I wrote the article below for the Philadelphia "Bulletin" and it appeared there on 10th. I think its interest is not confined to Philadelphia, however, so I reprint it below. My many academic papers on authoritarianism can be accessed here
Among psychologists, the word "authoritarian" has a meaning quite different from how that word is used elsewhere. And thereby hangs a tale.
In normal usage, the word is most used to describe people who boss others around -- with government by dictatorship being the extreme case of authoritarianism. But psychologists use it to describe people whom one researcher summed up as "fearful toadies". There is certainly no evidence that they boss anybody around.
How come? It originates from an attempt by a Marxist-led group of psychologists to square the circle. Theodor Wiesengrund (aka Adorno) and his Leftist friends had a big problem immediately after World War II. Everybody was aware at that time that Hitler's doctrines were simply a more aggressively-pursued version of what the American Left of the day (the "Progressives") had been preaching for over half a century. In the first half of the 20th century, the enthusiastic preachers of eugenics and racism were all on the Left and Hitler had generally been in good odor among the prewar Left. He did after all call his movement "National SOCIALISM".
But that had all now become disastrous. Being associated with Hitler was now beyond the pale. So some means had to be found to dissociate the political Left from Hitler. And if you could show that Hitler was in fact a conservative so much the better. And as we all now know, Wiesengrund and his team succeeded. Most people now believe that Hitler was of the Right. So how did they do it?
They said, correctly, that Hitler was an authoritarian and produced evidence to show that conservatives were more authoritarian than the Left. But the "evidence" they produced used their own very peculiar definition of "authoritarian". It consisted of an opinion poll that used statements that were simply popular beliefs of the day -- and if you agreed with lots of such statements you were arbitrarily said to be an "authoritarian". That it would be more reasonable to describe such people simply as "agreeable" was glided over. Wiesengrund put forward Freudian-type theories to argue that even if such people were not likely to boss anyone around personally, they would support others who did. Wiesengrund never proved that but he may have been correct. It is plausible to argue that such people might well put up with ANY government of any character, whether or not they agreed with it.
So what was the point of all that? The point is that people who agreed with a lot of Wiesengrund's collection of opinion statements tended to be politically conservative! That could probably have been interpreted as showing that easy-going guys tended to be conservative but within Wiesengrund's theory it meant that authoritarians were conservative! Which is what he had set out to prove. In his mind, he had shown that the most likely supporters of Hitler and his ilk were conservatives! But note the leap of logic there. Even if we accept Wiesengrund's claim that easy-going people are authoritarian, his findings do not show that conservatives are in general authoritarian. There are disagreeable conservatives too. It is like saying that some dogs are poodles so therefore all dogs are poodles.
But anyway, Left-leaning professors loved it all. It got them off the hook as chief supporters of Hitler. And from then on, they preached it so incessantly that almost everyone now believes that Hitler can be blamed on conservatives. The historical fact that Hitler's most unrelenting enemy was a conservative -- Winston Churchill -- is quietly glided over. Freudian speculation is preferred to historical fact.
So where does Obama fit into that? Clearly, he is not a "fearful toadie", so he is not an authoritarian in Wiesengrund's sense. There are however things about him and his supporters that are interesting from a psychological viewpoint. There are a number of things which are alarming when taken together. Any one of the things that I am going to mention leads to no conclusions by itself. But when those things make a set (or a "syndrome" in medical parlance) conclusions tend to be suggested.
Let's start with the obvious: Obama comes across as a nice guy. So did Hitler. The tremendous "hold" that Hitler had on Germans is generally unexplained in textbooks but the cause of it is in fact simple. He came across to Germans as a father-figure who loved his people.
Obama gained power through a democratic election. So did Hitler. Enough people voted for him for him to win control of the German government.
Obama has support among his followers that verges on the hysterical. So did Hitler.
Obama supporters are predominant in the media. Hitler dominated the media of his day too.
Hitler wanted the government to control most things without entirely abolishing the private sector. Obama is trying to vastly expand the role of government too.
All that is just by way of introduction, however. The most troubling thing about Nazism is that it was psychopathic. It showed no awareness or right and wrong and no respect for truth versus falsehood. And that fits in perfectly with the modern Leftist doctrine that "There is no such thing as right and wrong". And Hitler did not just preach that. He carried it out. It is perhaps early days to see what Obama's ideas of right and wrong (if any) will add up to but we CAN see what his ideas of truth and falsehood are. Like clinical psychopaths, Obama is a fantasizer with no regard for the truth at all. His latest claim (on Feb. 24) that the automobile was invented in America (all schoolboys used to know that it was actually Germany) is a minor example of that but he has been fantasizing often and for a long time. Take this excerpt from 2007:
"Speaking early this month at a church in Selma, Ala., Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said: "I'm in Washington. I see what's going on. I see those powers and principalities have snuck back in there, that they're writing the energy bills and the drug laws." . . .
But not only did Obama vote for the Senate's big energy bill in 2005, he also put out a press release bragging about its provisions, and his Senate Web site carries a news article about the vote headlined, "Senate energy bill contains goodies for Illinois." . . .
On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune reported that an extensive search found no basis for an episode Obama recounts [in his 1995 book, "Dreams From My Father"] about a picture he ran across in Life magazine of a "black man who had tried to peel off his skin" in a failed effort to use chemicals to lighten it. Obama writes that "seeing that article was violent for me, an ambush attack." The Tribune reported: "Yet no such Life issue exists, according to historians at the magazine. No such photos, no such article. When asked about the discrepancy, Obama said in a recent interview, 'It might have been an Ebony or it might have been . . . who knows what it was?' (At the request of the Tribune, archivists at Ebony searched their catalogue of past articles, none of which matched what Obama recalled.)" . . .
As another example, consider Obama's stirring tale for the Selma audience about how he had been conceived by his parents, Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham, because they had been inspired by the fervor following the "Bloody Sunday" voting rights demonstration that was commemorated March 4. "There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Ala.," he said, "because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Ala. Don't tell me I'm not coming home to Selma, Ala."
Obama was born in 1961, and the Selma march occurred four years later, in 1965. The New York Times reported that when the senator was asked about the discrepancy later that day, he clarified: "I meant the whole civil rights movement."
He just makes things up as he goes along with no concern about the truth at all. But the silly thing about such fantasies, and the thing that brands them as psychopathic, is that they sound good only at the time. Subsequently they are easily found out as false and therefore tend to cause distrust of the speaker. The psychopath just floats along on a sea of fantasy until people eventually find him out and cut him off. And I think there are already signs that Obama's proposed solutions to America's problems are fantasies too. The "stimulus" that did not stimulate seems likely not to be the last fantasy that does not work out in reality.
So Obama has a lot in common with the Fascists of history, with his clear psychopathic tendencies being the most worrying. He is in that real-life sense an authoritarian.