October 16, 2012

Jos Meloen: A frantic Dutch melon-head

In "1984", a biting prophecy about socialism, George Orwell was particularly prescient in his comment that "He who controls the past controls the future".  He saw future socialists as revising history to their own advantage. 

Precisely that has happened.  Via academe and Left-taught journalists, key events of the 20th century have been wiped from  the general consciousness.  Who today, for instance, is aware that the term "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist"?

And something that is NEVER said -- though undoubtedly true -- is that WWII was a fight between three socialist administrations.   The key protagonists were the ultra-socialist Stalin, the National Socialist Hitler and the "progressive" administration of FDR.  The only major difference between Hitler's policies and Roosevelt's policies was that Hitler applied German thoroughness to them.  And BOTH men were antisemitic. 

And anyone who knows Leftists well will know how fractious they are -- with the icepick Trotsky got in the head courtesy of Stalin being a major emblem of that.  So Leftist administrations at war with one another is no surprise at all.  And have we already forgotten Communist China invading North Vietnam to "teach them a lesson"?  Or Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, for that matter.

So in the immediate postwar era it was a major embarrassment to the Left that in condemning Hitler's policies they were largely condemning their own.  Given his defeat, they had a frantic need to dissociate themselves from old Uncle Adolf.  Their ideas were so discredited that America might even get a Republican President!  It did.  Ike in 1952.

History revision was needed!  So all efforts were put into portraying Hitler as "Right-wing", which was a Communist perspective.  Hitler WAS to the right of Stalin in being less authoritarian.  Germans mostly followed him willingly -- right to the bitter end.  So the imperative was to detach Hitler from the Left and pin him to conservatives.  No small task but there are no better distorters of history than Marxists and Marxists came to the rescue

So it was that a group of Leftist academics led by a prominent Marxist theoretican -- Theodor Adorno --  came to the rescue.  They published research which purported to show that authoritarianism was fundamentally conservative.  Stalin was just an unfortunate accident.

So how did they make their case?  They took a group of interrelated statements (which psychologists call a "scale") that represented the conventional wisdom of the (progressive) pre-war  era and showed that people who agreed with those statements also tended to agree with various conservative statements.  Since conservatives tend to respect the past that was no surprise.  The key assertion of the Adorno group however was that their list of conventional statements (the F scale) were representative of Fascist ideology.  Ergo, if conservatives agreed with such statements then conservatives must be Fascist.  And this great intellectual somersault was greeted like manna from heaven by the Left.  Mission completed!

The first pesky thing was, however, that if the F scale represented a form of political conservatism, then high scorers on it should tend to vote Republican.  But in general population samples there was/is little or no such tendency.  Strike one against the theory.

Strike two was the finding that high scorers on the F scale did not seem to be authoritarian.  They don't tend to boss other people around.  But if they don't do that the meaning of "authoritarian" is gutted.  The F scale becomes a measure of authoritarianism only in the Alice in Wonderland sense that words can mean whatever you choose them to mean.

But psychologists ignored the mismatch between the theory and the reality because they needed to.  Ignoring reality is an essential Leftist skill and they hugged the Adorno theory to their bosom in the belief that it showed the evil authoritarians to be conservatives, not themselves.

As time went on, however, memories of what prewar Leftism had preached faded away and it became firmly established in the popular mind that Hitler was a "Rightist".  So the Adorno theory was no longer much needed and faded out of consciousness for most pyschologists.

But as I observed some years ago, the theory clung on as bold and bright as ever in Dutch-speaking lands.  I don't really know why but maybe memories of what Nazism actually was are stronger in those lands.  And a leader in the Dutch crusade was Jos Meloen ("meloen" is Dutch for "melon").  So I had a few shots at him in the academic literature in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1998 (See link above).

The 1998 paper was a fully referenced critique of some of melonhead's research -- and the journal editor, as usual, gave melonhead a right of reply. And the reply concerned is why I am now being disrespectful of melonhead.  In an amazing display for an academic journal, he started out his reply, not with a discussion of the evidence but with a personal attack on me.  He did his best to portray me as a Nazi!  Maybe they don't teach the informal fallacies of logic at Leiden university.  Melonhead certainly would not seem to have heard of the "ad hominem" fallacy.  For their own reputation, Leiden should take a closer look at him.  It is too distinguished to stand behind such trash.

In part I ignored melonhead's frantic defense of his work at that time as I had retired from academic employment some 15 years earlier and was focused on bringing up kids instead.  But mainly I thought his reply too gross and stupid to be dignified with a rejoinder. After four commentaries on melonhead's work that appeared to have completely bounced off his brain, I washed my hands of him.  I would probably not have got a rejoinder published anyway.  Seeing I was arguing against Leftist views,  I did pretty well even to get my initial critique published. 

I am now getting to an age where I like to tie up loose ends, however, so I don't want to leave melonhead's follies permanently without a reply.  So a few comments on "Ray's Last Stand? Directiveness as Moderate Conservatism-A Reply to John Ray" by Jos Meloen and Hans De Witte, Political Psychology, 1998:

Melonhead's accuracy of statement is very Leftist --i.e. largely absent.  He says that I once joined Nazi parties like the Australian Nazi party.  I have never even came across anything called "the Australian Nazi party", let alone joined it.  What Meloen is clutching at is that since boyhood I have always been interested in Jews, Nazis and racism (and I still write on those topics to this day) and I did for a number of years in my younger days have contact with two informal local groups of Australian neo-Nazis with a view to finding out what they thought and why.  I published my findings in two Jewish journals (here and here), which melonhead has apparently glanced at.   He knew of the matter because I publicized it.

Melonhead also seems to find it suspicious that I referred to Theodor Adorno and his merry band as Jewish.  Since they were Jewish and since Jews and Nazis had a bit to do with one another, I would have thought that what I said was simply relevant.  And I can't help noting the inconsistency:  Referring to Adorno as a Jew is bad but referring to me as a Nazi is fine!  He probably can't even see the inconsistency.  Do personal characteristics matter or not?

And when he gets past the abuse and onto the facts, melonhead is even more hopeless.  He refers to two scales which he used in his research and which I referred to in my critique.  They are the Directivesness scale and a measure of "classic authoritarianism" -- presumably the Adorno F scale.  In his heading he claims that I describe the directivesness scale as measuring moderate conservatism and in the body of his article he claims that I describe the F scale as a measure of moderate conservatism.  He doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind about which scale it is that measures moderate conservatism!  Since they are uncorrelated it can hardly be both! 

An even bigger problem:  I have never referred to EITHER as a measure of moderate conservatism and both scales in fact have negligible correlation with  vote in general population samples in the English-speaking countries for which they were designed.  So he is setting light to a straw man.

Melonhead then goes on to note his finding  that members of Belgium's Flemish independence party -- Vlaams Blok --  had slightly elevated scores on the F scale and related measures.  But WHY do they have such scores?  Melonhead thinks it is because they are authoritarian but that explanation fails because the F scale has been found NOT to measure authoritarianism in anything other than an Alice in Wonderland sense  -- i.e. it measures authoritarianism because that is what it measures.  Melonhead is firmly in Wonderland.  That a scale which has been strongly validated as an ACTUAL measure of authoritarianism showed no elevated scores among Vlaams Blok cuts no ice with him!

So my explanation  -- that Vlaams Blok is basically conservative  as well as seeeking Flemish independence -- survives.  Conservative people do show some respect for old-fashioned ideas. Whether they act on those ideas in any way is another matter.

At bottom, melonhead's folly stems from a refusal to let go the old Adorno theory of authoritarianism.  No evidence against it seems to count with him.  That it is a unicorn theory  -- i.e. it describes something that does not exist -- he cannot admit.  It is too real to his addled Leftist brain.  It makes sense of his world.  He probably believes in global warming too

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