9 September 2006

Conservatives Without Conscience

My reading far outpaces my ability to write, and I'm sitting on a to-do stack of book reviews a mile long. Anyway, here goes the first in what I hope will be a burst of reviews in the next few weeks, time permitting.

More striking to me than the substantive content of John Dean's bestselling Conservatives without Conscience, are two featured quotes in the book, neither by Mr. Dean. The first is present on title page and states that if only white person votes were counted, KKK member David Duke would have been elected governor. I never knew that, and to consider that is shocking. The second, is an excellent prescription for the role of government.

If you think [the United States] could never elect an Adolf Hitler to power, note that David Duke would have become governor of Louisiana if it had just been up to the white voters in that state.

--Professor Bob Altemeyer

Authoritarian governments are defined by ready government access to information about the activities of citizens and by extensive limitations on the ability of citizens to obtain information about the government. In contrast, democratic governments are marked by significant restrictions on the ability of government to acquire information about its citizens and by ready access by citizens to information about the activities of government.

--Professor Robert G. Vaughn

The preface of Conservatives without Conscience begins with a lengthy tale of what Dean reports as a "smear campaign" against him — Silent Coup, and his subsequent lawsuit and conflict with convicted felons G. Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson. Basically, Silent Coup contained scurrilous charges that it was Dean who orchestrated the 1972 Watergate burglary in order to protect his future wife, by removing information linking her to an alleged callgirl ring that worked for the DNC. Despite the unsubstantiated claims and overwhelming criticism of the book's claims, there was a contingent of conservative champions, including Liddy, Colson, and rising conservative media celebrities Monica Crowley and Brit Hume. Dean triumphed eventually in a lawsuit settlement, but this development propelled Dean in pursuit of the changing nature of conservatism in America. For me, it offered another episode that illustrates how depraved and sinister Mr. Liddy is — for example, during his Silent Coup promotion campaign, he gave out the Deans home phone number over the air on his radio show.

It is in the introduction too, where Dean writes of a relationship with Barry Goldwater and how they together embarked on a project to chronicle the misdeeds and misdoings of contemporary conservatives (of which Goldwater most definitely was aghast at in his late years, even supporting Democratic candidates here in Arizona, and the local Air America radio outlet used to run commercials about Goldwater spinning in his grave...). Unfortunately, Goldwater died before they could complete project, but the book is dedicated to his memory.

From there, Dean departs into more of a sociological treatise (which he really isn't qualified to give, but he simply relays information fed by prominent researchers). Interesting detail is given to the famous authoritarian Milgram Study whereby people, impressed by an "authority figure" are willing to deliver intense bodily pain to test subjects. Milgram's research explains how those fall easily into grasp of authoritarian leaders. The link between authoritarianism and conservatism is explored, where right wing authoritarians fit the following:

  • travel in tight circles of like-minded people

  • thinking is based on what authorities tell them instead of their own critical judgment

  • harbor double standards and hypocrisies

  • hostile to minorities, but unaware of these prejudices

  • view the world as a dangerous place and when their fear conflates with self-righteousness, they appoint themselves guardians of public morality

  • believe they are far more moral and upstanding than others

Dean constructs a summary chart of conservatives with conscience and conservatives without conscience, the difference being authoritarian conservatism.

From there, a roundup of types of conservatives, from paleoconservatives to fundamentalists to authoritarian to Israel favoring conservatives and so on... ...how conservatives have far departed from the "Goldwater" conservative. After, more socio-mumbo jumbo on authoritarianism, tenets of authoritarian character, behavior, etc... ...blah blah blah... ...this for me, was the most uninteresting portion of the book, though, like stated earlier, Dean is pulling this material from other researchers, and in essence, sharing his discovery of authoritarian conservatism with the reader.

Included in the book, are Robert Altemeyer's Right-Wing Authoritarian Scale, IdeaLog and even the World's Smallest Political Quiz.

I've had a chance to hear Dean speak, on his tour of radio programs in promoting his book, and he's alluded that Conservatives without Conscience is part two in what will be a trilogy. Part one being Worse than Watergate and a to-be edition centered on "what to do". Part one being what the problem is, part two on why the problem is, and part three on how it is remedied.


More race baiting bullshit with that first quote. There's a reason why Duke is nothing but a sour memory. REPUBLICANS SHUNNED HIM AND HIS HATE. Good God, can we stop this bullshit mythology please? Enough of these Hitler analogies; enough stupid electoral pictograms after an election just for shocking the so-called Progressive Academes?

His Milgram Study analogy...WTF?
I'm just shaking my head, Naum. I avoid contemporary political garbage, both liberal and conservative for this very reason. It's empty, rhetorical crap that fosters hate and contempt, without any real substance. Liberal-Conservative..it may smell different, but what the fuck-it's all shit! What's different from this crap and other liberal trash from Coulter?

If you want real intellectual satisfaction, read the classics; many of which are still on my list. I want to understand my ideological being, not hate the opponent through propaganda. I want to understand why movements came and went; how political nachines affected the world today, so I can decide on my own whom I want to lead.

Anyway, have a great weekend....
Neocon, your outrage notwithstanding, consider -- a majority of white voters selected a founder of the Knights of Ku Klux Klan, and founder of NAAWP. That's pretty shocking, and it gels with the sentiments I experienced living in Alabama. Again, the record notes were it up to white voters, he would have been governor.

It's not about hate, it's about understanding the authoritarian conservative, those that do what they're told to do. It's most apropos, now with the current adminstration's push to fascism/authoritarianism.

You may not agree, but many see the erosion of the Constitution as ushering in a dangerous precedent. Indeed, when Americans are detained without charges, without arrest, the 4th amdendment is being defecated on, etc... ...it's time to wage political battle, and the 1st part is understanding the enemy.
What I find most galling in the above quote is the claim that a Hitler can be elected on a national scale simply based on gubernatorial election in Alabama......whoa Nelly.

I've no doubt that redneck hicks continue to thrive in the southern states. But here's a question: how many whites are registered to vote in Alabama; how many total live in Alabama. How many blacks are registered; how many blacks are registered Republican?

Before we go off the deep end with these inaccurate analogies, shouldn't there be intense scrutiny and analysis of such results?

What this guy has done-and is often pasted on your site Naum with no criticism, is the unwritten implication that Republicans are racist slugs trying to revive Jim Crow.
We were all disgusted by David Duke. The RNC shunned him, as did conservative commentators; he's a political corpse.

This country isn't capable of electing a fascist Hitler. I urge you to find the 1920 Fascist platform floating on the internet. I did; it's an astonishing group of proposals that won't ever land on one party's list. Ergo, Fascism can't succeed a Republican Democracy.
Neocon, quick questions for you...

...let's brush aside the Altemeyer quote on Duke and advance to the 2nd quote by Vaughn on governments and secrecy:

1. Do you agree with that quote?

2. How has the Bush presidency measured up by that measuring stick? In comparison to previous administrations, including Clinton, which made great strides for open government (even if some of it was done begrudgingly...)?
Yes, I do agree, for the most part, though I prefer the more detailed translation of Vaughn's quote: http://usinfo.state.gov/jou...

I'm always uncomfortable, however, in "one word (Open vs Closed Government)" definitions of concepts as complex as Democracy and Authoritative Governments.
Even Vaughn admits there are exceptions to "ready access" to information about the government:

(1) properly classified in the interests of national defense or foreign policy, (2) consisting of internal guides or directives discussing enforcement strategies, the release of which would risk evasion of the law, (3) the disclosure of which is specifically prohibited by other laws, (4) containing confidential or privileged commercial or financial information, (5) protected by certain litigation privileges, (6) the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (7) compiled for law enforcement purposes, the release of which could reasonably be expected to create the risk of certain harms, (8) contained in or related to oversight of financial institutions by an agency charged with regulation or supervision of such institutions, and (9) containing geophysical and geological information regarding oil wells.

Are you asking whether Bush-with his phone tap program has been worse than FDR: Japanese Prison Camps comprised the bulk of American Citizens who lost their rights, citizenship, and property.
There were many other very secret programs started and perhaps kept secret....I'm absolutely sure there were many closed door policies in the New Deal Period.....

How about J Edgar Hoover with his decades long collection of hundreds of names, lives, etc. under multiple administrations?

Or Wilson? Hmmmmm....his Administration more than any other had the potential to cast away Plessy v Ferguson, but instead he systematically segregated the Federal Government. Yes, this has nothing to do with "open access", but nonetheless, his policies on black americans, women (he deplored having to sign the 19th Amendment), the Red Scare, all contributed to Government infringing on rights to citizens.

Then there's Eisenhower (the Iran incident 1953 et al); Kennedy (Pigs); Johnson (Tonkin); Nixon (Vietnam, Watergate, etc.); Carter (actually don't know what he never divulged); Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush...the Cold War was an ideological struggle that will always be difficult to understand. The problem is the Left never includes the Soviet Union and their incredible transgressions, while the Right will rarely criticize the US in this period (I know there were agregious and bad decisions made, one of which was helping the French in 1954)(IMV).

Abraham Lincoln on "open access"? Well, he doesn't count. Not even you would have complained about his constitutional suspensions and secrecy in a War that tore this country apart. Let's not go there.

We can probably start with Teddy then. It seems, Naum, that Open Access wasn't a defining characteristic of Democracy until ca1974. Wouldn't you agree? The question then, if the quote above is to be taken literally, has the US been a working Democracy only since 1974? What was it before when "Open Access" was not an option?

Naum, I know what you're wanting out of me. I'll admit up front that the Government the last 6 years has been reclusive for a reason (War). I know you and liberals across the spectrum are aghast over perceived invasion of our privacy and violation of rights to citizens (perceived may not be the best word, so don't take exception).
My answer then, is that compared to other administrations in regards to "Open Access" and Respect for Citizens Rights, his actions aren't as severe. I support the use of taps between overseas suspects and contacts here in the US, irrespective of their citizenship (so long as he informs the court and congressional leaders as is dictated by law). I don't have an issue with the Military Tribunals-they're combatants and non-citizens. I haven't heard any civil rights groups challenge the Patriot Act.

According to a friend of mine, Fort Huachuca has been keeping analytical (right word?) records of every phone call made in the US. Not that they listen to it all, but the "key words" are followed through. Is it true? I don't know, but this goes through many administrations.

If anyone can prove that the government is withholding infromation not exempt by those above, then there's a problem. I honestly want to know, Naum-has there been evidencxe of such, besides opinions and partisan rhetoric? I honestly want to know.
FYI, the quote above shouldn't be credited to Robert G. Vaughn, but rather to the following:

"Privacy and Freedom" Alan Westin

This really wasn't a quote, but Vaughn's summary of Westin's thesis of the book.
Neocon, how much is truly warranted and how much is just CYA and/or shield from public scrutiny...?

I mean Bush sealing presidential papers and other acts to deny public information on their servants, the government doesn't seem wrong to you?

Or the fact that we have to wait until another 20-30 years before they unseal records on MLK assassination...

...is government subserviant to the public or vice-versa...

For the record, I don't have a problem with surveillence, as long as the watchers are watched and that info is also available to the public (within reason)...

And for my query, let's focus on post-information age (post Nixon)...
I've no idea what is truly warranted...that's the big question.

I'll need you to explain the Pres. Papers, please. Sorry.

Did Bush seal the MLK papers again?

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