The ongoing Republican primary elections, if they’ve achieved nothing more, have gloriously highlighted the dizzy heights candidates will scale to fool and deceive prospective voters.
The use of clever ‘spin’ tactics, the bamboozling of simple folk with so-called ‘facts’ they have no way of verifying, the promise of better times ahead, the rubbishing of an opponent, all assist in drawing away the loyalty from one candidate and placing it squarely with another.
Dictators, and authoritarian governments, rise to power by one of two means. Either they seize control by military coup, or they persuade the people to vote them into power.
Hitler was lauded by the German masses because he promised to restore Germany’s pride as a nation, a pride taken away by the allied governments after World War One. Mussolini led his Fascist ‘Black Shirts’ to Rome in a bloodless coup d’etat, supported by the then King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III.
No-one would suggest the present Republican hopefuls are comparable to Hitler or Mussolini, but the question remains as to why vast swathes of a nation’s populace flock to dubious political leaders with adulation and hero worship? Undoubtedly, in the case of both men mentioned above, they utilized propaganda to its full extent, via radio, TV, and the press. Those who failed to toe the ‘party line’ were often ruthlessly exterminated.
In practice, the modern day political campaign is not too dissimilar. It’s to be hoped Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich won’t stoop to assassinating their opponents with a bullet, but character assassinations have been commonplace during this election year.
Propaganda is as rife in North America as it was in Germany during the time of Adolf Hitler, or in Benito Mussolini’s Italy. Today, it’s just applied more subtly, having been worked out in advance by an army of psychologists and ‘spin doctors’ well paid by the ‘Superpacs’ supporting their particular candidate.
Propaganda – the party ‘line’ – doesn’t work with everyone, of course. Those who stop for a moment to think about what’s being spun at them, will soon realize how much bullshit can be spouted by a man desperate to become the most powerful being in the world.
Unfortunately, large swathes of the American populace seem unable to think for themselves, reacting with cheers and applause to even the most blatant falsehoods, or put downs of an opponent.
It’s long been obvious to any independent observer of US politics that a large percentage of right-wing support for the Republican Party emanates from areas not renowned for producing the more intelligent members of society.
Poor educational facilities, coupled with extremes of poverty, were two of the factors that caused large numbers of Germans and Italians to roar support for Hitler and Mussolini in the years following World War One.
Right-wing ideology, particularly in the US today, gives the less intelligent members of society props to support them in their very insecure lives. Not least of these, of course, is right-wing religiosity and its incumbent doctrines – anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-immigration, the ‘sin’ of homosexuality, and – tying all these doctrines neatly together – the fervor of nationalism. When right-wing propaganda cleverly entwines nationalism with religion i.e. ‘God’s own country’, it can bind the mind like superglue.
While all this is painfully obvious to the independent observer, without scientific evidence for support it’s barely more than a hypothesis. Such evidence is now available via a paper written by Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri, two researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada.
Their research proves beyond doubt that those of a lower than normal intelligence are more susceptible to right-wing political ideology.
Studies have shown that individuals with lower levels of general intelligence are less trusting of other people, less sensitive to interpersonal cues, and less accurate in deciphering other people’s behaviors and intentions…research has revealed that individuals who more strongly endorse social conservatism have greater cognitive rigidity (Rokeach, 1948), less cognitive flexibility (Sidanius, 1985), and lower integrative complexity (Jost et al., 2003).
Socially conservative individuals also perform less well than liberals on standardized ability tests (Stankov, 2009). Rightwing authoritarianism (Altemeyer, 1996), a strong correlate of social conservatism (Jost et al., 2003; Van Hiel et al., 2010), is also negatively associated with g (‘g’ = lower levels of general intelligence). (McCourt, Bouchard)”
The study concludes:
…conservative ideology represents a critical pathway through which childhood intelligence predicts racism in adulthood. In psychological terms, the relation between g (‘g’ = lower levels of general intelligence) and prejudice may stem from the propensity of individuals with lower cognitive ability to endorse more rightwing conservative ideologies because such ideologies offer a psychological sense of stability and order. By emphasizing resistance to change and inequality among groups, these ideologies legitimize and promote negative evaluations of out-groups…”
Or, to quote the Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, “Conservatism is linked to low intelligence.”
Monbiot uses this research paper, published in the journal ‘Psychological Science’ last month, to lambaste the liberal community of the UK for a lackadaisical attitude that allows conservatism to win so readily. He may have been even more forthright had he been aware of another study just published, this time by researchers at Washington University in St Louis.
A team led by Patricia Cavazos-Rehg of WUSL studied birth rates of girls aged 15 – 17 on a state by state basis. They corroborated the findings of previous studies, that comprehensive sex education in schools is responsible for lowered birth rates among teenage girls.
Unsurprisingly, the states with the highest rate of teenage births were those ‘with higher religiosity rankings and greater political conservatism’.
“State adolescent births vary widely, and these disparities across states should be acknowledged as a major public health concern,” Cavazos-Rehg told LiveScience. She noted the difference in birthrates among girls ages 15 to 17 in Arkansas and New Hampshire. Arkansas, with high conservatism, had the highest birthrate in this study, 34.8 per 1,000 girls in this age range. New Hampshire, with high liberalism, had the lowest birthrate, 9.7. [Teen Pregnancy: A ‘Winnable’ Public Health Battle?]”
Here, it would seem is irrefutable proof that conservatism is bad for the country and bad for the people. It prevents development, controls the populace by authoritarianism (both religious and political), seeks to subjugate women and persecute minorities, and takes control out of the hands of the people and places it squarely in the laps of the wealthy and powerful.
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” famously roared Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, himself a Republican president. I doubt he’d own the Republican Party today.
…what we now see among their [UK & US conservative] parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won’t drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that manmade climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics.” The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society.”
Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today”. The Republican party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to what he calls the “low-information voter” or the “misinformation voter.” While most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base”.”
It is time for those who have the capability to think for themselves to stand up and be heard. For too long the logical arguments against the religio/political nonsense spouted by the hypocrites, who endeavor to split this nation in two for their own power-hungry ends, have been allowed to go unchallenged. Even those in opposition kow-tow to the same bigoted doctrines. Never once has any US politician had the courage to stand up and confess a lack of religious zeal.
Among the so-called ‘Christian’ right-wing, perhaps the most ‘sinful’ place on earth is the European nation of Holland. Drug freedom, condoned prostitution, all part of a society often depicted as in opposition to everything conservatism holds sacred.
In the United States, the birthrate among girls ages 15 to 19 is 39.1 per 1,000 teens; in the UK it’s 24 per 1,000.
In liberal Holland, the birthrate among girls aged 15 to 19 is 4 (yes, four) per 1,000.
Are you capable of considering the implications of those statistics? Or, are you too busy preparing to cheer on Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich when they next arrive in your town?
 “Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact” Journal of Psychological Science, January 5th 2012
 “Liberal Constipation” Guardian, February 6th 2012
 “Sex Education Less Effective in Conservative States” Live Science, February 6th 2012