Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Psychopathic Origins of Bush/GOP Wars, Torture, and Injustice

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

If Bush can immunize himself for his own crimes after he's committed them, then he can, likewise, prosecute you for breaking laws for which he has yet to issue a decree! There is a word for this: tyranny! The people of England beheaded a King for less egregious offenses. This outcome has flowed from a single spring: GOP psychopathy!

Bush has effectively repealed the Bill of Rights while immunizing himself after the fact from prosecution for laws he's already broken, specifically, federal statutes prescribing the death penalty for war crimes resulting in death. These crimes should be listed at the top of the indictment against Bush.

There are, in fact, no exceptions under the law. Not even for 'Presidents'. Certainly not for those who have convinced themselves that they are 'dictators'.

Over the years we came to expect nothing less than excellent reporting from Bill Moyers and it reasonable to conclude that that is the very reason Moyers is not seen regularly on PBS today. Since the stolen election of 2000, every journalist of integrity has paid a price. In his analysis of the motion picture --The Lives of Others --Moyers quoted Roger Hebert who had made the obvious analogy between the Bush administration and that of East Germany during the height of the Cold War.
"The movie is relevant today, as our [own] government ignores habeas corpus, practices secret torture and asks for the right to wiretap and eavesdrop on its citizens. Such tactics did not save East Germany. They destroyed it by making it a country it's most loyal citizens could no longer believe in."
Moyer's has said what many still fear to say: a secret government has mushroomed in the United States.

Bush's criminal and unconstitutional assault on the Bill of Rights as much as the well-planned campaign of frauds intended to justify the attack and invasion of Iraq stem from an identifiable 'conservative mindset', a pathology, which psychologists have lately categorized as 'psychopathy'. Bob Altermeyer calls these people RWA, or Right Wing Authoritarians.

I like 'psychopath'! It's shorter, precise, and has a longer history. As a result of his numerous interviews of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Dr. Gustav Gilbert identified a common psychopathic symptom --an 'utter lack of empathy'! On this subject, I recommend John Dean's 'Conservatives Without Consciences', in which Dean cites the work of Bob Altemeyer who sums up his own work accurately and wittily in The Authoritarians.

'Authoritarians' are submissive to authority as were Hitler's Nazi minions but they are, like Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush, tyrannical when they are themselves in power or positions of 'authority'. This mentality is most surely the origin of the Nazi war criminal defense: "But ve vere only folloving orters!"
With eagerly subservient Republican majorities controlling both houses of Congress, Bush and his vice-president could do anything they wanted. And so they did. Greed ruled, the rich got big, big tax cuts, the environment took one body blow [190] after another, religious opinions decided scientific issues, the country went to war, and so on. Bush and his allies had the political and military power to impose their will at home and abroad, it seemed, and they most decidedly used it.

A stunning, and widely overlooked example of the arrogance that followed streaked across the sky in 2002 when the administration refused to sign onto the International Criminal Court. This court was established by over a hundred nations, including virtually all of the United States’ allies, to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and so on when the country for whom they acted would not or could not do the prosecuting itself. It is a “court of last resort” in the human race’s defense against brutality.

Why on earth would the United States, as one of the conveners of the Nuremberg Trials and conceivers of the charge, “crimes against humanity,” want nothing to do with this agreement? The motivation did not become clear until later. But not only did America refuse to ratify the treaty, in 2002 Congress passed an act that allowed the United States to punish nations that did join in the international effort to prosecute the worst crimes anyone could commit! Talk about throwing your weight around, and in a way that insulted almost every friend you had on the planet.

But the social dominators classically overreached. Using military power in Iraq to “get Saddam” produced, not a shining democracy, but a lot of dead Americans, at least fifty times as many dead Iraqis, and the predicted civil war. The “war on terrorism” backfired considerably, as enraged Muslims around the world, with little or no connection to al Qaeda, formed their own “home-grown” terrorist cells bent on suicide attacks--especially after news of American atrocities in Iraq raced around the globe. Occupying Iraq tied down most of America’s mobile ground forces, preventing their use against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan which had supported the 9/11 attacks, and making American troops easy targets in the kind of guerilla warfare that produces revenge-driven massacres within even elite units.

--Bob Altemyer, The Authoritarians
Both Altemeyer and Dean are confirmed in their opinions of the state of the American conservative movement by 'conservative' criticism leveled at them. It is characterized by fallacious appeals to authority and orthodoxy --tactics that are observed to be rampant throughout 'conservative' politics.
Their [Altermeyer, Dean] work does not appear to have earned widespread acceptance among academic psychologists. No matter: in Dean’s mind, as he spends the bulk of Conservatives Without Conscience arguing, the theory of the authoritarian personality establishes the malevolence of conservatives as scientific fact.
Dean, of course, speaks from the 'experience' of having been a 'Goldwater Conservative'. I speak from the experience of having interviewed numerous 'conservatives' and, in the process collecting a series of 'self-reinforcing' rationalizations.
Is it true, for example, that “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us”? Maybe Altemeyer thinks that anyone who answers “yes” pines for a charismatic nationalist leader a la—who else?—Adolf Hitler. But, in fact, any effective political leader could fit the description. In the civil-rights era, for example, did not our country “desperately need” (to rectify injustice) a “mighty leader” (he certainly had a large following) such as the sainted Martin Luther King Jr. who was willing to “do what it takes” (organize marches and boycotts) to “stamp out” (end) “sinfulness” (segregation) and “radical new ways” (racist backlash)? Logical consistency would compel nearly everyone to agree with the statement, no matter how provocatively phrased. If it turns out that only conservatives say that they agree, this shows only that conservatives understand the meaning of words.

--Conformity Without Conscience, The American Conservative
The 'refutation' misses the point that 'conservatives' --statistically --will never recognize any other condition. In other words, any status quo --especially those caused by the conservative mindset itself--will always be seen by the RWA as requiring a strong leader. Nothing is proven. The 'conservative' mindset just repeats a faulty premise or, worse, mistakes a pre-conceived notion for one. The conservative mindset may never notice or grasp the significance of evidence that the 'mindset' itself and policies issuing it from it are the cause of the status quo cited to justify war, torture, or even atrocities. This is most certainly the case with 'terrorism' cited to justify wars of aggression and torture which are themselves the root cause of 'terrorism'. You have thus entered the circular, self-reinforced world of GOP delusion! [See: Terrorism is worse under GOP regimes]

Typically, as predicted by Altemeyer, his studies are dismissed not because they are objectively flawed but because they do not conform to pre-conceived, conservative models of the world.

It does not follow that because Martin Luther King Jr may have been a 'great leader' that he was, therefore, 'authoritarian'. It is interesting that the example of Ghandi was not cited by the conservative authors whose assumptions are predictable and self-reinforcing: that no one but 'authoritarian conservatives' may be great leaders. Conservative logic argues as follows: Martin Luther King was a great leader. Therefore, he must have been an 'authoritarian conservative'. In the GOP/conservative bizarro world, houses precede their foundations, conclusions precede their premises. Welcome to Alice in Wonderland!

That, of course, brings me to yet another symptom to be found in abundance among members of the Bush regime and his many supporters throughout the GOP: delusions! Delusions are typically associated with 'psychoses' --schizophrenia, global psychopathology. I am inclined to assign Bush and his supporters into one of two camps: those who are truly 'delusional' and those who exploit delusions for political gain, i.e, those who know better but tell the lies anyway knowing that they will be eagerly lapped up by those whose belief in them is irrational and symptomatic. The GOP thus feeds upon its own insanity.

Yet another category are those 'Republicans' who may know better but for emotional reasons choose to support Bush. It was Republicans of this sort who supported the disastrous economic policies of Ronald Reagan, 'trickle down' theory, in particular, because it made them 'feel good about themselves'. The tax cuts, they willfully believed, would not merely make them even richer but monies not paid in taxes would somehow 'trickle down' and assuage them of the guilt they might have felt about being petty, greedy, intellectually dishonest members of a self-absorbed and 'psychopathic' elite of 'Right Wing Authoritarians'.
The last string of studies I want to lay before you ... concerns authoritarians’ willingness to hold officials accountable for their misdeeds. Or rather, their lack of willingness--which catches your eye because high RWAs generally favor punishing the bejabbers out of misdoers. But they proved less likely than most people to punish a police officer who beat up a handcuffed demonstrator, or a chief of detectives who assaulted an accused child molester being held in jail, or--paralleling the trial of US Army Lt. William Calley--an Air Force officer convicted of murder after leading unauthorized raids on Vietnamese villages.

...

If some day George W. Bush is indicted for authorizing torture, you can bet your bottom dollar the high RWAs will howl to the heavens in protest. It won’t matter how extensive the torture was, how cruel and sickening it was, how many years it went on, how many prisoners died, how devious Bush was in trying to evade America’s laws and traditional stand against torture, or how many treaties the US
broke. Such an indictment would grind right up against the core of authoritarian followers, and they won’t have it. Maybe they’ll even say, “The president was busy running the war. He didn’t really know. It was all done by Rumsfeld and others.”

--Altermeyer, op cit
Applying standards inequitably must surely stem from the observed inability of 'conservatives' to think logically. 'Conservatives' work backward from conclusions, in a biased search for supporting premises. Dick Cheney is a text-book example! He recently quashed facts not liked by the conservative 'authoritarian' in power; he moved to quash a report that supports the critics of the Bush administration with regard to the greenhouse effect.
"This is the story of a White House and vice president's office that work together to squelch information, to squash it, to stop it from getting to the public so that there would be no information out there, so that there wouldn't be a push for them to act," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who appeared with Burnett at a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Boxer accused White House Press Secretary Dana Perino of lying about the redaction of Gerberding's testimony and engaging in a cover-up.

--Cheney Wanted Cuts in Climate Change Testimony, Boxer Claims Cover-Up, ABC News
It is in this mindset that we find the origins of the GOP attack on the Bill of Rights.

Altermeyer believes that conservatives have a problem with 'evidence' in general. This is an issue that seems especially relevant to the debate about 'torture', a debate in which the 'conservative' defense of Bush is flatly indefensible.
Authoritarian followers aren’t going to question, they’re going to parrot. After all, in the ethnocentric mind “We are the Good Guys and our opponents are abominations”--which is precisely the thinking of the Islamic authoritarian followers who become suicide bombers in Iraq. And if we turn out not to be such good guys, as news of massacres and the torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers, by the CIA, and by the arms-length “companies” set up to torture prisoners becomes known, authoritarian followers simply don’t want to know. It was just a few, lower level “bad apples.” Didn’t the president say he was sickened by the revelations of torture, and all American wrong-doers would be punished?

...

Sitting in the jury room of the Port Angeles, Washington court house in 1989, Mary Wegmann might have felt she had suddenly been transferred to a parallel 76 universe in some Twilight Zone story. For certain fellow-jury members seemed to have attended a different trial than the one she had just witnessed. They could not remember some pieces of evidence, they invented evidence that did not exist, and they steadily made erroneous inferences from the material that everyone could agree on. Encountering my research as she was later developing her Ph.D. dissertation project, she suspected the people who “got it wrong” had been mainly high RWAs. So she recruited a sample of adults from the Clallam County jury list, and a group of students from Peninsula College and gave them various memory and inference tests. For example, they listened to a tape of two lawyers debating a school segregation case on a McNeil/Lehrer News Hour program. Wegmann found High RWAs indeed had more trouble remembering details of the material they’d encountered, and they made more incorrect inferences on a reasoning test than others usually did. Overall, the authoritarians had lots of trouble simply thinking straight.

Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high RWAs went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:
All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.
The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right. Or to put it another way, they don’t “get it” that the reasoning matters--especially on a reasoning test.

Authoritarians do not 'infer' well; in other words, as a class, they lack critical thinking skills, logic! They are often fail to execute simple syllogisms.
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 idealized 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 cliches 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."

--Study of Bush's psyche touches a nerve
We should teach people while they are still in school real critical thinking skills! Now --that would shake up the political landscape and blast holes in the 'conventional wisdom'. It would also put more than a few loudmouths, pundits, and poll-impaired consultants out of a job! Somehow --the message must be made clear even to conservatives, in language that even they must understand: torture is not OK! EVER! It is immoral and it is a war crime! Bush is culpable and should be prosecuted.

A new poll of citizens’ attitudes about torture in 19 nations finds Americans among the most accepting of the practice. Although a slight majority say torture should be universally prohibited, 44 percent think torture of terrorist suspects should be allowed, and more than one in 10 think torture should generally be allowed.

The findings of the WorldPublicOpinion.org poll put the United States alongside countries like Russia, Egypt and the Ukraine and lagging far behind allies like Great Britain, Spain and France in how its citizens view torture.

The poll found 53 percent of Americans believed all torture should be prohibited; the average in all 19 countries polled was 57 percent. Poll: 44% of Americans favor torture for terrorist suspects

--Nick Juliano, Tuesday, 24 June 2008, Majority disapprove of torture, 1 in 10 favor in any instance

I have never thought it coincidental that the symptoms of 'psychopathy' precisely describe America's GOP. That has been the case at least since the 1992 GOP national convention in Houston, TX where Republicans, enamored of Ronald Reagan, swooned: "But he made us feel good about ourselves!" Thus -- Ronald Reagan must be forever remembered as a feeble minded 'psychopath' who made an entire 'party' of psychopaths feel good about themselves and, presumably, about being psychopaths. A GOP convention is a meeting of several thousand psychopaths feeling good about being psychopathic together. It's the feelings! It's the warm fuzzies! You have to be there!

This 'divide', sometimes compared to that of the Eloi and Morlocks, has come to define this nation. On the one hand there is a truth-based, hard-nosed empiricism to be found in support of liberals and so-called 'progressives'. For all their tough-talk, the 'conservative movement' is a house of cards, premised upon cherished fairy-tales and neurotic, often psychotic, delusions that serve no other purpose but to make the GOP base feel better about themselves. Poor babies! There is something rotten, something sick about a nation that must murder innocents abroad in order to make evil Morlocks like Dick Cheney feel good about themselves!
PRINCETON, NJ -- There is a significant political divide in beliefs about the origin of human beings, with 60% of Republicans saying humans were created in their present form by God 10,000 years ago, a belief shared by only 40% of independents and 38% of Democrats.

Gallup has been asking this three-part question about the origin of humans since 1982. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the results for the broad sample of adult Americans show very little change over the years.

Between 43% and 47% of Americans have agreed during this 26-year time period with the creationist view that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. Between 35% and 40% have agreed with the alternative explanation that humans evolved, but with God guiding the process, while 9% to 14% have chosen a pure secularist evolution perspective that humans evolved with no guidance by God.

The significantly higher percentage of Republicans who select the creationist view reflects in part the strong relationship between religion and views on the origin of humans. Republicans are significantly more likely to attend church weekly than are others, and Americans who attend church weekly are highly likely to select the creationist alternative for the origin of humans.

Implications

Although it is not a front-burner issue (particularly in light of the economy and the price of gasoline) the issue of teaching evolution in schools came up on the campaign trail last year, and could resurface in one way or the other between now and the November election.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is facing the challenge of gaining the confidence and enthusiasm of conservative Republicans. Turnout among this group could be an important factor in determining the final vote outcome in a number of key swing states. As seen here, Republicans are in general sympathetic to the creationist explanation of the origin of humans, and if the issue of what is taught in schools relating to evolution and creationism surfaces as a campaign issue, McCain's response could turn out to be quite important.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,017 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 8-11, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
I prefer facts to frames, verifiable data to punditry, reality to myth making and slick, focus group approved propaganda. Jacob Bronowski summed it all up very well in a single sentence: behave in such a way that what is true may be verified to be so!

[A 'video' tip o' the hat to: Windharps]

Published Articles


Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, Updated: January 02, 2009

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