Authoritarianism: Is not a government. A government can be authoritarian, any type of government using any type of economic system. It is a social psychology concept that many historians have used to identify certain groups throughout history and behavioral economists and marketers have studied. People need to understand where they fit in society. They set a few concepts about themselves and identify those in others eg “I’m better than that person because……., They are the reason you have problems ……. (insert difference)”. We all do it to some degree. In our minds there are good guys and bad guys. We like rules and to be the hero.
Authoritarianism is when a leader starts using differences of others to unite a large group of people. They promise strength in numbers and solutions based on the defeat of the bad guy. People want to feel important and they want to feel strong. “The bad guys are trying to get US”. People love this. A major problem of this is that many of our values (or what we are willing to do) are based off of what an Authority told us was ok (eg Mom, Teacher, Minister, Government, the group). So for a group of great law abiding citizens to all of a sudden do something ridiculous such as rioting after winning the World Series can come down to just two things: 1. What’s the group thinking. 2. What is the Authority letting us do. We think differently as a group. Think about Paul martyring Stephen or mobs burning people at the stake (at the time no one they placed in authority told them it was wrong and the group acted).
Authoritarian leaders are scary. They find a group of people and build their confidence with promises of strength and greatness but only if they stick together. They then give those people targets to compare themselves to usually, a few internally and a few externally. They leverage the group think. It’s great marketing / propaganda. This group will many times become confrontational with anyone who questions them because, you are not attacking an issue, you are attacking who they are and many times they embrace a simple slogan as a reminder. There is no doubt, that if enough people were to read this post, someone will post an attack that seams just a bit too personal, they are going to feel that this is a personal attack on them. What could happen when they are protected by a group and see who might be the solution to their problem?
These leaders don’t need to say go attack this or that person. All they have to say is, “That wouldn’t be the worst idea” or “wow back in my day I would have..” or “he’s not being nice to me, I wonder what we should do”. All groups need in order to do some things that are not normal is to have the Authority say it’s okay.
The group becomes bigger because people conform for the same reasons people united in the first place a fear and a love of strength. So when you say that you can’t be part of Authoritarianism because you believe in Democracy you are wrong. You’ve been told that you are strong and with your group you will be stronger “or Great”, we just have to stick together! You’ve been told who the bad guys are and they could in no way be just like you, they are beneath you. You’ve been told that it is okay to not like them “pc for hate”. At some point other people will conform “and many already have, maybe I will one day because of fear”.
Here is the issue, when you sell this the mob is going to start to get hungry. They are going to want to see resolution to the problems (enemies) the Authoritarian pointed to. He can’t take that back, what you bought was that “you are only strong because you are united against the bad guy”. He’s going to have to let the mob hunt, defeat the bad guys “maybe down the street”. You are being sold that your problems are not your fault, how could they be? We bemoan that this and that are the scary moment in history (24 hour news sensationalization doesn’t help) but, this might be. We are not being sold policies or theories or ideologies. We are being sold bad guys and good guys, “haven’t you always wanted to be the HERO?”. We are being sold this person is stupid and this person is awful and you or he should never apologize for anything because, “what is there to apologize for, you are Strong and Great!”
Think about this, today, Mr. Trump released his health care plan. It’s standard like basically all other health care plans (this is really not a health care debate piece). He couldn’t finish without pointing people towards the bad guy, illegal immigrants. How can 3-5% increases in health costs per year be the result of less than 0.03% of the population? Maybe that is the solution, I don’t know. “If only they weren’t around” everything would be okay. What happens when health care prices continue to rise and illegal immigrants are gone? Who will he blame next? This is the game, it is a mix of social norms (illegal immigrants should not be here because that is the rule) and blame ( you need to blame someone for your problem).
Probably the scariest part, is conformity. It’s really hard to get the majority of people to buy into anything. But, it doesn’t take the majority, just an impassioned minority and an un-vocal majority. The scary part of the book / show Man In The High Castle is not that the United States was conquered, it’s how easily society conformed. At some point in history, many of this countries core belief were considered non-conformity.
It has nothing to do with governmental or economical theory. It has cursed all faiths at some point. It has affected Saints and school children. Good people throughout history have made bad choices because of this concept. In the wrong situation I can do bad things and make bad choices and in my heart I believe that I am a good person.
Good people, any, can go astray. Maybe even us.