Essentials: Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians”

Maha recently wrote about conservatives and pseudo conservatives, here and here.

I would like to use this as a springboard to highlight Bob Altemeyer, an American psychologist working at the University of Manitoba, whose world renown work on authoritarian psychology illuminates much of what the far right mentality is about, how it works, and why it is so antithetical to democracy. John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience is an effort to make this same subject much more widely known, and is largely based on Altemeyer’s work. At Dean’s behest, Altemeyer distilled his life’s work into a very readable, free book (a series of pdfs) you can download from his website.

Authoritarianism is a personality style that often underlies conservativism in general, and pseudo conservativism in particular. However, it’s important to note that historically, there have been both left and right wing authoritarians. Altemeyer explains:

Authoritarian followers…support the established authorities in their society, such as government officials and traditional religious leaders. Such people have historically been the “proper” authorities in life, the time-honored, entitled, customary leaders, and that means a lot to most authoritarians. Psychologically these followers have personalities featuring:

  • a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society;
  • high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
  • a high level of conventionalism.

Because the submission occurs to traditional authority, I call these followers rightwing authoritarians. I’m using the word “right” in one of its earliest meanings, for in Old English “riht”(pronounced “writ”) as an adjective meant lawful, proper, correct, doing what the authorities said.

In North America, people who submit to the established authorities to extraordinary degrees often turn out to be political conservatives, so you can call them “right-wingers” both in my new-fangled psychological sense and in the usual political sense. But someone who lived in a country long ruled by Communists and who ardently supported the Communist Party would also be one of my psychological right-wing authoritarians even though we would also say he was a political left-winger. 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.

And so in Altemeyer’s view, authoritarianism is a psychological trait that often underlies a particular political view. How does authoritarianism work?

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

Authoritarian followers seem to have a “Daddy and mommy know best” attitude toward the government. They do not see laws as social standards that apply to all. Instead, they appear to think that authorities are above the law, and can decide which laws apply to them and which do not–just as parents can when one is young. But in a democracy no one is supposed to be above the law. Still, authoritarians quite
easily put that aside. They also believe that only criminals and terrorists would object to having their phones tapped, their mail opened, and their lives put under surveillance. They have bought their tickets and are standing in line waiting for 1984, The Real Thing. There might as well not be a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. And when the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is used to deny people the right of habeas corpus–one of the oldest rights in western law–it is unlikely that right-wing authoritarians will object to the loss of this constitutional guarantee either.

There is much I could quote from Altemeyer, but a comment Maha made in an earlier post:

…a government run by current conservative dogmas is not sustainable. Perpetually cutting taxes, eliminating social welfare programs, allowing infrastructure to rot, encouraging income inequality, squandering public resources to enrich private enterprise, starting pointless wars all over the planet, restricting civil liberty in the name of “freedom” — this is just nuts.

…prompts me to focus on an amazing experiment Altemeyer conducted in 1994, described in his free book, which looked at what happens When Authoritarians Rule the World:

Global Change Game

The setting involved a rather sophisticated simulation of the earth’s future called the Global Change Game, which is played on a big map of the world by 50-70 participants who have been split into various regions such as North America, Africa, India and China. The players are divided up according to current populations, so a lot more students hunker down in India than in North America….

Then the facilitators…call for some member, any member of each region, to assume the role of team leader by simply standing up. Once the “Elites" in the world have risen to the task they are taken aside and given control of their region’s bank account. They can use this to buy factories, hospitals, armies, and so on from the game bank, and they can travel the world making deals with other Elites. They also discover they can discreetly put some of their region’s wealth into their own pockets, to vie for a prize to be given out at the end of the simulation to the World’s Richest Person. Then the game begins, and the world goes wherever the players take it for the next forty years which, because time flies in a simulation, takes about two and a half hours.

Altemeyer ran two distinct groups through this simulation. First, he came up with a simple twenty-two question test to score how much right wing authoritarianism ("RWA") an individual has in their personality. Next, he created two distinctly opposite groups of subjects: those who scored low in RWA, versus those who scored high in RWA. In turn, he let each group run the world:

The Low RWA Game

..67 low RWA students played the game together on October 18th . (They had no idea they had been funneled into this run of the experiment according to their RWA scale scores; indeed they had probably never heard of right-wing authoritarianism.) Seven men and three women made themselves Elites. As soon as the simulation began, the Pacific Rim Elite called for a summit on the “Island Paradise of Tasmania.” All the Elites attended and agreed to meet there again whenever big issues arose. A world-wide organization was thus immediately created by mutual consent.

Regions set to work on their individual problems. Swords were converted to ploughshares as the number of armies in the world dropped. No wars or threats of wars occurred during the simulation. [At one point the North American Elite suggested starting a war to his fellow region-aires (two women and one guy), but they told him to go fly a kite–or words to that effect.]

An hour into the game the facilitators announced a (scheduled) crisis in the earth’s ozone layer. All the Elites met in Tasmania and contributed enough money to buy new technology to replenish the ozone layer.

Other examples of international cooperation occurred, but the problems of the Third World mounted in Africa and India. Europe gave some aid but North America refused to help. Africa eventually lost 300 million people to starvation and disease, and India 100 million. Populations had grown and by the time forty years had passed the earth held 8.7 billion people, but the players were able to provide food, health facilities, and jobs for almost all of them. They did so by demilitarizing, by making a lot of trades that benefited both parties, by developing sustainable economic programs, and because the Elites diverted only small amounts of the treasury into their own pockets. (The North American Elite hoarded the most.)

One cannot blow off four hundred million deaths, but this was actually a highly successful run of the game, compared to most. …Low RWAs do not typically see the world as “Us versus Them.” They are more interested in cooperation than most people are, and they are often genuinely concerned about the environment. Within their regional groups, and in the interactions of the Elites, these first-year students would have usually found themselves “on the same page”–and writ large on that page was, “Let’s Work Together and Clean Up This Mess.” The game’s facilitators said they had never seen as much international cooperation in previous runs of the simulation. With the exception of the richest region, North America, the lows saw themselves as interdependent and all riding on the same merry-go-round.

The High RWA Game

The next night, 68 high RWAs showed up for their ride, just as ignorant of how they had been funneled into this run of the experiment as the low RWA students had been…. The game proceeded as usual. Elites (all males) nominated themselves, and the Elites were briefed. Then the“wedgies” started. As soon as the game began, the Elite from the Middle East announced the price of oil had just doubled. A little later the former Soviet Union (known as the CIS in 1994) bought a lot of armies and invaded North America. The latter had insufficient conventional forces to defend itself, and so retaliated with nuclear weapons. A nuclear holocaust ensued which killed everyone on earth–7.4 billion people–and almost all other forms of life which had the misfortune of co-habitating the same planet as a species with nukes.

When this happens in the Global Change Game, the facilitators turn out all the lights and explain what a nuclear war would produce. Then the players are given a second chance to determine the future, turning back the clock to two years before the hounds of war were loosed. The former Soviet Union however rebuilt its armies and invaded China this time, killing 400 million people. The Middle East Elite then called for a “United Nations” meeting to discuss handling future crises, but no agreements were reached. At this point the ozone-layer crisis occurred but–perhaps because of the recent failure of the United Nations meeting–no one called for a summit. Only Europe took steps to reduce its harmful gas emissions, so the crisis got worse. Poverty was spreading unchecked in the underdeveloped regions, which could not control their population growth. Instead of dealing with the social and economic problems “back home,” Elites began jockeying among themselves for power and protection, forming military alliances to confront other budding alliances. Threats raced around the room and the CIS warned it was ready to start another nuclear war. Partly because their Elites had used their meager resources to buy into alliances, Africa and Asia were on the point of collapse. An Elite called for a United Nations meeting to deal with the crises–take your pick–and nobody came.

By the time forty years had passed the world was divided into armed camps threatening each other with another nuclear destruction. One billion, seven hundred thousand people had died of starvation and disease. Throw in the 400 million who died in the Soviet-China war and casualties reached 2.1 billion. Throw in the 7.4 billion who died in the nuclear holocaust, and the high RWAs managed to kill 9.5 billion people in their world–although we, like some battlefield news releases, are counting some of the corpses twice.

The authoritarian world ended in disaster for many reasons. One was likely the character of their Elites, who put more than twice as much money in their own pockets as the low RWA Elites had. (The Middle East Elite ended up the World’s Richest Man; part of his wealth came from money he had conned from Third World Elites as payment for joining his alliance.) But more importantly, the high RWAs proved incredibly ethnocentric. There they were, in a big room full of people just like themselves, and they all turned their backs on each other and paid attention only to their own group. They too were all reading from the same page, but writ large on their page was, “Care About Your Own; We Are NOT All In This Together.”

The high RWAs also suffered because, while they say on surveys that they care about the environment, when push comes to shove they usually push and shove for the bucks. That is, they didn’t care much about the long-term environmental consequences of their economic acts. For example a facilitator told Latin America that converting much of the region’s forests to a single species of tree would make the ecosystem vulnerable. But the players decided to do it anyway because the tree’s lumber was very profitable just then. And the highs proved quite inflexible when it came to birth control. Advised that “just letting things go” would cause the populations in underdeveloped areas to explode, the authoritarians just let things go.

Now the Global Change Game is not the world stage, university students are not world leaders, and starting a nuclear holocaust in a gymnasium is not the same thing as launching real missiles from Siberia and North Dakota. So the students’ behavior on those two successive nights in 1994 provides little basis for drawing conclusions about the future of the planet. But some of what happened in this experiment rang true to me. I especially thought, “I’ve seen this show before” as I sat on the sidelines and watched the high RWAs create their very own October crisis.

Please read Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians. Is there any question that people of this bent are completely unfit to be managing anything more complicated than their own sorry lives? How our world groans and suffers simply because so many of the people in power lack the empathy and basic orientation to connect with others who share with them this tiny blue green planet.

107 thoughts on “Essentials: Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians”

  1. Ian..# 42 I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. I also believe in what I would call a Murphy’s law of history and human nature. If abuse of our rights can be allowed to take place unchecked than,in time, they will take place with consistency as sure as night follows day. The firing of Federal prosecutors is an example of abuses left unchecked.

  2. Stout Republican (#47) interesting comment:

    I contest that Liberals want to destroy dissent. As a recent graduate from college, I see nothing more dangerous than liberal speech codes and thought police. Think like us, be like us, conform to our set of beliefs. The individual isn’t important (or so says the collective elite of the professorship).

    Try to see it from the liberal perspective: We see every single day, on shows like O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh (the list is rather long) – people who are destroying dissent, and who have been doing so for the last couple of decades. O’Reilly has to shout down anyone who disagrees with hiim, and Limbaugh and the other radio hosts carefully screen out or shout down any dissenting views.

    I went to college in a much earlier time, and so I cannot relate to the experience you just came out of. Please try to grasp that the right has its own insidious form of political correctness and thought police, which I would argue is far more dangerous and pervasive than anything that happens on a college campus. The nation’s media is vastly more powerful than anything a bunch of lefitist professors can get away with.

    You might find this laughable, but the essense of liberalism is tolerance. You can prove this for yourself by simply listening to someone like O’Reilly shout down his opponents, versus someone like a Bill Moyer give people the space, whoever they are, to express themselves. Until we can restore this level of civility, where people are allowed to fully say what they think – something which has been destroyed at the media level by the right – this country is headed for disaster.

  3. I am waiting for the right to get upset about a U.S. citizen having his rights stripped away from him (guilty or otherwise).

    I am waiting for the right to be upset about the 4th Amendment being all but repealed.

    I am waiting for the right to be upset about the suspension of habeas corpus.

    Like I said, burn that rag of a Constitution, quit the pretense.

  4. Curvedbrain — Jeez, finally, somebody actually addresses what I wrote. Wow, and it took only, what, 22 hours and two closed threads?

    BTW, the second link you provided was not to a criticism of Bush’s extraconstitutional detention powers. It was an argument in favor of them.

    You write,

    “Padilla enlisted in Al Queda and plotted with them, and therefore should be considered an enemy combatent not subject to the same priveleges and protections of a US citizen.”

    OK, that deserves a response, and I agree I didn’t address it directly in my posts. I will defer to Marty Lederman of Balkinization on this matter, who wrote a long a detailed criticism of the Administration’s determinations of “unlawful enemy combatant” (UEC) status.

    I am not going to repeat the entire argument here. It is long and detailed, as I said. I will trust you to read it yourself so that I don’t have to explain it to you. Here is just the conclusion:

    But the really breathtaking subsection is subsection (ii), which would provide that UEC is defined to include any person “who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.”

    Read literally, this means that if the Pentagon says you’re an unlawful enemy combatant — using whatever criteria they wish — then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to “hostilities” at all.

    This definition is not limited to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It’s not limited to aliens — it covers U.S. citizens as well. It’s not limited to persons captured or detained overseas. And it is not even limited to the armed conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, authorized by Congress on September 18, 2001. Indeed, on the face of it, it’s not even limited to a time of war or armed conflict; it could apply in peacetime.

    Therefore if, as everyone is assuming, this definition does establish who may be detained by the military outside the civilian justice system, it would quite literally give the Secretary of Defense the statutory authority to detain just about anyone he wants, indefinitely. And if that’s the case, then the habeas-stripping provision would really be the least of it, because even with all the due process and habeas protections in the world, it would be almost impossible to challenge the grounds on which someone is detained if the Executive itself can establish what the permissible grounds for detention are.

    Basically, the Bush Administration is claiming the right to arrest and detain ANYBODY, for as long as they like, and relieve that person of his sixth amendment rights purely on their say-so. We’re just supposed to trust them. That’s not exactly why my ancestors (two of ’em, btw) fought the British in the Revolution.

    And what was the point of it all, anyway? What difference did it make to national security if Padilla did or did not have access to a lawyer so he could challenge his detention in court?

  5. Happens pretty regularly. I got an F on an ethics paper because I didn’t agree with the professor on Ralph Nader. His reason for the F…”You’re wrong”. I wish I could have tenure in my job…that way I do whatever i want…

    My gripe is the “what’s good for the goose…” one. Where people decry one action, but are okay with a comprable one as long as it’s from their idealogical camp. (See ECHELON vs Bush Domestic spy). I don’t care what people’s beliefs are, disagreement makes for good hearty conversation over a beer.

    I divide with my camp and the “thought police” when they want to ban video games for content “for the children”, or get XM radio DJs kicked off the air for insulting Condoleeza Rice…it’s not their place. Government is not a nanny.

    Slinging barbs is fun, and I love it as long as there’s humor, even terribly inappropirate hunor…but I don’t like seeing someone’s “Americanism” questioned in a serious fashion, because everyone has a different idea about where this country should go, but they still love this country (most). That’s always the tipping point for the quick downhill slide of discourse.

  6. The dominant sentiment on the right from what I read, is that Padilla enlisted in Al Queda and plotted with them, and therefore should be considered an enemy combatent not subject to the same priveleges and protections of a US citizen.

    We’re not talking about privileges, we’re talking about supposedly guaranteed rights. And either we have them or we don’t.. If one man can arbitrarily designate those rights away then we really don’t have any rights to begin with..we only thought we did.

    Maybe I’m just a black and white thinker, but either you’re pregnant or you’re not, and either you have constitutional rights as a citizen or you don’t….It’s like Maha says..If they can do it to Padilla they can do it to me, or you, or anybody. Your rights are an illusion.

  7. #55, you and I agree on a lot of things. I think I would’ve changed schools after the Ralph Nader incident. It really says a lot about second rate minds who cannot handle differences of opinion, and who needs to be “educated” by such people.

    I make a distinction between argumentation and discussion.

    Arguing just to pound my point into someone else’s head is stupid and wrong, because it presumes that I have a lock on the truth, which is impossible. It’s done just to gain points for my ego.

    Discussion, where we’re both sharing viewpoints, and respecting each other, in a mutual attempt to arrive at the truth, and grow from the process, is what it’s all about. This is what is sadly so missing these days in our country. We cannot talk about anything of consequence, and there are so many important, neglected issues begging for our attention.

    I mentioned that I grew up in an earlier time, 1960s-70s, when liberalism was in its heyday. We actually had a functioning media back then which tried to engender discussion instead of argumentation. This is why so many from my generation are so passionate about what has happened to the USA – so much has been lost.

  8. If one man can arbitrarily designate those rights away then we really don’t have any rights to begin with..we only thought we did.

    Tenuous argument at best. One man can always destroy those rights. It’s called murder. I’m more afraid of my fellow man than the government.

    Plus, Padilla received his day in court. Seems to me that even though (from your persepctive) it was a long time coming, and there was a rocky road getting there…he did end up in front of a jury of his peers. I assume this would be a good thing, because he’s no longer being detained without trial…

  9. I got an F on an ethics paper because I didn’t agree with the professor on Ralph Nader.

    That happened to me, too, when I was a freshman (freshwoman)? I wrote a paper about The Lord of the Rings that argued it was not an analogy of World War II, and my professor very haughtily told me I was an idiot and it was, too. That would have been my first semester, in 1969. Somehow, I finished college. And she’s probably dead now.

    Bottom line: You have a right to free speech, but you don’t have a right not to be disagreed with.

    But here’s the thing, son: In your life many people in authority will treat you unfairly. Part of why I’m a liberal is that I think citizens should have some protections from such things, when there is real injury. There’s a time to fight back, and a time to get over it and move on. Maturity is understanding the difference.

    I don’t like seeing someone’s “Americanism” questioned in a serious fashion.

    The thing is, right wingers write that “Liberals hate America” so much that it’s an in-joke on the Left, which is why I wrote it. You must not hang out on leftie blogs much.

  10. If “Stout Republican” (They do tend to fat, don’t they?) thinks he can compare Clinton’s replacing of all the U.S. Attys with the Bush/Rove politicization of the Justice Dept….Then he’s too stupid to argue with…

    (Wonder which “college” he just graduated from, Regent, Liberty or Bob Jones?)

  11. Plus, Padilla received his day in court.

    If the Bush Administration hadn’t been fought tooth and nail, that would not have happened. And the only reason why, after almost four years, the Bushies gave up and charged Padilla with crimes was to avoid a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether the President has the power to imprison U.S. citizens without charges.

    And you’re defending these tyrants. Do you like tyranny?

  12. I read plenty, but don’t “hang out” quite so much…too many “feelings” (*joke*).

    I get that people treat me unfairly, I get I will be disagreed with, I’m a Republican who lives in California, I’ve had bartenders refuse to serve me when they heard my political leaning. I have no problem with people saying the dumbest most ridiculous things possible…I have issues when someone else is allowed to say it, but I’m not.

  13. I love tyranny! (To knock down that strawman).

    They were fought. I’m saying that while labored…the system works. There were people out there who fought tooth and nail, and the Presidents authority was checked.

    D.R. Marvel – You’re cute…all angry and frothy like a Root Beer Float with a dash of rage.

    Moonbat – Rush and O’Reilly are private industry, much like this blog…they can do whatever they want. They’re there to make profit for investors, not provide a forum like PBS or NPR.

  14. BTW, the second link you provided was not to a criticism of Bush’s extraconstitutional detention powers. It was an argument in favor of them

    I’m well aware of that fact, hence my use of the qualifier word “even” before citation of that link to emphasize that even conservatives who disagree with your point of view, are nonetheless sufficiently nuanced to acknowledge valid concerns raised by the other side, a trait mostly lacking on the left, which is why you read on this blog and most other left-leaning sites that “righties are haters”, “they want to shred the constitution”, and similar such ‘arguments’ repeated over and over.

    That you admit you had not acknowledged the crux of the other side’s argument until my comment, speaks to this tendency. Regarding Lederman’s article and your summary of it as carte blanche to arrest and detain “anybody” who Bush wants to detain is, well, typical of your style, as a military tribunal would make the determination of guilt.

    I see the slippery slope possibility of abuses mind you (for example, what level of evidence is required), but I find your position extreme. We have put enemy combatents into military prisons, often without a tribunal, held for years, in every war we have fought throughout our nation’s history. This is not a “new” development as you seem to suggest. Padilla enlisted in Al Queda and plotted with them, which means that he can be fairly labeled an enemy combatent.

    What difference did it make to national security if Padilla did or did not have access to a lawyer so he could challenge his detention in court?

    The answer to that question is obvious. Because such “challenges” would risk publicly revealing military sources and methods. Sources and methods that our enemies would love to learn more about. Which is why the Bush administration reasonably argued to keep this treated as a military matter.

    I understand your concerns, but the other side has a solid argument. It’s not an open and shut “Bush is shredding the constitution” as has been alleged by so many on your side.

  15. They were fought. I’m saying that while labored…the system works.

    The system didn’t work for Padilla. His brain is mush, according to many reports, thanks to long-term sensory deprivation torture. You can’t destroy someone irretrievably and THEN give him a trial and say “the system worked.”

    And maybe next time it won’t work. The Bushies are stacking the courts with right-wing judges as fast as they can.

    I am a five-alarm history buff, and I honestly do not believe the federal government has ever done to another U.S.citizen what it did to Padilla. Lincoln’s suspensions of habeas corpus didn’t come close, as those imprisoned were allowed to see lawyers. Most of ’em weren’t detained long. The detention of Japanese-Americans in World War II was probably the closest thing, but I am not aware any of those detainees were tortured.

    It is the duty of patriots to speak out against these betrayals of our values.

  16. So Stout, standards of fairness should only apply to this blog (and liberal professors) not to Fox and friends? maha has ads you know. Does that get her into the magic marketplace?

  17. I disagree with you Maha on the firings.

    You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to create your own facts. And the facts agree with me.

  18. We’re not talking about privileges, we’re talking about supposedly guaranteed rights. And either we have them or we don’t

    Ah yes, such ‘nuance’. Here’s a clue: If you enlist with an enemy who has declared war on America and plot with them to kill Americans, you are no longer guaranteed those rights.

  19. So, curvedbrain, if tomorrow some high government official declared YOU to be an enemy combatant because you looked at him funny and locked you away for four years and denied you a right to trial and even a right to see an attorney, that would be OK with you?

    Because that’s what we’re arguing about here.

  20. So, curvedbrain, if tomorrow some high government official declared YOU to be an enemy combatant because you looked at him funny and locked you away for four years and denied you a right to trial and even a right to see an attorney, that would be OK with you?

    Well sure, if the government starts confusing “looking at someone funny” with enlisting with an enemy who declared war on the US and conspiring to murder US civilians.. then I would concede that there is a serious problem.

    Do you see black helipcopters outside your place much? 🙂

  21. The closest parallel in US history to what Padilla experienced in justice would be the Salem witchcraft trials. They tortured the defendants to extract confessions prior to trial, and any claims of innocence were further proof that they were guilty.

  22. Curvedbrain, #66 — One of the reasons I get a bit worked up about the enemy combatant thing is that I had an uncle who was a POW in Japan in World War II, and he was beaten and starved. I grew up thinking that at least MY country didn’t do that sort of thing to enemy combatants. It breaks me up inside to realize that is no longer true.

    By wartime “enemy combatants” you generally mean POWs, and there are rules about them. Those quaint old Geneva conventions and all that. Allowing multinational inspectors into camps to ensure humane treatment; etc. And then when the war is over they are sent home.

    So here we have U.S. citizen Padilla, who was seized and then kept in utterly inhumane conditions where no one could get to him for nearly four years before circumstances forced the Bush Administration to put him on trial. Truly, I would rather have lived through what my uncle went through than what Padilla went through. (And note that my uncle was a U.S. marine stationed in Peking; he was taken prison the day after the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941 and remained a prisoner until after VJ day in 1945.)

    You are just wrong. There is no excuse for this.

  23. Back from lunch!

    Going back to #38 and #42: One reason for my “complacency” is that we’ve gone through this before as a nation, and we’ve always weathered the storm. Lincoln and Roosevelt each made sweeping and terrifying unilateral actions that resulted in a lot of people being rounded up and detained (and basically told the Supreme Court to eff off, while they were at it). Those were not our proudest moments, yet somehow the country got through it (and frankly, it hasn’t much blemished those Presidents’ reputations, either).

    Americans are good people, and though they may get scared and look to the authorities for protection when hostilities break out, they always come around to clearer thinking when they allow themselves to cool down. It’s no reason to become complacent (and don’t think that I am), but I’m not going to engage in a lot of handwaving freakoutery when I’m confident that the side of liberty will prevail.

  24. Squid — see #68. What Lincoln did does not compare. He didn’t lock people away without access to a lawyer, for example. Most of the people who were arrested without habeas corpus were released in a few days or else had charges brought against them within a few weeks. Not ideal, but nowhere close to what Padilla went through.

    Lincoln also was very careful to make it clear he was only acting because it was an emergency (it was) and Congress was not in session. When Congress came back into session, he went to them and obtained retroactive approval for the arrests. He wasn’t pretending he could just ignore Congress, as Bush does.

    I already agreed that the Japanese internment was the closest thing, and that was shameful, but as I said I don’t believe any of those detainees were tortured.

    Again, this is not something to be complacent about.

  25. Truly, I would rather have lived through what my uncle went through than what Padilla went through

    Incredibly ignorant statement. Do you want to try again?

  26. curvedbrain’ve put the cart before the horse…try again! Think about what you wrote in # 72 and see if there is a missing point in logic.

  27. curvedbrain — if someone in the government decides to arrest you for false reasons, and you are not permitted access to a lawyer, and you are denied a right to a speedy trial, and are essentially locked up and cut off from the world on somebody’s say so, how exactly do you prove you are innocent?

    Padilla’s guilt or innocence is not the issue here. We’re talking about the procedures under which he was detained. There were no safeguards allowing an innocent person wrongly detained to clear himself.

    The USSR used to do stuff like this, and we were taught it was wrong. I still think it is wrong.

  28. Incredibly ignorant statement. Do you want to try again?

    No, I don’t. I stand by that. You must not realize what was done to Padilla.

  29. Swami, #81 — That’s why they call ’em “useful idiots.” Every dictatorship that’s ever existed has been built by people like curvedbrain.

  30. No, I don’t. I stand by that. You must not realize what was done to Padilla

    Tell us, what was done to Padilla which would compare or be equated with Japan’s brutal treatment of POWs in WWII? We know Japan’s record. And here.

    Since you have claimed that unlike the “righties”, you on the other hand, always so thoroughly support your points of view, I’m sure you’ll have no problem ‘educating’ us on this one, no?

  31. That’s why they call ‘em “useful idiots.” Every dictatorship that’s ever existed has been built by people like curvedbrain.

    So much for reasoned discussion. Thanks for allowing me to post.

  32. Curvedbrain — I wrote about what was done to Padilla here:

    I personally could not have handled that. Nearly four years with no contact with other people for long days at a time, locked in a bare cell with no window, the light always on, no clock, no way to measure the passing of time. That would drive me out of my skull in a matter of days. My uncle at least was with other marine prisoners and knew when it was night and day. He was very frail but still mentally sharp when he got home.

  33. Sniflheim:

    Maha can do whatever she wants. Fox can do whatever they want. I can say whatever I want about whatever they do. I post here at the leisure of Maha…she can ban/delete/etc…just as Fox can do whatever they want being a entity. I’m consistent on this one. If Maha wants to ban people, I can say I don’t like it, but she can do whatever she wants, as she’s said, it’s her property, she pays for the bandwidth/domain/etc. I’ll even click on the ads to get her some money for doing what she does.

  34. Hey curvedbrain..I think she has to allow you to post so she’s not in violation of the Article 9 Subsection B of the Americans with Intellectual Disabilities Act.

    And may Padilla die as peacefully as our Bill of Rights did.

  35. RE: #87 Torture

    And hey, if what the US government did wasn’t really all that bad, then hey, the KGB wasn’t all that bad either, right? I mean, if they’re both using the same techniques…? We learn from the worst– or the best– or– well, whatever…

  36. Tell us, what was done to Padilla which would compare or be equated with Japan’s brutal treatment of POWs in WWII?

    What the U.S. did to Padilla compares to what the governments of the USSR and East Germany used to do to their citizens — declare someone to be an enemy of the state (without giving them a trial), then lock them up for years on end. It’s kind of an authoritarian thing to do.

  37. Stout – it’s not a qustion of whether Fox, Limbaugh, this Blog, etc have the right to operate however they want. They do.

    It’s a question of given how they operate, whether there is room for dissent or not, and how much room and what kind. I’m only arguing that the far right media has been squashing all forms of dissent from their media, and has been for the last few decades, and with devastating effects.

    Further, they have been succesful at changing media ownership rules over the same period of time, so that media ownership has been concentrated in ever fewer hands. This is not healthy for a democracy. Our style of government depends on a free flow of information and vigorous debate, which has been systematically choked off, for the reasons just outlined.

    When you travel outside this country, you see how vastly different other peoples look at the world, and it’s because their media is not as limited as ours. It is why, for example, before the Iraq war began, opposition to this war was around 80 % outside America, whereas the figure was markedly less inside. The outside world’s majority opinion turned out to be right about this war – Bush’s claims of WMDs were pure fabrication. The media in this country bears a large responsibility for allowing the current government to hoodwink the country, having simply transmitted the government’s lies unchallenged to the public before the war began. Not allowing dissent has a lot to do with this. Consolidating media ownership is part of this.

    The subject of media is vast, and this only scratches the surface of what could be said. But please understand it is much bigger than simply whether Fox et al. are allowed to do whatever they do.

  38. Excellent!

    In some ways this reminds me of Lakoffs ample descriptions of Nurturant Parent and Strict Father metaphors for morality.

    I am currently in the midst of a long running “dialog” (I daresay argument, since he is honorable and I believe his heart is in the right place) who claims he does not worry about our nation taking an authoritarian turn because certain lines have not been crossed. He is confident that we will not go the way of Nazi Germany because of our Cnstitution and form of government give the people sufficient power that the demagogues will be turned back by the people.

    My point to him was that there are undercurrents in our culture that result in more or less regard for our form of government and that if authoritarians have no crossed whatever imaginary line he draws they are surely belly up the the line and trying to figure out how to cross it.

    The Constitution and people’s regard for it are two different things. Authoritarian tendencies lead those who are otherwise the law-and-order types for forsake it in place of a strong leader who will not be encumbered by it. Authority figures trump all for these types.

    I then asked him whether his apparent lack of concern over authoritarian threats, given history, was because he believed “not now”, “not yet”, or “it will never happen here.”

    His reply was that something to the effect we have lines defined by the Constitution that cannot be crossed.

    I contend that cultural acceptance and tolerance of authoritarianism is on the rise due to a culture of fear that has been successfully instilled. Where once it was viewed askance in much the same way that one would look at a loud drunk, extreme authoritarian views are a minor faux pas that can be overlooked in much the same way as an accidental fart would be.

    We’ve settled on going along to get along.

    Some things are worth a scrap…a fight.

  39. #19. That is interesting. Psychiatrist Justin Frank, in his book Bush on the Couch outlines actual scenarios by which childhood events might have thwarted normal development in such a way that his reasoning faculties remain impaired.

  40. sorry for blogificating (or is it blogabustering?). There are so many good comments here. James Bonds blog really resonates. I’m going to check out the other offer James blogged about.

    If had been so impressed by Lakoff that I posted summaries of some of his ideas. The books are better but if you lack time and want the thumbnail then click this:

    Geoffrey Nunberg is another cognitive linguist (also at UC Berkeley, as is Lakoff) who disputes Lakoffs metaphors in his book “Talking Right” on manipulation via language. He considers Lakoff overreaching because his models cannot explain why the supposed conservative morality metaphors do not account for various differences in positions held by conservatives.

    It seemed to be a silly difference. No one theory explains everything.

  41. Pat (#96), you should ask your friend – if you want to scrap – to be more specific about what particular lines he thinks have not yet been crossed. It might take a little work to then show him the lines we actually have crossed.

    There is a debate about this going on all the time at Orcinus. The consensus there is that we haven’t reached full fascism yet, but that we’re presently in a state of proto-fascism. Nazi Germany didn’t arrive full blown in one day. You might also google for the ’14 characteristics of fascism’.

    Also, fascism looks different wherever it appears. It won’t be swastikas and goose-stepping troops marching around the fountain this time. Someone (back in the 1930s) said that when fascism comes to America, it will be waving the flag and carrying the bible.

  42. Gosh, I’m missing all the fun. Wheelbarrow of tomatoes to put up, that’s why. Moonbat, great post, I read it, but no time to read or give justice to the comments. Later…

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