Thursday, June 04, 2015

Gross hypocrisy and Leftist bias in Wikipedia: Altemeyer

I put up some information on the Wikipedia page for Bob Altemeyer.  Altemeyer is a particularly witless Leftist psychologist who made large and derogatory claims  about conservatives that he later had to retract.  But there was nothing on his Wikipedia page about that retraction.  So I put up a brief account of that.  What I put up was wholly scholarly and fully referenced -- just what Wikipedia says it wants.  But criticism of Leftists is not allowed of course, so my contribution was deleted after only a few days.

I imagine that they will find some quibble to justify their deletion of my entry but I am pretty sure that the outcome would have been different had  I praised brainless Bob.  Anyway, after a couple of run-ins with them,  I have no confidence in being able to navigate my way onto Wikipedia again -- so I am putting up below what I originally submitted to Wikipedia.  Altemeyer is an unusual name so a Google search on that name should still find my comments, whether the Wikipedians like it or not:

A major problem with Altemeyer's work is revealed when we find that his RWA measuring instrument identifies the Communists of the old Soviet Union as right-wing.  But if they are right-wing who is left wing? His confusion arises from his apparent  definition of conservatism as "opposed to change".  That definition is however politically naive.  Conservatives from Burke onward have never been opposed to change as such but rather opposed to changes desired and enacted by Leftists.  The current Left/Right polarity is between conservatives who want less government control and Leftists who want more of that.  Altemeyer seems to be unaware of that so his work has no current political relevance.

In detail: The decline and fall of Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe enabled use of his RWA scale there. Studies in the East such as those by Altemeyer & Kamenshikov (1991), McFarland, Ageyev and Abalakina-Paap (1992) and Hamilton, Sanders & McKearney (1995) showed that high RWA scores were associated with support for Communism!! So an alleged "Rightist" scale went from being non-political to being a measure of Leftism! If you took it at face-value, it showed Communists were Rightists!

After that, Altemeyer more or less gave up his original claim and engaged in a bit of historical revisionism. He said (Altemeyer, 1996, p. 218) that when he "began talking about right-wing authoritarianism, I was (brazenly) inventing a new sense, a social psychological sense that denotes submission to the perceived established authorities in one's life". It is true that he did originally define what he was measuring in something like that way (in detail, he defined it as a combination of three elements: submissiveness to established authority, adherence to social conventions and general aggressiveness) but what was new, unusual or "brazen" about such a conceptualization defies imagination. The concept of submission to established authority was, for instance, part of the old Adorno et al (1950) work. What WAS brazen was Altemeyer's claim that what he was measuring was characteristic of the political Right. But it is precisely the "Right-wing" claim that he now seems to have dropped and the RWA scale is now said to measure simply submission to authority. See:

Adorno,T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper.

Altemeyer, R. (1996). The Authoritarian Specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Altemeyer, R. & Kamenshikov, A. (1991) Impressions of American and Soviet behaviour: RWA changes in a mirror. South African J. Psychology 21, 255-260.

Hamilton, V. L., Sanders, J., & McKearney, S. J. (1995). Orientations toward authority in an authoritarian state: Moscow in 1990. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 356-365

McFarland, S. G., Ageyev, V. S., & Abalakina-Paap, M. A. (1992). Authoritarianism in the former Soviet Union. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 1004-1010

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).


Doom said...

I don't use Wikipedia anymore. If I can't find the information elsewhere, I look for where else it can be found. It's not some kind of childish thing, a boycott. It's a matter of wanting to get reliable, sure, accurate, true, unbiased, data. With as filtered as even web searches are these days, that's getting much more difficult. Between China and Russia trying to get rid of data on gulags and various genocides, data is disappearing. Thankfully the way the internet works, blocks are automatically bypassed, if you have the patience.

Wireless.Phil said...

I never trusted what's posted on any of the wiki pages. I try to find my info elsewhere.


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