Religious Authoritarians I

By M.K. Styllinski

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”

Sinclair Lewis


Guns, movies, fast-food, cheerleaders, the Super-Bowl, Disney and democracy might be some of things that first come to mind when you think of America. Religion and conservatism may be other keywords. What about fascism and authoritarianism? How many of us would think that the last four descriptors are gateways into perhaps the most important socio-cultural and geo-political shifts taking place in the US in its relatively short history? Well, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to notice the huge shifts in American society away from principles of a Republic let alone a perceived democracy. The evolution (or devolution) of the United States has drastic implications for every one of us, regardless of our geographical locations.

Some would think fascism – or Eternal Fascism as Umberto Eco preferred to call it – has long since been left for the historians to ponder and for us to thank our lucky stars that we are no longer part of the original rip-tide. Some would say that this perception has largely been buried in the emotional refuse tips of our tragic past. The problem is, past events are never really buried or forgotten. “Past is prologue.” We either learn to recognise the shoots of extremism or we choose to ignore them once again. By doing the latter we ensure that the old dark ways that led to the manifestations of our collective imbalance are unearthed, brushed off and given a fresh new lick of paint from the propaganda can. We ensure that they return stronger than ever with the power of technological advances gained from the innovations of war and the ever booming arms trade.

The result of the Second World War was over 65 million dead and millions more wounded; children orphaned; families broken up and generations left to cope with undiagnosed and endemic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The irony is, after such intense suffering, and with the healing balm of time attending to these wounds, the immediacy of the slaughter no longer shocks us. The Brave New World of an emerging Technocracy has dulled our critical faculties and heightened the need to escape; to forget the reasons why such evil manifested and why the Hysteriodal Cycle is coursing up through the our collective roots once again.

Much has been written on the possibility that The United States of America has succumbed to an irreversible form of fascism. It is an emotive word. We think of jackboots, Hitler’s speeches at Nuremberg, the concentration camps and the infamous swastika flag. Theories as to why such extremism has nestled its way into seemingly democratic structures have been thrashed out, discussed and debated; seemingly watertight beliefs and academic comfort zones have been erected to ensure such a mind-set could never return. Yet, it is surely evident that the desire to control and subdue sentient life by a trenchant minority could never have died. Indeed, there was no “return” to Nazism as it never went away, it merely adapted and clothed itself in new labels and ideological forms taking advantage of already established pathological channels laid down decades before.

Many of the architects of the Bush administration bulldozed their way to power on the platform of Project for the New American Century a Neo-Conservative blueprint for distinctly American-Zionist control. [1] The 9/11 attacks fit snugly into their overall game-plan for perpetual war, with the “war on terror” acting as a pretext for the needed climate of fear. But Neo-Conservatism was merely one strain in the ponerogenesis of the US socio-economic model that has proved convenient. While Neo-Con hawks were used to push through the Invasion of Iraq, religious authoritarianism has simply jumped onto to the next available grouping in government. So grave is the pathological dominance in the US administration it matters little who holds the reins of power. Be it Republican or Democrat, the American political system is broken and it is beyond repair. Perhaps it was always designed to fail.

george_w_bushObama12Marketing puppets has never been easier

Of course, the Neo-Conservatives are only one facet of an socio-political canker which gives rise to progressively extreme forms of social domination. Think tanks, occult groupings and various forms of social engineering sourced from a Conservative, Liberal and Zionist Establishment are all seeking to wage war on the normal man and woman, albeit  employing differing geo-political strategies. What they all have in common is psychopaths in power attempting to extract piecemeal, the soul of normal humanity – the recurrent psychophagic stratagem.

The roots of American fascism and their manifestations are complex but they follow recognisable patterns of emergence. The time-honoured practice of pathogenic infection demands a suitable platform of social unrest on which to ferment its ideas and mimic the original good intentions of its targeted host. Elaborate theories and seminal justifications are clothed with corporate suits and dignified by official titles and boardroom meetings. It takes time, effort and persistence; it requires the creation of conditions through which the spark of justification can be lit amid a tinderbox of future possibilities. The United States of America has now carved out such a role for itself.

It would be foolish to think that George W. Bush had the mental wherewithal to actually embody the presidential traits that we wistfully longed for. It is even more foolish to think that after such a caricature,  the “Hope and Change” marketing of Obamamania and its Nuremberg rallies of wilful blindness could ever deliver the goods. For many at the time there was a sense that maybe … just maybe he could light the blue touch paper that could lead to an illumination rather than a decimation of inner values. But it was not to be. True to wishful thinking and hi-tec propaganda a sizable proportion of the American electorate even now, still believe that Obama will eventually turn the country around. A tall order for any politician but an impossible for one who hasn’t keep any of his many promises  and even worse, has extended the Bush Reich legacy in ways undreamt of. Obama, like Bush, serves corporate interests and corporatism is inextricably bound to the erosion of civil liberties and the dominance of cartel capitalism.

Psychologists from National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, came to some unexpected conclusions – at least for the Neo-Conservative congressman and officials –  with their extensive research paper titled: “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” The report, which cost $1.2m in public funds, found that “conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in ‘fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity’.” The authors stated that many proponents of conservatism from the past and present all: “preached a return to an idealised past and condoned inequality” The document linked Hitler, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and the right-wing talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, as all suffering from the same “affliction.” Bush Jr. himself was cited as a textbook case in which his moral certainty, dislike of nuance: “… can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic clichés and stereotypes.” [2]

Similarly, there is the threat of what has been called inverted totalitarianism where the likes of Obama supporters and so-called “progressive” liberals of the left can unwittingly contribute to the formation of a “soft” dictatorship due to a highly subjective and juvenile rendering of reality. This is a wide open door to psychopathy and their toxic influences. It doesn’t matter if you are pushing a socialist dream or a conservative ideal or even a mixture of the two, both visions have been and will be used to supply the psychophagic supply for social dominance. Indeed, the discourse of disbelief serves to speed their manifestation. It is no coincidence that religious fanaticism underlies most of the current lines of high-level psychopathy in the country. It has encompassed a history of fear and social control over which the State and Church have presided. Keep in mind the nature of political ponerology as we look at authoritarianism, and those predisposed to follow it. In the next few posts we will look at some of the effects of this authoritarianism in the context of religion and conservative politics.

In 2006, Professor Bob Altemeyer, Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, published an online e-book entitled: The Authoritarians containing some of his thirty-year research into authoritarianism, its leaders and those personalities likely to end up as followers. His findings provided valuable information as to why it was that historically our collective beliefs – and usually our religious ones – led to such catastrophic consequences.

Altemeyer used an array of carefully designed surveys and role-playing methodologies to obtain some rich data on the nature of the authoritarian and social dominator qualities from thousands of university students and their various personality profiles. His research provides another window into normal folks alongside the minds of the psychopath, characteropath, narcissist and most importantly those that are predisposed to comply with authoritarian influence (which means a large percentage of us!) A brief detour into his findings will provide a platform for furthering understanding of social psychopathy and the descriptions of organised social abuse within the establishment that follows.

ALTEMEYER

Bob Altemeyer

What is authoritarianism? According to the Encyclopaedia-Britannica/Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “of, relating to, or favouring blind submission to authority.” It is also historically associated with “relating to, or favouring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people [i.e.] an authoritarian regime.”

So, how is it that authoritarianism manages to gain any kind of foothold in the mass populace? That’s where the authoritarian followers come in, sweeping the leaders to power on a tide of rhetoric, wishful thinking, religious dogmatism and blind faith. They willingly submit to anything that acts like an overarching, parental figurehead that tells them what to do, whether it is through governments or from the pages of the Bible, though neither are mutually exclusive as we’ve discovered.

Altemeyer places the right-wing authoritarian personality at two levels: high and low. Both have the following traits with the Highs manifesting as the more extreme version: 1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society; 2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and 3) a high level of conventionalism. He stresses that these are personality traits and not necessarily indicative of political preference which means he uses “right-wing” to encompass both left and right expressions of that personality, but there is a much higher incidence of authoritarianism in religiously-inclined Republicans.

What makes these personalities so amenable to psychopaths and other social dominators who insinuate themselves into power is the naive ease to which they submit to their “parent / teacher” figures. They joyfully believe in their own exceptionalism and project onto their leaders similar rarefied qualities which they consider to be above the law. From this alone, you can already see the seeds of tyranny forming while right-wing authoritarians (RWAs) happily skip through the daisies, convinced they are on the side of God. In the short-term, authoritarian leaders need these followers to attain power as they are a vital stage in the potential for a Pathocracy to take over normal development of civilisations. These individuals are the crucial enablers without which many psychopathic leaders would not be able to reach the dizzy heights of power they so desperately covet.

Ideas of democracy are extremely plastic in the authoritarian follower’s mind, so that that they can be stretched out of all recognition if need be. As long as their beliefs and ideas are confirmed through Mummy and Daddy RWAs then all is well. Consequently, when folks with basic modes of critical thinking become alarmed by American citizens being assassinated without trial; unlawful wire-tapping; mass surveillance and embracing torture, authoritarian followers will continue munching their grass without batting an eye-lid. When the fourth and fifth amendments; the Bill of Rights; as well as habeas corpus, one of the oldest rights in Western law are routinely ignored; when an array of black operations, dirty tricks and Congressional corruption that would make any Catholic banker blush are routinely taking place, RWA followers would continue grazing, a few would twitch their tails, but overall, they’d remain unmoved.

From this data and more, Altemeyer confirms his own thoughts that the US is currently being ravaged by “… a militant authoritarianism that has become a cancer upon the nation.” The present day Empire of US-UK-Israeli interests can be understood as another way to describe ponerological dynamics in more simplistic but useful terms.

If RWAs are the proto-typical sheep, what happened to their thinking processes? Illogical thinking dominates and this is never good for getting on in life. It is dangerous because “… it shows that if authoritarian followers like the conclusion, the logic involved is pretty irrelevant.”

Altemeyer discovered further:

“The reasoning should justify the conclusion, but for a lot of high RWAs, the conclusion validates the reasoning. Such is the basis of many a prejudice, and many a Big Lie that comes to be accepted. Now one can easily overstate this finding. A lot of people have trouble with syllogistic reasoning, and high RWAs are only slightly more likely to make such mistakes than low RWAs are. But in general high RWAs seem to have more trouble than most people do realizing that a conclusion is false.” [3]

According Altemeyer’s extensive data, RWAs also scored highly on the practicing of double standards, hypocrisy, lying to themselves and running away from unpleasant truths about their carefully crafted self-image. Their self-awareness is residual which logically reflects their awareness of others and adds to the understanding about geo-political policy today, not least certain education curricula.

The other important trait that came up again and again was a “profound ethnocentrism” best personified with George W. Bush’s chilling statement: “If you’re not with us you’re with the terrorists.” It’s about the in-crowd and belonging; adhering to illusions of specialness and ideas of being the “chosen Ones,” which is why Zio-Conservatism makes such classic authoritarian belief partners. This is like a security system which prevents critical thinking and self-knowledge bringing together those that think alike, thus maintaining the illusion that not only does the world operate exclusively within such a reality it is the mission to extend that shared belief so that more and more people are contained within it.

Loyalty is a cardinal principle and the beliefs are fundamentally based on fear, lies and subjective interpretation so that the integrity of the belief structure is inherently weak long-term. Hence, more and more authoritarian methods are needed to prop it up in the face of encroaching objective evidence. But the unrivalled dogmatism will ensure that they and the group to which they are attached are always right. To question themselves is never an interesting or even necessary proposition. This loyalty and wilful blindess leads to gullibility and monumental gaps in the awareness of RWAs which means that once authoritarian followers are sufficiently mobilised they would find it easy to embrace a dictator.

RWAs are aggressive and bully their beliefs to the top. Very useful for psychopaths who want to outsource their nature and seed it in others for particular designs. The aggression is not the kind that looks for a fair fight but the kind that personifies “Might is Right” behind a big gun or a water cannon and a raft of riot police you can command and employ. As long as the RWA follower can get away with it and avoid responsibility for his actions then all is well. It is cowardly aggression behind closed doors and from the flick of fountain pen or keyboard stroke where tracks can be covered if necessary by shifting the blame to an unsuspecting minion. This bolsters his sense of superiority while pleasing daddy psychopath who will drop all kinds of tailored favours from above.

Conventionalism (often read as dull) is another defining characteristic of RWAs which means they lack the facility for imagination and abstract thought. To put it kindly, their feet are very much on the ground pointing in the direction of the known and familiar, shoe-shined and ready for inspection. But it doesn’t stop there. As a high percentage of RWAs are religious and fundamentalist this means that their beliefs do not just determine their life direction and perception of morals but the desire that those beliefs should be foisted on others, as a matter of course. When you have around 46 per cent of American adults believing that the earth is 10,000 years old thanks to Creationist views then this is enough to cause alarm concerning the sheer stupidity alone. Mixed in with authoritarianism – it’s a recipe for a horror flick. .” [4]

For RWAs, the fabric of their reality would be rent asunder of you not only had the temerity to question their beliefs but backed it up with deductive logic and concrete facts. In the authoritarian mind, that cannot be allowed to happen as behind the edifice and hot air there is a very fragile ego and if threatened by objective reality then all hell is let loose. Therefore, the “I am right you are wrong” mentality dominates even if the facts are as obvious as “the Earth is not flat,” the RWAs will insist that it is. And while such buffering can be understood in the kindergarten or playground in high level politics it becomes more than terrifying when applied to Middle Eastern politics. As Altemeyer mentions: “If their authorities endorse hostility, you can bet most authoritarian followers will be combative. A lot of high RWAs apparently do not think that the peacemakers will be blessed.”

And the results we can see before us.

Extend this principle into law and justice and Altemeyer found that while strongly endorsing capital punishment they would send anyone to jail regardless of race, sexuality or gender. Differences in degree such as rape as oppose to jay-walking – all received much longer sentences from high RWAs while going easy on the authorities if accused of any corruption, undue force, infringement of human rights etc. The benefits of capital punishment in the RWAs mind equate with the almost British Victorian ideas of family values where some fathers were expected to teach their sons the value of discipline and order by giving them a good leathering with the cane or belt and a good slap for the women should they step out of their designated role. That’ll knock some sense into them! Never did me any harm when my parents use to kick me down the stairs every morning before breakfast … Along those lines …

Pink Floyd - The Wall

Promotional poster detail from Gerald Scarfe’s artwork for Pink Floyd: The Wall (1980)

As RWAs are commonly religious, as they see it: placing the fear of God into criminals whom they consider to be way down the ladder of purity is the obvious choice. Since they believe they are currently poised, angel-like, on the highest rungs of the evolutionary ladder it is their duty to self-righteously view the hoi-polloi of ordinary people and manage their destiny for them. And if you don’t do as you’re told…Authoritarian followers have a nasty retributive streak that delights in the misery of those who have received their – as they see it – divinely administered comeuppance. Those that stray off the track of righteous get all they deserve. Compassion is a footnote in the high RWAs psyche (if it exists at all) and is habitually overridden by deep-seated anger and resentment which also means that if an outlet for that inner angst presents itself – they’ll take it. If persecution and torture for the Homeland is decreed normal – no problem. Rigging up electrodes on little grey-haired Auntie May who is thought to be harbouring Al-Qaeda agents under her “welcome” mat – I’m your man! Sign on the dotted line – no questions asked? Just how the RWAs like it. And Daddy dictator will love me. The authoritarian personality is Freud’s dream come true.

When the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld Reich decided to do just that and torture largely innocent Iraqis and those incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay under Obama’s “hope and change” rhetoric, many authoritarian personalities both in the UK and the US were clapping delightedly. When anger and chosen ignorance are present then substantial quantities of innate fear will be flowing through the RWA personality perceiving more of a threat in a situation of potential conflict than there may be in reality. This is what happened in 1987 when Bob Altemeyer and his colleague Gerry Sande had five-man teams of male introductory psychology students role-play NATO in an “international simulation” involving (they thought) another team of students playing as the Warsaw Pact.

Here’s what happened:

Some of the NATO teams were composed entirely of low RWA students, and other NATO teams were stocked entirely with highs. (We experimenters secretly played the Warsaw Pact.) The simulation began with a couple of ambiguous moves by the Warsaw Pact, such as holding military exercises earlier than anticipated, and withdrawing divisions to rear areas (possibly for rest, or –as Dr. Strangelove might argue–possibly for redeployment for an attack).

The NATO teams could respond with nonthreatening or threatening moves of varying magnitudes. But if they made threats, the Warsaw pact responded with twice as much threat in return, and the NATO team would reap what it had sown as an escalation of aggressive moves would likely result.

The low RWA teams did not interpret the ambiguous moves at the beginning of the game as serious threats and thus seldom made threatening moves. The high RWAs on the other hand usually reacted to the opening Warsaw Pact moves aggressively, and sowed a whirlwind. Over the course of the simulation, the high RWA teams made ten times as much threat as the low teams did, and usually brought the world to the brink of nuclear war...” [5] [Emphasis mine]

Furthermore, in other scenarios the overwhelming comeback from RWAs was the philosophy of “Care about Your Own; We Are NOT All in This Together.” As a result, Global Change Games that simulated geo-political challenges dominated by authoritarians typically ended in world-wide disasters.

So, what are the roots of authoritarianism in the context Altemeyer’s findings?

He prefers “Bandura’s Social Learning Theory of Aggression” which is admittedly a large step up from Freud but fails to explain the whole picture, ponerology being the missing element. However, Albert Bandura of Stanford University and the SLTA theory posits the idea that there must be a burning anger present and a sub-strata of fear. For that anger to be released certain inhibitions and restraints must be overcome so that a volcanic eruption can flow. These stages are termed “The instigator” – the individual and his brand of fear and anger waiting to be tapped and “The Releaser” –the mode that allows it all to happen; a designated “holier than thou” moral cause that would release their hostility on the world while lying to themselves concerning the reasons for the perceived moral justification.

From a ponerological perspective this anger and fear is carefully directed along pre-designed psychic and material channels facilitating maximum efficiency for psychopaths’ goals. In other words, instinct and emotion is used exclusively to further an increase and maximisation of an already present pathology.

Why did it stay wired at the child stage of authority pleasing?

Although Altemeyer leans towards experience and environmental factors he also highlights the fact that studies have confirmed a genetic component. Usually, as with most things in life, it is probably a mix of both.

Further research offering a more general confirmation of the above findings was offered on September 8th 2013, when online culture magazine grist.com ran an article by Chris Mooney entitled: ‘Science confirms: Politics wrecks your ability to do math.’ A study undertaken by Professor Dan Kahan of Yale University found that people’s ability to correctly solve a mathematics question was intimately connected to political persuasion. In summary, erroneous data was given to groups about skin cream efficacy and were also given difficult maths problem to solve. Here, the results were good. When exactly the same data was given alongside a topic of gun control, the answers changed dramatically indicating that the political beliefs were influencing their mathematics solutions to an extreme degree.

In a nutshell: respondents’ political belief distorted the ability to give correct answers if it wasn’t to their liking with the result that objective reality was discarded in favour of their chosen political preference.

This indicates that those of a more intuitive nature aren’t the only ones prone to be led by more subjective notions of reality. Even numerate people have massive blind-spots when it comes to taking on board views which run counter to their own. Whether left-leaning or conservative, persons with a logical/mathematical intelligence will subconsciously subvert the process from which the correct result can be achieved, attempting to fit the round peg of a solution into the square hole of their beliefs. This goes some way in explaining why it is that you can present evidence as plain as day that left-right politics is a charade and the political system is irrevocably broken – belief and comfort zone will trump all, even for seemingly intelligent people. It gives a reason why all manner of rational and IQ-busting academics choose not to make the leap to the obvious when presented with a mountain of facts and empirical data. No amount of reasoning will do it without some form of external shock. Even then it may make no difference for some.

This has enormous implications regarding the evidence of Official Culture and rogue elements in governments and intelligence actively working against their populations. Recognition of such a reality sets up a cognitive dissonance that is both painful as well as befuddling, symptoms commonly exhibited by authoritarian followers.

 


Notes

[1] Project for the New American Century (PNAC) at http://www.newamericancentury.org was an American think tank based in Washington, D.C. that lasted from 1997 to 2006. It was co-founded as a non-profit educational organization by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. Members included right wing, neo-conservative politicians and intellectuals. The series of documents that comprise the ideological vision of neo-conservatism is wholly concerned with establishing a global American Empire with access to the resources of other countries and the implementation of pre-emptive war partnered with the necessary “evil” of perpetual war. The famous of these is “‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century’ written by Richard B. Cheney. The PNAC is literally an “organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership” or as a continuation of the ancient phrase which George Bush Sr. noted in 1992 speech: A New World Order.” Needless, to say this New World Order is based around occult principles of establishing  “Order out of Chaos” which neo-conservatists happily seek to carry out regardless of their awareness on this point. | PNAC’s second incarnation goes by the name of The Foreign Policy Initiative which holds to exactly the same ideology.
[2] ‘Study of Bush’s psyche touches a nerve’ by Julian Borger, The Guardian, August 13, 2003.
[3] The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer Associate Professor Department of Psychology University of Manitoba Winnipeg, Canada.
[4] Online PDF version at: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/op. cit.
[5] ‘In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins Highly religious Americans most likely to believe in creationism’ By Frank Newport, http://www.gallup.com

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