THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY

As an ideology conservatism makes sense. That's not an endorsement, merely a recognition that it is an internally consistent set of ideas. This is surprising only inasmuch as conservatives themselves – at least of the American variety – are about as logical and internally consistent as Mars Volta lyrics.

Being a modern American conservative is an exercise in holding contradictory viewpoints without an ounce of self awareness. They believe in fiscal conservatism and stratospheric levels of military spending. They believe in individual freedom and that the government should legislate Christian-approved morality. They preach about the Constitution and rights but love it when the government infringes upon them in the name of security. Yes, the contradictions are many, but none is more reliably amusing than belief that government is oppressive, nefarious, and untrustworthy combined with blind, fanatical support of the police, military, and other forms of gun-wielding authority.

Over on the ol' Gin and Tacos facebook page (which you should totally follow, if you do not already do so) I posted a picture of the UC-Davis police officer pepper spraying passive, seated students blocking a sidewalk (oh, the horror!) Since I happened to be among the first wave of people to post the picture, many G&T fans shared the post on their own Facebook walls. As a result, it was seen by a vast number of people who are…not part of my regular audience. Think of every crazy uncle and right wing knucklehead on your Facebook friend list and you'll see where this is headed.

I can't say it surprised me that people defended the cop. There are always people who will defend the cop. Believe it or not, I was taken aback by just how stupid their arguments were even though such things should not surprise me anymore. Most of all, though, it's amazing the extent to which these people who believe that government is pure evil will argue that A) the role of the citizen relative to the police is one of absolute, unquestioning obedience, B) the police are to be taken at their word at all times, and C) whatever type and amount of force the police choose to use is inherently right.

If one of the defining characteristics of government is possession of a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within its borders, then the police are government at its most elemental. They are the government's way of perpetuating itself and enforcing rules and social order. If government is evil, oppressive, or misguided then by definition the police – the muscle behind the corrupt system – must be as well. Yet rather than seeing the state using questionable (to put it charitably) levels of force against its own citizens as another sign of a brutal, corrupt, and broken system – which, for the record, is what they see when police/military are used to crush popular demonstrations in other countries – they cheer on its excesses and defend it to the last man.

Maintaining this curious set of beliefs depends on their equally curious understanding of what exactly the police are for. To the average conservative – old white people, suburbanites, the wealthy, moral traditionalists, etc. – the police are a personal valet service charged with protecting them from the brown people, the poor, the homeless, and the punk kids with their boom-boom music and bouncing cars. The rights of those groups are not an issue, you see, because they have no rights. Only "good, hard working Americans" truly have rights, and others forfeir their rights by their actions. If the police ask you to move from the sidewalk and you don't, then you no longer have any rights. They can do whatever they want and it's your own fault.

Of course that might be a more convoluted, less helpful way of restating Adorno's ideas about the authoritarian personality type: submissiveness to authority, aggression toward outgroups defined by that authority, and the unwavering belief that others should conform to one's own understanding of socially acceptable behavior. Thus we have Nixon's "Silent Majority", at once scared, angry, and aggressive, filling our social and political discourse with the mantra that the government that they worship blindly and submit to completely is inherently evil. I suppose it makes more sense if you don't understand how logic works.

Be Sociable, Share!

60 Responses to “THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY”

  1. SA Says:

    Megyn "it's a food product, essentially" Kelly is doing a pretty good job of demonstrating the authoritarian personality but the cherry on the frosting goes to O'Reilly who says we shouldn't second-guess the cops, "particularly at a place like UC Davis, which is a fairly liberal campus."

    Because some campuses deserve a liberal dusting of "food product" more than others, of course. Who could argue with that?

  2. PhoenixRising Says:

    A self-styled conservative is someone who believes that state employees are a) overpaid and can't be trusted when it comes to teaching 7 year olds about the silent 'e', but also b) hardworking public servants who never make mistakes when it comes to applying and carrying out the death penalty.

    And a real conservative will tell you that deep in your heart, you agree with him about this but are too brainwashed by your college education and the liberal media to admit it.

    So we can only be so surprised that these same people believe that anyone who gets assaulted with a chemical spray for sassing a cop should have shut up and gone along with the freedom-protector's orders. Because liberty.

  3. Fifth Dentist Says:

    I remember seeing a video from the 2008 election. At some McCain rally there was a man who appeared to be in his 60s with an anti-McCain sign. A Republican told him to put the sign away, and when the sign holder refused the good 'Murkan tackled the man with the sign.
    That totally sums up their thoughts on the Constitution, free speech, and protest — the Constitution defends their rights to speech, so showing Obama as the Joker is perfectly acceptable but questioning the Iraq war is treason and disrespecting the presidunce.
    And if one teabagger — anywhere — had been mildly inconvenienced by a cop for, say, jaywalking during one of their not-so-well attended rallies, it would have been due to the president's jack-booted thugs acting directly on his orders as the first step in establishing a gay-nazi-muslim-atheist dictatorship.
    They don't do fairness; hell they don't even understand the word. Things that most of us learned in kindergarten are foreign concepts to them. But then, the very act of learning is a foreign concept to them. Probably French.

  4. vegymper Says:

    Ed and friends, for your personal file
    http://www.paulgraham.com/cornpone.html
    (by Mark Twain)

  5. Rich Berryman Says:

    Hey! Don't lump ALL old white people with the "conservative " label – as you define it. I'm a retired old white LIBERAL, proud Democrat and historically "radical." Give me a break! Love and appreciate ginandtacos none the less. Rich

  6. Misty Pellon Says:

    I think Reed has been given many chances and had he made some of the field goals in games they lost….by 3 points things would be different.

  7. Wenona Wiltrout Says:

    Watch Sports Live On Your PC And Never Miss Another Game Again. No Contacts,No Hassles Just A One Off Payment For 24/7 Access To Your Favorite Sports. http://bit.ly/watch-sports-live