Where Does Authoritarianism Come From?


John W. Smart writes:

Creepy comments like Rock’s betray a culty authoritarianism – which, while not exclusive to the Left is more unnerving on the Left. Far Right authoritarianism actually emerges from a nightmarish ideology. There is no real ideology in the incipient authoritarianism of comments like Rock’s… expect an increasingly lazy and hazy personality cult liturgy. What Rock means is we ought to listen to the Dad I like because…well… I like him and he’s cool. There’s no principle in play. No ideology to support or refute. I assure you Rock won’t be calling President Rubio, Clinton, or Christie “Mom and Dad” in 4 years.

Authoritarianism is something I have been interested in for several years now. It started when I read John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience which led me to The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer. Those two works are heavily relied upon by the intelligentsia of Left Blogistan to describe Republicans and other conservatives.

Until 2008 I accepted those books as gospel. Nowadays I’m not so sure.

Lefty canon says that conservatives are all angry white racists. While I am sure that more than a few meet that description that is an overly broad generalization. But we were talking about authoritarians.

Conventional wisdom is that authoritarianism is exclusively a right-wing disease. Most of the studies on authoritarians focused on the Nazis and Italian fascists and were made after World War II. If you are really interested follow the link to Altemeyer’s book (it’s free) and read up on the history. I’m not gonna repeat it all here because, well, . . . I’m lazy. I am also gonna have to disagree with Perfesser Altemeyer somewhat, but I can’t match all his credentials and research data.

(If I was an academic with ambition I would write up a grant proposal and then get some undergrads and grad students to do the grunt work and then publish my own theory. Then I could sell books and go on talk shows.)

My own personal experience the past few years has convinced me that there are definitely left-wing authoritarians. They not only exist but there are a lot of them bastards too. But I don’t think authoritarianism is connected to ideology.

There are two kinds of authoritarians – authoritarian followers and authoritarian leaders. The first kind likes to be bossed around and the other likes to boss people around. In other words, they are made for each other. The rest of us like to be left alone and stay out of other people’s business.

Authoritarianism is anathema to libertarian and small-government conservative ideologies. It doesn’t go so well with anarchism either. But it’s tailor-made for modern big-government progressivism. The real issue is control.

BTW: Authoritarianism is NOT the rule of law.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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45 Responses to Where Does Authoritarianism Come From?

  1. It’s a canard. We’re not supposed to realize we are mostly the same.
    I sing in a quartet. How boring it would be to always sing the melody, so I sing another part. As do the others. We all take turns singing the lead line at times, but where we sound the best and create the greatest music experience is when we cooperatively sing a harmony arrangement.
    This country is like that. We’re supposed to discuss ideas, not cram them down each others’ throats. Every time I hear someone aggressively diss an opponent I realize the speaker has a closed mind and no longer supports democracy for all our citizens or a republic form of government. Where do they think they are?
    The interesting thing about insane asylums when we had them was most inmates were absolutely, positively certain other folks were out to get them. Too many political ranters today come across with the same intense certainty concerning their opponents, IMO, as if they were candidates for Atascadero SH.

  2. Back from my bunny trail, it’s my impression we have a significantly higher percentage of authoritarian supportive voters today than at any time since the depression. I believe that group is actually less informed of reality but conversely and mistakenly believes because of their techie gadgets and interbuzzing communications they are somehow better informed than the unwashed masses making up their ideological opponents..

  3. Lulu says:

    I’m glad that you distinguished between authoritarian followers and leaders. Their behavior is often similar. Authoritarian followers are usually insecure people who have no confidence in their own abilities or decision making and often are lazy and want someone to think for them. They need to belong to groups and give up personal autonomy to not be rejected. Authoritarian leaders are manipulative assholes. You see these personality dynamics play out in most areas of our current society from politics, religion, sports, academia, workplaces,family life, really everywhere. It often involves bullying (both psychological and physical) but not always. And authoritarian followers adopt the tactics of their leader to reinforce the group and burnish their membership. Politics, ideology, religion, income, age, sex, region are not selectors but can show concentrations because it is the current in group . Insecure or lazy people are followers and progressive-ism is a big circle jerk of followers just like uber Republican fake conservatives were a few years ago.

  4. Reading this post and the comments and wondering if the followers are a product of the namby pamby parenting of the latest generations. So over protected by their parents. Raised to believe they are all super special just for being alive and needing that same message constantly reinforced. Which they get from the leaders and subleaders of the borg known as obamania.
    Mass disconnect from reality in that group I think.

  5. elliesmom says:

    I think a lot of authoritarian people are attracted to teaching, and I think our most “successful” students learn from them how to become authoritarian leaders. The kids who just want to “do good” learn to be the followers. The path of least resistance schooling. The rebels are either pounded into submission or piled on the dump heap. And teachers try to pound other teachers who refuse to “follow the rules” into submission, too.

  6. yttik says:

    It doesn’t matter if the left or right is in charge, authoritarianism is simply the nature of government. Good leaders recognize this and do everything in their power to lead without abusing the nature of government. The problem with the left at the moment is that they do not recognize the inherent nature of Gov, so they believe everything they do is for the common good, to help the poor, victims, to make the world better. In their minds it’s not authoritarian to mandate healthcare, ban trans fat, raise taxes, because these things are so noble and good. They extend that right out to executing US citizens with drone attacks. Needless to say, this is a dangerous ideology because it has no limits. If you don’t recognize the authoritarianism of government and believe you have the right to force your ideas on the masses because you know what’s best for everyone, liberty, freedom, and the rule of law all become unimportant to you.

    • wmcb says:

      The entire point of our form of govt was to force (via the constitution) those in charge to ask one simple question when passing laws: Do I have the *right* to force or decide for other people’s lives in this matter? Most of the time, the answer was no.

      The proggies have completely abandoned that question. The only question they want to ask is: Is this (IMO) a *good idea*? Do I think people would be “better off” if I forced them to do this? And so long as they can be convinced that they know best, then their authoritarianism knows no limit.

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” –
      C. S. Lewis

  7. myiq2xu says:

    I need a dream interpretation:

    I was at a wedding reception (not mine) and I was wandering around looking for my missing beer. Apparently there was something wrong with the floor because I kept staggering and stumbling. The other guests were mostly my low-life relatives and a bunch of Mexicans who didn’t speak English.

    This was not a flashback.

    • myiq2xu says:

      At one point I was outside watering the lawn at my grandma’s old house.

      • myiq2xu says:

        I’m going back to bed to see how it ends.

      • swanspirit says:

        I was at a wedding reception (not mine) and I was wandering around looking for my missing beer. Apparently there was something wrong with the floor because I kept staggering and stumbling. The other guests were mostly my low-life relatives and a bunch of Mexicans who didn’t speak English At one point I was outside watering the lawn at my grandma’s old house.

        Dreams occur on several levels simultaneously . One one level , everyone in the dream is you , or some part of you , or something going on with you internally . So the wedding is a celebration of parts you joining together in a deeper relationship . A committment or level of maturity or milestone in your life that would be cause for celebration.
        But another part of you wanders off and is missing something that usually helps you celebrate but can also be a symbol of unclear thinking , and you don’t feel the floor under you is safe or steady, or that you are on firm ground. Perhaps you doubt yourself and your own ability to stand / walk move ahead on your own .
        Another part of you internally disparages your “standing” in the world ; the relatives ; and your ability to be understood; the Mexicans .
        Water in a dream represents cleansing , nurturing , renewal and healing of emotional wounds , and your grandmother is a representation of the old wise woman, a archetypal figure of nurturance, protection, and unconditional love. Your wise self , an ancient connection to your own inner wisdom .
        And you are watering the lawn , which is a safe place to walk .
        Externally …
        You were attending a wedding but your focus was on your beer that was missing. If beer represents “happiness” for you , then for some reason you were at a celebration without your ability to join in .Staggering and stumbling can mean you are unable to move ahead on your own two feet , or you feel you are not on safe firm ground.

        A wedding in a dream can mean a new beginning or transition in your life. A wedding can represent your issues about commitment or independence,or your wedding dream refers to feelings of bitterness, sorrow, or death. Were you feeling anxiety or fear ? Try to remember the feelings you had about the wedding, were you sad , happy or indifferent ?

        A water hose in your dream represents renewal, rejuvenation and cleansing. You need to heal those emotional wounds so that you can continue to grow as a person. A water hose may be a metaphor for sex and sexual gratification. Dreams frequently pun .Do you feel you are “getting hosed”, trapped, or taken advantage of in some way

      • That means your bladder was full.

    • DandyTiger says:

      Premonition of future weddings. Run.

    • Constance says:

      You were an outsider in a celebration of marriage so you don’t understand why people approve of the institution of marriage and seek marriage. Your Grandmothers house was a place where you were comfortable and a time when there was no societal pressure to be married which is the state you prefer.

      So that is my 2 cents worth.

    • Probably need Anthony or Swan to interpret this.
      I would say the “lost” beer represents the things you have lost in prior marriages. People who do not speak English- perhaps your inability to understand the “language” of marriage and the stumbling and staggering go to the same thing- inability to navigate the landscape. Watering the lawn- I agree with Constance- Grandmother may represent stability- and being allowed to nourish your “self.”

  8. DandyTiger says:

    I think authoritarians of the follow variety exist in sizable numbers in both parties. First there is the 25-30 percent that love their leader no matter how much a failure. They want to follow and admire the leader of their tribe no matter what.

    Then there is some percentage on both sides that want a strong daddy and iron fist to be the head warrior. And then there is some percentage on both sides that want a bid daddy to run a big government that takes care of them. I’d say the former has a higher percentage in the “right” tribe and the latter a higher percentage in the “left” tribe.

    Then there are some people in each tribe and perhaps most people not in any tribe that are more in line with smaller, less powerful, less controlling politics, who are much less authoritarian in their philosophy. That fits most of us and most libertarians I’d guess.

    I think those of us that used to be in the “left” tribe, me included, mistakenly thought our tribe was less authoritarian than the other tribe. We were wrong. We were wearing rose colored classes.

    The big uniparty machine does not like us, libertarians, or tea party types. And they especially don’t like potential political leaders that are more alined with the non authoritarian side of things. The media is a fully owned subsidiary of the uniparty machine, or the powers that be. So though they like a good story and that can make money, mostly they like things the way they are.

    Or not.

  9. DandyTiger says:

    I disagree with Smart’s idea that there is no principle to left authoritarianism:

    There’s no principle in play. No ideology to support or refute.

    The ideology is government providing extensive serves and support to the population inhabiting our borders. That includes rules and regulations with the intention to protect people at the workplace, to provide a safety net to those that say they can’t make it otherwise, to manage heath, education, and general welfare for everyone. All with perhaps nobel intent. Many very sensible notions make sense like we group together, pool our resources, and work together to provide things that an open competitive market would not do as well.

    But all of these things are at their root authoritarian. In order to have government doing any of those things means they have to force everyone to play along, and force some to pay for it.

    Most people agree with some of these ideas to some extent. So most people are OK with some degree of authority. What’s scary here is when either side gets more free reign to impose more of what they’d want, without checks and balances from the other side, we quickly get out of hand.

    This leads to that old notion that we’re a lot better off with two, somewhat opposing, strong political parties. Certainly to a large extent we have one uniparty pulling a lot of strings, or if not some behind the scenes activity, certainly common interests of keeping the status quo. But even within that, there are differences that keep two groups fighting. And that fighting I’ll argue is good. I’m mostly scared when the two parties agree and don’t fight or when we see a crippled, divided party, like we’re seeing with the Republican party right now.

  10. foxyladi14 says:

    I don’t worry about dreams. They are just a figment of my subconscious anyway. 😆

    • Constance says:

      Unfortunately for me, my subconscious is more aware of what is necessary for a state of contentment than my conscious mind is. So I like the insights of dreams.

  11. HELENK says:


    seems like the backtrack bunch is running scared.
    disarm the Marines in the inaugural parade

    • Constance says:

      How weird. They are really acting scared and controlling. I wonder who this batch of power hungry control freaks will try to hand off the Presidency to in 2016. I can’t see it being Hillary.

  12. SHV says:

    “Conventional wisdom is that authoritarianism is exclusively a right-wing disease. Most of the studies on authoritarians focused on the Nazis and Italian fascists and were made after World War II. ”
    The only difference between Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Lenin, Stalin, Mao is that the latter group killed a lot more people.

    • DandyTiger says:

      Funny how a month ago the Dems talking point was they were happy to let the sequester happen, as it would do lots of cutting of the evil military. Now that it might happen, they seem to be squirming a little.

  13. HELENK says:


    this book could explain a lot of what is happening here today.
    willful blindness

  14. yttik says:

    I had a great discussion with some well off people about the state lottery that kind of shows how the left likes to appease their consciences with authoritarianism. Somebody said state lotteries were wrong because they were a tax on the poor. I agreed, I think they’re a tax on the poor. Several people jumped in to disagree, lotteries are good, they fund education, parks, roads, the environment. Without lotteries kids will be denied education, puppies will die, etc, etc. So I asked, how many lottery tickets have you guys bought in your life? Not one, not ever. Why buy a lottery ticket if you don’t need the money?

    Nobody found this strange at all. If lotteries are so good and support all these necessary services, then how come you don’t buy tickets and support it? Because they don’t want to waste money on tickets. Lotteries are vehicles for the poor to fund education, roads, and ease wealthy people’s conscience. The lottery may not be mandatory, but it is a form of authoritarianism because it coerces those in need to fund it.

    I’m not into banning lotteries at all, I just think we should be honest about what they are.

  15. westcoaster says:

    I could imagine Palin saying these words: “if you want money for minds that hate…you’ll have to wait” and “you say you’ll change the constitution…we all want to change your head”

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