Friday, October 21, 2016

Authoritarianism as a Political Bogeyman

One by-product of our periodic elections is our latent tendency to try to explain what is going on in psychological or sociological terms. And, naturally, there's always someone from those disciplines who will offer quasi-erudite explanations for why people might be supporting a candidate that the professional in question finds to be unacceptable. 

Call that bemerding the opposition, to put it in quasi-French and therefore polite terms at least for monolinguists. This is nothing more than the equivalent of saying that people who disagree with me are wrong-headed, wicked, or possibly crazy. A cheap shot.

One such example is the old authoritarian personality, a person given over for fascistic impulses, supposedly a person who was brought up strictly; who has a strong superego coupled with a weak ego that deals with id impulses by suppressing them. 

Just a little aside back to old Freudian interpretations, which no one takes seriously any more.

Anyway, the so-called authoritarian personality is allegedly one that is disposed to fascism. This theory was posited in the post-World War II era when worries about fascism abounded. They developed a scale to measure authoritarianism, The California F Scale. Actually, the scale was flawed because of what we know now to be a rookie mistake: the items on the scale were keyed mainly in the positive direction. Therefore, people who simply tend to agree with statements regardless of content tend to come out as faux authoritarians. They just were agreeable; or in the lingo of the time, socially acquiescent.

Lately, this authoritarian concept has been invoked to explain Donald Trump's supporters: They're a bunch of fascists-to-be. Good Lord: our politics have already descended to the level of chimps in the zoo throwing poo at each other!

Actually, this personality construct could be used to cover either those on the right or the left.

Some on the Right might invoke our salvation and continued prosperity as the result of electing a strong man. [Big Daddy].

Some on the Left might likewise this as potentially due to a strong, all-encompassing government and institutions [Big Nanny].

The reality is that most of us are just trying to get by, to muddle through.

Jus† so neither of our Presidential candidates tries muscle-building poses like Vlad the Poser. Do us that service, at least. We have enough to be embarrassed about. Already we have been treated to naked statues of both. That is skerry enough!


Big Sky Heidi said...

An apt put-down of grossly oversimplifying complex things.

"Monkeys throwing poo....." so true

Cloudia said...

Thank you for thinking, caring and sharing

John Hill said...

This election season has redefined political bogeymen!

Mike said...

Authoritarian personalities are alive and well in local politics also.

allenwoodhaven said...

Excellent analysis and expression. I really enjoy your writing.

A professor of mine told us Personality is an enduring trait, but not necessarily an endearing one.

Birgit said...

Love what you wrote and I laughed out loud at the monkeys throwing poo true

Gorilla Bananas said...

Well, Ms Pop Tart, it will all be over in 18 days. That's something to look forward to!

Gorilla Bananas said...

Well, Ms Pop Tart, it will all be over in 18 days. That's something to look forward to!

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer said...

Waiting until Nov. 9.

Bilbo said...

"bemerding the opposition" - Thank you for this wonderful addition to my vocabulary! Hilarious!!

Chuck Bear said...

It makes the opposition sound scary and daunting.