Authoritarianism vs Democracy with Dr Doug Keene Ep. 4

Episode 4 November 16, 2022 00:28:12
Authoritarianism vs Democracy with Dr Doug Keene Ep. 4
The Recombobulator Lab
Authoritarianism vs Democracy with Dr Doug Keene Ep. 4

Nov 16 2022 | 00:28:12


Hosted By

Jason Graham-Nye Chris Dominic

Show Notes

In today’s episode of The Recombobulator Lab, Chris and Jason have the pleasure of having the knowledgeable Doug Keene on the show, who is a third-time guest in the Lab. Doug, a former clinical psychologist and an epic trial consultant, will discuss authoritarianism in this episode, including studies done over the years to support it and its positive and negative impacts.

What is authoritarianism?

Authoritarianism is the process and exchange where there is essentially a strong leader and a subject that will be expected to comply with the instructions or guidance of the strong leader. Authoritarianism is not purely political. There are lots and lots of circumstances where people either turn toward or against authoritarian leadership. It could be in religion or it's how children are parented. In general, Doug says, people may look toward authoritarian solutions when they're scared. 

The Stanley Milgram Experiment

In the 60s’, American social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted research on how far people would go to comply with authority figures' commands. A researcher instructed the participants to shock a different person with electric shocks that got stronger. Two-thirds of the subjects were willing to continue shocking them even after they stopped responding. This was horrifying to Milgram, who had expected 3% or 4%, somewhere in that range. The participants were unaware that the shocks were phony and that the person receiving them was an actor.

Authoritarianism and American individualism

Doug thinks American Individualism is a a form of autocracy.

The idea being that "The cultural and environmental bath we have been stewing in from birth just makes us singularly qualified to accomplish great things and representative of all things good, which is incredibly autocratic."

One myth about authoritarianism

Doug would do away with fake news and the alternative realities people are trying to spin up, creating constant anxiety and fear. It's really important that people monitor the way it's affecting them and the degree to which they expose themselves to fake news, making sure it gets balanced and counterweighted with things that are authentically loving and genuine.

Pros of authoritarianism

  1. It has the ability to deliver reliable outcomes across the country.
  2. It saves time during the decision-making process.
  3. It puts the burden on having to decide on the leader.
  4. It improves hierarchy within the executive branch of government.
  5. It could be used to attempt to lessen economic inequality across society.

Cons of authoritarianism

  1. Governments that are authoritarian can aim to hold onto power indefinitely.
  2. Authoritarian governments invite rebellion in society.
  3. Authoritarian regimes frequently impose their will emotionally rather than rationally.
  4. Authoritarian governments can damage societal morale.
  5. Authoritarian regimes frequently reign without opposition.


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Episode Transcript

It's actually more of a a You're fine. I think this is working out. We can edit it. Let me know if I'm, We'll just edit it. Okay. Yep. We've got an editor now, so it's okay. Better than the last one. Yeah. . Yeah, for sure. The last one was crap. Yeah. Yeah. So, so get this like, you know, the new editor who's actually a real editor because she's a producer and all that kind of stuff. She, she sends me back the way she would edit it and, The, the outro fades in from the back and I'm like, Oh yeah, that would've been a good idea. Crash it on their heads, so that's all right. Yeah. Welcome to the Recombobulator Lab with Jason Graham and Chris Dominic. Hi, Jason. How are you? Hi, how are you Christopher? I'm doing great. I'm doing great. Good. Get Jason, guess who we've got? We've got our friend of the lab, Doug Keen. We loved the friend of the lab. Didn't we have music for friend of the lab? Friend of design lab? Yeah, but okay. So I decided not to do the music for the friend of the lab this season because I thought the, the music made sense last year when we were in the pandemic and we needed every little bit of entertainment we could get. And this year it just seemed. I dunno. That's just me. Okay. Uh, it, it, listeners, if you differ, just, you know, shoot me on the socials. We'll figure it out. . But here's the thing. Let's, for those of you who didn't hear the, the two, uh, episodes in season one with Doug Keen. Doug Keen is a retired clinical psychologist and EPIC trial consultant who is retired now and happily retired. And by the way, I'm just gonna throw this out to get this. Jason, you know how you and I have our little story about how we got to get together in Santa Barbara? Yep. In person after the pandemic? Yes. Well, Doug and I got to catch up in Denver. Oh. After the pandemic, because hundreds of his colleagues who are trial consultants in the United States of America got together to give him the lifetime achievement award. Doug Keen is a Hall of Famer. Congratulations. That's in. It was a great experience. It was the most flattering thing I could have imagined. It's amazing. So we're in the presence of royalty. Chris, don't blow it. Okay. Yeah, I know. I'm just, I'm, I'm, so, I'm a little, I'm worried I'm gonna like, you know, not be able to goof as much because, you know, it's, it's now like, Sir Doug I think it'll take more than that to stop you. . So true. We've had two different episodes with Doug. The, in the first one we asked him, Why the heck do people believe in conspiracy? . And in the second one we asked him how the heck we're gonna come back from this crazy pandemic? And now what we wanna do, and we, you know, we can talk about anything. But the big crazy thing that we wanna talk about is because it seems like there's a bunch of people that actually seem to be happy when democratic things go away, which is a little bit of a mindblower. Doug, how would you define authoritarianism and what the heck is it? And, and let's just get started with this. So authoritarianism is basically, A process, an exchange where there is a, essentially a strong leader and a subject, if you will, that is going to be expected to comply with the instructions or guidance of, of the strong leader. And, you know, I think we ought to start not with the, the fall of democracy, which is kind of the, the, the really scary part of this. And talk about why it, what it is that people are seeking when they opt for authoritarian choices. Because, you know, and it's not purely political. There are lots and lots of circumstances where people either turn toward or against authoritarian leadership, whether it's in religion or it's how we parent our children. You know, some parents are much more top down than others are, and others are, you know, the ones that are trying to reason with their children while they're throwing tantrums in grocery stores. It's, you know, and. There. There are times when you think, Ooh, a little authority would be good. Yeah. But overall, I think people look toward authoritarian solutions when they're scared. It's a fear driven response where you think that the universe has too many options available and they're not going well by my standards or the by. By the way, I view the world, so let's put a strong leader in charge and they'll just whip things into shape. And you know, there are, there are situations where that is a very handy thing to have on board. You know, if you're, if you're trying to decide where you're gonna go for dinner, an authoritarian is frequently going to just engender conflict. But if you're, if you are in heavy traffic, you're, somebody's gonna have to decide when to hit the brakes. So there, there are situations where, Really important that a situation is dealt with, with really strong authority. I mean, life presents us with those choices all the time. And it's sometimes a situation of, is this one of those situations or is this just my kneejerk response to everything? Well, well, it's just, here's a statistic that might put some, some flavor on this in the polls where they ask people some of these. Questions that are basically authoritarianism predictors, if you will. Um, this is something that's really common in psychology. Uh, you can describe the process more, but I, they find that roughly 40% of Americans tend to favor authority, obedience, and uniformity over freedom, independence, and diversity. And so, yeah, you're right. That's, that's not necessarily a political thing. Culturally. It's interesting cuz I was just, my mind went to Japan for some reason and I thought, gosh, if it's 40% in the. Is Japan culturally more inclined to kind of follow the leader in a way? I don't know, because it's a monoculture, it's a very groupthink place. They've got no natural resources. Tiny island, they've all gotta conform to kind of get through the day. I don't know. You're gonna have to define monoculture. You're gonna have to define monoculture. You can't just like throw out monoculture, expect to solve. Yes. Come on. Okay. I mean, mono means one. Culture means culture. You nailed it Chris. Oh my gosh. He's some sort of communications major. Japan is one of the few countries on earth, 120 million people where immigration doesn't really happen. You could move there and marry a fabulous Japanese person and you will never get a Japanese passport. So that they're all monoculture is one where there's one, one homogenous, um, race actually, and it's the Japanese race. That's that. I was just, for some reason my mind went there. Cause I was like, gosh, 40 percent's really high for America, which is one of the great multicultural experiments ever. Well, I got worse news for you than that. I think 40% is a low estimate. What? , Really? You can't talk about this without talking about a guy named Stanley Milgram. Have you guys heard of Stanley Milgram? Yes. This is the best. He conducted a research. In the sixties on the relationship between, on the concept of obedience to authority figures, and the research he did was absolutely earth shaking. And it was also so disturbing that, um, that he would never be allowed to repeat the research under APA guidelines anymore because it was so traumatic for the participants and what he did. This was a, an amazing, very clever. He actually repeated it in slightly different ways a bunch of times, but what he basically did was he had a setup where the person conducting the experiment is, is just this sort of official looking person with a lab coat on and the subject comes in and what they're told is that they are functioning as a teacher. In this paired word association game, just an arbitrary sort of psychology, uh, stimulus response kind of a thing. And, um, if the person who is actually the subject of, of this paired word, uh, research, that person is actually in another room. And the experimental subject who is called the teacher, can't see the other person. But they're aware that they're in a, in an adjacent room immediately next door. So when, when the word pair is offered and the person is asked to respond, if they respond incorrectly, they don't lose points. What happens is the teacher, which is actually the lab subject we're talking about, Is told to hit a button, which will produce a shock, an electric shock on the part of the person who is in the other room and it's you. He sees, you can see looking at the instrument that you're supposed to use to, in, to, uh, apply the shock that you are going to just apply a mild shock. And there's a scale that goes all the way from mild shock to severe threat to life. Scale. I've forgotten what the very top level was, but it was clearly off the chart. And so after the first mistake, they kind of hear this, ooh, coming around from the other adjacent room and they ask the next pair of words. And sure enough, the person has a tendency to. Miss a bunch of these because the whole point of the research isn't whether or not they learn the words. It's the the way in which the subject, the person who's playing the part of a teacher, handled the expectation that they are going to be giving them increasingly strong shocks as the experiment proceeds. Mm. And it goes all the way up. It starts out at 15 volts and it, the, the chart on the instrument goes all the way up to 450 where it basically says you're gonna kill somebody if you do this. Mm-hmm. . And after each error, when, when they increased it by one position on the dial, I hit the button. The person who is being shocked is yelling louder and, Until finally when they get to 300 volts on this phony dial, the person who is answering the questions stops talking. There is not a sound from the other room , but the the uh person, the actual person running the experiment, the guy in the lab coat continues to tell the subject, If they didn't answer it correctly, then you hit the thing and move on up to dial. So my question to you is, how many people quit? I think only 15% quit. I reckon it's really terrifying. I think people in that there's a, there's a norm that's been established. They've been given rules. This is the rule. Okay, so this is the sixties, right? Is before ethics became a thing in research? Yes. Right. Well, I'm just thinking cause the sixties was a time where like people, which this is like be before a really tumultuous time in American history. So maybe it is a, maybe people are much more comfortable with authority and maybe it is, I'm gonna go. Court, a quarter of the people quit. They did several iterations of this research, but overall, I think it's safe to say that two thirds of the subjects were willing to continue shocking them after they stopped responding. Wow. It was horrifying to Milgram who had expected three or 4%, somewhere in that range. Three or 4%. That is an exploded hypothesis. That is just. Wildly wrong, but what's interesting? That this research was conducted three weeks after the trial, the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichman had begun. So this whole thing about defenses of, I was just following orders and so on, so forth, which is frequently the response to people who are being criticized for heinous, uh, authoritarian acts. Uh, one of the fallback positions. Look, you know, I've been trained to follow orders and I was given orders and I just followed them. And why are you upset with me? I, I just did what I was supposed to do. I'm a soldier. Yeah. And you know, when you think about it, uh, I'm, I'm not trying to stand up for authoritarianism, but when you think about it, there are a lot of elements in our society that are really expected to be highly author. and people want that around. They want soldiers, they want police, they want teachers, they want people who represent some degree of authority. They used to want the government. And one, I think one of the things that has happened, uh, in the last 20 or 30 years, at least in the United States, is that there has been a very unceasing c. of all of the government institutions that used to make people feel secure. So now when they feel fear about some threat, they don't know who it is they're supposed to turn to. And what they don't want is an ambiguous response. They don't want somebody saying, We're looking into this, or No. What they want is an identified, uh, an identified culprit or an identified, uh, agitator, an identified source of the problem that. Point to and somehow get rid of. And so uncertainty is a real big enemy of these folks. Before we dig deeper into that, Jason, are you telling me that if I go to Japan and I marry somebody that I don't get to be Japanese? Yeah, you don't get a passport. It's, it's pretty problematic. Wow. You're not Japanese and the the interesting thing is it's got massive ramifications. So there are 120 million people in Japan today. There'll be 80 million people in Japan in about 70 years. Um, because they have no migration, no immigration into the country, their birth rates are plummeting, marriage rates plummeting. So it's a really fascinating thing. Now, that might seem dramatic, but every country's on that train. It's just that Japan's at the bleeding edge of it's, So yeah, that's interesting. Could be another episode. Okay. Okay. I know, and I just, I'll go a little bit further and then we'll get back. What about, what about like, let's say we have a couple of kids. Are they Japanese? That this is super complicated. Yeah. They, uh, Japanese, they, No, they, they, no, that's less complicated. They do get Japanese passports and citizenship and all of that stuff. All right. Right. But it's, um, yeah, it's a very interesting situation. Okay, well, we'll pick that up another day. So here's the thing, The, I I get that it's, it all spurs from a feeling of safety and wanting, uh, and being maybe scared and wanting to know that there is a certain. Response, But there's sort of a, I'm curious about what psychology thinks about the nature versus nurture perspective on this, because some people talk about it when you read certain kinds of psychological literature. They'll say sometimes authoritarianism is created by some sort of life event or, or something like that. Like your, your personality becomes more that way. Because of something you experience. But if you read other literature, like Jonathan Heights work on human values, which I find to be just incredibly impressive, He, he pretty much discusses this as like, there's always some component of history of people that will be like, they will value loyalty more, you know, that kind of thing. They, they, they, they will have values that are predisposed them to be more that way. So how do you unpack? Well, I, I, I don't see that as being a distinction. Uh, I, I see them both really channeling back to the same thing, which is that your life experience, which is partly culturally loaded, um, broadly and partly specifically to your family and community, is going to give you some expectations about whether the world is fair, whether the world is reasonable, whether you can. To be treated one way or the other, whether you should have an expectation of a voice. You know, there are, there are societies and sub societies within open societies, but societies that are so closed that you do not, you do not grow up with the expectation that your voice should be heard. And in America, we may have gone to an absurd extreme in the other direction where, you know, everyone ought to listen to me endlessly. It, it's, you know, it. I get my own set of rules. Sure. And you know, I, I have the right to control other people because I'm Right. Doesn't really matter if I'm the only one that thinks I'm right. Okay. Is this getting into that individualism, uh, you know, like American exceptionalism, individualism, and a certain level of, uh, what would you call it, entitlement. Well, I think American individualism is a form of, of, uh, autocracy. Cause really what they're saying is Americans are just exceptional. You know, the, the cultural, uh, and environmental, uh, bath that we have been stewing in from birth just makes us singularly qualified to accomplish great things and to be representative of all things good, which is an incredibly autocratic and no, you get, see, the listeners can't see Jason's face. They can't, He's just, he can't contain himself. He's, I can't, I, I'm gonna be honest. I think it's basically like he thinks that is the funniest damn thing he's ever heard. If it wasn't so sad, it probably would be funny. Yeah, I've, I lived there for 10 years. You gotta be kidding me. , go healthcare. This doesn't deserve respect. Sorry. You know, this is just the way it's Oh, I had to bring up the healthcare. Well, you could bring up a lot of other ones too. Well to, to turn it around. In Australia, we are cursed. The bath we swim in is the tall poppy syndrome. Right, Right. We cannot be exceptional. We cannot, we cannot, cannot, cannot culturally come out and say we're the best. You see Nick, curiosity in the US open recently, like it's fascinating to watch the different dynamics. Typically when an Australian sports team. Or an athlete, You know, in America it's typically, you know, I'm the greatest. I'm the, It's, I, I I. And in Australia you have to deflect that stuff. It's like I had a great team. Uh, the opposition was very, very strong, but we just got over the line. And if you do the whole, I am the best, you are going to die a terrible death. And what's interesting is that the tall poppy syndrome is a concept big in a. And in Japan I kept going, but Japan is dead Cookie work, dito, which is the nail that sticks out, gets hammered down and it's the same. in Japan, you cannot, cannot, cannot. The tall poppy syndrome is there except it's a nail. It gets smashed down. That's That's more violent. It really is. It is. It is. Yeah. Which is interesting because you'd think the Australian version might be more violent considering that guy you were talking about, just like smashed a bunch of rackets during his That's right. He lost his mind. That's, that's not a, that's not a good look. It is terrible. As Australians, we are so tied up. Cause it's like for people doing this, we want him to be fantastic. It's so interesting. You want your heroes to reflect the culture of the country. Right? And it's like, oh, he's a bit brash, you know? Oh, that's not very nice. , we wanna love Nick C, but it's really hard. All right, so , I'm really impressed with the fact that you covered this part about authoritarianism, which is like, let's not just tar and feather this with one big brush, right? There's all, there's a certain need for these things, right? Like I, like I get the high idea around the institutions and all that, but. If you think about it, you were talking about the police and the government and all this. The reason why I think it's hard for a lot of Americans is because we have this foundational document that says, we believe that in democracy, in this free thinking sort of way of doing things, you've got basically law enforcement are people that might. Protect like a polling station or protect congress or protect the president or whatever. And so when you hear these stories of people who are like, Yay, let's strip institutions that make it easier for in like a, for like a monolith. To basically control things. Let's, let's remove things that are considered to be these checks and balances in our system. It makes those of us who thought, Well, I thought the American thing was to not do that. Like, I mean, I think this is probably because I'm an American, but I think of American values is similar to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which are very much. Trying to create structures that hold back authoritarianism from my perspective. Well, they, they were, they were written in response to an authoritarian crisis where the United States finally said, You know, we don't need that. We are not having the problems. You know, we, we are not in a crisis other than your oppression. That's where all that romantic language came from. But I think it was also offered by a bunch of people who were not fearful. They were courageous. And they were, they could tolerate uncertainty and they could tolerate differences of opinion and all of those things which are fundamentally anti-authoritarian. So this, this was the great idealistic start to the country, but it doesn't necessarily reflect the rank and file very much. The riff wrap was not ask their opinion about this. , Thank God, . Clearly they didn't want everyone to vote, and it's been a, it's been a battle from the very start. Hmm. Yeah, no, that is, that does seem pretty darn apparent there. It is funny lately how, uh, not to get too civic deep, but people will talk about the democracy spreading throughout all three branches of our country. And I, I always think, you know, actually there's really only one branch that's supposed to be pretty democratic, and that's like the jury system. Everything else is pretty much a republic. People don't like to talk about the democratic republic that we have. I think because it's just, it seems more complicated to talk about it that way. Well, it is. Everyone wants to live with their fantasy of what it is instead of the reality of what it is. Right. I mean, it, you know most of what you're doing and, And if you're on a jury, Yeah. That's direct democracy. You are absolutely. This is gonna happen, it's gonna happen tomorrow. And we've been given the power of the state or the federal government. But if you're voting, you've got power, but you've got power to vote somebody into office who's supposed to do work for you, you know, that's, that's not a democracy. I mean, that's, that's a republic and that's what they wanted when they set it up. People who are like, if the idea that, it's funny cuz if you look at the, the polls on how much of a percentage of the people. Want an issue and then how much that actually tracks with the issue being implemented. It's not very good. Right? I mean, it's, there's, there's other forces in play. Worse than that to me, is that there is a whole array of issues that people feel strongly about and they persist in an. Voting for people who represent the opposite view. Yeah. Yeah. Isn't that crazy? I understand that. And, and I think it, it really folds back into what we're talking about, uh, in the characteristics of authoritarianism because people really, uh, there are a lot of people who want very, very good things, but can't tolerate uncertainty. Mm-hmm. , I think, and this is, I believe, the way humans have always been, this whole notion of a true democracy, a. I'm standing up for everyone in my country. Kind of a feeling is really a very new notion. In the past, you went to war because there's somebody with a gun that tells you to go to war, and you don't have to feel real great about it. Well, and, and think about our fascination with monarchies, right? Like we still, like, even though we, we, we are the country with no kings, right? We, you know, apparently the amount of time that people spend following the monarchies and princesses and queens and stuff, that's, there's still a lot of interest in things like that. There is, there has, there has to be some connection between those things. But you had the Kennedys and the Bushes and the Clintons and that recent. You've had your monarch . No, no. I'm really trying to let, Let's not do that. Don't let the Australian go messing around in the American territory too long. It's a bad idea. I back out when I'm in your little kitchen. Okay, so all, Hey, uh, Doug, I, I have a very important question for you, uh, involving. Uh, it has to do with how your golf game's doing. I have to know. Has it, has it improved? I mean, you're retired and everything. Yeah. Well, I, it, it might have gotten better. So, Doug. Doug, You know, Doug played Bandon. That's pretty cool. Oh, nice. I still haven't played Bandon. I wanna play Bandon. I live in Oregon and I haven't played. That's just a failure on your part. It's just a delightful point. It is. When we, when we tee it up, Doug, are we looking at Doug who's bombing the drive, but has kind of a, is it troubled by a hundred yards in or are we looking at someone who can roll in a 40 foot part? What's the form God say on Doug? So you're so you're acting like any of those things is within my ability, which is really gracious of you. what I, what I have. That's a, that's a false choice. Yeah, exactly. What I have found though is that, uh, as I've gotten older, my definition of bombing has changed quite. Yeah. Yeah. It's probably like, Oh yeah, it's changed 50 or 60 yards actually, so Right. , I'm still having fun. Good. That's the important thing. That is the important thing. I ha I, I have come to one new realization about golf, and that is if you play and you stink, but you make an occasional good shot, it's kind of worth it sometimes. Oh, oh yeah. Two, you make two decent shots and you're coming back within a week. Yeah, because we have to ask the. If you had a myth to debunk, and I think the easy tee up is authoritarianism, but you could do it with anything, what would you do? Well, they, I think people have a belief that there is a right and wrong about this rather than a place and a misplaced situation. There are times during December 7th, 1941, we didn't wanna start a committee to decide what to do about Pearl Harbor. These are, there are times when authoritarian urgency is really called for. It is overused. Frankly, people are more fearful than they need to be. But I think when you have this knee-jerk response that, Oh, you're calling me authoritarian cuz you're calling me names, and it really has no meaning, you're just a bad person on the other end of some spectrum, it creates that authoritarian schism. And what we really are hoping for is that, Somehow there can be a dialogue where people might feel more comforted and more safer as a result of, of that. The problem though is that the internet and, and fake news and mm-hmm. and the, the alternative. Realities that people are trying to spin up, create constant anxiety, constant fearfulness. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And it's like playing whack-a-mole every time a new issue comes up. And it doesn't matter that the old ones were debunked, you're gonna believe the next one. If your inclination is sort of fear based and it gets exhausting, it is totally. Yeah, it is exhausting. Oh my God. And hurt and hurtful, you know? I mean, you have families torn apart by this. You have these folks that rated the capital building in Washington. I mean, there are wild, crazy, confused things going well on that brought note. Was that the fun part? We don't all have to be victim. By that, that sort of fearfulness. It's really important that you kind of monitor the way it's affecting you, tighter the degree to which you expose yourself to it and make sure it gets balanced Counter, counter weighed with things that are authentically loving and genuine. You're saying it's okay to just turn off the news sometimes? Doug . I think you really have to have a committee decide when to turn it on. That's. Oh, you know what? I love it when you get prescriptive. I really do. That's awesome. Thank you so much for the wise words, and we will see you soon. Great to see you guys. Thanks again. Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us at the Recom Bobul Lator Lab with Chris Dominic and Jason Graham. Catch you next time.

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