Nuc Eng

Reference Info

Authoritarian Followers

This may seem off topic but it is related to outreach.

I stumbled on a good book "The Authoritarians" at It is a free pdf download. It exams the roots of fundamentalist thinking (if you can call it that) that seems rampant in US politics. Remember the Stanley Milgram 'shock' experiments of 1961/62 wherein people are told to deliver electric shocks to learners who gave incorrect answers? See The basic notion is that the majority of people were all too willing to blindly follow authority. The author calls them 'authoritarian followers'. Shades of the Holocaust. There is a good summary at

Authoritarian followers are characterized by three qualities:

  1. "a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society"
  2. "high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities"
  3. "a high level of conventionalism" - which means not merely that they are conventional themselves, but that they want everyone else to be conventional too.

Authoritarian followers exhibit:

  1. Illogical thinking
  2. Highly compartmentalized minds
  3. Double standards
  4. Hypocrisy
  5. Blindness to themselves
  6. Profound ethnocentrism
  7. Dogmatism

These followers have a high need to belong and tend not to question authority (that they believe in). They tend to be more fearful.

The author was focused on US politics. But I kept thinking of the anti-nukes. Now let me state clearly that I am not saying that anyone who is against nuclear is a narrow-minded, hypocritical, dogmatic, illogical, fearful non-thinker. But just as clearly, people who are leading a cause and believe that the end justifies the means would have little hesitation on capitalizing on peoples' foibles. I see far too many hapless followers out there.

What's to be done? Apparently it is useless to argue with them. The author suggests a number of things, including:

  • Work with them on some common goal together.
  • Encourage critical thinking and get them to step outside their experiences.

Maybe some anti-nukes should be invited to do some common activity to help us understand them, and them understand us. Maybe we should invite them to sit on a task force comprised of pro-nukes, neutrals and anti-nukes to develop a set of nuclear related facts that are agreed to by all. Just by talking with them and becoming more human to them, we might make some inroads. And we could tackle the 'lies' that are out there at the same time.

Just a thought.