So Who Are The RWAs (Part 2 of ?)

This follows from part one, and contains some jargon that might not be understandable without it.

So we’re now living in a world where the US and UK are both controlled by RWA/SDO people, voted for by RWAs, and last time we established why that has me so scared that on Monday night, nearly a week after the US election, my blood pressure was at 200/90 (I’m now taking medication, and it’s “only” 147/80, which is, according to most charts, “high blood pressure, seek medical attention”, rather than “seek immediate emergency medical attention, high risk of imminent stroke”. If this post seems a little incoherent, it’s because having high blood pressure affects cognitive function).

Now, if Trump dismantles all the forms of democracy, declares himself dictator, and starts a nuclear war, there’s little we can do about it. So like Ozymandias in Watchmen, we should proceed from now on the assumption that that’s not going to happen and there will still be a world and some semblance of democracy in the US in the short term of two to four years. It’s impossible to plan for the other possibility.

But if that’s the case, then we’ll be very lucky. We’ll have dodged a bullet as a civilisation, and we’ll be up against opponents who have more bullets loaded in their gun. And at the moment, the liberal left has little more than a water pistol, aimed at their own foot.

So, assuming the possibility of defeating the anti-civilisation forces, we have to understand what those forces are. And that means understanding what RWA people are like.

Now, as in the last post, I am talking here about things that are true for *groups*, and that don’t necessarily apply to individuals. As an example, take my own in-laws. They’re rural, white, elderly, Midwestern farmers. They have a “support our troops” bumper sticker on their SUV. My mother-in-law refers to black people as “negroes”, and my father-in-law is pro-life. They go to church regularly. They are, in short, precisely the kind of people one would expect to fit any stereotypes of Trump voters.

They also, though, both voted for Hillary Clinton in the recent election, and when my wife spoke with them on Skype on Sunday the conversation wasn’t much different from those taking place on Woke Twitter. They’re both terrified of what a President Trump would do, and of the views his campaign has awoken in their relatives and neighbours.

So the lesson to take away isn’t about social groups, and isn’t about finding a neat way to stereotype people you’re distant from in geography and class. Being an RWA isn’t about what church you attend, what car you drive, what stores you frequent, what sports you watch.

And we should *not* be seeing RWAs as “the enemy”, either. We’ll get to the enemies in a future post, perhaps. But what we’re talking about here is *a mode of thinking*. We need to understand that mode of thought, but not condemn the people who think that way (except in so far as that mode of thought leads them to do condemnable things).

The important thing to know about RWAs *without* high social dominance orientation is that they are followers, not leaders. The important points about these people are that they:

    Are highly submissive to “the authorities”, whoever those authorities are in their society or culture. Whether a policeman, rabbi, imam, Prime Minister, President, or patriarch, they will do what that authority figure tells them, and think it right to do so.
    Want to be “normal”. We’ll be coming back to this in a future post, but being conventional, fitting in, being normal, being average — these are very powerful motivators for RWA people.

And most importantly of all, unfortunately:

    They will be very aggressive in their support of “the authorities”. RWAs are not much more likely to be violent than anyone else — unless and until that violence is given social sanction. Then all hell breaks loose.

These characteristics, not being “red state” or “middle England”, not membership of a particular political party or religion, not being “the white working class” or any of the other nonsense that’s pointed to, are the important ones for looking at how RWAs act as a group. They can correlate with some of those other things, but one can easily imagine a young man fighting for ISIS, a middle-aged woman who teaches Sunday school, or a lecturer at Oxford University all having the same basic personality types and thought processes, even if their ideas about who “the proper authorities” are and what “a normal, conventional, person” is like would be radically different from each other.

Have a go at the RWA test yourself, and see where you sit — again, remembering that this is a test for groups, and not for individuals, so not worrying about your own results.

But look at those questions:
“Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.”
“The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get back to our traditional values, put some tough leaders in power, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad ideas.”
“Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash the perversions eating away at our moral fiber and traditional beliefs.”

I assume that most of the people reading this will find such statements horrifying. They will see in them echoes of Hitler and Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Mao, and the Kim family, and will see that such intentions lead on a very short path to gulags, concentration camps, and wars. Most people reading my blog will have been put off years ago if they don’t find such things scary.

But try and really understand what it feels like to think like that — to think that you’re normal, but that everywhere there are filthy, disgusting, degenerate, dirty perverts who want to destroy the normal, proper, way of life and sink us all down into a pit of depravity as bad as hell itself. To think that the people in charge are always right, but have been weakened by these filthy, disgusting, perverts, and that what’s needed is someone who is strong, and who can destroy them. Someone who can cleanse the filth. Someone who can drain the swamp.

Imagine feeling like that, deep in your very core. Imagine the fear you may now be feeling over Trump, but feeling like that *all the time*. Try to really understand being that scared for that long, and you may start to understand the RWA mindset.

And understanding it is the first small step towards fighting back.

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5 Responses to So Who Are The RWAs (Part 2 of ?)

  1. Ty Myrick says:

    I wonder what proportion of the population is RWA. This is not only a contemporary issue. I assume Jefferson and most of the rest of America’s founding fathers probably would have scored fairly low since they were rebelling against the culture norm. During the Civil War, RWAs could have been on either side, depending on their ideas about “right culture”.

    I would guess that during the Depression and WWII, many (most?) RWAs would have sided with FDR. Now of course, most of them in the U.S. follow Republicans leaders and/or Trump. It seems like a big part of the problem is not just that a significant portion of the population feels like things are going to hell in a hand basket and only a hero can save us. The other half of the problem is progressives have not done enough to drive the narrative about who is causing the problems and what “right culture” should be.

    We focused on identity politics and individual freedoms rather than class actions and allowed neoliberal economists and puppets for billionaires to drive the societal narrative. The wealthy have been waging war on the poor and middle class, while the middle, as a class, as done nothing about it. Is it any surprise that RWAs now believe their pain is coming from the left rather than above?

    Not that that is any comfort in the immediate or short-term future, but it does give us something to work toward to defuse the RWA-SDO synergy that is currently driving our politics.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      “I would guess that during the Depression and WWII, many (most?) RWAs would have sided with FDR.”
      Possibly during WWII itself, but not, I think, during the Depression. Obviously the RWA test wasn’t available then, but many of the people with that kind of mindset were supporters of people such as Father Coughlin (whose fascist radio programme had thirty million listeners in the US during the thirties).
      There was a definite difference then in that, as you say, those people weren’t allied with right-wing economics, but it’s questionable as to how right-wing Trump’s economic policies (such as they are) are either.
      I think that had Huey Long not been assassinated in 1935, 1936 may well have seen the US have its Trump moment eighty years earlier, as Long and Coughlin’s policies (combining what would now be called a Keynesian stimulus with protectionism and intense racism) were largely identical in their mindset to Trump’s.

  2. Tony Harms says:

    I took the test and scored 18.18: I feel that this test is very dubious. 1. The questions are so obviously right or wrong that they must base a lot of the score on how vehement you feel about them and I suspect that’s a question of “style” rather than orientation. 2. I actually think I am more authoritarian than this but in a more subtle way. I have seen other tests that ask the same sort of questions but in a far less obvious way and which interleave them with more neutral questions.

    The other problem is that it isolates what may be economic and social issues as psychological. So it avoids having to take remedial action.

  3. Oddly I also got 18.18 which seems too precise to be true, is your audience selfselecting or is the questionnaire link stuck.

  4. Andrew Hickey says:

    I think it’s a self-selecting audience thing. I get 5%, and Sass, in their comment on the other post, gets 6.8%, so the link isn’t always outputting that value.
    (Also, I just tried going through and giving the most authoritarian answers possible, and got 95.24% there — so there’s probably some fudge factors in the calculation somewhere. I’d assume the result is to far more decimal places than they’re actually measuring.)

    As for Tony’s points — no, the test isn’t a subtle one. But that’s actually one of the things that gives it its power. It’s not testing for subtle differences, or subtle thinking. One can critique it in a variety of ways, but what it does do is have a surprising amount of predictive power — people who answer that set of question in one way tend as a group to have a lot of other behaviours in common. It doesn’t read as subtle at all, but it is nonetheless fairly powerful.

    As for treating economic and social issues as psychological, the test seems to cut fairly well across economic boundaries. There are, though, some interesting aspects around *some* things to do with social class and education, which I’ll be talking about later and which suggest types of remedial action which may well work.

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