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.

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60 Responses to “THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY”

  1. lfv Says:

    My favorite part is the constant bleating about government extracting taxes with the barrel of a gun.

    But when the guns and whatnot are actually used?

  2. VALIS Says:

    A couple of my FB acquaintances, namely asshole Republicans, suggest that the pic (which I shared from you) was faked. Or that the pepper spray was heavily diluted. Needless to say, those people are awful.

  3. RT Butte Says:

    Yeah, I've been saying that for a while; for a group of people who see the encroaching jackboots of totalitarianism when the Kenyan Usurper broadcasts a message to schoolchildren telling them to do well in school, how mind-bendingly fierce and strong is their hard-on for the government's coercion vehicles.

  4. Middle Seaman Says:

    Your basic assumption is wrong and therefore you see many contradictions. It's very simple. The term conservatives is used world wide for the right wing political movement. For historical reasons, it is applied to Republicans. That is totally wrong; they are not conservatives. They are radical fascists.

    They don't believe in fiscal conservatism; they will encourage stratospheric levels of military spending, irresponsible tax cuts, subsidies for their friends. They don't believe in individual freedom, rather they believe in no or limited freedom for the middle class and the poor. Since their base is hysterically religious, they want the government should legislate Christian-approved morality. They preach, only when it serves their goals and their policies demand it, the virtues of the Constitution. They don't mind when the government infringes upon the constitution in the name of security, immigration and financial fraud.

    The list is endless.

  5. Radical Scientist Says:

    I've been fairly involved in my local small-college-town occupation (which has been pretty low-key; our greatest conflict with police thus far was an especially tedious meeting), and by far the biggest surprise has been the level of sheer hate directed at us from college republican types.

    I was fully prepared for a constant drone of 'get a job, hippy!' type heckling, but the number of people who seem to sincerely believe we should be shot is staggering (and that's after discounting anyone who seems to grasp hyperbole). We've also gotten a ton of support, and plenty of polite disagreement, but the phenomenon Ed's describing is, well, scary.

  6. SHg Says:

    Over on the ol' what?

  7. freeportguy Says:

    "They preach about the Constitution and rights but love it when the government infringes upon them in the name of security."

    Actually, it's not such a contradiction, for conservatism is about SELFISHNESS: to be FREE (from Government) to do whatever I want AND to be PROTECTED (by Government) against others who want to arm me or take from me whatever I have.

  8. Hugo Says:

    I was wondering if you'd talk about this here. The total lack of critical thinking or reason in the minds of some ceased to shock or surprise me a long time ago, but it does still sadden me greatly, and that Facebook thread had a plentiful lacking.

    To anyone who wonders what the point of liberal-arts education in (e.g.) philosophy, literature, or political science is, it's this. It's so you can learn to think critically, exercise reason, argue from evidence, make democracy function as it is supposed to, not immediately fall for claims like "Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11," and not make silly statements like "all cops are heroes and your duty as a citizen is to always obey the authorities."

    Everyone who posted on that comment thread was literate in English (mostly… kinda) and was able to operate a computer, so they were not developmentally challenged. I view it as a social and an educational failure that so many people are allowed to mature into a political community without receiving any knowledge of what it means to be a citizen of a political community, and that so many are considered "educated" when they are complete strangers to logic and reason.

  9. Tim Says:

    Awesome use of a Mars Volta reference.

    On the actual subject, there is nothing more fun than playing with people's cognitive dissonance. Pressing people on why they make questionable assumptions that rely on off-shot knowledge they do not have and do not seek instead of simply wondering if the police made an error in judgement…well, it makes conversation with these kinds of people worthwhile. If you get any response other than silence or "I don't know" it's so convoluted and nonsensical that sometimes I can't even decipher it.

  10. Glen.h Says:

    I have to agree with Middle Seaman that the American groups refered to as "conservative" are anything but. Politics in the U.S have lurched so far to the extreme Right that those once called that are now moderate Democrats

  11. Xynzee Says:

    What's interesting is how they've created a self fulfilling prophecy.

    "Government is the problem" so they elect people ram a screw driver through the radiator, pour sugar in the petrol and drain the oil. Tell me again why the car doesn't work?

    "Suspend habeas corpus and the 5th" Holy $#¡~! we live in a police state!

    Background checks and preventing guns from finding their way into the hands of those shouldn't have 'em is "Unconstitutional and against civil liberties". Wow the number of cops it took to handle the guy better armed than an army unit (sort of plays into the police state above). So of course they have keep tabs on these people.

    And so it goes.

    A comedian once said: the problem is how we allot certain things. At 16 you get to drive, 18 you get to vote, 21 you get to drink. It's as if some how you turn these ages and you're magically endowed with the maturity to handle these things. Well that's just bullshit. So what I'm proposing is to get rid of the ID card and make it an IQ card. You have to prove you have a minimum level of intelligence before you get these things. Sorry but it says you have an IQ of 70… weeeell it is a Country and Western Bar so come on in!!

  12. Neal Deesit Says:

    In the comments to the picture you posted on FB, you quoted Altemeyer on Right Wing Authoritarianism.

    His book "The Authoritarians" (2006), a "Postscript on the 2008 Election", and a "Comment on the Tea Party Movement are all available as free PDF files here.

  13. buckyblue Says:

    Here in cheeseland I've been arguing with my conservative FB 'friends' that the Republicans should be just as pissed off at Walker as the Democrats (indeed, 20% of them think he should be recalled). What conservative would think that practically all government decisions should be made by the governor and then rubber stamped by his buddies in the Leg and Supreme Court. If for no other reason, don't you think that, at some point, a Democrat will take that office and have the same powers that Walker has concentrated in the Gov. office? Middle Seaman has this right, Republicans aren't conservative, they are fascist. Scooter looks pretty good in a funny, Hitleresque mustache.

  14. Sarah Says:

    "They preach about the Constitution and rights but love it when the government infringes upon them in the name of security."

    I need to disagree with you there. Conservatives are A-OK with the government infringing on people other than themselves in the name of security. All the recent bleating about invasive personal searches by airport security was (IMNSHO) code for demanding that racial profiling be introduced.

  15. squirrelhugger Says:

    "The rights of those groups are not an issue, you see, because they have no rights." Because, in the end, they aren't white male property owners. These people aren't "modern American conservatives", they're classic, dictionary-definition reactionaries. They've always been there, but the internet and 200-channel TV have given them visibility. By labelling them with the likes of W.F. Buckley and, yes, even tax-hiking R. Reagan, you fall into the trap of letting them shift the center of gravity for the society rightward. Words and labels are important. Don't lose control of them.

  16. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    The "true patriots" at yesterday's NASCAR championship race booed our First Lady, who was there to say, in unison with an Iraq Veteran and his family," Gentlemen, Start Your Engines." They booed her, they said (on NASCAR's bulletin board), because she was unpatriotic.

  17. * Says:

    What he did was brutal, unprovoked and entirely unnecessary. He's a lousy cop who didn't know how to handle what seemed for all intents and purposes to amount to a relatively cut-and-dry confrontation with a bunch of kids who weren't in any way a threat to him. He and his fellow officers very likely fell back on a ridiculously faulty belief — that because pepper spray, tear gas and the like are designated non-lethal weapons that it's perfectly alright to use them wantonly and that they should be the first choice rather than a last resort in dealing with protesters who refuse to do what you tell them to but who aren't threatening you. It's lazy policing, pure and simple, and the person who thinks that way doesn't deserve to be a cop.

  18. anotherbozo Says:

    As usual here, a beautifully and cogently stated case. I had to read the penultimate sentence twice ["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."] since Ed brought in the neocon's idea of gubment as evil.

    So we worship authority and want to drown it in the bathtub. The truly schizoid, reduced to one impossible mixed metaphor.

  19. Misterben Says:

    I have nothing substantial to add to this discussion that wouldn't simply be a restatement of what you've said, or what another commenter has said. I just want to mention that this is the sort of really terrific article that prompts me to visit this site at least once a day, and makes me think you should be selling your writing, not just giving it away. This was more worth reading than half of what I read in the last Economist.

  20. Hawes Says:

    In view of your opening point, I ain't too proud to Bleg. I was just myself thinking about how GOP politicians think. And they're role in creating GOP "ideas". Rather than cut and paste, here's a link:
    http://zombieland-nowbrainfree.blogspot.com/2011/11/remember-jerry-its-not-lie-if-you.html

  21. N Says:

    I find it illuminating that (to me) the most interesting part of the incident–the peaceful eviction of the cops by the students after the pepper spray incident–has not really been reported by the media. The students turned a brutal incident into an inspiring one, and the cops look so confused as they are slowly forced off campus. If you haven't watched the video all the way through with sound, you really should.

    Watch out, monopoly.

  22. c u n d gulag Says:

    Not Conservative, but Fascists – agreed!

    And that's the problem with this country – the 25-35% who'll vote for any lunatic, idiot, and religious nut with an "R" next to their name. Which means that the Democrats, no angels themselves, have to overcome that in every election – from their town's dogcatcher(dogfucker?), to the President. So, we have to get 50.1%, and all they need is 16-26% of the rest of the ill/mis-informed idiots in the country.

    What I did love about this whole incident is the silent treatment given the Chancellor when she was walking out to her car.
    It was so silent, it was frightening.

  23. brooklyn4eveh Says:

    Just change the last word of the Pledge of Allegiance from 'all' to 'me' and it will become just a lil bit clearer.

  24. Da Moose Says:

    I can't emphasize enough just how important this concept is. I work in the federal government in a law enforcement agency as an IT contractor. Right across the street from where I work are the DC Occupy guys. I am this close to joining them. The people (chimps) whom I deal with on a daily basis are some of the most intellectually flat, brain-dead, myopic motherphuckas you will ever meet. Most are ex-military. 20 years in the Navy with great pension, move on over to get a low six figure government salary doing basically nothing and, at the end of the day, over drinks what's the prime target for their slobbery hate and frustration? The Federal Government. It boggles the mind.

    I can't state this enough: we have an oligarchy of very savy but slimy people protected by the dumbest among us. Soft slime protected by a shell of extreme stupidity. This will not last.

  25. acer Says:

    Have you considered libertarianism?

  26. JohnR Says:

    I would draw the distinction between 'conservatives' and what you call 'modern conservatives' (who are anything but) that might be more accurately labeled "Conservatives", in the sense that they are a self-identified group. It's like the "Christians" who follow the teachings of someone who was the total opposite of the Christ in my Bible; you're free to choose what you wish to call yourself, but calling yourself Brad Pitt doesn't make you him.
    Always define your terms, and require that in any discussion you understand the definitions of the other party. If you think 'tomato' is a red vegetable (or fruit) and the other party thinks 'tomato' is a small Australian mammal in the genus Zaglossus, the conversation is quickly going to go off into regions bizarre and ultimately unsatisfying.

  27. Matt Warren Says:

    All I can say is that if this very thing had happened to protesting Tea Partiers, the very same group falling over themselves to praise the police would be screaming for the president to step down for allowing this Orwellian nightmare to exist.

  28. SA Says:

    It has also not escaped my notice that the very same mouth-breathers who scream about their First Amendment rights [sic] being stomped on when their racist, homophobic comments are deleted from a newspaper or when Glenn Beck's show is canceled, are champing at the bit to lecture Occupy members on how "when a cop tells you to do something, you comply" and blather about how sit-ins are violent and how tents, marches, and signs are not speech.

    2011: The Year of the Constitutional Scholar.

  29. Hazy Davy Says:

    I went to the store to buy a loaf of bread.

    The cashier said "That'll be $3.99" (I like fancy bread, because I'm not a socialist.)

    "No," I said, "it's only $2. I know, because I conducted a pretend survey of imaginary people in my pocket."

    "Actually, it's $3.99. You can see it there, on the endcap price sign. And here, on the price tag."

    "You have no idea, you $%^&* leftie. Only a leftie fascist would deny the obvious fact that the bread is worth $2."

    "You don't have to buy it, sir, but it does cost $3.99."

    "Look, you cowardly maggot, don't try to tell me food is unnecessary. Put down the hash pipe and give me the bread. Here's $2."

    "Security to checkstand 3 It's $2."

    I punched him in the face and said, "The customer is always right! The price is what the market will bear. I will pay $2!"

    The local beat cop showed up and asked me to pay $3.99 and take the bread, or to leave, or he'd arrest me.

    "Who do you work for! You work for ME!" Just then I saw that some hippie was able to buy a pack of chewing gum for LESS THAN $3.99. "If it's $3.99," I asked, "then why does that hippie there get to pay less?"

    "He's buying gum, sir."

    "Don't change the subject! You'll sell to him, but you won't to me? The cops won't protect my right to consumption? IT'S RIGHT OUT OF THE ALINSKY PLAYBOOK THAT GLENN BECK TOLD ME ABOUT. CALIPHATE. You'll probably want to charge me salex tax, too! Bastards!"

    "Sir, it's organic bread, made from grain grown on a local farm. If you want cheaper bread, you can buy some from that large industrial bakery that bleaches the nutrition out of the food."

    "No WAY! No subsidies. Why must the GUBMINT interfere with the free market."

    ….

    On the other hand, the bread's free where I live now…but the GUBMINT is still breathing down my neck, along with some dude named "Punchy".

  30. Major Kong Says:

    "Have you considered libertarianism?"

    Because it would be so much better if the people with guns and pepper spray were private security forces rather than municipal police?

  31. acer Says:

    @Major Kong:
    Just some light trolling there. As a long-time reader, I'm pretty sure I know how Ed feels about libertarians.

    I used to think of libertarianism as a more internally consistent form of small-government conservatism. But I've come to realize the Ls have no beef with authoritarianism per se, as long as it's bought and paid for – they just share a juvenile obsession with hating the government.

    http://www.zompist.com/libertos.html

  32. terraformer Says:

    To add to the "Libertarian" discussion – they are nothing more than Republicans who want to get high every once in a while. That is really the only difference.

  33. Bernard Says:

    now that we are reaping the seeds of the "Reagan Revolution/Trickle Down Economics" mindset, the "success"of which is apparent for those who choose to "see".

    what really amazes me is the Zombies who parrot the "talking points" of the Overlords. as the economic reality is not going to get better for the 99%, no matter what happens, how long will the Silent Majority stick to their fear based ideas. we all see how well the Death Panels from Blue Cross, Aetna, Pharma, Chamber of Commerce, et al. work today.

    I read that only after the Zombies die, will the status quo change, one coffin at a time. After all, the Silent Majority put the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats into office out of fear of Change, and stopping those Damn Fuuking Hippies of yesterday. Shows them DFHs who's got the power. like the story about the brain, heart and ass each asserting why they had the right to be called the "Owner" of the human body. we know how that works out.

    The Left is still way too scary for the those average Middle Class Americans/older white people to admit they made an error in judgment about the Right and their "vision." a shame, too. since the Right is and has been so wrong about most everything, so consistently wrong for so long. Now we see Trickle Down is crashing down from its' own lies.

    i just recently read something like 40% of American don't want science in schools, nor to mention evolution. A religious population is not the same as a spiritual one. we are some truly Fuuked people until religion gets out of the schools and public government. Freedom from Religion is essential to freedom, period.

    amazing the depth of willful ignorance and fear used to steal, kill and destroy what was the American Republic. Sad, and amazing, nonetheless. the destruction of the American Republic for the 1% by voting Republican. Go Zombies Go!!! the Democrats sell the same schtick! One Party, Two Faces!!

    Thanks to Reagan, the 1% now own America. Reagan was a pivotal figure in American History. a good example for America, of what to avoid. History is full of leaders who screwed their people. Mao, Stalin,Lon Nol and of course that famous Austrian, who the Right mimics with their deeds.

    Americans voted Republicans time after time, don't need no damn gubmit help, thank you very much.

    Americans sowed the winds of fear and now they are reaping the whirlwinds of Evil.

  34. blondie Says:

    Great turn of phrase about the police as personal valet/protection service.

    Just saw Grover Norquist on 60 minutes last night. I don't have a quote, but he said something to the effect that he formed his political philosophy at the age of 12. And that sounds about right — immature, ill-informed, short-sighted, lacking in judgment or perspective, and selfish, like most 12 yr. olds' life-view would be. (sorry to any 12 yr. olds reading this & offended; I would consider you an exception). Yet, the current crop of "conservatives" has sworn allegiance to drowning-the-government-in-the-bathtub, Norquist-style. The U.S. as the island in Lord of the Flies.

    On another hand, I have plenty of relatives who cling tightly to their "conservative" beliefs, hitting all the notes you play above. Abhorrent belief system. Yet, in personal, day-to-day life, these people do not act like sociopaths. They are kind to others. They show compassion, community spirit, good neighborly-spirit, and a willingness to share/give. For most of them there is a wide disconnect between their expressed beliefs and how they act on a daily basis. Weird.

  35. Mrs. Chili Says:

    I love you.

  36. Eric Titus Says:

    I might suggest that democrats (American liberalism, if you like) are only slightly less internally contradictory than Republicans. After all, holding belief opposite to someone who is contradicting themselves means that you will contradict yourself as well. Liberals tend to hold a more revisionist view of the constitution, except when they don't. They believe the government is a positive force, but also think it supports existing power structures and is beholden to corporations. In other words, internal contradictions are far from confined to one end of the political spectrum.

    But "authoritarianism" seems to be central to modern conservativism. You build an explanation about how the government is reliant on you, and people like you, to support the unworthy. Then you come up with convoluted explanations for why to ignore and repress dissenting voices. The ultimate aim is to divide the world into normal, productive Americans and others (hippies, students, immigrants, african-americans, the unemployed) who are tolerated and allowed to live off the regular Americans' beneficence, as long as they accept the legitimacy of those groups' power and keep out of their way. One thing I like about the OWS movement is that it challenges the notion that "what you deserve is what you get," one of the core ideas of American conservatism.

  37. Ellie Says:

    I've long since come to the conclusion that all of the hard-core self-identified "conservatives" I know are crazy. I mean that in the literal, "they are mentally ill, just look at their upbringing, you'd be insane too" sense of the word "crazy". I can't argue with them because I literally cannot argue with crazy people.

  38. Bill Says:

    Two things, probably, about the UC Davis Police. Police in general, I guess.
    First thing- a job in which you occasionally have an opportunity to push people around tends to attract folks who get off on pushing people around, just like jobs that involve power tools and fasteners attract people who like to nail boards together.

    Second thing- Not all people who like to nail boards together are good builders, most of them aren't even decent carpenters. Owning a Skilsaw and a hammer does not make you a carpenter, and possessing a badge doesn't make you a good cop. Looking at you, Lt. Pike.

    I think that the moment that you decided to pepper spray a bunch of kids sitting on the ground- that's when we knew what kind of cop you are. Probably the kind that's REALLY into being a cop, because when you strap on that gun, you're not just some out-of-shape schlub anymore- now you're a badass. All the kids that pushed you around in high school will fear you now, because you got your picture in the paper. Macing some kids a little older than you were in high school. Way to go, hero.

    I like cops, in general. They do a tough job that not everyone wants to do. Pricks like this guy make me grind my teeth, and they reflect badly on other cops.

  39. ladiesbane Says:

    Many of the proud Cons (and Libertarians) I know are pretty open about wanting a militaristic Christian dictatorship in this country, and fit the post's rundown to a T. They might try to defend themselves, nonsensically, but in the company of friends, it's a case of "Yeah, that's right." They pick and choose what scriptures to follow. But the Christian liberals I know do the same thing. Cons tend to ignore Jesus turning out the moneylenders, Libs tend to ignore all the homophobic stuff, and everyone shrugs off the mixed fibers / Kashrut law type stuff.

    The bottom line is never "What's the right thing to do?", but "Do I like it? Do I not like it? Does it agree with the biases and preferences I already have?" The only long-term remedy is early education. One that stresses hard science and math (the importance of fact-based study, opinion versus fact, and outcomes that are testable, provable, repeatable, etc.); and which teaches the history and technical details of government, law, the press, and other things no one seems to understand anymore.

  40. Eric Blair Says:

    The second paragraph starts: "Being a modern American conservative is an exercise in holding contradictory viewpoints without an ounce of self awareness." And is totally true. Why?

    …Doublespeak!

    "Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs), making the truth less unpleasant, without denying its nature. It may also be deployed as intentional ambiguity, or reversal of meaning (for example, naming a state of war "peace"). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth, producing a communication bypass." – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak

  41. Amused Says:

    A few days ago, one of the country's classiest newspapers, The New York Post (and by "one of the classiest", I mean it's a right-wing tabloid) ran a headline "Ass-haul" on it's front page. The photo showed your typical middle-aged tea-bagger dragging your typical college-age hippie through a doorway. The article stated that a protester tried to disrupt the swearing-in ceremony for a local Tea Party councilman. One of the councilman's supporters, a former cop who retired on disability saved the day by wrestling the protester down to the floor and dragging him out of the building by his clothes.

    Curious, I went online to check out the comments. Predictable whining about "entitled" kids who should get a job and let grown-ups run things, illegal aliens stealing our jobs, welfare queens, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseam. And then, there was one commenter who pointed out that this "hero" ex-cop, who successfully wrestled a man who appeared to be about 6 feet tall and about 180 pounds, and dragged him out of the building … didn't appear to be disabled, you know. The comment was obviously tongue-in-cheek, appealing to the classic conservative complaint about lazy people sucking at the taxpayers' teat. Jesus Tapdancing Christ, were these tea-baggers pissed at this commenter. After lecturing him about how just because you don't appear to be disabled doesn't meant you aren't actually completely unable to do any work, they — of course — called him a "liberal turd". Not one of these folks stopped to think that if a cop is able to retire on a full pension, plus disability payments and all the benefits because of a herniated disc, he has "liberal turds" to thank for that, not the Tea Party.

  42. SA Says:

    I shared this post over at Alas, A Blog, and was given this link in reply:

    The Authoritarians

    For example, take the following statement: “Once our government leaders and the authorities condemn the dangerous elements in our society, it will be the duty of every patriotic citizen to help stomp out the rot that is poisoning our country from within.” Sounds like something Hitler would say, right? Want to guess how many politicians, how many lawmakers in the United States agreed with it? Want to guess what they had in common?

    Or how about a government program that persecutes political parties, or minorities, or journalists the authorities do not like, by putting them in jail, even torturing and killing them. Nobody would approve of that, right? Guess again.

    Don’t think for a minute this doesn’t concern you personally. Let me ask you, as we’re passing the time here, how many ordinary people do you think an evil authority would have to order to kill you before he found someone who would, unjustly, out of sheer obedience, just because the authority said to? What sort of person is most likely to follow such an order? What kind of official is most likely to give that order, if it suited his purposes? Look at what experiments tell us, as I did.

  43. SA Says:

    But the Christian liberals I know do the same thing. Cons tend to ignore Jesus turning out the moneylenders, Libs tend to ignore all the homophobic stuff, and everyone shrugs off the mixed fibers / Kashrut law type stuff.

    I'm not sure that's fair to say. Liberal Christianity has some wishy-washy pick and choosers in it, but it also has a very strong group of adherents who believe in really searching, thoughtful exegesis, including about "the homophobic stuff." "Unprotected Texts" is a great book in that vein. Mel White has done some excellent writing and speaking on it as well. Even the public-oriented documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So" contains a surprising amount of scholarly engagement with the big six or seven verses.

    Critical inquiry: as ever, the bane of the Right.

  44. HoosierPoli Says:

    I would argue that liberalism as an ideology makes vastly more sense. And since you went all polisci nerd on me with Saint Weber, I'll hit you back with some John Rawls. We should desire the society in which we would live if we didn't know beforehand what position in it we would occupy.

  45. HoosierPoli Says:

    Bill: I agree with you totally about cops, Bill. I would say the chief problem with American police officers are the laws they are obligated to enforce, and that's really OUR problem as an electorate, not theirs. If we legalized a certain plant, I would probably high-five cops on a regular basis. The fact that our laws are absurd makes me respect cops less, rightly or wrongly.

  46. ladiesbane Says:

    Ah, SA: the rub for me, personally, was that one branch of my family are Biblical literalists (and don't ask which canon; it's not a good one), another is all about Liberation Theology, and there are extra unpruned twigs who go in all sorts of other directions — plus all the people I churched with, back in the day, and all the folks I met at school, and in my travels, and all their beliefs. Every single time, the Universal Truth (TM) a seeker found was, miraculously, exactly what he or she already knew, deep down, to be True. Whether that was self-sacrifice and love, or hellfire and condemnation, or Just Do Your Best, or a life in imitation of Christ, it just happened to be whatever that person wanted to find. A selfless person finds generosity, and a selfish person finds authority to dominate others in the name of the right, or the Right. It's all in there.

  47. cromartie Says:

    They believe the government is a positive force, but also think it supports existing power structures and is beholden to corporations. In other words, internal contradictions are far from confined to one end of the political spectrum.

    You're going to have to work a little harder than this. Liberals believe government can be</b. a positive force but think it currently supports existing power structures and is beholden to corporations.

    This is not the internal contradiction you're trying to spin it to be.

    And I'm not a Conservative, but let's be careful here to separate Conservative from Republican when writing columns like this. There are some remaining Conservatives who are consistent in their idiology, but the phenomenon about which Ed is writing is one of contemporary (outside of the South) Republicans. Anyone who still thinks Republicans are Conservative (not frequent readers of this blog) are kidding themselves.

  48. Tim H. Says:

    http://thisishistorictimes.com/2011/11/police-states-of-america/

    Meshes well with your essay, but in fairness, I think most law enforcement are as decent as the rules allow. On libertarianism, most followers of that do it incompletely, they wish to free business from oppressive regulation, but quite okay with "little people" being oppressed.

  49. Eric Titus Says:

    Cromartie,
    There may be ways to reconcile any contradiction, but most people hold at least a few contradictions in their political viewpoints. Sure, there may be ways to reconcile them if you jump through enough hoops, but liberals are conflicted on a good deal of issues. Is abortion wrong, even if it should be an option (I tend to think there's nothing wrong with abortion, but it's not a common view)? How should the government treat illegal immigrants? How should the government punish muggers? What about aiding the Libyan rebels?

    I wasn't trying to criticize liberals, just point out that self-contradiction is really present just about everywhere. I tend to think the observation about authoritarianism is accurate, and that an extremely optimistic observer would see liberal contradictions as coming from an attempt to balance between social goods and immediate human costs.

  50. Andrew Says:

    Ed, if I weren't (a) happily married, (b) a straight dude, and (c) unwilling to live in the South, I'd marry you! :-)

  51. 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?

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. vegymper Says:

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

  55. 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

  56. 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.

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