Why call them Right Wing Authoritarians?

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Jonathan Swift

Mar 20, 2007, 8:05:40 AM3/20/07
to The Authoritarians
I've been hanging out on some right wing blogs, trying to gain their
trust while challenging their point of view rather gently. I've got
some of them to read about the Milgram experiment and they seem to be
absorbing that lesson fairly well since it is basically non political.

I would like to direct some of those right wingers to read The
Authoritarians but I know that they will immediately be put off by the
term "Right Wing Authoritarians" and will simply ignore anything else
they might happen to read if they even bother to read any further.

My point is that "Right Wing Authoritarians" is a poor choice of
terminology if one truly wishes any right wingers to read and
understand the material. Not all right wingers are high RWAs but there
is not an iota of doubt in my mind that they will be immediately
turned off by that terminology.


Mar 21, 2007, 9:02:13 PM3/21/07
to The Authoritarians
I was going to ask this question as well, but with a different angle
in mind. My question is probably better phrased as: What is the
difference between "Right Wing Authoritarianism" and
"Authoritarianism" in general? On Issuepedia, I've taken to calling
authoritarianism, in the <i>The Authoritarians</i> sense, the "<a
mindset</a>", of which the two major subtypes (as described by Dr. Bob
in <i>TA</i>) are called "authoritarian follower" and "authoritarian

So... am I risking causing confusion between the TA-sense of those
terms (where they are called "Right-Wing...") and alternate usages or
understandings of these phrases? I understand the derivation of the
"Right Wing" part of the terminology, but I'm trying to understand if
it's really a necessary distinction.



Mar 21, 2007, 9:03:58 PM3/21/07
to The Authoritarians
Bah... GoogleGroups doesn't do HTML. I was afraid of that, but there's
no preview... Sorry for the mangledness.

Dr. Bob

Mar 24, 2007, 12:04:56 PM3/24/07
to The Authoritarians

On Mar 21, 8:03 pm, "woozle" <wooza...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Bah... GoogleGroups doesn't do HTML. I was afraid of that, but there's
> no preview... Sorry for the mangledness.

The question bears a certain irony. "Authoritarianism"--from the
follower perspective--involves a high degree of submission to some
authority. From the start (early 1970s, after I had untangled the F
Scale, response set issue) I called the construct I was exploring
right-wing authoritarianism so that there would be room for left-wing
authoritarianism, if one could find that too. Mind you--as you both
understand--I never meant "right-wing" in a political/economic sense,
but in the sense of an orientation of submission to established
authority. But if I had called the construct just "authoritarianism,"
or "the authoritarian personality" I would have been saying that
submission to established authority was the only conceivable kind of
authority--and that WOULD have been unfair and unjustifiable. (Nevitt
Sanford and his associates who wrote "The Authoritarian Personality"
in 1950 made exactly that mistake, and were given a good shaking for
it by critics who said, "What about the authoritarian on the left?")
So "right-wingers" may be upset that the book is about right-wing
authoritarians, and they may be incensed and immediately turned off by
the modifier, "right-wing," but I think it's necessary so we can
distinguish it from left-wing authoritarianism. If the RWA scale were
called the Authoritarianism scale instead, the right-wingers would
very quickly (and correctly) say it is measuring just right-wing

The question is interesting to me from another perspective. Suppose I
had succeeded in finding a way to measure left-wing authoritarianism,
and then found big clumps of left-wing authoritarians among New
Democrats in Canada and liberal Democrats in the USA. What would be
the prototypical response of those groups? From the experiment I did
on defensiveness when confronted with bad news about themselves (the
fake self-esteem scores), as well as the general results with the
dogmatism scale and various other measures of openness to new ideas,
I'd say the ordinary "liberal" would want to see the data and judge
how strong the case was. I'm not saying they would be completely
nondefensive, totally open to persuasion, and so on. But it does seem
clear they would be less likely to reject the conclusion before they
saw the evidence. My experience so far in dealing with high RWAs is
that they definitely do not want to see the evidence. (And of course
we know that if they do see the evidence, they think it's about
somebody else.)

So my good friend Robert, as you most admirably try to get
"conservatives" engaged in the book, I don't think it will ultimately
make much difference what the scale or construct is named. But I'll
bet your efforts will pay off more if you try to engage moderates, who
might prove most open to what the research says.

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