Personality

The Texas Anti-Abortion Law Illustrates the Qualities of Authoritarians Left and Right


The US Supreme Court declines to grant an injunction against the Texas forced birth law that allows vigilantes to sue any and everyone who plays any role in an abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy. If you suspect your co-worker’s wife of having an abortion or even considering her, YOU, a full-time citizen, with no standing in any legal system or court, can sue the husband, the wife, the mother of the wife, the father of the wife, the wife’s best friend, and anyone else you can identify as being possible of discussing the possibility of her getting an abortion. You can sue for $10,000.00 a piece plus attorney’s fees.

If a clinic is successfully sued under these conditions, then the state can shut that clinic down.

For the first time since Roe v Wade was established way back in 1973, a law has gone into effect that effectively restricts abortion so severely as to render it non-existent.

There all kinda opinions of Roe v Wade, abortion, and the like. I’m not here to render another opinion on any of it. We’re looking at the Texas law and the Supreme Court inaction as examples of authoritarianism because we have just come across an amazing paper about to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on the characteristics of left-wing authoritarianism as opposed to right-wing authoritarians.

It reminded me that Ye Olde Blogge has speculated wildly that left and right wing authoritarian types would share a core of qualities. Not only does this research illuminate that, but it develops evidence of the antisocial nature of authoritarians in general and left-wing authoritarians in specific.

Taking the Texas law and all of the conservative attempts to restrict it as an example of authoritarian tendencies can help us understand these qualities. Our society has a consensus that abortion ought to be safe and legal. We can restrict it under some circumstances, but, in general, it ought to be safe and legal. The Supreme Court occasionally follows precedent and settled law — that’s sarcastic, y’all, because they do follow such things that is until the radically unqualified Justices currently squating on the Court were rammed through and installed. Roe v Wade falls under this doctrine.

The Court often turns down cases because they are so controversial and society has not yet made up its mind on what the law and practice should be, but that isn’t the case with abortion. We have, as a society, rendered our decision, but there is a vocal minority working diligently to overturn that choice.

Ignoring and overturning the clear choice of the majority is a hallmark of authoritarianism. The right doesn’t give a tinker’s dental damn about what the majority wants. They are going to deep throat us with their moralistic views regardless of consent like some common rapist.

Qualities of Authoritarians

These folks undertook a huge amount of work to define the construct of left-wing authoritarianism (LWA) and develop a measurement for it using six different participant pools of about 500 people each (that’s 3,000 people total for those who didn’t do the math) divided about evenly between men and women. The last group being a representative sample of the US.

The examined a veritable butt-load of variables to see which would correlate with and indicate LWA. Along the way, they made some conclusions concerning which qualities LWA and RWA shared. A core if you will that the two diverged from.

Personality Criteria

When they looked at the variables commonly attributed to personality, they found some interesting correlates. Regular readers remember the personality traits of OCEAN — Openness to new experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. We’ve had some fun evaluating Trump’s, Clinton’s, and some MAGA’s personalities based on it.

Their findings included some of those five universal personality traits as well as some other rather interesting ones. Agreeableness, conscientiousness, and honesty-humility all have a rather strong negative correlation meaning that LWA’s tend to be low in all three. Agreeableness measures how much you value having “good” relations with others — LWA’s don’t. Conscientiousness measures how concerned you are with how your behavior impacts those around you — LWA’s aren’t. And honesty-humility, willingness to admit to errors, change your mind, and being open to evidence challenging your beliefs. Needless to say, LWA’s aren’t that, either.

Personality traits that strongly correlated with LWA:

  • Weighing in at .20, coldheartedness
  • At .25 is the hat trick of self-centered impulsivity, negative affect, and detachment
  • And, taking the crown at .30 is psychoticism. Psychoticism everybody. Psychoticism. No wonder authoritarians are so fucked up. They tend towards psychoticism.

Yes, that’s right. Ye Olde Blogge went there and decided that given the freaking coldhearted callous nature of condemning poor women to back alley deadly abortions probably means that RWA’s share many of these personality attributes as we’ve speculated in other posts.

Cognitive Style

Cognitive style means the biases and tendencies in the way you think, reason, and interpret the world. So, what did our intrepid researchers determine about the way that LWA’s interpret the world?

  • Dogmatism, .35 correlation. LWA’s tend to be dogmatic? Well, knock me over with a ton of bricks, ya don’t say. All those Bernie Princesses out there telling me about how they are justified in voting third party in 2016 because back alley abortions were inevitable whether Trump or Clinton won and there was no difference between them were being dogmatic? Hunh. Go fucking figure. Smug bastards.
  • Need for closure, .25 correlation. Everything has to come to a conclusion. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was bad no matter what evidence may come to light that he had done the best he could with what he had. Abortion is bad and needs to be banned in all circumstances because we can’t have ambiguity hanging about with some maybe okay and others not, right?
  • Conformity thinking and epistemic certainty, .20 correlation. Can you say groupthink and cognitive dissonance? I thought you could. No one gets to disagree and we always thought it was so. Not only do you have to agree today, you have to have agreed for your whole fucking life because the history of an idea can’t have changed. Segregation yesterday, Segregation today. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever. Amiright?

And the negative correlates are…

  • Intellectual humility, -.25 correlation. We’re not wrong! We’re so not wrong not only are we not going to consider any evidence that contradicts our position, we aren’t even going to tolerate you thinking that we’re wrong. That’s why LWA’s are so certain that the ACA is the devil in disguise, M4A is barely acceptable, and nothing short of whatever national healthcare system they favor will be unless of course we enact it and then it will just be more capitalism disguised as progressivism.
  • Objectivism, -.20 correlation. Christ do we even have to discuss the lack of objectivism on the part of the far left and right?
  • Cognitive reflectivity, -.15 correlation. There’s no point in actually considering our methods because our ends justify our means. How we get there is unimportant and immaterial. What did Lenin say, ya gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette. Ya gotta break a few heads if you’re going to have paradise on earth, right Taliban, Bernie Princesses, MAGA Nation?

Seriously, if these don’t reflect the cognitive style of authoritarians on the left and right side of the aisle, I’ll eat Ye Olde Blogge on national TV, but I will also accept that I was wrong in jumping to this conclusion, eat a little humble pie, and revise my thinking.

Political Behavior

The wild thing here is that all of the political behaviors correlate at a whopping .35! These are strong correlations in general, but .35 is getting up there. What political behaviors did they consider?

  • Affective polarization
  • Free-speech suppression
  • Moral disengagement
  • Partisan schadenfreude (Okay, who doesn’t? Amirite?)
  • Political intolerance
  • Partisan violence
  • Social vigilantism

‘Nuff said about all of these. The Texas forced birth law literally codifies social vigilantism.

Beliefs or Worldviews

The one big surprise here is that belief in science had a positive correlation at all (.15). However, it was with regard to LWA’s. I suspect that RWA’s would have a strong negative correlation, especially in today’s current political milieu.

Other stronger correlations were as follows:

  • Conspiracy ideation and conformity, .20 correlation. No surprise here. If you’re antisocial and rigid in your thinking, you are especially vulnerable to conspiratorial thinking as we found in previous posts. Insisting on conformity is a hallmark of authoritarianism.
  • Power and belief in determinism, .25 correlation. I think this is the biggest distinguishing factor between LWA’s and RWA’s in the USA, power. Both sides want to have the power to enforce their dogmatic views of how life should work; only RWA’s have actually come close to doing so. LWA’s have been so far removed from having the power to impose their views on society — on co-ops, communes, and other smaller communities, another story, and another post — that they’ve kinda given up on thinking it is possible. Determinism, though. Hunh, what authoritarian doesn’t believe that determinism justifies their ill-treatment of their opponents? They have to be suppressed because they don’t have a choice but to oppose the truth.
  • Belief in a dangerous world and state control, .35 correlation. One of the biggest differences between conservative and liberal thinking and brain structure is in viewing the world as being either inherently dangerous or being safe enough to take a chance on change. And, the definition of conservative is the belief that someone somewhere is getting away with something they ought not to be. How surprising is it that both are true for LWA’s, too?
  • Self-direction, -.25 correlation. Of course, individual choice is a negative correlation. No authoritarian left or right worth their salt could tolerate the possibility that someone somewhere is doing something that the autocratic society does not approve of.

While they hypothesized that these characteristics correlated with LWA’s, there is lots of evidence anecdotal, intuitive, and empirical that they also describe RWA’s. And, it is this set of characteristics that makes the horrifically cruel banning of abortion so that poor women are reduced to seeking dangerous “back alley” abortions while wealthier women can travel to where abortions are safe and legal that explains why these lives will be forfeit in the GQP Dystopia.

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Image Attribution

“Albanian Socialist Realism Mosaic” by Marcel Oosterwijk is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

5 replies »

  1. So, an authoritarian is an authoritarian is an authoritarian and will be at an extreme end of whatever spectrum of political/social/economic/religious ideology they happen to believe in or be selling. I’ve long maintained, for example the the primary difference between an avowed Anarchist and an avowed Libertarian is simply wealth, although I strongly suspect that one Anarchist and “Ecowarrior” I met was hiding that he was a trust-baby with bad daddy issues (and, either a psychopath or psychotic, depending on whether he really believed his tin foil hat BS).

    Quite aside from the damage to poor and not-quite-poor women, the most disturbing feature of the Texas law is its promotion of abuse of the legal system by vigilantes and the lawyers who will be profiting from them. The same tactic could work just as well regarding suspected vote fraud (including “intention to commit, or facilitate vote fraud”), and who knows what other subjects. Considering the source of the thing, abortion is only the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

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