Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...


Tuesday, July 20, 2004  

Okay, I want to go on the record.  If you are a journalist for a major US newspaper--or a cool minor one--and you write a great article and send me the link, I'll probably mention it to the thirty-two people who read this blog.  (Of course, you could just send it to Atrios and you'd get my 32 plus his hundred k, but I don't want to dissuade anyone.)

I mention this because Rick Perlstein of the Village Voice sent me a link to his article, The Church of Bush.  (Why do some papers put their headlines in caps and others not?  Hmmm...)  Let's see: major newspaper (check), great article (check).  Oh, and the topic revolves around Oregonians.  A trifecta!

Actually, forget all that business--it really is a fascinating article.  Perlstein came to our fair state and spent some quality time with activist righties.  This is their story.

Ponytailed Larry, who wears the stripes of a former marine gunnery sergeant on his floppy hat, bursts into laughter; it's too obvious to take seriously. "Honesty. Truth. Integrity," he says upon recovering. "I don't think there's any difference between the governor of Texas and the president of the United States."

Gingerly, I offer one difference: The governor ran for president on a platform of balanced budgets, then ran the federal budget straight into the red.

Responds Larry (of the first president since James Garfield with a Congress compliant enough never to issue a single veto): "Well, it's interesting that we blame the person who happens to be president for the deficit. As if he has any control over thelegislature of the United States."

Larry's wife, Tami Mars, the Republican congressional nominee for Oregon's third district, proposes a Divine Right of Eight-Year Terms: "Let the man finish what he started. Instead of switching out his leadership—because that's what the terrorists are expecting."

Larry is asked what he thinks of Bush's budget cuts for troops in the field. He's not with Bush on everything: "I hope he reverses himself on that."

I note that he already has, due to Democratic pressure.

Faced with an existential impossibility—giving the Democrats credit for anything—he retreats into a retort I'll hear again and again tonight: Nobody's perfect. "I don't think we're going to find a situation in which we find a person with which we're 100 percent comfortable."

Perlstein chalks it up to a religious-like faith in Dubya certain righties have.  It's a filter that allows only the hagiographic to shine through.  I think he's partly right, but to play the behavior card, I'd go back to a book I was hot on about a year ago: The Authoritarian Specter, by Bob Altemeyer.  Based on studies he's conducted over 30 years, Altemeyer has defined a psychological behavior he calls "right-wing authoritarian."  Listen to see if you can find any resonances to what Perlstein describes.

Compared with others, authoritarians have not spent much time examining evidence, thinking critically, reaching independent conclusions, and seeing whether their conclusions mesh with the other things they believe. Instead, they have largely accepted what they were told by the authorities in their lives, which leaves them with time for other things, but which also leaves them underpracticed in thinking for themselves.

[T]hey usually learned which ideas are bad in the same way they learned which ones are good--from the authorities in their lives. [Authoritarians] therefore have more trouble identifying falsehoods on their own because they are not as preapared to think critically.

Blind faith and authoritarian behavior--a bad combo. 

posted by Jeff | 3:47 PM |
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