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Updated: 01 Jan 2009

John Dean of the Nixon Administration and Watergate fame
Book Review with commentary

We quote from Publisher's Weekly

"Few critics have as effectively put the disparate pieces together, linking them to what Dean says is a broader pattern of secrecy from an administration that does its best to control the flow of information on every subject ... and uses executive privilege to circumvent congressional scrutiny."

See also: John Dean's own remarks on this.

John Dean became confused by the amazing, Late Twentieth Century lurch made by the Republican Party, away from the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. In searching for the reason or reasons why, Dean discovered Authoritarianism in the works of Professor Altemeyer . From there, a light dawned that illuminated Bush and Cheney for the authoritarian extremists they are, confirming Altemeyer's fears for America's future.

    [We are not yet out of trouble, for the authoritarian extremists have co-opted the Republican Party and turned it into a political weapon that has been all too effective in subverting American values in favor of their own. John Dean vividly illustrates just how close we are to dictatorship in America. What is worse, much of the American electorate is either confused by all the smoke, otherwise known as propaganda, or is ardently for said dictatorship. Scary? You bet.]

    To be smug in the thought
    "it can't happen here"
    is to be deluded by one's own dogma.

Conservatism itself, Dean says, can be good, bad or evil. He devotes his entire book to the bad and evil. It is vital reading for any and everyone who cares about the future of democracy and the United States in particular. He explains how conservatives think, and how the current crop differs markedly from the conservatism of Barry Goldwater, who was not just an ordinary politician, but a human being and statesman as well. Dean illustrates the alarming extent to which their "...authoritarian personalities, which tolerate no dissent, use dissembling as their standard modus operandi, and have pushed their governing authority beyond the law and Constitution." "... The motive of the GOP leaders was simply to please the party's 'base'; the wishes of the base was their command. That base was composed primarily of Christian conservatives, in particular evangelicals."

This book should be required reading for citizenship. It is a wake-up call of the first order for those who care, and especially those who might be labeled Right Wing Authoritarians whose ideology is similar to that of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, or even John McCain. Such conservatives with conscience are in the distinct minority just now.

"Much of what I have to report is bad news. But there is some good news, because while authoritarians have little self-awareness, a few of them, when they learn the nature of their behavior, seek to change their ways. Thus by reporting the bad and the ugly, it may do some good. At least that is my hope."
John Dean

Dean's words, coming from a Republican and administration insider, coupled with the sound science of Adorno, Milgram, Burger Zimbardo, and Altemeyer, gives a clarity and validity of view obtainable nowhere else. For his work on the authoritarian personality, Bob Altemeyer was awarded the AAAS Prize for Behavioral Science Research, 1986. There is no higher award in the social sciences.

As disturbing as Dean's book is, equally disturbing is why the media has ignored the important works of Adorno, Milgram, Zimbardo, and Altemeyer in defining the Authoritarian Personality for over a half century?

Maybe the media is caught up in chasing economic rainbows. Whatever, Martha Stout adds to our understanding of the extremism that infects our times in her book: "The Sociopath Next Door." Stout has defined the psychology of those who take the rest of us to war, engage in violence, polarize us. They are as varied as we are except that they are remorseless, have no conscience, never regret, never lose any sleep. They share one feature above all others: they must WIN at what they do. If this sounds like someone you and I know, then that person likely wears the shoes of a sociopath, whether s/he is a family member, neighbor, co-worker, bureaucrat, an armed service member, an elected official, or world leader. Robert Hare, Psychopaths, and Justin Frank, Narcissists, wrote books in similar, supporting veins. These three personality types embrace parts or all of the Authoritarian Personality. See: Follow Up on the SAM SEDER SHOW for a popularized condensation by Dean himself. We list some brief excerpts:

"While not all conservatives are authoritarians, all highly authoritarian personalities are political conservatives. To make the results of my rather lengthy inquiry very short, I found that it was the authoritarians who took control of the conservative movement in the 1980s, and then the Republican Party in the 1990s. Strikingly, these conservative Republicans -- though hardly known for their timidity -- have not attempted to refute my report, because that is not possible. It is based on hard historical facts, which I set forth in considerable detail.

"...At the outset of Conservatives Without Conscience, I provided a quick and highly incomplete summary of Altemeyer's findings, explaining that his empirical testing revealed "that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, anti-equality, highly prejudiced, mean spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral." To be clear, these are not assessments that Altemeyer makes himself about these people; rather, this is how those he has tested reveal themselves to be, when being anonymously examined.

"Altemeyer has tested literally tens of thousands of first-year college students and their parents, along with others, including some fifteen hundred American state legislators, over the course of some three decades. He has tested in the South and North of the United States. There is no database on authoritarians that even comes close in its scope to that which he has created, and, more importantly, these studies are empirical data, not partisan speculation."

It is high time for the media to catch on to the dangers of Authoritarianism. Or perhaps they too have forgotten our origins and are caught up in their own brands of Authoritarianism where dogma and aggression stand in for thoughtfulness. Or maybe the attack mode is what the American public salivates for. That indeed would be one bitter pill to acknowledge.

Research into how this personality has been countered and controlled in certain other countries, has yet to seriously begin much less to find an audience. When it does, the menace of terror can be rolled back. That of course is easier said than done--about half of the world seems to be led by such individuals, with critical concentrations in Africa, the Middle East and until 20 Jan 2009, America. Certain countries, like Norway and Portugal, seem to have a handle on this issue.

For Altemeyer's major work see: The Authoritarian Specter

While Altemeyer and Dean properly concentrate on how Authoritarians hijack politics, religious monotheism is also subject to hijacking. See Monotheism & Violence for more on that.

Monotheism, in its teaching of hierarchy, appears to enhance
a social psychology that justifies authortarianism.


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