Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


As the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And also me.” Truer words were never spoken. Actually, these words were never spoken, but were lifted from an article in The Onion, in which the deceased Roosevelt advises Americans to lay aside all other fears and come together in mutual terror of his haunting specter. Sadly, many Americans pay no heed to this sage advice, and continue to be scared stiff by gays, foreigners, taxes, global climate change, and anything else that threatens to interrupt the flow of their life. Bob Altemeyer’s article, “The Other Authoritarian Personality,” describes these fears as part of a larger personality predisposition, which he calls right-wing authoritarianism. Most of the time, authoritarians blend in with society; they do not usually go about expressing their extreme level of respect for authority or their intolerance of individuality. However, as Karen Stenner relates in “The Authoritarian Dynamic,” when authoritarians feel anxious or threatened, their true beliefs emerge. From there, Jack Levy’s explanation of prospect theory and Redlawsk, Civettini, and Lau’s discussion on ‘affect’ contribute to an understanding of why authoritarians cannot tolerate change and why they feel especially threatened by information contrary to their established beliefs. Each of these four works separately speaks to important components of attitude and behavior, but synthesized they reveal that the essential emotional ingredient of the authoritarian personality is fear.