To the authoritarian ruling class, dissenters are "authoritarians"!

What is authoritarianism? I normally think it means something along these lines:

Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is opposed to individualism and democracy. In politics, an authoritarian government is one in which political power is concentrated in a leader or leaders, typically unelected, who possess exclusive, unaccountable, and arbitrary power.[1][2]
That's an easy enough definition. Submission to and respect for authority. Authority from above. In other words, authoritarians believe that people should be told what to think and what to do. Obviously, such a mindset is not limited to any particular political ideology, right?

To some people, apparently it is. A number of years ago, some influential leftists attempted to redefine authoritarianism. They came up with a new psychological term called "the Authoritarian Personality:

The authoritarian personality is an influential theory of personality developed by University of California, Berkeley psychologists, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford and the German emigre sociologist and philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, in their 1950 book of the same name. The personality type is defined by nine traits that were believed to cluster together as the result of psychodynamic, childhood experiences. These traits are conventionalism, authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, anti-intraception, superstition and stereotypy, power and "toughness," destructiveness and cynicism, projectivity, and exaggerated concerns over sexuality (sexual repression).[1] In brief, the authoritarian is predisposed to follow the dictates of a strong leader and traditional, conventional values.
While that list was compiled by people on the left, just try asking whose authority they are talking about. Whose conventions? Whose superstitions? Whose projectivity? Whose exaggerated concerns over which "sexuality"? Whose "values"?

And which strong leader?

Needless to say, over the years, the biased left-wing theory has developed numerous cracks:

Soon after the publication of The Authoritarian Personality, the theory became the subject of many criticisms. Theoretical problems involved the psychoanalytic interpretation of personality, and methodological problems focused on the inadequacies of the F-scale. Another criticism is that the theory of the Berkeley group insinuates that authoritarianism exists only on the right of the political spectrum. As a result, some have claimed that the theory is corrupted by political bias. Kreml found that the anti-authoritarian personality had the same personality characteristics as the authoritarian personality[2].

After extensive questionnaire research and statistical analysis, Altemeyer found that only three of the original nine hypothesized components of the model correlated together: authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, and conventionalism.[3]

The Medical Dictionary defines the personality thusly:
A personality pattern reflecting a desire for security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority, a conventional set of values or outlook, a demand for unquestioning obedience, and a tendency to be hostile toward or use as scapegoats individuals of minority or nontraditional groups.
To illustrate how that could be applied to the now-dominant left wing, let's break it down.

desire for security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority

Easy. Just look at the ruling class elite which controls the bureaucracy, the media, academia, and even much of the entertainment industry.

a conventional set of values or outlook

What could be more conventional than the current regime of rigidly enforced cult of political correctness?

a demand for unquestioning obedience

Intolerance of dissent is a hallmark of the ruling class; witness the clamor for government censorship, calls for classifying people with anti-government views as "terrorists," routine censorship by media, censorship in academia, and even physical attacks by government-supporting political thugs.

a tendency to be hostile toward or use as scapegoats individuals of minority or nontraditional groups

That certainly depends on who is defining minority or nontraditional, doesn't it? I am not what anyone would call a "Christian conservative," but considering the way they are often treated, I certainly would not want to be one on a college campus today. Nor would I expect to be published if I were writing a book, nor expect to ever see my book ever being made into a film. I would expect hostility, and I would expect to be blamed by the left for a whole host of ills. But I don't need to be a conservative Christian to know that; in most liberal circles nowadays, "libertarian" has become a dirty word. "We" and the "climate we created" are responsible for the banking scandal which led to the collapse of the economy! Had the reigning leftists been in charge then, we might have been stopped.

Sounds like scapegoating and hostility to me. Yet the authoritarians who engage in such scapegoating think the term "authoritarian personality" only applies to the enemy!

And the enemy consists of all who disagree with them.

John Dean is a leading liberal mouthpiece for the "only conservatives can be authoritarians" position (see my discussion of his thesis here and here).

In one of his latest diatribes, he has gone after Andrew Breitbart, whom he not only calls a "jackass," but an "authoritarian." He urges Shirley Sherrod to sue Breitbart, whom he psycho-diagnoses with all the professionalism and finesse of Andrei Vyshinsky at a Soviet Show trial:

Sherrod should be advised (and I say this based on a lot of personal experience) that conservatives like Breitbart will not play nicely merely because they have been taken to court. These authoritarian personalities, and those who share their thinking, go ballistic when confronted with legal actions. They resist being held accountable, and feel particularly threatened by legal actions. What Breitbart will do if Sherrod files a lawsuit against him is to quickly create a legal defense fund, with the support and financing of like-thinking conservatives, and he will hire as nasty an attorney as is available in his tribe. Soon, he will be using the legal process to harass Sherrod by digging into every inch of her life, and perhaps even countersuing Sherrod for claims as to which she has no knowledge. It will be ugly, and she must plan on several years of intense unpleasantness.

Breitbart, it is clear, is not backing down. Authoritarians never do. He refuses to explain where he got the edited video clip of Sherrod, and he is not apologizing. This is standard authoritarian behavior. To the contrary, he is continuing to attack Sherrod, along with his larger target, the NAACP. He claims that he is sorry that she got messed over by the Obama Administration and the NAACP, but he is not letting up on his race- baiting. He would no doubt celebrate a lawsuit -- until he lost it, and then would claim, in fact, that he had won. Andrew Breitbart doubtless loves all the publicity he is getting, for authoritarians feel no shame, and they become so swept up in their self-righteousness, that they believe they are doing the world a favor.

If not backing down and not apologizing constitute "authoritarianism," then not only are all left-wing activists authoritarians, but so are most of the great civil rights leaders, such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Ghandi.

Problem is, even if I bend over backwards, I just can't see things like refusing to go to the back of the bus as "authoritarian" behavior.

Or how about refusing to obey illegal and unconstitutional commands by police?

his story and many more like it are becoming increasingly common as authorities seek -- often against their own stated regulations -- to smother photography in public places under the blanket of "security"; a rubric that exempts them from explaining how it is that pictures of cityscapes and landmarks that have been photographed thousands of times before are so threatening that they must be prohibited.

Jim Dwyer's About New York column on Wednesday, "Picture This, and Risk Arrest," concerned the arrest by the Amtrak police of Duane P. Kerzic, for taking pictures of a train pulling into Pennsylvania Station, and of Robert Taylor, by the New York Police Department, for taking pictures on a subway platform in the Bronx.

On Monday, in "Freedom of Photography: Police, Security Often Clamp Down Despite Public Right," The Washington Post documented many instances in which photographers drawn to federal buildings, bridges, trains or airports have been treated as potential terrorists. In a sidebar, "Caught With a Camera," The Post also published examples of 10 photographs that had drawn official interdiction.

Who are the "authoritarians" here? The self appointed enforcers of made-up "laws" which exist only on their say-so? Or those who refuse to go along with them?

Does refusing to submit to authority constitute "authoritarianism"? Or is the term being redefined by people who are threatened by simple disagreement?

Might it just be that by his refusal to submit to politically correct tyranny, Andrew Breitbart is actually the antithesis of an authoritarian? And that those calling for his head (like John Dean and his ilk) are in fact the real authoritarians?

Via Glenn Reynolds, John Hinderaker looks at the refusal of a publisher to print Andrew Klavan's book, in which "the protagonist is a conservative Christian," and "the liberal media is a sort of collective villain," and asks,

...do liberals try to silence their opponents because of an inherent authoritarian tendency, or merely because they are losing the argument? I think it's a combination of the two.
It's a combination of both, except the combination is not a distinction, because according to the left's own definition, the inability to accept losing an argument is a hallmark of authoritarianism!

Andrew Klavan explains what happened to him at the hands of French authoritarians, of whom he is reminded by the Journolistas:

The book's French cancellation is, I realize, a rather small cultural event. Yet it gives specific color to the recent revelations on the Daily Caller website that left-wing journalists conspired to suppress scandals that might harm Barack Obama and to the brouhaha over Breitbart's online release of a video that resulted in a government worker's momentarily losing her job. In both stories, one thing leaps out at me: everywhere, the Left favors fewer voices and less information, and conservatives favor more. Everywhere, the Left seeks to disappear its opposition, whereas the Right is willing to meet them head-on.

Take the e-mails that the Daily Caller obtained from the now-defunct lefty Web service Journolist. Never mind the personal or psychological implications of a radio producer who lovingly imagines Rush Limbaugh's death or a law professor who doesn't know that the FCC has no power to deprive Fox News of a license or a reporter who wants to smear Fred Barnes and other right-wing commentators as racist in order to distract the public from the hateful radicalism of Jeremiah Wright, then Obama's pastor. The point is not these people's animus or ignorance or wickedness. The point is that what they desired was not victory in open debate but silence--the silence of censorship, intimidation, or the grave.

Once again, (sorry to be repetitive), silencing the opposition -- whether by censorship, intimidation, lawsuits, or the grave -- is classic authoritarianism.

Klavan mentions the attempt to scapegoat Breitbart:

And what about Breitbart? Did he, like many a daily journalist before him, momentarily put speed over full context in releasing an NAACP video? Perhaps. But Breitbart is the grassroots nemesis of vast media conglomerates that continually and purposefully ignore, suppress, and distort information unfriendly to their ideology: release and disclosure are his reasons for being. Breitbart routinely breaks important stories that the mainstream media won't touch.
And of course, now that Breitbart has threatened those who believe in "security, order, power, and status, with a desire for structured lines of authority," who share "a conventional set of values or outlook and who demand unquestioning obedience, they have become extremely hostile toward him and they seek to make him a scapegoat. That's what the authoritarians of the left want to do to those of us who belong to the minority or nontraditional groups (Tea Party anyone?) which dissent.

And if you refuse to submit to their tyranny, why, you're an authoritarian!

Sheesh. At the rate things are going, pretty soon people who just want to be left alone will be called "authoritarians."

You'd almost think they wanted the word to lose its once-plain meaning...

posted by Eric on 07.30.10 at 03:18 PM










Comments

Breitbart committed libel. I hope Sherrod will follow through on her threat to sue him. Under the standards set by Times v Sullivan, she will be entitled to not just actual damages, but punitive damages.

Classical Liberal   ·  July 31, 2010 1:36 PM

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