Wednesday, July 23, 2003

We just can't help ourselves 

At least according to Berkeley researchers, conservatives are "just that way".
Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

  • Fear and aggression
  • Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Need for cognitive closure
  • Terror management

"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.
"See, it's a mental condition. If we could just find the right medication, we could get rid of all these people."

Here's a clue, no dime required: The meaning of the word "conserve"? As in "conservation"? And "conservative"? It's to save things, things of value. There are changes I resist because these are good to resist, there are other changes that I should not resist. How we can move from "protection of our valued past" to "fear and agression" or dogmatism is perverse (and lazy, since they don't want to explain why change is good.) It's simply someone wanting to change things who is unable to accept that someone might oppose that change. As for "tolerance of inequality", well, I tolerate facts. I accept them and work with them. Inequality is a fact. Those wishing to tear down every instance of inequality seek the cosmic justice that Thomas Sowell has eloquently written about. They reject reality.

If that's not enough to get your dander up, check out this paragraph:

Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism - an endorsement of inequality, a view reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South S.C.).

Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described the same way.

I'm amazed they didn't get Trent Lott and Rick Santorum into that one. Now we should remember that this last entry was written not by the authors of the study but by media relations person Kathleen Maclay. I have had my work summarized by university media relations people and there are times where, well, something gets lost in translation. And if you look at a blogdex search of Berkeley's media relations stuff, you will find some pistols that have already attracted the blogosphere. They write these things to get attention, and Ms. Maclay has at least been successful with this. Nevertheless, the conflation of Mussolini and Hitler (who were not right-wing in any way) with Reagan and Limbaugh is the kind of stuff that should be left for, radicals or German politicians, not academic media relations.

UPDATE: Via AtlanticBlog, a further example from John Ray:

Writing about modern Eastern Europe in Political Psychology of June 2003, Hilde Weiss says that the "new right" in Europe is �a "modernized" brand of fascism in which neoliberal ideology, instead of anticapitalist resentments, is combined with traditional value patterns.� So to oppose big government (neoliberalism) is Fascist?? Tell that to the founder of Fascism, Mussolini. Mussolini tried his best to subject EVERYTHING in Italy to his control! What the ignorant Ms Weiss is describing is simply normal conservatism, not Fascism. [Links in original]
UPDATE 2: Angry Clam was on this before us, and it was noted in today's Best of the Web (last item). They wanted media coverage, well, they got it!