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A little tea, a little chat

I've been a compulsive reader, writer and theatre goer all my life. My book blog is here: http://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/ Mostly food at the moment but also knitting is here: http://cathyingeneva.wordpress.com/

Currently reading

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
Sheldon S. Wolin
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
Gustave Flaubert
Nebula Award Stories 3
Harlan Ellison, Gary Wright, Samuel R. Delany, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, Roger Zelazny, J.G. Ballard, Anne McCaffrey
Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe
Helge Kragh
Max Frisch
The Authoritarians - Bob Altemeyer Warning: I could only bear to read about the first 50 pages of this in depth. The rest I skimmed through. Far be it for me to say that merely because something is a belligerent ranting diatribe, it doesn't have merit. After all, I have written this....

Permit me, if you will, to counterpoise the RWA with the HPA. That is the Harry Potter authoritarian. It suddenly and obviously struck me yesterday, that it is a perfect example of how you can’t actually talk about the RWA like it is some special breed. It isn’t, and nothing makes that more blatantly clear than watching the belligerent, hostile, illogical and irrational behaviour of Harry Potter devotees, as witnessed on this site. Some of the comments I’ve received illustrate the point, though I dare say they are scattered about.

So we have this group of people, who I wouldn’t mind betting all think they are small ‘l’ liberals behaving like thugs. Equally we see probably small l liberal scientists behaving in the same hostile angry way when faced with people who don’t share their beliefs. This book carries on the tradition and I, for one, find it offensive. I’m disappointed that nobody else on goodreads has this issue and equally disappointed that part of the justification for excusing the author’s abusive proselytsing is that he uses statistics.

p55 What did the high RWAs say? Nothing very logical, I’m afraid. Nearly half (48 percent) said they’d return the Golan Heights if the odds for peace were 3-1 against. Increasing the odds for a successful outcome to 50-50 made highs less willing (41 percent) to make the gesture. When the odds got to 3-1 in favor of peace, 60 percent said “Go for it.” The authoritarian followers thus didn’t seem to pay much attention to the odds for success, and they proved to be the ones who’d take a foolish chance for peace in this situation. So who’s the peacenik?

Never mind the language, which is straight from the worst type of let’s get ‘em media, I keep thinking Fox TV news shows, the stats are completely meaningless without at the very least being told what the sample is and who and how they are measured. What does ‘nearly half’ mean? One? Two? This gentleman’s an academic, which makes me really nervous. He may be able to put on another hat, but I don’t know if I trust the idea that he can be an impartial observer of the facts when he has such an ax to grind.

He reminds me more than anything of Sarah Palin on a bad hair day. I bet they both like magic and wands. And really short people.

p.15 We would expect authoritarian followers especially to submit to corrupt authorities in their lives: to believe them when there is little reason to do so, to trust them when huge grounds for suspicion exist, and to hold them blameless when they do something wrong.

How hilarious is this. I’ve spent so many years now trying to tell small ‘l’ liberals that they can’t keep voting for politicians whose practices in power bear such passing resemblance to their campaign promises. Either small ‘l’ liberals have the IQs of lemmings or they are pretty much happy to vote for people who are, not to beat about the bush, liars. They are then willing to spend a lot of time either apologising for their leaders’ post victory turnabouts or do a lot of mea culping how were they to know.

If I may paraphrase Chomsky: question them, about everything all the time. Small ‘l’ liberals are quite diligent at this when the other side is in power. Otherwise, they are incredibly similar to the accusation levelled above of their political and social foes.

I can’t think of anything which doesn’t come out as an English understatement to describe how I am about this book, but let’s say incandescent with rage.

p. 16 High RWAs also say they would bow more to show respect for their fathers, the president of companies where they worked, and so on, than most people indicate.

Huh? Does this guy not understand that bowing is an act of great cultural significance in much of the world? He makes it sound like it is something to be disgusted by. If I may speak in the measured way this book inspires what the fuck is he thinking of, putting this word in italics? Don’t answer that. If you know to ask the question, then you know what the answer is and it isn’t pretty. If you don’t know to ask the question...well, you probably think this book is great. People who aren’t RWA are easily led to water and made to drink, you just have to do it in a slightly different way.

p.30 Here’s another one of my measures, which I call “Posse,” that you may find so ridiculous that you’d say no one would ever buy into it. Humor me, gentle reader.

Oh, my aren’t we preaching to the very converted. Or otherwise intending to influence them to answer in particular ways. This is what one is supposed to answer and, like every such questionnaire in this book to the point I stopped reading, is – oh, let me borrow the author’s word – ridiculous. I’m pretty sure that in saying as I wish to, that I want detailed information on the cults before deciding this, I would be considered to be a right wing fascist pig. So be it:

Suppose the federal government, some time in the future, passed a law outlawing various religious cults. Government officials then stated that the law would only be effective if it were vigorously enforced
at the local level and appealed to everyone to aid in the fight against these cults. Please respond to the following statements according to the following scale:

-4 indicates the statement is extremely untrue of you.
-3 indicates the statement is very untrue of you. etc. to:
+4 indicates the statement is extremely true of you.
1. I would tell my friends and neighbors it was a good law.
2. I would tell the police about any religious cults I knew.
3. If asked by the police, I would help hunt down and arrest members of religious cults.
4. I would participate in attacks on religious cult meeting places if organized by the proper authorities.
5. I would support the use of physical force to make cult members reveal the identity of other cult members.
6. I would support the execution of religious cult leaders if he government insisted it was necessary to protect the country.

And this:

p.61 For them, gay marriage is not just unthinkable on religious grounds, and unnerving because it means making the “abnormal” acceptable. It’s yet one more sign that perversion is corrupting society from the inside-out, leading to total chaos. Many things, from stem cell research to right-to-die legislation, say to them, “This is the last straw; soon we’ll be plunged into the abyss.” So probably did, in earlier times, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, sex education and Sunday shopping.

There are such obvious reasons to be doubtful at the very least, about stem cell research and legalised euthenasia, that to read such a dogmatic opinion that these things are ‘right’ because – what? Small ‘l’ liberals think they are right??? I know. RWA think these things are wrong, THEREFORE, if you are a HPA (do you mind: generic term for people who think they are really different from RWA), you think they are right. Nothing to do with the research you have done, the academic studies you have immersed yourself in.

This is straightforwardly hilarious in that context:

p.98 But the leaders don’t have to worry, because their followers are also quite dogmatic. By dogmatism I mean relatively unchangeable, unjustified certainty. And I’m certain that is right, beyond a doubt. So that establishes how dogmatic I am. If you want a hint as to how dogmatic you are, simply answer the items below—completely ignoring the fact that if you strongly agree with them it means you are a rigid, dogmatic, and totally bad, bad, bad person… It’s easy to see why authoritarian followers would be dogmatic, isn’t it? When you haven’t figured out your beliefs, but instead absorbed them from other people, you’re really in no position to defend them from attack. Simply put, you don’t know why the things you believe are true. Somebody else decided they were, and you’re taking their word for it. So what do you do when challenged? Well first of all you avoid challenges by sticking with your own kind as much as possible, because they’re hardly likely to ask pointed questions about your beliefs. But if you meet someone who does, you’ll probably defend your ideas as best you can, parrying thrusts with whatever answers your authorities have pre-loaded into your head. If these defenses crumble, you may go back to the trusted sources.

I’ve never read anything as blindly dogmatic as this book in my life – yeah, sheltered upbringing. The author isn’t a chance to ever change his mind about anything is my impression from reading this book.

So when he pops in this bit:

p. 95 Before I close this chapter I want to remind us that none of the shortcomings we have discussed is some mysterious illness that only afflicts high RWAs. They just have extra portions of quite common human frailties. The difference in their inability to discover a conclusion is false, in the inconsistency of their ideas, in their use of double standards, and so on are all relative, not absolute. Almost everyone rationalizes, thinks he’s superior, etcetera. When high RWAs condemn “political correctness” and we say they are “kettles calling the pot black,” we should bear in mind the darkness of our own kettle.

it has all the gravitas as a rice bubble for me. He has made it an illness, he has made a mountain out of it.

I came across this today:

Lubos Motl
I have also tried to reverse-engineer their thinking a little bit. In my guess, they decided that there were "circles" in the WMAP picture at the beginning, and then they were trying to find them by slightly more quantitative methods described in the article. http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-penrose-and-gurzadyan-have.html

It seems to me this is a case in point. This author has a bunch of very fixed ideas which he wanted to measure so that he could convince small ‘l’ liberals, who have a faith in statistics that is mind-boggling – I mean, statistics that suit their beliefs – of the correctness of them. It reminds me of discussing abortion with a couple of people close to me recently. Small ‘l’ liberals, who made some decisions about their beliefs sometime and have never changed. We were looking at pictures that came out a couple of years ago of foetuses at a legally abortionable age: they were doing very live human things, I can’t recall what, exactly. Smiling maybe? Point is that was fuel for the pro-lifers. Quite clearly, in killing these foetuses one is killing something that is a living human being. Now, I can quite see that abortion will continue to be as well as a necessity, a convenience in our society, irrespective of how one defines these foetuses. There’s no getting around the elevation of convenience in a world where we have life styles, not lives.

But boy, were these two viputeratively hostile and belligerent at the idea that these foetuses were ‘human’ or that killing them was the same as if they were a few weeks older…or a few weeks older again. Me, I don’t really understand why we think there is any difference between the high tech convenience of killing them early, compared with the low tech solution in China of killing them (girl thems, I mean in that case) when they are born. We are only quibbling about what makes us feel cozy with what we are doing. But tell that to somebody who is convinced that abortion is different in one week from another and they get pretty mean about it. I sat there listening to them telling me what a great thing abortion was and how much better it would be for children who were orphans and became adopted. Ummm. Huh? I asked a few of my friends who were adopted if it would have been better for them not to have been born and, how’s this for a statistic, 100% of them, even the one who had a childhood he didn’t like, would prefer not to have been aborted.

Which brings me, now that I think of it, to Freaking Economics….review coming a little later in the evening.

In brief: think for yourself. That is the very opposite of what this guy wants you to do.