How many of you have read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba? Go read it if you haven’t yet. Altemeyer is the expert on the kind of people who do what other people tell them to do and the people who lead them. John Dean referenced Altemeyer heavily in his book Conservatives Without Conscience. Getting into the heads of the authoritarian follower is useful if you want to understand where right wing politics are going. Don’t bother trying to convert the authoritarian follower. They’re tough nuts to crack. But it may be possible to head off potential problems and plan for the future by studying this group and understanding the era that produced them.
To that end, here is a very interesting talk about dogmatism from Judy Johnson professor of cognitive psychology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. By the way, it’s curious that the authorities on authoritarianism and dogmatism are in Canada, isn’t it? It’s like Canadian ethologists are studying Americans to try to figure out what makes us tick and maybe building even higher fences to keep us out.
When I viewed this talk, I was struck by the similarity of the highly dogmatic to the typical Fox News viewer. Now, it is probably not a revelation to anyone that the typical Fox News viewer is highly dogmatic. But I often ask myself, did they start out this way or did Fox News indoctrinate them? After this talk, I’m pretty convinced that the Fox News viewer is a product of the 1950s and that the right wing is taking advantage of this natural constituency to drive politics even further to the right. Johnson’s research also reinforces my hypothesis that the reason why the right wing has stepped up the crazy in the last couple of years is because it is running out of time. There isn’t another demographic with this high degree of dogmatism on the near horizon until the helicopter parent generation of children is of voting age, and the degree to which they adhere to dogmatism may depend on how the internet is regulated in the future. So, the authoritarians who are presently in charge are going to ram everything they can through federal and state legislatures in this election cycle and the next because their target demographic and critical mass is dying off.
With that in mind, we should ask ourselves why it is that Democrats are not simply digging in their heels and waiting it out. Are they being lead by morons or not really an opposition party?
Anyway, here is Judy Johnson’s talk on Dogmatism: A Scar on the Face of Reason: