A few weeks ago, I commented upon the new book by the former First Lady, whom I called “Hitlary,” and provoked what passes for a firestorm in these pages.
Three readers (loyal or not, I do not know) wrote in to complain about my comparison of the Great Prevaricator’s “wife” with Adolf Hitler, one with creative spelling of the dictator’s name; another prefaced his comments about doing so having just enriched an admitted child molester (he had watched a rented copy of “The Pianist,” directed by Roman Polanski).
Overcoming my normal reticence to respond to such rants, I gave an extensive list of similarities between New York’s junior senator and the ideology of the National Socialist policy because I take ideas seriously, and there are certainly similarities between the two, even if – as I am perfectly willing to concede – Hillary Clinton is no Nazi. A totalitarian, to be sure, but not a Nazi.
I wonder how (or if) my erstwhile critics will respond to a study of conservatives published in the May edition of the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, and conducted by four researchers at the famously liberal University of California’s Berkeley campus. It was entitled “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” Will their dudgeon be as high over a study with biases and condemnations over all things conservative, and one which calls conservatives as “less ‘integratively complex'” than others, and treats conservative values as a virtual psychological disorder?
Somehow, I doubt it.
Now, before your eyes glaze over, this isn’t a column reviewing the article. Well, not exactly.
Joining Berkeley Professors Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway were John Jost of Stanford University, and Arie Kruglanski from across the Potomac, at the University of Maryland, to author a forthcoming study of, as the Berkeley Web site puts it, “50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism” Their conclusion?? 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; [and] Terror management.”
Wow! All sounds pretty nasty to me. Who would want to be like those horrible conservatives?
And we know it must be a serious piece of work. After all, it’s published in the Psychological Bulletin. And according to Berkeley’s press release, “The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.” Then, “Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material – which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups – yielded consistent, common threads.”
Now, I’m not sure what a “meta-analytic calculation” is, exactly, but it sure sounds serious.
Of, course, it might just be an excuse to slander those who categorize themselves as conservatives.
The press release issued by the University, under the byline of Kathleen Maclay (www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml), goes on to explain what the work demonstrates (I was unable to obtain a copy from the APA Web site, which listed only the table of contents from its May journal).
For example, there is the requisite equation of racism with conservatism, noting that conservatism is “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-S.C.).”
Where this comes from is quite mysterious. Not many conservatives that I know are great admirers of the Indian caste system (only one that I know, author Dinesh D’Souza, is an emigre from that country, and thus, is probably familiar with it; I don’t recall him ever wishing it on the United States), or pine for the days of South African apartheid. And, lest it escaped the authors’ attention, Strom Thurmond was a Democrat when he supported segregationist policies. It was when he became a Republican that he became the first Southern Senator of either party to hire black Americans to work on his staff.
And the author of the Berkeley press release then goes on to note that “Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality,” noting that “Hitler, Mussolini and former President Ronald Reagan were … 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…”
Which brings me back to a few weeks ago. Hitler, Mussolini and Reagan. All “right-wing conservatives.” Except that Hitler was a National Socialist. Guess the authors missed PoliSci 101.
Of course, they didn’t miss Political Rhetoric 101. Tie Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh to two of history’s most infamous tyrants and mass murderer (remember the final death spasms of the Soviet Union, when those defending the Communist state were called “conservatives”?) and you’ve gone a long way toward discrediting everything they say and do. As well as having avoided the heavy lifting of actually having to respond to their political arguments. Then, virtually any response is justified including, as the Soviets did to political dissidents, condemning them into psychiatric wards to disabuse them of their “antisocial” beliefs and behavior. Having successfully demonized your political opponent, virtually any response is justified.
You know, kinda like Hitler did to Europe’s Jews.
An attorney, Young lives with his wife and their two sons in Montclair.