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Baron von Bone
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« on: Dec 11, 2010, 06:04PM »

About the TEA Party
 
About the '08 Election
 
The Authoritarians (2006)
by Bob Altemeyer
 
Introduction excerpt:
Quote
But why should you even bother reading this book? I would offer three reasons. First, if you are concerned about what has happened in America since a radical right-wing segment of the population began taking control of the government about a dozen years ago, I think you'll find a lot in this book that says your fears are well founded. As many have pointed out, the Republic is once again passing through perilous times. The concept of a constitutional democracy has been under attack--and by the American government no less! The mid-term elections of 2006 give hope that the best values and traditions of the country will ultimately prevail. But it could prove a huge mistake to think that the enemies of freedom and equality have lost the war just because they were recently rebuffed at the polls. I’ll be very much surprised if their leaders don’t frame the setback as a test of the followers’ faith, causing them to redouble their efforts. They came so close to getting what they want, they’re not likely to pack up and go away without an all-out drive. But even if their leaders cannot find an acceptable presidential candidate for 2008, even if authoritarians play a much diminished role in the next election, even if they temporarily fade from view, they will still be there, aching for a dictatorship that will force their views on everyone. And they will surely be energized again, as they were in 1994, if a new administration infuriates them while carrying out its mandate. The country is not out of danger.
 
The second reason I can offer for reading what follows is that it is not chock full of opinions, but experimental evidence. Liberals have stereotypes about conservatives, and conservatives have stereotypes about liberals. Moderates have stereotypes about both. Anyone who has watched, or been a liberal arguing with a conservative (or vice versa) knows that personal opinion and rhetoric can be had a penny a pound. But arguing never seems to get anywhere. Whereas if you set up a fair and square experiment in which people can act nobly, fairly, and with integrity, and you find that most of one group does, and most of another group does not, that’s a fact, not an opinion. And if you keep finding the same thing experiment after experiment, and other people do too, then that’s a body of facts that demands attention.3 Some people, we have seen to our dismay, don’t care a hoot what scientific investigation reveals; but most people do. If the data were fairly gathered and we let them do the talking, we should be on a higher plane than the current, “Sez you!”
 
The last reason why you might be interested in the hereafter is that you might want more than just facts about authoritarians, but understanding and insight into why they act the way they do. Which is often mind-boggling. How can they revere those who gave their lives defending freedom and then support moves to take that freedom away? How can they go on believing things that have been disproved over and over again, and disbelieve things that are well established? How can they think they are the best people in the world, when so much of what they do ought to show them they are not? Why do their leaders so often turn out to be crooks and hypocrites? Why are both the followers and the leaders so aggressive that hostility is practically their trademark? By the time you have finished this book, I think you will understand the reasons. All of this, and much more, fit into place once you see what research has uncovered going on in authoritarian minds.
 
Ready to go exploring?
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 13, 2010, 07:26PM »

The Right Wing Authoritarian Scale
 
This survey [when administered under the proper clinical conditions, which certainly isn't here in the OTF] 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 according to the following scale:
 
  -4 = You very strongly disagree with the statement.
  -3 = You strongly disagree with the statement.
  -2 = You moderately disagree with the statement.
  -1 = You slightly disagree with the statement.
   0 = You feel exactly and precisely neutral about the statement.
  +1 = You slightly agree with the statement.
  +2 = You moderately agree with the statement.
  +3 = You strongly agree with the statement.
  +4 = You very strongly agree with the statement.
 
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 [record] how you feel on balance (a “-3” in this case).
 
1. 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.
2. Women should have to promise to obey their husbands when they get married.
3. 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.
4. Gays and lesbians are just as healthy and moral as anybody else.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. There is absolutely nothing wrong with nudist camps.
9. Our country needs free thinkers who have the courage to defy traditional ways, even if this upsets many people.
10. Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash the perversions eating away at our moral fiber and traditional beliefs.
11. Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else.
12. The “old-fashioned ways” and the “old-fashioned values” still show the best way to live.
13. 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.
14. What our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush evil, and take us back to our true path.
15. 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.”
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. There is no “ONE right way” to live life; everybody has to create their own way.
21. Homosexuals and feminists should be praised for being brave enough to defy “traditional family values.
22. 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.
 
Scoring:
Okay, the first two don't count. They're just warmups to get the subject familiar and ideally comfortable with the -4 to +4 scale.
 
For numbers 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19 and 22:
If you wrote down a “-4” that’s scored as 1.
If you wrote down a “-3" that’s scored as 2.
If you wrote down a “-2" that’s scored as 3.
If you wrote down a “-1" that’s scored as 4.
If you wrote down a “0" or didn't answer, 5.
If you wrote down a “+1" that’s scored as 6.
If you wrote down a “+2" that’s scored as 7.
If you wrote down a “+3" that’s scored as 8.
If you wrote down a “+4" that’s scored as 9.
 
For numbers 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 20 and 21:
If you wrote down a “-4” that’s scored as 9.
If you wrote down a “-3" that’s scored as 8.
If you wrote down a “-2" that’s scored as 7.
If you wrote down a “-1" that’s scored as 6.
If you wrote down a “0" or didn't answer, 5.
If you wrote down a “+1" that’s scored as 4.
If you wrote down a “+2" that’s scored as 3.
If you wrote down a “+3" that’s scored as 2.
If you wrote down a “+4" that’s scored as 1.
 
Now simply add up your twenty scores. The lowest total possible would be 20, and the highest, 180.
 
My [informal] RWA Scale score is 28. This isn't valid survey methodology, but it's still informative, I think, and interesting, so if you're interested, there it is. I'll post Altemeyer's explanation/commentary on the RWA Scale if there's any interest.
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 14, 2010, 10:30AM »

If you read The Authoritarians I'd like to call your attention to the tail end of Chapter 7 (starting at book pg 237/PDF pg 244, especially TA pg 240/PDF pg 247) and consider the idea of conversational intolerance.
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 14, 2010, 03:44PM »

Byron, it's your confusion spooge, not Ronkny's that derailed part of this silly thread.

Of course it is in your eyes.
 
I'd expect you to have exactly the same "temporal blindness" here that Ronkny displayed, along with "forgetting" Ronkny made the initial sniping comment to which my point was a response, as well as the same capacity to completely ignore the actual parameters of the "offending" concept. Whatever mental contortions, errors or "misperceptions" are required to sufficiently pseudo-justify the position in which you're invested. Such is the Wingnut way, and the nature of religious faith.
 
The simple bottom line:
Ronkny was being an arse by posting that forum participants need to get a life. I pointed out his hypocrisy--the fact that he's one of the most prolific post writers (for those who have difficulty with such concepts, "he's" = "he is" and "is" = current/present tense).
 
 
 
I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Byron, again and again you contribute nothing but snobbish, elitist personal attacks."

Expressing the proper standards of logic and reason (often referred to as keeping them honest, for good reason) is usually taken as "elitist" and/or "personal attacks" to a Wingnut, because they would deny them most of their positions, which is pretty much the totality of what they tend to understand as those same standards--i.e. the "standards" are whether or not the reasoning brings about the correct (presumed) conclusion, and that's it. If you have anything resembling rational standards and you're so rude as to express them, you're an elitist, and you're attacking them, not so much their nonsense ideas.
 
This is the real issue we're dealing with what passes for politicking in today's USA. Given their psychology, one of the few things that we can expect to be at all effective in correcting their thinking and behavior is conversational intolerance, not indulgence or accommodation.
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 19, 2010, 01:19PM »

It's typical of Wingnuts to consider all "serious" issues as The Most Dire of All. Ask your average Wingnut if X is the most serious moral threat to the country, then if Y is the most serious, then Z, then A, then B, etc, and you'll get a yes for most or all of them. It means they operate under a constant sense of urgency, self-righteousness and self-impōtence, and of course it ups the perceived ante to histrionic levels and pretty much eliminates the possibility of reasonable compromise (i.e. it prevents civil political discourse/politics conducted on normal adult terms). It also makes them easy to mobilize in order to defeat this Most Dire Threat facing the nation ... for each and every item they consider at all important.
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« Reply #5 on: Jan 10, 2011, 06:33AM »

Interesting and provocative hypothesis by Mr. Altemeyer, and definitely falls into the category of Academic Coffee Talk .
Here is another, a critique of aforementioned, I find much more credible, IMHO:

 http://www.ironshrink.com/articles.php?artID=070116_jost_conservative_study_methodology

Quote
Excerpt:
The beauty of theories like RWA is that, while they can’t be proved, they can never be disproved. Once a group of theorists and researchers begin quoting and citing each other, the body of work takes on an air of legitimacy, regardless of the quality of empirical evidence.

Excerpt:
In this meta-analysis, left-leaning populations are devoid of ideological extremists or statistical outliers, while the right is defined almost exclusively by outliers. The authors quote Robert Altemeyer's feigned attempt to locate left-wing dictators:
“I have yet to find a single ‘socialist/Communist type’ who scores highly (in absolute terms) on the [Left-Wing Authoritarianism] Scale.... the ‘authoritarian on the left’ has been as scarce as hens’ teeth in my samples” (p. 353; brackets in original).
Perhaps the reason that Altemeyer is unable to locate authoritarian leftists is because this line of research tends to plead the Fifth (as with China and Cuba) or define them away (as with Communist Russia). You may be wondering how the authors managed to lump Stalin in with conservatives, thereby avoiding the sticky business of Marxist authoritarians. The authors explain that Stalin,“…secretly admired Hitler and identified with several right-wing causes (including anti-Semitism). In the Soviet context, Stalin was almost certainly to the right of his political rivals, most notably Trotsky. In terms of his psychological makeup as well, Stalin appears to have had much in common with right-wing extremists” (p. 343).
So there ya’ go. Stalin was less Marxist than others, mind readers have determined that he had a crush on Hitler, and he kinda looked like a conservative by our defnition. Ergo, Stalin was a conservative. Impeccable logic.

Excerpt:
I won’t take it upon myself to apologize to conservatives on behalf of my industry. That seems presumptuous. But I am embarrassed by the methodology in this study and I am deeply troubled by the response from the psychology community. This study is being held up as exemplary research when it is better suited to the editorial pages of Mother Jones than a peer-reviewed journal.
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« Reply #6 on: Jan 10, 2011, 06:51AM »

Interesting and provocative hypothesis by Mr. Altemeyer, and definitely falls into the category of Academic Coffee Talk .
Here is another, a critique of aforementioned, I find much more credible, IMHO:

 http://www.ironshrink.com/articles.php?artID=070116_jost_conservative_study_methodology

The article has a point, but it is also flawed:

Quote
The authors rely on little more than their dictionary to support this half of their definition. Other evidence that conservatives resist change comes from previous writers who have used similar definitions. If enough people repeat it, it must be true.

Well, the dictionary definition literally IS the definition of "conservatism."  Everything else is baggage heaped upon it by political confusion; often, you see people lump concepts into "conservatism" that don't belong there.  Including the writer of this article.  For example:

Quote
If I were setting out to understand a complex social phenomena such as conservatism . . .

It's not complex.  And by definition, it can be nebulous.  But that's it.  All the stuff about what issues conservatives want changed or don't want changed has nothing to do with actual conservatism, but with "American Conservatism" or more accurately, "Republicanism."  That's a gross distortion of the original and is only useful toward political ends based on political party prejudices.
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« Reply #7 on: Jan 10, 2011, 06:56AM »

>Making Stalin a right wing person because he was a dictator...

We have to understand that there is only a passing conjugation of government and economic system.  The Communists had state controlled economies, but that could be just as easily controlled by a democratically elected Duma and President as by a dictator or Tsar.  Since the Russians were used to being dictated to by a Tsar, they allowed one person to basically become a "left-wing Tsar", i.e. an absolute dictator with a state-run economy.

Germany chose the opposite in the 1930s.  Hitler was an absolute dictator, but did not have control of the economy.  The economy was quite capitalist.  The same could be said of Mussolini (although the Italian economy was never a strong one).

I think Baron's fear is that we may be headed to having our own version of a dictator simply because we are consuming slogans that would make Goebbels proud.  We are no longer thinking things through but instead listening for a shrieking sound bite that supports our prejudices and that becomes our mantra.
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« Reply #8 on: Jan 10, 2011, 07:58AM »

I found the questions themselves very polarising. I scored 36 (labelling me a near-rabid commie). But I consider myself a quite central centre-left (with environmental overtones). But that is in Europe - and we all know the Europe descended into a decadent, depraved communist quagmire long ago.
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 10, 2011, 09:13AM »


"Don’t confuse comprehensiveness with integrity."
 
Spoiling the well.
 
 
Quote
The study maligns half of the U.S. population and much of the population of the world.

Impertinent. Science isn't about being fair. This is a very common apologetic with what I call "professional victims".


Quote
Research resulting in mass vilification always causes the Iron Shrink to raise an eyebrow ...

"Mass vilification?"
 
Histrionics.
 
Pure presumption.
 
If something makes me and mine look and/or feel bad it's terrible and evil and ... and ... we're bein' oppressed!
 
 
Quote
... so I examined the methodology that the authors used to arrive at their conclusion. Regular readers will know that I have little tolerance for intellectual sloppiness.

We'll see. I suspect this lack of tolerance is better described as directed at disagreement, but I'm inclined toward skepticism, so ... we'll see.
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 10, 2011, 09:22AM »

I found the questions themselves very polarising. I scored 36 (labelling me a near-rabid commie). But I consider myself a quite central centre-left (with environmental overtones). But that is in Europe - and we all know the Europe descended into a decadent, depraved communist quagmire long ago.

The questions are polarizing. It's about authoritarianism, and that's how you separate categories of respondents. It's not really about politics, they just tend to correlate. You could very easily be a centrist non-authoritarian (or anti-authoritarian) or a conservative non-authoritarian (or anti-authoritarian), but at 36 on the RWA scale you're pretty strongly non-authoritarian (probably pretty anti-authoritarian) ... keeping in mind the caveat about the limits of the survey and how it was conducted, as posted above.
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 10, 2011, 09:23AM »

I think Baron's fear is that we may be headed to having our own version of a dictator simply because we are consuming slogans that would make Goebbels proud.  We are no longer thinking things through but instead listening for a shrieking sound bite that supports our prejudices and that becomes our mantra.

Yup ... the biggest group of fanatics eventually wins (favoring, of course, those more prone toward fanaticism over those more contemplative and sober ... etc).
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 10, 2011, 01:03PM »

Quote
For example, Robert Altemeyer, following the theories of Adorno, has devised ways of measuring obedience to authority in an attempt to “test” RWA theory. When such measures support the theory, they tend to be adopted into the body of work (recall the above quotation in which Altemeyer concludes that, according to his measures, there are no authoritarians on the left). Eventually, a mountain of patchwork evidence accumulates for supporters.

Well, they've found left wing authoritarians now, so it would seem this criticism was just premature--an expectation that the topic should be fully understood, which is very strange for a scientist, much less a social scientist.
 
Altemeyer was studying Canadians and other researchers had studied other populations, but they only started to find authoritarians on the political left when they looked at communists. Altemeyer told me about that in an email exchange that I can't find and can't be certain I recall with confident accuracy though. But I know they've found people on the political left who score high on the RWA scale.
 
In any case this guy's objections seem to be more about his own presumptions and how the research doesn't fit them than they are about the actual research. In short, he doesn't seem to like the conclusions at which the research arrives, and he also confuses the form of "right wing" the RWA scale is about with "political conservative" and "Republican". Most of this is also criticizing another study--another body of research. Altemeyer's stuff only shows up as a bullet point, basically, which could explain all of those impressions.
 
I'm continuing, though, because I expect he'll present some valid criticism here at some point (he may have already, and it's just obscured by other errors--gotta look into that possibility as well). He doesn't really seem like a Wingnut, just a conservative who's taking some unflattering research much too personally just because he's a conservative (or feels they need to be defended), when that doesn't make him a high RWA at all.
 
It could also just be that the research he's specifically criticizing is as bad as he says.
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 11, 2011, 02:02AM »


The questions are polarizing. It's about authoritarianism, and that's how you separate categories of respondents. It's not really about politics, they just tend to correlate. You could very easily be a centrist non-authoritarian (or anti-authoritarian) or a conservative non-authoritarian (or anti-authoritarian), but at 36 on the RWA scale you're pretty strongly non-authoritarian (probably pretty anti-authoritarian) ... keeping in mind the caveat about the limits of the survey and how it was conducted, as posted above.

By "polarising" I mean that they are hard to answer anything other than +4 or -4. Take for example the question about the "Woman's place". Either you have your head in the middle ages and believe that the woman should stay at home and do what her husband tells her, or you are repelled by the idea (like I am). I cannot imaging that many people would  only partially agree or disagree.

I also don't like question 21 about homosexuals and feminists being "brave". Feminists have a choice about their belief or conviction and choose to take action. Homosexuals don't have a choice, so how can they be "brave"? They are the way they are and were foreced with the unpleasant choice of either to hide their sexuality and be unhappy, or to be openly gay and be happier. There could be a component of bravery with either choice depending on the individual circumstances. OK - campaigners for gay rights, especially the early ones who risked jail, were and are brave - but homosexuals in general? Also, I am not sure if the question even can properly authoritarianism. If, say, I were some religious fundamentalist (pick almost any religion) who hated homosexuals and feminism. I may have this position and also think that the compaigners of these two abominations were brave. Wrong, but brave.

It is also strongly biased towards religious authoritarianism. How would a pure red, Stalinist communist score in this test? Anything mentioning womens' rights would be favouring feminism (in Communist countries women had the same jobs as men). "Traditional Values" are also out: the ongoing revolution is about smashing the old and building the communist ideal. Anything mentioning religion is way out.

There are many, many assumptions made in these questions about what "authoritarian" means. Maybe it is applicable in the US, but not in the rest of the World.

Edit: It is also applicable in any theocratical authoritarian country, such as Iran.

Edit again: Re-reading the original post you did say it was Right wing authoritarianism so my example of Stalin was not too appropriate. However right wing does not necessarily imply religious (outside the US at least).
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 11, 2011, 05:30AM »


"Don’t confuse comprehensiveness with integrity."

Another similar truism, that may or may not be pertinent to the conversation, but is important to keep in mind in general, is

"Don't confuse precision with accuracy."
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 11, 2011, 05:39AM »

Well, they've found left wing authoritarians now,
That is hardly a new discovery.  The whole notion of a "left" and a "right" is just wrong.  That imagery implies a liner scale, such that the farther you go in one direction, the more distant you are from the other pole.

Exactly the opposite is true.  The means and modalities of regimes at the far right and the far left are practically the same and they all approach authoritarianism.  A circle is a far better metaphor, although that is certainly an over-simplification.

Is fascism a "lefty" thing?  That is generally thought to be the case.  But in fact, you can get to fascism through a variety of routes.  We took giant strides in that direction during the Bush/Cheney years, and that was hardly a left-wing gang.

Fascism, at least the neo-American style of it, is less of a political philosophy, and more of a means to accumulate great amounts of wealth in the hands of a privileged few.  The people at the core of the neo-American fascism are more or less agnostic politically.  It is all about the money for them -- and the authoritarian power.  At some point, there is so much money that it loses its attraction, but it seems there is no end to the craving for power.
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 11, 2011, 08:37AM »

Interesting approach, actikid.  As you have probably seen, I have concluded that the notions of "left" and "right" are wrong, but I hadn't thought to think of the spectrum as a closed circle.  Nice analogy.
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« Reply #17 on: Jan 11, 2011, 09:13AM »

Interesting approach, actikid.  As you have probably seen, I have concluded that the notions of "left" and "right" are wrong, but I hadn't thought to think of the spectrum as a closed circle.  Nice analogy.

I think I have mentioned on this forum before that this notion was first presented to me by a social studies teacher in high school.  Looking at him, one would conclude he was "just a big dumb guy who was only allowed to teach a class because he was a good football coach.  Let's give him social studies, because he can't mess that up too bad."

This "big dumb football coach" was a lot smarter than 90% of the others, it seems.  At the time, fascism was rampant in many of the regimes in South America (propped up by the USA in every case, by the way), and we were only a couple of decades removed from the Hitler regime.  He did what appeared to be a simple minded point/counter-point argument of the right versus the left.

With each point for the left, his left hand swept wider to the left.  And with each point for the right, his right hand reached out the other direction.  This continued on for a few minutes until finally his left hand met his right hand behind his back.  At that moment, he made the point that totalitarian, authoritarian regimes were all about the same, regardless of which path they took to get there.

I learned more from that "big dumb football coach" than most other teachers.
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Baron von Bone
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 11, 2011, 09:50AM »

From the Wikipedia page on the RWA Scale:
Quote
The "right wing" in right-wing authoritarianism does not necessarily refer to someone's politics, but to psychological preferences and personality. It means that the person tends to follow the established conventions and authorities in society. In theory, the authorities could have either right-wing or left-wing political views.

The politics correlate about 90%, which is one predictability metric by which the scale is strongly affirmed.
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« Reply #19 on: Jan 11, 2011, 09:59AM »

From the Wikipedia page on the RWA Scale:  
The politics correlate about 90%, which is one predictability metric by which the scale is strongly affirmed.
I don't know.  It seems to me that the totalitarians who came to power from what is popularly referred to as left-wing revolutions often have palaces just as grand as those who go the other direction.  There may be a few ideologues such as Castro (maybe) that are not totally consumed by money and power above political philosophy.  But it seems to me that almost all of the authoritarian regimes end up with very rich people at the center.  For them, political ideology is more akin to a marketing plan.  It is a means to the end, and the ideology is disposable just like last year's advertising campaign.
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