Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Inside the mind of an authoritarian

Required reading - The Authoritarians

Two things to talk about today.  Dr. Linda Roberts of the Phelps clan has run off the rails and a Dr. Justin Frank has written an analysis of Romney's constant lying.

Let's talk a bit about reality.  I use the word "actually" a lot.  People like me are considered "reality-based".  We perceive the world (aka "evidence-based"), then make up a set of business rules to deal with it.  If we find our perception is incorrect or the world has changed, we revise the business rules.

Other people I know say "should" a lot.  They have a pre-conceived idea of how the world should work, then bend reality around them to make it confirm.  While not a conservative, Steve Jobs did this kind of thing.  People called it his "reality distortion field".

In the real world, 5-10% of the population is "gay" by some definition of the word.  It's been an issue for thousands of  years.  Attempts have been made to make it go away.  They haven't worked.  Some people are actually gay and are going to actually stay that way.  Get over it.  That's the reality-based view.

The other view (some people call it "faith-based") is that (pick and choose what makes a coherent narrative), everybody should be straight, there is no such thing as homosexuality, people who claim to be "gay" are straight and living a "gay lifestyle" and just need to make an effort and/or pray and/or take drugs (deprecated) but in the meantime they are horrible vile disgusting creatures, prone to diseases and medical conditions, want to indoctrinate everybody else into homosexuality, ban heterosexuality and hence cannot be trusted around children or in normal society, are incapable of monogomy and should be shunned/isolated/killed as a way of showing Christian love.  Any person/city/state/institution not supporting this should be punished in the form of tornados, hurricanes, forest fires, losing sports team or any other bad thing that comes to mind.  To support this they quote the Bible or make up bogus science (google Paul Cameron and Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH).

Don't believe me?  Have gander at one day's worth of tweets from Dr. Linda Roberts (@GodsLandGodsLaw) of the Phelps clan.
  • Homosexuals love anarchy so they side with libtardism as anarchy is the only way society will accept this filthy perversion. #tcot #gop #p2
  • Homosexual activists should be charged with murder for indoctrinating children into AIDS and death. #tcot #gop #teaparty
  • Pro sodomy (homo'l) activists like @fakedansavage are headed to a school near you to indoctrinate YOUR children into the sodomy death style.
  • Acceptance of homosexuals/pedophiles spells the end for our morals and values. It's all downhill from here. #tcot #gop #teaparty
  • We must push for a Christian theocracy and expunge radical muslims, atheists and libtards from God's nation. #OneNationUnderGod #tcot #gop
  • God WILL punish America (more twisters, hurricanes, etc) if we don't return his nation to him. #OneNationUnderGod #tcot #gop #teaparty
  • First things of order: 1. Outlaw homosexuality/sodomy. 2. Outlaw Abortion/close abortion clinics. 3. Ban all religions except Christianity.
  • And yes I'm #PROLIFE but if we could solve homosexuality but aborting gaybies, then I'd be in favor. Morals are more important! 
  • I'm all 4 science proving homosexuality to be genetic (that way we can abort gaybies + solve this homo problem) but it won't happen!

It comes down to the difference between "authoritative" and "authority".  In the reality-based world there are some people who are considered an authority in their field.  Einstein comes to mind.  Every once in awhile someone comes along to challenge one of Einstein's theories (more about "theory" in a bit).  We had one last year where they thought they'd spotted neutrinos going faster than the speed of light.  Nobody said "Einstein is wrong", they (including the people who published the study) said "check the work".  They eventually nailed it down to malfunctioning equipment.  But, they wouldn't have been upset if Einstein was wrong.  That's where new science comes from.  Remember the Bohr atom?  It had its heyday and is still a useful shorthand for chemistry but it was supplanted by newer science.

That's not the way it works in the conservative world.  A few excerpts from the article.

Romney doesn’t lie. Let me repeat: Mitt Romney doesn’t lie. He is telling the truth as he sees it — and truth it is, facts notwithstanding...This is about a conflict between evidence and faith... when two Mormon Elders who were questioned about the inconsistency in passages from the Book of Mormon said “We know the Book of Mormon is true and that it contains the Word of God even in the face of evidence that appears contradictory,” Thus there are no lies, only faith-based certainty that translates as truth for which no apology is needed, since what was said was not a the Mormon Church, there was a decision to accept authority as true — whether or not evidence supported it.

Romney is an authoritarian leader.  He is not an authority in any field on knowledge except how to get people to follow him, and he probably wouldn't tell you how to do it.  Romney attracts authoritarian followers.  Rather than thinking for themselves, they gravitate to a leader who will promise simplistic, black-and-white solutions to complex problems. They are not bothered by the fact that those solutions change from day to day (hence the Etch-a-sketch quip), have failed miserably where they've been tried, or are against their own best interests (eg. taxation).  They are used to this from Fundamentalist Christianity's obsession with Biblical literalism and simplistic, Bible-story theology.  The Bible is true because it says it's true, and let's just skip over the complicated stuff. 

I used to be a proponent of the English variant E-Prime, English without the verb "to be".  It made you think very, very carefully about the world.  You couldn't say "the sky is blue" - you said "the sky appears blue".  It also prevented the use of passive voice - there always had to be an action.

In sociological circles, they no longer talk about someone "being gay".  It's now "men who sleep with men", a much more accurate description.

Conservatives also don't understand "theory".  My definition (which is probably wrong) is "the most coherent explanation reached from an examination of the known facts".  To them, theory is fiction, probably because they have such a poor relationship with fact.  Gravity is a theory because we still don't have a firm methodology towards non-electromagnetic attraction.  Be that as it may, I'm not standing under a grand piano suspended by a string.  I don't care what authority figure says it's perfectly safe.

Update - a better explanation:

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