Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Study: The Full Measure of Republican Neuroses

For those of you who read this blog, you'll perhaps know that two of the things I struggle with most are entrenched dogma, and certain people's inability to deal with the myriad grey areas in politics (nuance, in other words), and any corresponding, yet apparently contradictory, principles which claim to underpin those politics (bizarrely, those who claim to be 'principled', in reality, turn out to be some of the most flagrantly unprincipled people you're likely to come across) - and notably, these being two aspects for which the Right, in both the UK and US, can invariably be relied upon to display a supreme comfort.

And whilst perhaps they don't see it in those specific terms, the reason why these personal traits irritate other people is simple: unbeknownst to them, dogma, intolerance and inflexibility were created to confuse and confound their proponents and practitioners - and hence catch them in the web of their own self-donning contradictions. And, frankly, that's where the fun starts as, let's face it, if you ever get the opportunity to de-bag a blinkered-by-choice merchant, it takes a strong person not to want to go for gold!

So, imagine my feelings of manna from heaven when I was sent, via Twitter, the Guardian article, below, from an ex-pat Austrian lady who's been living and settled in the US since 1987 (thank you Irene!)

And as you'll see in just a second: there is a delicious irony here...

This study - by Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers - was conducted in 2003, when president Gump Bush jnr was poste restante in the White House; so it's not like it can simply be tossed-off or dismissed in one of their rote claims of it being a 'leftist trick', or propaganda. Although, true to form, they do manage to carp about the source of funding for the research.

So, whilst no doubt a number of us have had our suspicions over the years, and schoolboy smirks aside, it's somehow reaffirming to have those suspicions confirmed once in a while; and to find that being a conservative/Republican is actually a known condition: and that condition a suitable case for treatment.

Now, one final test: when you read what follows, try and avoid picturing any of those toxic individuals in the above picture. I'll be honest: I couldn't.


Study of Bush's psyche touches a nerve

* Julian Borger in Washington
* The Guardian, Wednesday 13 August 2003 02.33 BST

A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity".

As if that was not enough to get Republican blood boiling, the report's four authors linked Hitler, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and the rightwing talkshow host, Rush Limbaugh, arguing they all suffered from the same affliction.

All of them "preached a return to an idealised past and condoned inequality".

Republicans are demanding to know why the psychologists behind the report, Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition, received $1.2m in public funds for their research from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The authors also peer into the psyche of President George Bush, who turns out to be a textbook case. The telltale signs are his preference for moral certainty and frequently expressed dislike of nuance.

"This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic clichés and stereotypes," the authors argue in the Psychological Bulletin.

One of the psychologists behind the study, Jack Glaser, said the aversion to shades of grey and the need for "closure" could explain the fact that the Bush administration ignored intelligence that contradicted its beliefs about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The authors, presumably aware of the outrage they were likely to trigger, added a disclaimer that their study "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false".

Another author, Arie Kruglanski, of the University of Maryland, said he had received hate mail since the article was published, but he insisted that the study "is not critical of conservatives at all". "The variables we talk about are general human dimensions," he said. "These are the same dimensions that contribute to loyalty and commitment to the group. Liberals might be less intolerant of ambiguity, but they may be less decisive, less committed, less loyal."

But what drives the psychologists? George Will, a Washington Post columnist who has long suffered from ingrained conservatism, noted, tartly: "The professors have ideas; the rest of us have emanations of our psychological needs and neuroses."

Further reading:

Psychology Today: Is Political Conservatism a Mild Form of Insanity? 



  1. Thanks for this!!!!  Can I quote you??  or you-alls?? :)

    happy groundhog's day, btw....i consider seeing photos
    of rush, beck, et al., the equivalent of seeing my
    shadow....so this means...how many more weeks of conservatism??
    maybe THEY'LL go back underground.

  2. Cosmic Navel Lint2 February 2010 at 20:31

    Of course you may, M.E., please feel free :)

  3. Fascinating, yet not surprising at all. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Cosmic Navel Lint2 February 2010 at 21:50

    You're welcome.

  5. Cosmic Navel Lint4 February 2010 at 06:17

    Here's a quote, the ethos and ethics behind which the Republican Right struggle to come to terms:

    homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto - I am a human being: I regard nothing of human concern as foreign to my interests (Publius Terentius Afer ['Terence']- 195/185–159 BC, a comedic playwright of the Roman Republic.)

  6. Cosmic Navel Lint6 February 2010 at 19:23

    Thanks to Geoff Berg, and his radio show, 'Partisan Dridlock' for this. CLick on the link below - it's a very honest review of the problems which Republicans get themselves into.
    Today's Partisan Gridlock: According to a new poll, Republican voters are seriously untethered from reality (eg, only 32% think Obama shouldn't be impeached). How do rational people work with them?....plus listener calls.

    Geoff Berg's Partisan Gridlock radio show clip

  7. Cosmic Navel Lint17 August 2010 at 18:23

    Thought some of you might find this follow-up article, in Psychology Today, illuminating:

    Why Liberals Are More Intelligent Than Conservatives

  8. Cosmic Navel Lint14 October 2010 at 13:47

    And I've just been sent this piece which ties up nicely with the content of this blog:

    There's No Arguing With Conservatives ... No, Seriously, Scientific Studies Prove It


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