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Berkeley Intellectuals Explain Conservativism
by Dan Middleton
11 August 2003Berkeley

According to the study, psychological factors linked to conservativism include fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity, and uncertainty avoidance.  Yawn.

Liberals never learn.  The truth of this well-documented fact was proven yet again by a group of professors from the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Maryland at College Park, and Stanford University's School of Business, who wrote an article that appeared in a recent issue of the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.  The article was supposed to be about the underlying motivations of conservative ideology, but the real point was that conservatives are bigoted and stupid. (Another well-documented fact is that liberals call anyone who disagrees with them bigoted and stupid.)

This is the same strategy the left has been using for years.  The battle plan served them well for a long time, but its notable failures (against Reagan and, so far, George W. Bush, for example) have clued them in that it was time to come up with something new.  For a while, it seemed they were actually learning from their mistakes.  In recent days, they have gone from calling Bush a retarded idiot to portraying him as a Machiavellian schemer. (A remarkable transformation.)  But apparently, nobody told the professors about the change in tactics.  

As a piece about the article on the UC Berkeley news website put it, the professors, after exhaustive research, concluded that, "at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality."  Other common psychological factors linked to conservativism include "fear and aggression," "dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity," "uncertainty avoidance," "need for cognitive closure," and "terror management."  Along the way, they grouped together Hitler, Mussolini, Reagan and Rush Limbaugh as examples of the conservative psyche, and then graciously admitted that the study might be perceived as partisan.

Let us analyze this analysis.  We'll start with the point about conservatives being resistant to change.  The researchers admit that many liberal figures, such as Stalin and Castro, (both darlings of the left wing) "steadfastly resisted change" once in power.  They tried to explain this away by making the truly contrived argument that both Stalin and Castro might be "considered politically conservative in the context of the systems they defended."  Stalin, for example, "was concerned about defending and preserving the existing Soviet system."  So Stalin, a liberal, was a conservative because he acted the way a conservative acts according to liberals.  Got it.

The conclusion that conservatives resist change, along with the ones about conservatives being dogmatic and intolerant of ambiguity, needing closure, and avoiding uncertainty all can be traced to the crux of left-wing thinking: liberals do not believe in absolute right and wrong.  Conservatives generally do, and so they are labeled as dogmatic, intolerant, etc, etc.  As C.S. Lewis put it in The Screwtape Letters, the professors "take a great many words to tell a very simple story."

That brings us to the bit about conservatives being tolerant of inequality.  As evidence for this, the late Senator Strom Thurmond's name is once more dragged through the mud.  As I said, the left has been calling the right racist and elitist for at least the last half-century.  But it is interesting to note that liberals are themselves quite tolerant of certain inequalities.  I do not see leftists fighting for the rights of unborn children, or railing against policies that give black people opportunities on the basis of their skin color.  

The assertion that fear and aggression define conservative thinking is laughable in light of the left's antics during the time before the Iraq war began.  The liberals were absolutely terrified of using military force against Saddam Hussein.  If you want aggression, look no further than the people who maced police officers at anti-war rallies.  

We are left with the point about the conservative tendency towards "terror management" (liberals apparently prefer to let terror run rampant), which the researchers say "can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten their cherished worldview."  Speaking as a conservative, I do want to punish the people who killed 3000 of my countrymen, and I would be unlikely to associate with them. (Call that "shunning" if you like.)  

I'd love to see a high-profile university do some research on why liberals can't argue their positions without calling their opponents bigoted and stupid, or equating them with Nazis and fascists.  But I know that will never happen.

Dan Middleton is a freelance writer

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