The Origins of Political Hate

Over the last twenty years the social sciences have made inroads into understanding bias and the forms of hatred that lead to discrimination and overt mistreatment of minority groups. Two theories emerge as being particularly helpful in understanding these virulent forms of intergroup prejudice: Right wing Authoritarianism (via the work of Altemeyer and colleagues) and Social Dominance Orientation (from the work of Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto).

The authoritarian personality construct developed by Reich and others in the 1940s, was an appealing theory that offered promise in understanding the Fascism that developed internationally in the 1930s. Reich’s authoritarian personality theory had its empirical and measurement limitations and was pretty much abandoned by the 1980s. Altemeyer in the 1990s revived this theory and developed empirically defensible methods of measuring a construct related to Reich’s, which Altemeyer termed Right-Wing Authoritarianism. During the same decade, Sidanius and Pratto developed their construct of Social Dominance Orientation which arose from their Sociological theory, Social Dominance Theory.

People who scored high on Altemeyer’s Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) scale

  • tended to be submissive to authority (they did not like to take charge);

  • were punative to those who were considered unconventional and minority groups;

  • were more conventional in their attitutes and behavior regarding issues such as sex, religion, and social customs.

Also according to Altemeyer, authoritarians are more accepting of illegal acts by government officials such as wire-taps, and searches without warrents. In one survey authoritarians expressed belief that Nixon was innocent of wrong-doing. Interestingly in mock jury experiements, authoritarians tend to be more punative to unconventional type defendants but more lenient with “establishment-type” white collar offenders. Authoritarianism is a quite strong and direct predictor of prejudice and discrimination.

Social Dominance Theory (SDT) proposed that as cultures became more prosperous and develop the ability to acquire excess resources, these advancements in turn led to “arbitrary-set hierarchies” which exist to legitimize the unequal distribution of resources. The formal process of legitimizing these inequalities weas termed Legitimizing Myths by SDT theorists. These myths were embraced by those with the greater share of societal resources, those identifying with these former groups, and by those aspiring to be amongst these upper ingroups.

Racism, Sexism, classism, nationalism, homophobia, and negative sterotypes are examples of legitimizing myths that justify unequal distribution of wealth, power and status. Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) was the construct that was used to measure a person’s generalized inclination to support the inequalities that resulted from abitrary-set heirarchies. SDO is a powerful predictor of conservative political views and and strongly associated with a conservative voting history. The legitimizing manuevers of SDO’s sound quite familiar to those who have read much conservative literature. For example, common heirarchy enhancing beliefs are: individual responsibility, the Protestant work ethic, and internal attributions of outgroup member failures. [AKA the boxlox trifecta].

There are distinct differences between people high in RWA and SDO. Right-wing authoritarians tend to view the world as a “dangerous place”, whereas those high on the SDO construct see the world as a “competitive place”. SDO’s know they are prejudiced, but believe they have good reasons for being so. RWA’s are less likely to be aware of their prejudices, but when they are pointed to them, they resort to the ultimate authority that cannot be legitimately questioned in their view, viz. – religion. RWA and SDO measures are uncorrelated in their predictions of measures of prejudice and bias. They arrive at the same place, but their routes to the predicting the bigotry destination take quite different roads.

The high SDOs and high RWAs are not mutually exclusive. It is quite possible to have memberships in both of these clubs. It is my belief that SDO represents more classical conservative thought and the addition of RWA influences were forcefully inserted into conservative ideology by Karl Rove, George W. Bush and the neoconservatives. I think some of the more virulent ideologues from the blogthatshallnotbenamed manifest high SDO and RWA.

I have more information on this line of research if any are interested.

Iggy Donnelly


Filed under GLBT Rights, hate groups, libertarians, Radical Rightwing groups, Republicans, Research, World Politics

18 responses to “The Origins of Political Hate

  1. Do you think the person who is loudest and most firm about what they think / are convinced of / hold as an absolute, might also be the person who is least confident and peaceful about who they are? Are their loud protestations an attempt to convince themselves, to gain self worth? In order to be as elevated as they want to be, do they need to suppress others in order to feel superior?

    • tosmarttobegop

      I would not take it as a absolution though that simply those who yell the loudest are insecure.
      Take our friend thunderbird shall we take him as insecure? You may say a lot about him but he is certainly not insecure in his stances!

      Through my research of the Neo-Conservatives I learned that in part the responses of the Conservatives is from their influences. Their belief is to attack and shut down dissenting opinion. You grow loud and attack in any debate or discussion. It is a practice they learned during they time in the radical Socialist phase of their development. It is a tactic to win they way in any debate rather then to defend or justify their position.

  2. iggydonnelly

    Those are good questions, fnord. I think the best answer would be “yes” to all of your questions – and there are differing contributions of the alternatives you suggest depending upon whom one is referring to.

    People with high Right-Wing Authoritarianism are afraid. As Obama insensitively (but accurately) said, these are the people who “cling to their guns and religion.” While on the other hand those high in social dominance orientation are not so much afraid, but rather they see furthering their agenda (keeping those down in their place) as a challenge rather than a reaction to fear. Mind you those high in SBO need not actually be among the powerful and wealthy – that is the truly interesting thing about how successful the GOP has been in their efforts to diffuse the SBO Legitimizing Myths. It kind of reminds me of Kapos in the Nazi concentration camps. Maybe Freud was right about the “identification with the aggressor” dynamic.

  3. lilacluvr

    The louder a person yells, the more power they feel? I don’t like watching some political talk shows because it usually winds up with the conservative yelling and interrupting the liberal person. It is as if they think they can shut down the other person by being a bully.

    Truth be known, I think these people yell because they think no one will have the audacity to tell them back. Maybe it’s a defense mehanism?

    Americans have grown tired of bullies. And with the continued help of the Republicans plan of just saying ‘no’ to everything Obama and all their name calling, I think most Americans will simply tune them out.

    • tosmarttobegop

      I don’t like watching some political talk shows because it usually winds up with the conservative yelling and interrupting the liberal person.

      This is what I was pointing to in my reply to fnord’s post. It a tactic that is used rather then defending their opinion.

  4. wicked

    In answer to your questions, fnord, a great big YES!

    I look back at high school dynamics where this is concerned and remember figuring it out. Some people mask their feelings of inferiority by acting more superior, thus we end up with an egotist who really has no faith in himself, but wants others to believe he does.

    Then there are those who truly believe they are better than everyone else, just because they are! 😉

  5. jammer5

    Mornin’ people. An interesting observation recently was the right wing will fight for what they believe in, whatever that is, and the Liberals not so much. I’m not sure that is correct in its context. My feelings are if you believe in something – take politics as an example – the obnoxious behavior we are seeing from the right over Obama’s decisions, regarding pretty much anything, pretty much disproves that. Yelling for yelling’s sake proves little but the yellers ignorance. One listen to right wing radio pretty much proves that.

    I think it is true the Liberals were prone to take much laying down, but have since changed our tune. If we hadn’t fought, McCain would be president. But we do have to keep on top of things and not let it get to our heads. That is why the Republicans lost power, and why we will, if we don’t watch our step.

  6. Did the comment, “the right wing will fight for what they believe in,” have to do with guns, 2nd amendment rights, or concealed carry?

    I’ve seen those who think (HOPE!) they’re going to have the opportunity to gun down someone / anyone express their opinion that people who aren’t prepared to do the same are wuzzes and worse. Those armed-to-the-gills people have gone beyond the edge of reason and are now hoarding guns and ammunition.

    If there is any real danger, in my opinion, it’s from these Americans who are obsessed with guns! They seem mentally ill to me.

    • tosmarttobegop

      I will agree there are those whom have such delusions. But most do not they do see the gun control agenda as a threat to their rights. I can not truly explain the current rush on weapons and bullets. It may not be so much because of anything that President Obama has done. More the general distrust of the Democrats now being in power.

      • jammer5

        I think the right wing has to first be defined. Is it guns, religion, taxes, government, or all of the above, and maybe more? I read comments on the garbage dump by people who espouse the teachings of Christ, and back them up with a gun mentality rhetoric. The tea parties showed they have little respect for government as a whole, but a fear of losing identity caught up in a panic state.

        I’m not sure I’ve ever read an accurate perspective of the right wing mind. Not as a total of their beliefs at least. They certainly are not prone to change, and, if they weren’t so divisive, that could be a good thing. But doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results smacks of lunacy. I sure would hate for them to regain power in any form, that would strike me as unamerican.

  7. tosmarttobegop

    Later I have things I need to get done.

  8. The ones that seem the most delusional sure do make it difficult for the sane and normal.

    The loudest and most offensive who hold themselves up as being representative of a group (whether that be Christians, gun owners, purple people eaters…) do their cause a disservice. Sadly, we’ve become so divisive in our politics that if they’re on our side we don’t ask them to be accountable like we do someone from the other side.

    Probably more often than not, opinions of individuals shouldn’t be used as a generality that describes every person in any group. You know my standby statement (the one that always drove N ath an crazy) — *opinions are all as good and as useless as the next one.

    *Of course with the exception of those expressed by N ath an which are always superior to any I have! 😉

    • tosmarttobegop

      The loudest and most offensive who hold themselves up as being representative of a group (whether that be Christians, gun owners, purple people eaters…) do their cause a disservice.

      Shawn Penn is the one on the left that is like what you describe to me. He often does have a valid point but he offsets it with the way he goes about stating it. He always seems to be on a overdose of caffeine and ends every thing he said with “AND F**K THEM ALL!”. I watch him at a form that I agreed with the topic and the examples. Then suddenly he went off on a tangent and started screaming and cursing.
      Soon I could not even remember what he was even screaming about!

  9. tosmarttobegop

    Its an old story but I was not aware of how divisive and hate-filled the partisanship had became until I became politically aware because of Bush. I was shocked at the level of blind hatred on that other blog.
    God don’t you just know the Cons on that other blog would just Love if I switched parties!
    The partisanship is so blinding that if a Conservative President would start killing and eating babies the Con would be defending it. If for no other reason than because the Liberals would be attacking him for it.

    Everything is turned to a partisan issue, I do not think they truly agree or are not offended by the Bush Administration. They dismiss it as being simply partisan spin as to how bad it was.

  10. I did begin to understand the hatred for Clinton because I got to the point where I felt nothing less than hate for bush the lessor.

    But Obama hasn’t done anything that should cause hate. Questions about his policies — yes, but not hate.

    So when I saw their hate (they’ll say they don’t hate and then prove it with their next rant), I knew it was just because he isn’t a Republican. No better reason than he’s from the other side. That is not a reasonable or sane way for an adult to conduct themselves. I refuse to be around it!

    • tosmarttobegop

      You hit the nail on the head! Its because that is all they have, the Cons were and are so wrapped up in the partisan hatred that they can not think of anything else. They just have to show hatred for Obama since they can not think of a intelligent counter to any of his policies. “The Party of fiscal responsibility” can not put their heads together to come up with a sound path to follow. And though Obama’s solutions to the economic crisis is the only logic way to handle it. It is still a distasteful pill to swallow.

      But the partisanship can not let the Cons admit they do not have a better idea or even agree with Obama.
      I was one of those who had such a blinding hatred for President Clinton that I believed a lot of the trashing without question. Even though it may have not made any sense or I knew it was not the case I still believed it. Mainly because of my personal reasons.

      On this subject and the Bush administration, some on both sides still see it more a partisan issue rather then just how serious it really was. Republicans can dismiss the evidence as nothing more then political spin.
      Democrats can dismiss the evidence as nothing more then ammo to use in the partisan battle.
      Both do not see that we, the United States of America came so close to being a dictatorship and losing what makes America the country that is America.

      It is just easier for both to think it was nothing more then a meaningless political game.
      Its by the grace of God that we did not end up like Soviet Union or Saddam’s Iraq.

  11. Former vice president cheney is doing the Republicans a disservice with his public appearances and hate-filled accusations, plus attempts to make people afraid.

    But I hope he keeps it up. Between this very unpopular person showing his behind in public, and the Republican elected officials having nothing to offer but NO, the Republican Party comes off looking weak, spiteful and ineffective.

    I always thought bush the lessor was the best ambassador the Democratic Party could hope for, but he has many people picking up where he left off. The Republican Party doesn’t have numbers to win a national election, must increase their numbers to have any hope for 2010, and so far they aren’t doing anything that looks attractive or compelling.