Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Understanding Radicalism

I just ordered this book, Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the Left,mainly for professional reasons as it contains a study I mentioned on liberals in a previous post. I thought about the study again when reading Taranto's Best of the Web which included my post on the Thematic Apperception Test, a projective test used by psychologists. Here is the study used to look at the traits of liberals:

A 2003 paper by Rutgers sociologist Ted Goertzel offers some interesting insight into the left-wing psyche:

In the 1970s, Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter administered Thematic Apperception Tests to a large sample of "new left" radicals (Roots of Radicalism, 1982). They found that activists were characterized by weakened self-esteem, injured narcissism and paranoid tendencies. They were preoccupied with power and attracted to radical ideologies that offered clear and unambiguous answers to their questions.

And here is what the TAT measures:

The 31 picture cards included in the TAT are used to stimulate stories or descriptions about relationships or social situations and can help identify dominant drives, emotions, sentiments, conflicts and complexes.

I loved the TAT when I was in New York doing more psychoanalytic work but I have not used it much in recent years. It is an interesting test--I will post a review of the Roots of Radicalism after I have read it. Maybe there will be more about this study that I can share.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The TAT cards are the ones that show a picture and you tell what you think the story behind it is, right? I had a friend in high school who loved to mess with anyone in a position of authority. Nothing malicious, just taking a bit of the mickey out of them. One year, the school counselor retired and a new one was brought in. She wanted to get to know the students, so she had them come in and she would interview them. Anyway, she called my friend and right away he starts trying to convince her that he has been abducted by aliens. Naturally, she is suspicious. She started showing him the TAT cards. He related each one to his supposed "abduction" by the "little grey nudists with big eyes", as he called them. By the eighth card he started to freak out and asked her why she was torturing him with pictures of his abuse at the aliens' "tenticaled digits". She told him to please wait in her office and that she would be right back. I heard reports from reliable witnesses that she RAN full tilt to the principal's office and said that she was very worried about one of the students. Now, the principal knew my friend very well and apparently his only reaction was to roll his eyes and go with the counselor to her office. When they got there, my friend was wearing a tilfoil hat.

2:19 PM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger David Foster said...

I suspect that today's leftist activists are far, far stranger than leftist activists of the 1970s. There's been an awful lot of water under the bridge since then...the final failure of Soviet communism, 9/11, and much more...and the degree of mental dysfunction require to drink the kool-aid must be much higher now than it was then.

5:38 PM, December 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think "the patriarch" makes a good point. The *real* problem is when folks who are in different political camps stop talking with one another. Soon "the other side" is no longer misled, or even just wrong...they become "evil."

That is true for the far Right as well as the far Left.

Although the main stream media is pretty much populated by far Left types, and they do say the strangest things!

7:35 PM, December 20, 2005  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

Radicals on the right aren't in control of academia and the various social services beaureaucracies, from local to national, that hold so much power and do so much damage.

Here's a great book about where they come from, at least some of them:


CS Lewis was perceptive about these kinds:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

9:05 AM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

Ooops, that url is for the book,

The Feminization of American Culture
by Ann Douglas

9:10 AM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great thread.

I wonder how far this "warfare by diagnosis" or "oppression by diagnosis" can and will go. Maybe "theft by diagnosis", "rent-seeking by diagnosis", etc. too.

For example this psychological test, the TAT. One wonders how objective the test and the scoring can be.

How would Gandhi have scored?

How would MLK have scored?

George Washington? Thomas Jefferson?

How about Richard Jewell during the couple weeks during which almost the whole world incorrectly thought he was the Olympic Park Bomber?

And there's a lot of this use of strained diagnoses to demonize people with other political views. It also seems to go beyond mere allegations of mental illness, into basic biological nature as well - trying to classify other people as subhuman. Have you heard of the "evolved" arguments? That people with certain views aren't "evolved"?

Gun owners aren't "evolved." People who eat meat aren't "evolved". People who don't support socialism aren't "evolved." People who disagree with various agendas and views on the left aren't "evolved". It's almost a kind of religious fundamentalism - instead of non-believers being subhuman, people who don't agree with your intellectual, political, social, and/or economic agenda are subhuman.

And of course there are obvious problems with all those arguments. Gun owners may be more intellectually sohpisticated, or at least realistic, in realizing things likely won't get better when only criminals, police, and the wealthy have the means to defend themselves.

Some scientists believe that man evolved his intelligence from hunting strategies. In that case meat-eating was responsible for our evolution, not the mark of some kind of evolutionary throwback.

And of course socialism/communism were horrible phenomenas, causing massive amounts of slaughter and starvation and in the end leading to untold amounts of human misery.

I guess "radicalism" is very hard to define, especially when it becomes mainstream, popularized, or at least well-marketed. Lots of people supported communism, even after all the slaughter and misery. Same thing with eugenics.

As a libertarian I tend to go to a libertarian definition of radicalism. A radical would be anyone who is less likely to leave other people alone and instead try to impose their opinion, ideology, religion, or views on another using force or fraud against person or property. This force or fraud includes using the state or other proxies to apply the force or fraud.

Or basically, anyone willing to violate the human, civil, Constitutional, and/or private property rights of another person. Included in this are those trying to accomplish this violation by "redefinition", "reinterpretation", or other indirect subversions of those rights.

3:18 PM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan's comments also reach to what libertarians and others call a third axis in politics - statism, as defined as more or less control over people by the state.

Nowadays both left and right usually support more control over people by the state, they just disagree somewhat on which areas to apply the control.

3:28 PM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

ah, the patriarch starts to reveal himself when his calm demeanor is calmly contradicted. The first sputters, spews, and names appear. Small wonder that conservatives come to expect it.

I had exactly the same thought as jonathan when I read your post. "Control" the "vast majority" of corporations and government? Those words take on meanings I know not. Conservatives have slight dominant influence in government at present. Control is never available to any party. Your use of the word is the beginning of your giveaway. Vast majority is also an inaccurate estimate. Sexual harrassment workshops, wellness days, Quality Faires, team-building exercises, diversity training, and the like are not generally regarded as conservative ideas foisted on the corporate world.

The era when Republicans were the party of business and Democrats the party of the little guys is about 80 years old now.

I agree, by the way, that most of the academy is liberal rather than radical. They are remarkably tolerant of radical, however.

6:49 PM, December 21, 2005  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Fair enough, sir

10:02 PM, December 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

{You could subsitute those issues from a right-wing perspective and it would be just as valid.}

To an extent you could. But the right doesn't control the definition and application of diagnoses. Or generally their portrayal or exposure in the media and academic literature.

And the fanatical right generally tends to portray those on the left as crazy, hypocritical, stupid, or "going to hell". I haven't seen many attempts to portray them as genuinely subhuman. Though I'm not saying that doesn't happen.

And those rational libertarians just want everyone to leave everyone else alone.

4:02 AM, December 22, 2005  
Blogger pst314 said...

"I would not categorize the vast majority of people in education and the social services as radical. Liberal, perhaps, but just because one doesn't agree with someone doesn't make that other person a radical."

Oh come on, now. Numerous studies have shown the liberal and even leftist leanings of academia--voting patterns, preferred charities, opinion surveys. The only way you can charactize academia as not liberal is if you redefine the terms to suit yourself.

"Same goes with the right, who control the vast majority of corporations...:

Not so. Speaking from personal experience, there are an awful lot of liberals in the upper tiers of corporate America. And you should remind yourself that corporations give an awful lot of money to liberal foundations and charities. The ultra-right-conservative-mr-moneybags-businessman is a stereotype that is very obsolete.

3:55 PM, December 23, 2005  
Blogger pst314 said...

"although mostly right of my political views."

Which suggests that you're pretty far to the left (although I have known a large number of leftists who liked to describe themselves as "moderates" and "centrists" and so on.)

3:57 PM, December 23, 2005  
Blogger Julie said...

I would consider Jesus, MLK, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Rosa Parks as Liberals. I wouldn't consider them to be paranoid or having serious emotional problems.
Obviously, you have issues with the left and that clearly defines your work as a psychologist, I'm glad I'm not a patient of yours.

1:45 AM, December 24, 2005  
Blogger Helen said...


The feeling is mutual.

8:04 AM, December 24, 2005  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

julie said "I would consider Jesus, etc, as liberals."

Then you have completely misunderstood his repeated apolitical statements. I don't think you can make a strong case for Mother Teresa either. Come to think of it, MLK's message would be center-right in 2005, Rosa Parks was mostly apolitical and wanted to be left alone, and Gandhi, when he wasn't being simply fraudulent, had some conservative elements to his beliefs.

I can't make out that you are actually saying anything other than "Well, all the Nice People are Liberals, so there!" It's probably unfair to pick on you so, but the sentiment is so common that it deserves addressing.

I think you are saying that anyone who is nice to poor people must by definition be a liberal. Rethink that premise. I don't think it squares with the facts on the ground. I would contend the the opposite is closer to the truth (though neither categorical statement is accurate).

1:31 PM, December 24, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Helen, the TAT cards were developed about seventy years ago. As you are evidently strill practicing in the 1930's, you just lost any credibility you might have had with me.

6:01 PM, January 27, 2007  

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