The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer was just called to my attention by Lithodid-Man in Message 50. It purports to explain why even logic and facts fail to convince religious fundamentalists. At the heart of Altemeyer's ideas lies the concept of authoritarianism, which he describes like this on page 2:
Authoritarianism is something authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders cook up between themselves. It happens when the followers submit too much to the leaders, trust them too much, and give them too much leeway to do whatever they want--which often is something undemocratic, tyrannical and brutal. In my day, authoritarian fascist and authoritarian communist dictatorships posed the biggest threats to democracies, and eventually lost to them in wars both hot and cold. But authoritarianism itself has not disappeared, and I'm going 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.
Altemeyer has developed what he calls the RWA scale, which measures receptivity to authoritarian influences, and he's devised a simple test, which I reproduce here:
Altemeyer's RWA Test writes:
This survey is part of an investigation of general public opinion concerning a variety of social issues. You will probably find that you agree with some of the statements, and disagree with others, to varying extents. Please indicate your reaction to each statement on the line to the left of each item according to the following scale:
Write down a -4 if you very strongly disagree with the statement. Write down a -3 if you strongly disagree with the statement. Write down a -2 if you moderately disagree with the statement. Write down a -1 if you slightly disagree with the statement. Write down a +1 if you slightly agree with the statement. Write down a +2 if you moderately agree with the statement. Write down a +3 if you strongly agree with the statement. Write down a +4 if you very strongly agree with the statement.
If you feel exactly and precisely neutral about an item, write down a 0.
("Dr. Bob" to reader: We’ll probably stay friends longer if you read this paragraph.) Important: You may find that you sometimes have different reactions to different parts of a statement. For example, you might very strongly disagree ("-4") with one idea in a statement, but slightly agree ("+1") with another idea in the same item. When this happens, please combine your reactions, and write down how you feel on balance (a "-3" in this case).
The established authorities generally turn out to be right about things, while the radicals and protestors are usually just "loud mouths” showing off their ignorance.
Women should have to promise to obey their husbands when they get married.
Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.
Gays and lesbians are just as healthy and moral as anybody else.
It is always better to trust the judgment of the proper authorities in government and religion than to listen to the noisy rabble-rousers in our society who are trying to create doubt in people’s minds
Atheists and others who have rebelled against the established religions are no doubt every bit as good and virtuous as those who attend church regularly.
The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get back to our traditional values, put some tough leaders in power, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad ideas.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with nudist camps.
Our country needs free thinkers who have the courage to defy traditional ways, even if this upsets many people.
Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash the perversions eating away at our moral fiber and traditional beliefs.
Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else.
The "old-fashioned ways” and the "old-fashioned values” still show the best way to live.
You have to admire those who challenged the law and the majority’s view by protesting for women’s abortion rights, for animal rights, or to abolish school prayer.
What our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush evil, and take us back to our true path.
Some of the best people in our country are those who are challenging our government, criticizing religion, and ignoring the "normal way things are supposed to be done.”
God’s laws about abortion, pornography and marriage must be strictly followed before it is too late, and those who break them must be strongly punished.
There are many radical, immoral people in our country today, who are trying to ruin it for their own godless purposes, whom the authorities should put out of action.
A "woman’s place” should be wherever she wants to be. The days when women are submissive to their husbands and social conventions belong strictly in the past.
Our country will be great if we honor the ways of our forefathers, do what the authorities tell us to do, and get rid of the "rotten apples” who are ruining everything.
There is no "ONE right way” to live life; everybody has to create their own way.
Homosexuals and feminists should be praised for being brave enough to defy "traditional family values.
This country would work a lot better if certain groups of troublemakers would just shut up and accept their group’s traditional place in society.
To score the test, go to page 13 of Altemeyer's book, the link is at the top of this message. I scored 44.
Are you an authoritarian? Take the test and find out!
Apologies about the link to Altemeyer's book, it works now, here it is again: The Authoritarians.
1. It isn't hard to see how to mess with the results. 2. There are some questions that are more about political or other beliefs than just your attitude to authority.
Right you are, and Altemeyer is aware of this. Beginning on page 13 he says, "Let me give you three compelling reasons why you should treat your personal score with a grain of salt..." The book's a good and fun read. I hate reading books on-line and I'm already up to page 35.
21. Homosexuals and feminists should be praised for being brave enough to defy "traditional family values.
What does this have to do with authoritarianism? According to the Altemeyer questionnaire the keys to understanding authoritarianism are based mainly on three things: sexual identity, religiosity, and politics. As such, this is a bogus questionnaire. A better test for authoritarianism would focus on three different characteristics: insecurity, aggression, and domination. I suspect Altemeyer is insecure about his sexuality, aggressive about his religiosity, and domineering about his politics.
If you want to observe authoritarianism just follow the insecure, aggressive, and political actions of the EvC admins.
You were requested to avoid gay topics because you're a gay-baiter/instigator. We took a vote a few weeks ago in the admin forum that came out 3-0 for permanent suspension for you, and I held off because it wasn't 4-0. Because you are again attempting to raise gay issues I'm suspending you indefinitely.
Thank you for your contributions here, and may you fare well in all your future endeavors.
Some of the questions do seem odd. For those curious about them, read the book. OK, that's not much help. One of the characteristics of a RWA is their desire to be normal, to fit in, and their desire that everybody else does and that nobody rock the boat of normality.
Those that are significantly different, or are viewed as such, are often seen as 'bad' in some way since they are upsetting Social balance, which means a threatened collapse of society at the merest whisper of change.
The book goes on to describe strong correlations with high scoring RWAs and certain behaviour and there is a correlation of people with those behaviours and their opinion that homosexuals are in some way immoral.
It is also generally true, that RWAs who hold this opinion are generally those with little or no experience of knowing homosexuals. And limited experience, being kept within the 'safe' confines of an authority sphere (parenthood, a church whatever) is strongly correlated with having issues with those outside of it. The good news is that as people go into the 'real world' and actually meet Arabs, homosexuals and so on, their views on these people mellow considerably. And there are people who start with high RWAs that don't have much hostility towards homosexuals, Altermeyer doesn't claim each element is an absolute indicator.
I'm not entirely sure I'm on board with Altermeyer just yet (heh - maybe its because of my low 40s score...), but its interesting reading. I particularly enjoyed the Global Change Game anecdote: it'd be nice if there was a decent study on that.
I read it two years ago (from this thread by Coragyps), and I thought he had a valid point then and still do. It is the authoritarians than enabled schrubbia et al after all. I loved where he got the people to play war games after dividing them (unobtrusively) into RWA types and non-RWA types.
quote:You have to admire those who challenged the law and the majority’s view by protesting for women’s abortion rights, for animal rights, or to abolish school prayer.
Um, no I don't have to admire them, no matter how much I concur with their position. They can still be perfectly despicable individuals.
I also had a lot of 3's because I don't feel absolute answers are justified either:
quote:There are many radical, immoral people in our country today, who are trying to ruin it for their own godless purposes, whom the authorities should put out of action.
There certainly are some immoral people whome the authorities should prosecute when they break laws, and should not get any special deal just because they are "radical, immoral people"
I scored 45
After the scoring is done he has a discussion of the results that should be read before anyone starts comparing results:
quote:Let me give you three compelling reasons why you should treat your personal score with a grain of salt. First, psychological tests make mistakes about individuals, which is what you happen to be, I’ll bet. Even the best instruments, such as the best IQ tests, get it wrong sometimes--as I think most people know. Thus the RWA scale can’t give sure-thing diagnoses of individuals.
Second, how you responded to the items depended a lot on how you interpreted them. You may have writhed in agony wondering, “What does he mean by _______?” as you answered.
Third, you knew what the items were trying to measure, didn’t you, you rascal! The RWA scale is a personality test disguised as an attitude survey, but I’ll bet you saw right through it.
The second one is why I had some trouble with the "honor the ways of our forefathers" phrase -- does he mean the founding fathers of this country? I took it that way.
As I recall, I scored somewhere in the 30's back when I read the book. Being an old retired hippy, that's expected....
I probably need to reread this. I thought it was very a interesting piece of work, and I should try to get some of my Limbaugh-revering coworkers to read it too. Not that they would actually do so.....