I wrote the article below for the Philadelphia "Bulletin" and it appeared there on 10th. I think its interest is not confined to Philadelphia, however, so I reprint it below. My many academic papers on authoritarianism can be accessed here
Among psychologists, the word "authoritarian" has a meaning quite different from how that word is used elsewhere. And thereby hangs a tale.
In normal usage, the word is most used to describe people who boss others around -- with government by dictatorship being the extreme case of authoritarianism. But psychologists use it to describe people whom one researcher summed up as "fearful toadies". There is certainly no evidence that they boss anybody around.
How come? It originates from an attempt by a Marxist-led group of psychologists to square the circle. Theodor Wiesengrund (aka Adorno) and his Leftist friends had a big problem immediately after World War II. Everybody was aware at that time that Hitler's doctrines were simply a more aggressively-pursued version of what the American Left of the day (the "Progressives") had been preaching for over half a century. In the first half of the 20th century, the enthusiastic preachers of eugenics and racism were all on the Left and Hitler had generally been in good odor among the prewar Left. He did after all call his movement "National SOCIALISM".
But that had all now become disastrous. Being associated with Hitler was now beyond the pale. So some means had to be found to dissociate the political Left from Hitler. And if you could show that Hitler was in fact a conservative so much the better. And as we all now know, Wiesengrund and his team succeeded. Most people now believe that Hitler was of the Right. So how did they do it?
They said, correctly, that Hitler was an authoritarian and produced evidence to show that conservatives were more authoritarian than the Left. But the "evidence" they produced used their own very peculiar definition of "authoritarian". It consisted of an opinion poll that used statements that were simply popular beliefs of the day -- and if you agreed with lots of such statements you were arbitrarily said to be an "authoritarian". That it would be more reasonable to describe such people simply as "agreeable" was glided over. Wiesengrund put forward Freudian-type theories to argue that even if such people were not likely to boss anyone around personally, they would support others who did. Wiesengrund never proved that but he may have been correct. It is plausible to argue that such people might well put up with ANY government of any character, whether or not they agreed with it.
So what was the point of all that? The point is that people who agreed with a lot of Wiesengrund's collection of opinion statements tended to be politically conservative! That could probably have been interpreted as showing that easy-going guys tended to be conservative but within Wiesengrund's theory it meant that authoritarians were conservative! Which is what he had set out to prove. In his mind, he had shown that the most likely supporters of Hitler and his ilk were conservatives! But note the leap of logic there. Even if we accept Wiesengrund's claim that easy-going people are authoritarian, his findings do not show that conservatives are in general authoritarian. There are disagreeable conservatives too. It is like saying that some dogs are poodles so therefore all dogs are poodles.
But anyway, Left-leaning professors loved it all. It got them off the hook as chief supporters of Hitler. And from then on, they preached it so incessantly that almost everyone now believes that Hitler can be blamed on conservatives. The historical fact that Hitler's most unrelenting enemy was a conservative -- Winston Churchill -- is quietly glided over. Freudian speculation is preferred to historical fact.
So where does Obama fit into that? Clearly, he is not a "fearful toadie", so he is not an authoritarian in Wiesengrund's sense. There are however things about him and his supporters that are interesting from a psychological viewpoint. There are a number of things which are alarming when taken together. Any one of the things that I am going to mention leads to no conclusions by itself. But when those things make a set (or a "syndrome" in medical parlance) conclusions tend to be suggested.
Let's start with the obvious: Obama comes across as a nice guy. So did Hitler. The tremendous "hold" that Hitler had on Germans is generally unexplained in textbooks but the cause of it is in fact simple. He came across to Germans as a father-figure who loved his people.
Obama gained power through a democratic election. So did Hitler. Enough people voted for him for him to win control of the German government.
Obama has support among his followers that verges on the hysterical. So did Hitler.
Obama supporters are predominant in the media. Hitler dominated the media of his day too.
Hitler wanted the government to control most things without entirely abolishing the private sector. Obama is trying to vastly expand the role of government too.
All that is just by way of introduction, however. The most troubling thing about Nazism is that it was psychopathic. It showed no awareness or right and wrong and no respect for truth versus falsehood. And that fits in perfectly with the modern Leftist doctrine that "There is no such thing as right and wrong". And Hitler did not just preach that. He carried it out. It is perhaps early days to see what Obama's ideas of right and wrong (if any) will add up to but we CAN see what his ideas of truth and falsehood are. Like clinical psychopaths, Obama is a fantasizer with no regard for the truth at all. His latest claim (on Feb. 24) that the automobile was invented in America (all schoolboys used to know that it was actually Germany) is a minor example of that but he has been fantasizing often and for a long time. Take this excerpt from 2007:
"Speaking early this month at a church in Selma, Ala., Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said: "I'm in Washington. I see what's going on. I see those powers and principalities have snuck back in there, that they're writing the energy bills and the drug laws." . . .
But not only did Obama vote for the Senate's big energy bill in 2005, he also put out a press release bragging about its provisions, and his Senate Web site carries a news article about the vote headlined, "Senate energy bill contains goodies for Illinois." . . .
On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune reported that an extensive search found no basis for an episode Obama recounts [in his 1995 book, "Dreams From My Father"] about a picture he ran across in Life magazine of a "black man who had tried to peel off his skin" in a failed effort to use chemicals to lighten it. Obama writes that "seeing that article was violent for me, an ambush attack." The Tribune reported: "Yet no such Life issue exists, according to historians at the magazine. No such photos, no such article. When asked about the discrepancy, Obama said in a recent interview, 'It might have been an Ebony or it might have been . . . who knows what it was?' (At the request of the Tribune, archivists at Ebony searched their catalogue of past articles, none of which matched what Obama recalled.)" . . .
As another example, consider Obama's stirring tale for the Selma audience about how he had been conceived by his parents, Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham, because they had been inspired by the fervor following the "Bloody Sunday" voting rights demonstration that was commemorated March 4. "There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Ala.," he said, "because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Ala. Don't tell me I'm not coming home to Selma, Ala."
Obama was born in 1961, and the Selma march occurred four years later, in 1965. The New York Times reported that when the senator was asked about the discrepancy later that day, he clarified: "I meant the whole civil rights movement."
He just makes things up as he goes along with no concern about the truth at all. But the silly thing about such fantasies, and the thing that brands them as psychopathic, is that they sound good only at the time. Subsequently they are easily found out as false and therefore tend to cause distrust of the speaker. The psychopath just floats along on a sea of fantasy until people eventually find him out and cut him off. And I think there are already signs that Obama's proposed solutions to America's problems are fantasies too. The "stimulus" that did not stimulate seems likely not to be the last fantasy that does not work out in reality.
So Obama has a lot in common with the Fascists of history, with his clear psychopathic tendencies being the most worrying. He is in that real-life sense an authoritarian.
Obama's destructive appointments
The Obama Administration currently (03/09/09) has 50 executive nominations pending before the Senate for confirmation. This includes the Timothy Geithner nomination to the International Monetary Fund. What follows is a brief look at seven of them.
Karen Gordon Mills - Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator
Karen Mills is a millionaire dilettante with a reverse Midas touch. An heir to the Tootsie Roll fortune, her experience is for the most part is in ventures that have either failed or brought mediocre results to investors. Like many Obama appointees, Ms. Mills went to Harvard. During the 2008 cycle Ms. Mills made political contributions totaling $47,100, $29,500 of which went to the Obama campaign. Ms. Mills is a member of the venture capital community which is attempting through legislation to divert funds from real small businesses to small firms largely owned by huge venture capital funds. This destroys the entire purpose of the SBA.
Gil Kerlikowske - Drug Czar
Mr. Kerlikowske is currently the Chief of Police in Seattle Washington. He has a "don't ask" policy on illegal immigration, favors stringent restrictions on private firearms ownership, has a very poor record on civil rights and to top it off feels the enforcement of some drug laws (marijuana) have a very low priority. His law enforcement skills were tested during an unnecessary Mardi Gras riot in 2001. Chief Kerlikowske pulled the police back and let them watch as one young man was killed and over 70 were injured. The city of Seattle reached a settlement with the slain man's family. Seattle agreed to pay $1,750,000 to the family and acknowledged that its police strategy had presented a public safety threat. In March of 2001, the Seattle Police Officers' Guild overwhelmingly (88%) voted no confidence in Kerlikowske.
Gary Locke - Secretary of Commerce (Third Choice)
Mr. Locke, the former governor of Washington, is a partner in a Seattle law firm practicing among other things, "corporate diversity counseling." During Locke's tenure as governor questions were raised regarding conflicts of interest stemming from the state's business dealings with his brother-in-law's company. His brother-in-law happened to be living in the executive mansion at the time. Locke also seems to have used the Buddhist temple method of campaign fundraising similar to Al Gore, collecting money from people who later didn't remember making the contributions. Locke's administration also apparently liked to keep secrets such as the details of a $3.2 billion tax break to Boeing Corporation. When his administration wasn't handing out subsidies like this tax break it was promulgating regulations such as the ergonomics standard from the state OSHA, a standard that the business community estimated would cost over $725 million per year.
Dr. Ashton B. Carter - Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
Dr. Carter of Harvard has made his reputation opposing weapons not acquiring them. His first appearance on the national scene was outspoken opposition to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. He is another Clinton retread having served in that administration as Assistant Secretary for International Security Policy. His confirmation to that post was held up for over 6 months because he was clearly exercising the authority of his office before he was confirmed. He is currently a partner Global Technologies Partners a firm founded by former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry. While the firm claims not to lobby it appears to advise defense contractors how to get contracts. The firm's web site brags that it "Identified a unique, classified U.S. government technology as a critical enabler for an aerospace company's growth strategy, identified a way to acquire that technology, and advised in its acquisition and integration."
Julius Genachowski - Chairman Federal Communications Commission
Little is known of Mr. Genachowski views at this time. What is known can be classified as truly bizarre. Mr. Genachowski sits of the board of an organization name Beliefnet. The organization's web site touts the belief in such things as Wicca, Unicorns, Faeries, Astrology and various other belief systems that are to say the least out of the mainstream.
Roy Kienitz - Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy
A brief analysis of data available to anyone over the internet shows that Americans choose private transportation over public transit at a rate of about 20 to 1. Mr. Roy Kienitz, President Obama's appointee for Transportation policy, has a track record of advocating anti-car policies. From 1996-2001 he worked at the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a non-profit that advocates growth that does not involve cars or infrastructure for cars, in favor of public transit, or what they call "smart growth." Under his direction, the STPP put out a paper claiming that the solution to aggressive driving is to limit how much people drive and how fast they can drive, through "smart growth" policies (including public transit and the engineering of roads to make people drive slower) and another claiming that solution to traffic congestion was not road expansion so that the greater number of people wanting to drive could do so, but public transit, since more roads simply breed more cars. He was a founding member of another organization called "Smart Growth America," that advocates similar policies.
His time in public office shows that he brings these private sector views to public service. As Secretary of Planning for the State of Maryland in 2001 he intervened in three land use proceedings in order to "support transit -oriented development": in one case, he had the state oppose the building of a Wal-mart in Kent County, because it was inconsistent with his "smart growth" policies, and in the other two he had the state government come out in favor of development in Gaithersburg and Annapolis that was centered around public transit and other forms of transportation. As deputy chief of staff to Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, he advocated placing tolls on I-80 through Pennsylvania, as well as the leasing of the PA Turnpike to a foreign company, in order to raise revenue for "roads, bridges and public transportation." It is clear that Mr Kienitz, if confirmed, will advocate public transit over maintaining and expanding the roads that Americans support as a transportation choice over 20 to 1.
According to the US Census Bureau, in 2006 there were 244 million registered cars in the United States of America. According to the American Public Transportation Association in the fourth quarter of 08 there were 2,670,023 trips taken on unlinked transit. Rounding generously and assuming that this was an average quarter that comes to about 11 million transit rides in 2008. While it would seems that car registration has probably gone up since 2006, the rough figure of 244 million registered cars should serve for the purposes of this comparison. Thus, a rough comparison shows us that Americans are choosing cars 22 to 1 over public transit.
Ron Sims - Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Ron Sims has been a disaster as King County Executive. Time and again he has been told of county problems, and time and again he has ignored those warnings. He has tolerated and even praised gross incompetence and mismanagement. He has knowingly violated the law, and he has turned a blind eye as his employees refused to comply with the law. He has catered to the union fat cats and ignored the plight of the hard- working average citizens adversely impacted by his and his employees' actions.
Ron Sims seems to have the view that whatever he does is right. He was perfectly willing to trample the law to get the $1.8 billion Brightwater boondoggle built; and he was remorseless about trampling the rights of rural county residents by arbitrarily and capriciously limiting their ability to use their own land.
Ron Sims also seems to believe that county employees are uniformly doing a very good job. After the numerous problems at the medical examiner's office, the animal shelters, the elections office, and the jail, one wonders what Ron Sims thinks a firing offense looks like. Ron Sims may be a nice man, but he is one of the last who should be given control of a $39 billion budget.
Freeman Withdraws as Head of National Intelligence Council
Charles Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under attack for his Middle Eastern and Chinese ties, withdrew from consideration as chairman of the National Intelligence Council because of what he called "distortions" and "falsehoods" about his record. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who named Freeman to the post, yesterday accepted the decision "with regret," according to a statement from his office.
Freeman was in the final stages of getting security clearance to head the council, which helps put together National Intelligence Estimates about potential threats around the world and foreign policy issues for the president and head of intelligence services.
His withdrawal was the culmination of weeks of criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers and pro- Israel lobbyists who questioned Freeman's objectivity on issues in the Middle East. Some lawmakers also questioned his views on China.
In a letter to supporters yesterday, Freeman said he withdrew because of a concerted effort by pro-Israel lobbyists to spread "libelous distortions" about his experience. "The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth," Freeman wrote.
Lawmakers who opposed his appointment were unapologetic. "His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration," Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement after the withdrawal was announced.
Republicans said they were concerned that Freeman was president of the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington- based group they said was funded by Saudi Arabia. Freeman also drew fire from critics for having been a member of the International Advisory Board of Cnooc Ltd., China's biggest offshore oil explorer.
Representative Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the choice of Freeman was another sign that the vetting process had broken down in President Barack Obama's administration. "It calls into question the essential judgments being made," he said in a statement.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)