L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

01 October 2007 Blog Home : October 2007 : Permalink

Follow Up to "The Authoritarians"

First of all the fact that I am bothering to wrote a follow up post to my initial review is indicative (IMO) of how thought provoking the book is. I think this is a good thing and I have some more thoughts about what it implies for society (and what it implies for Europe in particular later.

First however I want to point out that Dr Bob's dreaded US "Religious Right" is possibly rather less effective that Dr Bob fears. For evidence this powerline post: The Dreaded "Religious Right" Rears Its Head which takes apart a Salon article about how a cabal of 50 religious rightists "including Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer" decalred that a Giuliani nomination would "irrevocably split the GOP in advance of the 2008 general election, given Giuliani's relatively liberal stands on gay unions and abortion, as well as his rocky marital history." As the powerline writer comments:

That's obviously what the leaker, and likely the group of 50, intended. But I haven't spoken to a single Republican leader who thinks that nominating Giuliani would "irrevocably split the GOP," a suggestion I find ludicrous. I have considerable respect for James Dobson, but he is anything but a kingmaker

And the post concludes:

Contrary to the assumption of many liberals, religious conservatives (a group in which I include myself) are not stupid. As President, Rudy Giuliani would nominate judges who will support rather than usurp the Constitution. That's the only significant role the President plays with respect to social issues. James Dobson et al. wish that they controlled the Republican Party, and Salon wishes they controlled it, too. But they don't.

Dr Bob does make some fair points when he looks at how RWAs and their leaders play the balance between states rights on issues where the states agree with the RWA position and federal ones where they don't - Terry Schiavo anyone? - but overall I think he overstates the influence of the Religious Right (and hence the RWAs) within the republican party and overstates the willingness of RWAs to tolerate hypocrisy and inconsistency in their leaders when this is pointed out all over the press.

Now to Europe. Dr Bob hasn't done any research outside North America, apart from a little in post Soviet Russia, and his book states that so this is clearly speculation. But. As I pointed out in the previous post there seems no reason not to assume that the personality traits that lead one to become an RWA on Dr Bob's test are confined to North Americans. Indeed taking a look at Europe in the early/mid 20th century it seems blindingly obvious that RWA types played a key role in the various communist and fascist dictatorships. However it is also true that these days Europe, generally speaking, lacks the sort of religious or political movements that RWAs might be expected to join.

I noted last time that radical Islam does seem to fit the bill for a number of people that feel cast adrift in modern society but, despite the howls of the more security paranoid (and others pushing their own agendas - racist or otherwise), radical Islam is not exactly taking the continent by storm. Yes some imams do spout "Death to Amerikkka" and "Kill the Joos" and if they could pronounce it they'd probably also go on about Zionist Neo Imperialist Hegemony and other similar things but there are plenty of Moslems who don't spout this crud and even many who do spout parts of it (the Anti Israel bits particularly) but who don't then turn around and vote as their imam tells them to do. Parties such as the UK's RESPECT have been a miserable failure, pressure groups such as the UK's MCB, get attention from our multiculti politicians and the guardianistas but not a great deal of respect anywhere else and so on. In France you just have to look at the "youths" to see that while they may use religion as a justification occasionally they don't actually obey any of its tenets (alcohol consumption being but one teeny weeny hint). Indeed the general lack of major pressure for large mosques seems like a fairly major hint that Islam is not exactly a large part of French immigrant experience.* The same, it seems to me, applies in general terms elsewhere in Europe too. Yes there are a few enclaves that are heavily Islamic and yes (duh) these enclaves tend to be full of relatively unassimilated immigrants from Islamic countries. Yes there are some converts to Islam too, and yes some of those converts are radicalized, but the total numbers aren't there. In the US you see megachurches and on sundays the car parks surrounding these megachurches are filled. In Europe you don't see mega mosques and it doesn't seem to me that the mosques that do exist are standing room only affairs most of the time. Sure there may be more attendees per mosque than there are in the average mainstream European church but that isn't exactly a stiff test and there aren't anything like as many mosques as there are churches.

So are Europeans all wonderfully rational non RWA sorts? Did we all learn from WW2 and the cold wat that authoritarianism was bad? I think not. In fact I venture to suggest that the same people who become RWAs in North America become ESAs (Enviromentalist Socialist Authoritarians) in Europe. The religion of Europe these days is (painting with a broad brush) green-tinged socialism and Europe's RWA equivalents are almost certainly the people who want organic food, wind power, carbon taxes, human rights for criminals, pensions for all, an end to globalization etc etc not realizing that many of their goals are in fact only achievable if some of their other cherished objectives are sacrificed. This doesn't stop them from being keen to soak the rich, the employers etc. and then complain that the government has caused a recession because all the jobs have been outsourced to India etc. The key difference, it seems to me, between Europe's ESAs and America's RWAs is that the ESAs are less generous and more selfish. ESAs are not charitable because one article of the ESA religion is that "the government will provide". I would love to run Dr Bob's RWA test on students entering European universities and also run the "discrimination" test and a political leaning test. I suspect we'd find just as many bigots and authoritarians, but the targets of their bigotry would be the rich and America rather than the usual blacks and gays.

*Yes there have been applications for new mosques in France, some have been permitted, others declined. No riots or street manifestations have occured when applications have been rejected.