasonable or, more chillingly, deliberate, to make people think if they question euthanasia, that this means they are some sort of dumb ignorant right wing thugs.

Well, I don't think that's a valid argument either. But I would say you're arguing against fairly unimportant and incidental statements made in the book, not the core message. You never replied to my post #2...


notgettingenough Manny wrote: "!!!

As Plato pointed out, democracy only works if everybody has enough. It doesn't have to be equal, but near enough for people not to be fussed. That is why democracy is a failed institution in m..."


By everybody having enough, I didn't mean there isn't enough, I mean everybody doesn't have enough. The US is a case in point. There is no material reason why a large percentage of the population live in third world conditions. It isn't because the US doesn't have enough. But it makes democracy unworkable for obvious reasons.


notgettingenough Manny wrote: "It is the small 'l' liberals I want to take to task, ie the people this guy doesn't have to convert, but nonetheless speaks to. For him to say, for example, that RWAs will be against legalised euth..."

These are not unimportant, incidental statements. They absolutely go to the heart of the matter, which is that this author thinks a whole heap of things are natural facts of life and people who disagree are deficient thugs whose idea of fun is beating up on women and children. He propagandises this in his statements, so that by the time you get to what I'm told is a reasonable, measured ending, he has already forced you into a way of thinking by making sure you've been pummelled into the idea that if you disagree you are a scumbag.


notgettingenough Manny wrote: "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Heck, I'll even give you a vote!

Okay, I understand the nature of your criticism, and I'm not saying it's groundl..."


I'm saying I am not giving any credence to a book written in the way this one is. If he wrote in a measure reasoned way with good facts and data, maybe. As it is this is a hysterical rant, which I would no more respect than a right wing version of the same.

The difference between me and the other people who have read this, is that as far as I can tell you all think it is acceptable to behave like this person is, because you agree with what he is saying, whereas if a right wing person with a cause behaved the same way, you'd feel quite differently.

And I believe you are quite wrong. I believe he DOES consider there is something wrong with bowing. He wouldn't have otherwise expressed it as he did. He has a whole lot of opinions about what makes a person good: he likes to shop on Sundays, he doesn't bow, he doesn't believe in God, he believes in state approved killing of people as long as it's called euthanasia.

If I read something academic he wrote, maybe I'd have a different opinion of the worth of reading this, but when I looked online, I couldn't find anything. I mean, only those academic articles where one has to pay $30 to look at it.


message 12: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 16, 2011 07:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "He propagandises this in his statements, so that by the time you get to what I'm told is a reasonable, measured ending, he has already forced you into a way of thinking by making sure you've been pummelled into the idea that if you disagree you are a scumbag."

Er, I don't actually read his statements (i.e., he likes to shop on Sundays, he doesn't bow, he doesn't believe in God, he believes in state approved killing of people as long as it's called euthanasia) as being the core of his work. I don't agree with all of those statements, and I certainly did't feel browbeaten or obliged to agree with them by what he was saying.

I also don't think that he was in anyway saying that left-wing blind fanaticism is any more acceptable than right-wing blind fanaticism. I felt that his view was that they were both wrong. But you clearly read him differently.

I've read stuff by liberals that I've found extremist and illogical--see my reviews of The Shock Doctrine and Unequal Protection for example. I never, at any time reading him, felt that Altemeyer was anywhere close to that. So, clearly we had very different reactions to the book, so okay. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "He propagandises this in his statements, so that by the time you get to what I'm told is a reasonable, measured ending, he has already forced you into a way of thinking by ..."

It isn't that it's the core of his work, that's sort of the point. Incidentally he besmirches some ideas, so that it helps create an environment where you will agree with his big ideas because he already has you onside. Hey, you agree with Sunday shopping don't you? Well, yeah. So therefore....

I don't understand why you guys can't see this and can't see that it is insidious. There are three types of readers here. The ones who read it, know what it is and don't care, as you said, it's your type of propaganda; the ones who aren't bright enough to even know it's going on....and me.


message 14: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 16, 2011 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "I don't understand why you guys can't see this and can't see that it is insidious."

I am lawyer by training, so of course, I have no problems with people using rhetoric. (Plus I'm trained to spot it--I might point out that your last statement shows pretty good use of rhetorical tools.) :-)

Ultimately, I think the worth of an argument or position needs to be evaluated without regard to the rhetoric used to sell it. But hey, enough of this. I came across this from another GR review, and thought it both pertinent and interesting:
http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_hai...

If you have some time, check it out.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "I don't understand why you guys can't see this and can't see that it is insidious."

I am lawyer by training. I have no problems with people using rhetoric. (Plus I'm train..."


Being a bookseller means I have lots of time on my hands now.

But already as I listen, I am stumped. He defines LW as people who like change in society, RW as people who don't. But if that were the case, RW people would want things to stay as they are, and LW wouldn't be freaked out at the idea that things might change if the RW people get into office.

In fact LW people like changes as long as they are changes they like. RW people like changes too. As long as they are changes they like. But LW people sit there watching this guy and having some sense of moral superiority that I find rather repugnant.

Excuse me, I'll go back to watching.


notgettingenough Listened to it twice now. It certainly fits into the theme.


notgettingenough Is it worthy of mentioning, that the guy states exactly the same as Plato. Democracy only works if you have a large middle class and most people have enough.


message 18: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 16, 2011 10:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "Is it worthy of mentioning, that the guy states exactly the same as Plato. Democracy only works if you have a large middle class and most people have enough."

Well, that's something you don't have to convince me about. Singapore's a classic example of grow the middle class first: we're now starting to see the first real stirrings of political engagement.

Of course, the seeds of its destruction are not far behind as inequality is also slowly starting to grow. But it'll be a good couple of generations away before it starts to really kick in.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "Is it worthy of mentioning, that the guy states exactly the same as Plato. Democracy only works if you have a large middle class and most people have enough."

Well, that..."


One of the things that I don't understand about the Authoritarians following on goodreads is they seem to have no sense of history. Nothing is immutable. Everything is cyclical. From very bad situations democracy grows. Eventually we all forget why it was important to have fairness and democracies start to become the root of their own failure.

Australia is like Singapore. It is still a flagship for how it should work - not saying it is perfect, but saying that it is as good as a democracy gets. But those things are happening there too. I don't think there used to be ghettoes for wealthy people in Australia the way there are now. It isn't as bad as the US where they are closed fenced in places with guards at the gates - I have stayed at one, I'm not exaggerating. Clean places where poor people aren't allowed. We aren't that bad yet, but we will be.

In my opinion, three things make Australia a superior model.

(1) Compulsory voting. This idea that it is a right, not a duty, as in the UK and the US is bizarre. I find it especially odd that small 'l' liberals think it should be voluntary, even though it has the consequences we see.

(2) The Queen. If you observe the sacking of our government in the mid seventies it was a model of how that works.

(3)Strictly limited amount of time and money spent on elections.

America could do with all of these.


Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "Is it worthy of mentioning, that the guy states exactly the same as Plato. Democracy only works if you have a large middle class and most people have enoug..."

You know what's so interesting to me: we have (1) and (3) too. No (2) though, although we do have a figurehead president.


Manny (1) Compulsory voting. This idea that it is a right, not a duty, as in the UK and the US is bizarre. I find it especially odd that small 'l' liberals think it should be voluntary, even though it has the consequences we see.

In the US, the Republicans have been consistent about making it as hard as possible for people to vote. All the figures show that high voter turnout helps the Democrats.

So I don't see why you think liberals are the ones intent on keeping things the way they are - I would say the opposite is true.


message 22: by notgettingenough (last edited Jun 16, 2011 11:44PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

notgettingenough Manny wrote: "(1) Compulsory voting. This idea that it is a right, not a duty, as in the UK and the US is bizarre. I find it especially odd that small 'l' liberals think it should be voluntary, even though it ha..."

Well, I don't know any religious fundamentalists, so I have to keep this discussion to small 'l' liberals. I am astonished by how I have yet to meet one in England, having discussed this a lot over the last year, who thinks compulsory voting is a good idea.

I've talked to only a few Americans, but they reject the idea too. Again, 'Democrat-voting-types'.

I have an idea they think the idea of compulsory and duty are RW and therefore to be rejected. Is that it?

So absolutely, I think that the left in the US and in the UK is making life harder for themselves by rejecting the idea that voting is a duty not a right.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "Is it worthy of mentioning, that the guy states exactly the same as Plato. Democracy only works if you have a large middle class a..."

Number two intuitively makes one uneasy. Which is why I think the case of Australia is important to take note of. When it came right down to it, the system worked. Labour, which was the deposed government - deposed because Supply was blocked - felt that it didn't work because they lost the subsequent election. But it WAS a democratic decision. The electorate had a clear, civilised option to vote them back in with a workable majority and chose not to.

But despite feeling uneasy about it, the options seem far worse, not having an independent figure who can make that decision if worse comes to worse. Nothing bad can every really happen, even if the decision is seen as wrong. Election follows, the democratic process will have its say.


Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "Well, I don't know any religious fundamentalists"

You really don't know what you're missing. You should try it: it can be a real hoot. There was a young woman in my French class who would fulminate every time the topic of evolution came up and proclaim that evolution is a Big Lie. And every time the topic of the Middle East came up, it would be how Israel belonged to the Jews by Divine Decree so how dare we suggest otherwise. Most illuminating.


message 25: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 16, 2011 11:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker Oh, I mustn't leave out the colleague who innocently said to me, "Oh but you do believe in God right, even if you're not Christian. Because otherwise you'd have no reason to be good." I think if I had told her I'm a devout atheist, she would've had conniptions and started avoiding me like the plague. Chortle!


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "Well, I don't know any religious fundamentalists"

You really don't know what you're missing. You should try it: it can be a real hoot. There was a young woman in my Fren..."


Maybe. You see, I found the comfy, cosy, aren't we better than the people who eat at the wrong restaurant audience in that video you got me to watch repugnant.

I do recall going to seminars in Adelaide Uni where there was a girl doing a PhD on something that small 'l' liberals refuse to acknowlege is acceptable to even think about. I'm so sorry I can't remember what it was. At the time I was not an independent enough thinker to be open-minded enough to listen to her.

I felt dreadfully sorry, however, when she presented her paper as she was treated in the most disdainful manner - I want to say treated like shit - by the small 'l' libs who really think they can treat anybody who doesn't think their way like that. They are incredibly close minded to ideas that don't fit into what they have learned to think.

I find goodreads a great example. Just as I have copped a lot of bizarre abuse from HPAs, so too if I ever write anything about, let's say, the possibility that women are sexist, people will go so far as to retract their friendship. How odd is that. They can't stand the idea of somebody saying something that isn't in agreement with them. I was only a friend if I was like minded.

Brings back that point made in the TED thing about diversity being important. But small 'l' liberals are really only interested in diversity they agree with. They are their own worst enemy and because they aren't willing to examine themselves honestly, they instead blame everything on the Other Side.

I KNOW I'm generalising. You and Manny are both small 'l' libs, as far as I can tell and both of you are still talking to me!


message 27: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 17, 2011 01:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker NGE wrote, "You see, I found the comfy, cosy, aren't we better than the people who eat at the wrong restaurant audience in that video you got me to watch repugnant."

Well, yes, they are. Unfortunately, there're self-satisfied smug prigs across the political spectrum. And they are often wilfully blind and uncompromising to boot. In this respect, the left, of course, are no less guilty than the right: the French intellectual left for years denied the occurrence of Stalin's purges, animal rights groups feel that they have a right to cause bodily harm to scientists, etc.

Nevertheless, don't you think that as a political force, the left is spent and bankrupt? If you look at UK/Europe, the socialists have been out of power and, despite the anger against the right, have been unable to get their act together long enough to present a coherent platform. And in terms of their economic agenda, they might as well be the right. And it's frightening how the far-right (BNP in the UK, Le Pen in France) are seeing rises in their vote share.

In other areas, environmentalists can't get much headway about climate change; poverty and hunger are on the rise; capitalists are running rampant. Perhaps it's just the pendulum swinging the other way; perhaps it's because so much of what the left was fighting for has been achieved so there's nothing left but the marginal issues. But, you know, it worries me. Does it not worry you?


notgettingenough And the real biggie. Of course we were all appalled as we watched the result unfolding of the Gore-Bush election of 2000. It goes without saying that it was a travesty. One might expect, if it had happened in some other country that the US might invade to restore the integrity of the democratic process. If, that is, it was a left wing group that had hijacked the democratic process, not a right wing one....

But the thing that stuck out for me is that small 'l' liberals, wrung their hands and DID nothing. It is impossible not to compare it with Ukraine four years later, where people stood in the street and waited and waited and waited until the principle of democracy was upheld. It was cold. It was dangerous. But they did it.

I don't understand why Americans didn't come out in force in that way. Stand and wait. It was warm. It was safe. Bottom line is, they couldn't be fucked. Now I don't know what I would do in that situation as I am part of a country that has never had a profound corruption of the democractic process. Would I have stood in the square and waited until I got my way? I hope so. My point is merely that isn't a right, it's a duty and American Gore voters didn't do it en masse as they should have.

I dare say there should be other better solutions to that situation, but while the liberals sit and complain about the Other Side while laughing in a superior way at the restaurants the Other Side frequents (TED), I am not satisfied that they are doing anywhere near enough to be able to absolve themselves of blame.

How many times does one have to say, it is either a democracy....or it isn't. To live in a democracy but take no responsibility for how things are is not right.


notgettingenough This is something I hadn't realised until spending last year in the UK. I hadn't realised that its philosophy on the labour force is pretty much the same as the US's: don't pay people living wages.

One thing Australia has in common with the stolid democracy of Switzerland is that people are paid decent wages. Yet Switzerland does not have compulsory voting, so although my first inclination was to suggest there was a link here, maybe there isn't.


message 30: by Whitaker (last edited Jun 17, 2011 03:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Whitaker Hmmm... I think I see where you are coming from. It's a little like the "don't point out the splinter in your neighbour's eye until you have taken out the log from your own" (I've always found that a most disturbing image). So, you think that rather than criticise right-wing conservatives, the left would do better to organise itself to promote its agenda better. And accordingly, if there has been a tilt towards the right, this has been as much the fault of a left-wing movement that has no fire in its soul anymore, and that it should take responsibility for that rather than pointing fingers at others.

Added later: I can kinda get behind that. Certainly, I think the left should stop attacking each other. It might help.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "Hmmm... I think I see where you are coming from. It's a little like the "don't point out the splinter in your neighbour's eye until you have taken out the log from your own" (I've always found that..."

Yes, I do think that. Small 'l' liberals think they can sit back, watch it all happen and blame it on others. Case in point is your comment on monopoly in the world food market on Manny's review of Unequal Protection, followed by a comment by somebody: 'God, how depressing'.

But the reason why this happens is because our society lets it happen. PEOPLE let it happen. Every time you shop at the supermarket, every time you order from Amazon, you are making a decision that it is better to have food, books, writing, everything dominated by monopolies because it makes things a bit cheaper and easier. A bit more time to sit in front of your home entertainment system.

In Melbourne I lived in an area full of small 'l' liberals who to a man built their houses up and chopped down all their trees to make extensions so they could have outdoor spas and bigger TVs. That IS small 'l' liberals. I'm not saying they shouldn't live like that. I'm saying for fuck's sake don't live like that AND wring your hands and act like you care.

I'm saying DON'T make some major moral judgment about how far you are from The Other Side. The distance isn't as big as you think.

The more so since it is very easy to do something about this. You STOP supporting monopolies, stop buying market food from supermarkets, buy a book from a bookshop, a record from a record shop. Go to the cinema and save the independent cinemas instead of ordering your movies from Amazon and making popcorn in your environmentally energy saving popcorn machine.

The world is what we have made it. And if small 'l' liberals think they can absolve themselves from that fact by voting for 'left wing' politicians who they know are lying even as they cast their votes, I'm sorry, I for one am not accepting that....though I have had no success in getting anybody to do anything about changing their patterns of behaviour.


notgettingenough I'm not sure if this is an experience some people have but not others. Maybe most people are very stratified into living in ghettoes and associating with their like minded comrades.

Once upon a time, the world was divided geographically. World War Two was the last big example of what happens then. But one of the amazing things the internet has achieved as well as much better transport, is that our communities are no longer geographical, they are specialist. And because of that, geographical lines with all they tend to entail - racial and cultural delineations - are transcended.

Even at a local level before the internet we all have some experience of that. We are in an orchestra, we play a sport. But that has now become the major sense of community we have, rather than an adjunct.

In my opinion this is a powerful force for unity and understanding. I find it very hard to imagine another WWII happening, for example, or governments of a totalitarian nature being able to establish themselves, or, indeed to hold on to what they have.


Manny very easy to do something about this. You STOP supporting monopolies, stop buying market food from supermarkets, buy a book from a bookshop, a record from a record shop. Go to the cinema and save the independent cinemas instead of ordering your movies from Amazon and making popcorn in your environmentally energy saving popcorn machine.

You are morally obliged to check out Joel's review of Stuff White People Like. Make sure you try at least some of the links. Warning: might make you laugh.


Whitaker notgettingenough wrote: "But the reason why this happens is because our society lets it happen. PEOPLE let it happen. Every time you shop at the supermarket, every time you order from Amazon, you are making a decision that it is better to have food, books, writing, everything dominated by monopolies because it makes things a bit cheaper and easier."

Exactly. It's when people in developed countries buy from giant superstores and mob cheap fashion stores, but then complain that all the manufacturing jobs have gone to China. Odd that they don't make the link between one and the other.


notgettingenough Whitaker wrote: "notgettingenough wrote: "But the reason why this happens is because our society lets it happen. PEOPLE let it happen. Every time you shop at the supermarket, every time you order from Amazon, you a..."

But more than that, the people who think they are living the good life, the ones who Manny links to in the comment above, they do whatever suits them while apparently managing to kid themselves.

EG a friend visited recently, looked in the wastepaper basket, lecture ensured about what should be done with the battery she noticed. But buys coffee machine for home - I mean, what's that all about? Goes on long airplane trips for fun.

When Manny reviewed McKay's climate book ages ago, a discussion ensued which was absolutely typical of the discussion small 'l' libs have about this stuff, acting like they care, but actually willing to do fuck all.

When I raised the point that there were many groups in society now who didn't have to meet up physically any more: chess, bridge and academic conferences are all unnecessary and environmentally damaging, not one person was prepared to say they would give up the thing they wanted to do. Nobody was willing to have cold showers. The facile argument the if the other people aren't, what is the point?

What bothers me most is not that they vote for liars and treat the environment as they please, but that they have the gall to make moral judgments about others and behave like if they stop using plastic bags, they've pretty much done their bit.


notgettingenough Manny wrote: "very easy to do something about this. You STOP supporting monopolies, stop buying market food from supermarkets, buy a book from a bookshop, a record from a record shop. Go to the cinema and save t..."

Yes, I did already know about this site. The amazing thing about small 'l' liberals is they can read a site like that, see that it IS them being talked about and yet, it doesn't change their behaviour in the least. I find that quite a remarkable trait of this group and I find it very difficult to associate with the idea that they embrace change in any meaningful way.


notgettingenough Something I wrote for a blog I had a while ago:

Where I live.

The people where I live had to find some way of caring for the environment. They still needed their UAVs, and it was just too hard to part with their trips to environmentally threatened parts of the world. We are the good people. We are the people most deserving to be the last people to see Antarctica.

Ah, they thought, as they came up with a viable idea. We could give up plastic bags.

Thus was born the idea of demonising plastic bags. We will make them look SO bad, that giving them up will be an important act of environmental responsibility.





We have done our bit. It wasn't so hard, was it?

(Cartoon from Prospect)


message 38: by Dean (new)

Dean I quote "Warning: I could only bear to read about the first 50 pages of this in depth. The rest I skimmed through..." and then you enter into a diatribe complaining about points that the author actually addresses in various notes. The fact is, this book was written *specifically* as a light-weight version of his research, because the vast majority of people are unwilling, or incapable, of wading through dry, boring research data. Therefore, John Dean convinced him to write this one so the average person might be introduced to it. Note that this is serious and well respected research that has been done since the 1950's, by numerous psychologists and social scientists. Mr. Altemeyer has 'refined' it, if you will - but he is *not* the only researcher looking at this - and there are other fields of study that corroborate many of the conclusions in this book about a percentage of the population having certain tendencies. On the other hand, you are doing exactly what he states - you have a preconceived notion of 'how people are' and no matter what evidence is provided you will simply wave it aside because you don't like it. Thank you so much for proving the point that this book makes.


message 39: by notgettingenough (last edited Aug 17, 2012 09:14AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

notgettingenough Dean wrote: " On the other hand, you are doing exactly what he states - you have a preconceived notion of 'how people are' and no matter what evidence is provided you will simply wave it aside because you don't like it. Thank you so much for proving the point that this book makes."

There is something not stacking up here. You explain that he doesn't give evidence because people find that boring. Then you say that any amount of evidence will not convince me personally. You can't actually have that cake and eat it. We seem to be in agreement that the book is lacking in evidence. So, your conclusion about me is somewhat unfounded, I think we can conclude.


message 40: by Nominalt (new)

Nominalt I like your review, because it shows what everyone should have: critical eyes.

But you are barking up the wrong tree: if you think it's lacking evidence, then you're no longer just a novice wanting an introduction, which this book professes to be, and you should contact the author as well as the social scientists who have done work based on this RWA scale (which, I was surprised to find, has its own page on Wikipedia along with criticisms, the first part that, ironically, any low RWAs would first jump to). Ultimately though, a book that doesn't jump into charts and numbers HELPS in popularizing technical findings.

You used the phrase "small l liberal" liberally and repeatedly, which did not help your case because only a certain kind of people would use such words unironically. Well rest assured, anyone, left or right, is welcome to be a RWA, and statistical anomalies mean that, yes, even if you are a RWA, you're not always trying to undermine democracy. Ultimately without jumping into real data, you, or anyone, would be quite irrefutable in saying "small l liberals" are "thugs" and "idiots". Good thing we have universities, records, journals, and emails that you could use to contact these offensive social scientists.


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