Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday Open Thread: Put Up or Shut Up, Continued....

-- by Sara

The thread on the "Put Up or Shut Up" post below got long and raucous, so I'm starting a new one so the show can go on...and maybe even move in some new directions. Longtime friend-of-the-blog Trefayne sets the terms:
This thread and the blog entry that spawned it remind me of what Mrs. Robinson was telling us a while back about Prof. Altemeyer's book "The Authoritarians." We often find in politics leaders and followers, and the people in each of these two groups have personality traits that complement the other group's role. The dynamic he describes is worth considering in this struggle to prevent more bloodshed.

The Right-Wing Authoritarian followers have been measured as having difficulty with critical thinking, a tendency toward "us-versus-them" perception, and following the leader because he is the leader and doing so even when he is leading them off a cliff. They are prone to suspicions and the Paranoid Style in American politics. Their understanding of the world is unfalsifiable and immune to counter-evidence. Witness the current troll. But less-extreme people with similar problems abound. We even know some of them in the real world.

The leaders are similar, but less docile. They are motivated by a drive for high social dominance, sometimes verging on sociopathy. They are even harder to get through to than their followers. I think some of the folks here are right that they will not back down or reveal their goals (or their goal-less opportunism).

So here we have a problem with Sara's call. The leaders will not and can not, by themselves, scale back their drive for control. To the degree that it is possible, the followers have to see their leaders as a problem and stop following their orders. It sometimes happens. They don't become saints, but they do stand aside, reducing the number of active footsoldiers. Mrs. R wrote about this in her "Cracks in the Wall" and "Tunnels and Bridges" posts, which are permanently linked in the left column on the main Orcinus page.

I'm assuming that Mrs. R's recent blog posting, asking conservatives if they really want another civil war, is directed to the Conservative Movement's base just as much as it is to the leadership. *Maybe* the lack of an answer from the talking heads, or a series of non-denial denials, will get the regular people wondering if they might want to slow down and look where they're headed. They might then decide to stop running toward that cliff.

So, Mrs. R: Are there ways we can bring up your challenge to our conservative family-members and neighbors, without making them become defensive? This would include conversations over dinner or during Fourth of July picnics. Do we put it in the context of what the bloviators seem to want, and avoid asking our friend directly if they want war? Or should we be more direct?

Thoughtful comments are appreciated.
Indeed they are. Trefayne is heading the conversation directly toward my next intended post, which wants to talk about why and what happens when lone wolf actions become the common cause of communities. But today's a study day, so that will have to wait.

In meantime, it's a gorgeous Saturday here at the old whale-watching shack. The water's beautiful, the orcas are hunting salmon on the cliffs below, and the sound is full of weekend boaters. Crack open a cold beer, plop down on the porch, and hold forth. I'm stuck inside with Excel and a 500-page statistics text, but I'll check in on the conversation every now and again, too.

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