The Allure of Authoritarianism

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What Is It

In George Orwell’s 1984, the party’s “final, most essential command” was “to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” Authoritarian regimes call on us to accept as fact whatever they tell us; or worse, as Hannah Arendt says, they get us to a point where we no longer know—or care about—the difference between fiction and reality. So why are so many so willing to reject the evidence of their senses and deny basic, confirmable truths? Is there something about human psychology that makes us susceptible to totalitarian propaganda? And as the appeal of authoritarian leaders grows around the world, how do we guard against such radical thought manipulation? Josh and Ken lure Michael Lynch from the University of Connecticut, author of Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture.

Comments (5)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, September 21, 2019 -- 12:25 PM

I'll get to this with the

I'll get to this with the question which begins: 'Is there something about human psychology...?', remaining as simple and/or elegant as the topic permits. The answer is: yes. there are several 'somethings' about human psychology. Authoritarian leaders (and those who would be such), play on such human frailties as: fear; uncertainty; intolerance; and inability to think for one's self---recall that bicameral mind, of which Julian Jaynes wrote, last century. Many of us never heard of Jaynes, but those who have still entertain the notion that he was on to something. Weakness of mind, in all of its forms, causes people to be susceptible to authoritarians and their ilk. Envy is also culpable when the have-nots see others who appear to have more, on one or more levels. We all want our societies to excel, and authoritarians are good at selling snake oil and short-cuts. People are, in the last analysis, gullible---not all, mind you, but at least a charming plurality. There would likely be some mathematical formula for this, if anyone cared to explore it---maybe someone has, I do not know. Finally, people are predictable when it comes to leaders and leadership: that which is too good to be true achieves approval, in spite of itself. You don't have to take my word for this: examine the evidence and think for yourself.

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, September 27, 2019 -- 1:52 PM

The best tools to resist

The best tools to resist authority are easy to find. You just have to find what's not taught in any public school anywhere. What's that? Lists of common fallacies. You dont have to teach children what's a lie and what isnt. You just have to teach them how to recognize a lie.

1984 was a history book, not a prophecy

lindamat's picture


Sunday, October 6, 2019 -- 11:49 AM

1984 is not history! It is

1984 is not history! It is FICTION, extremely important fiction, author George Orwell, written in 1949. It would be good for everyone to read it! You do need to teach children what's a lie and how to identify one. And with the internet it is easy to look it up as long as a legitimate website is used. Children - and adults - need to be taught how to find legitimate websites (i.e., those from recognized legal, historical and news organizations recognized for identifying and reporting the truth).

RepoMan05's picture


Friday, October 11, 2019 -- 4:38 AM

Oh sure, maybe they need to

Oh sure, maybe they need to be taught how to be innanely literal and have their minds funneled into our perfect little avenue of controlled self serving biased lies while completely forgetting (yet again) to teach them about fallacies?

Or maybe thats just sarcasm?

You sure you ever read it?

"Anyone's spirit can be broken with love" ~ The Other Mother ("Coroline").

RepoMan05's picture


Thursday, October 10, 2019 -- 8:47 AM

Was Animal Farm a "fiction?"

Was Animal Farm a "fiction?"

Everything ever written was a fiction.