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General News    H4'ed 11/17/18

Are You "Fixed" or "Fluid" -- Or Mixed? (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Now, on page 160, Hetherington and Weiler further explain their terminology about the "fixed" pattern:

"Political psychologists typically use the term 'authoritarian' to label those we call fixed in their worldview, believing such a worldview to be dangerous. This work argues that the fixed's preference for hierarchy, desire for order, and deference to authority make them susceptible to an authoritarian leader, who vilifies 'outsiders,' criticizes the softness of past leaders, and promises a return to a simpler time by imposing a strong, uncompromising hand."

When anti-communism hysteria swept across the country in the Cold War, it may have seemed like a simpler time because most Americans in the two major political parties were swept up in the anti-communism hysteria. Yes, most Americans were willing to vilify "outsiders" such as communists or suspected communists.

However, Ong devoted the title essay in his book The Barbarian Within: And Other Fugitive Essays and Studies (Macmillan, 1962), "The Barbarian Within: Outsiders Inside Society Today" (pages 260-285) to discussing outsiders inside society today.

Ong's essay "The Barbarian Within: Outsiders Inside Society Today" is reprinted in An Ong Reader: Challenges for Further Inquiry (Hampton Press, 2002, pages 277-300).

Hetherington and Weiler then say, "This harsh label -- 'authoritarian' -- may seem out of place in today's debates about domestic politics. When it was first widely used, in studies of political psychology in the late 1940s and early 1950s, scholars were trying to explain why ordinary people would follow a leader like Adolf Hitler, who was determined to bring all of German society to heel as he carried out his genocidal vision and, in the process, brought total war to much of the planet.

"Although it seems a stretch to argue that the United States is on the cusp of such rule today, the term 'authoritarian' became part of popular vernacular in 2016, as Donald Trump first emerged as a serious contender and front-runner for the Republican nomination."

No doubt President Trump is a serious danger. No doubt he should be countered effectively and forcefully.

In Hetherington and Weiler's somewhat inconclusive "Conclusion" (pages 215-224), they say, "Although it hasn't been an explicit part of our story in this book, the fact is that the civil rights and women's liberation movements were the earliest causes of the worldview rupture that began to divide Americans from each other in the 1960s" (page 218).

No doubt, however, the groups represented by "the civil rights and women's liberation movements" were out-groups that could be included as "outsiders inside society today" (in Ong's terminology).

Hetherington and Weiler also say, "The people who came of age in the 1960s have disproportionately shaped the current divide" (page 223). But both Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton came of age in the 1960s, and each of them as a presidential candidate in 2016 escalated the current political divide in the country.

Hetherington and Weiler invoke President Abraham Lincoln's imagery about "'a house divided against itself cannot stand'" (pages 223-224). We'll see. Stay tuned.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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