Left-Wing Authoritarianism

The daily issue of Lisa DePasquale’sBright” political newsletter never disappoints. Her May 31 edition was quite an eye opener. To wit, via the New York Post, DePasquale highlights the findings of a study titled, “Understanding left-wing authoritarianism: Relations to the dark personality traits, altruism, and social justice commitment”:

The study published in Current Psychology suggests that left-wing extremism is associated with toxic, psychopathic tendencies and narcissism [and] found a link between higher levels of left-wing authoritarianism and higher levels of narcissism. The authors coined the term ‘dark-ego-vehicle principle’ to describe the phenomenon where individuals with dark personality traits are attracted to political and social activism as a means to satisfy their ego-focused needs rather than working towards social justice and equality. The study also noted that some activists use social justice as a guise for unhinged behavior and prioritize self-presentation, moral superiority, and social status over genuine social causes.

This makes sense. After all, one need only think of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other left-wing monsters to see the “dark-ego-vehicle-principle” at work in the capture of organizations and movements, and their subsequent implementation of purges and democides. Yet, even on a smaller scale, one can see numerous instances of organizations of all political and apolitical stripes being captured to varying degrees by their most narcissistic and aggressive left-wing members, leading to the group’s increasing left-wing authoritarianism and, in some instances, embrace of violence, at the expense and/or eclipse of its original goals. 

This study of left-wing authoritarianism constitutes a validation of John O’Sullivan’s “First Law”:

All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing. I cite as supporting evidence the ACLU, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church. The reason is, of course, that people who staff such bodies tend to be the sort who don’t like private profit, business, making money, the current organization of society, and, by extension, the Western world. At which point [Robert] Michels’s Iron Law of Oligarchy takes over—and the rest follows.

O’Sullivan first enunciated his First Law in National Review on October 27, 1989. Over the ensuing decades, events have proven his unquestioned prescience. What I find intriguing, however, is that this “eternal truth,” despite having been proven as a practical matter, took so long to receive this clinical validation. 

In PsyPost, the authors of the left-wing authoritarianism study, Ann Krispenz, a postdoctoral associate, and Alex Bertrams, the head of the Educational Psychology Lab at the University of Bern, provide part of the reason:

There is a wide range of literature and research in the field of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). However, research on authoritarianism observed in individuals who are supportive of left-wing political ideologies are still rare . . . By many researchers, the notion of left-wing authoritarianism (LWA) has even been met with skepticism.

And there you have it: O’Sullivan’s First Law at work. Left-wing authoritarianism has captured academia. It is normal for people to wish for a world where right-wing and left-wing totalitarian monsters do not exist. But it is unconscionable for the cosseted denizens of ivory towers to ignore both the past (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, see above) and present (Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, etc.) existence of left-wing authoritarians and their victims.  

Thus, what makes this study so rare is that its authors are some of the very few researchers not only courageous enough to say such a thing as left-wing authoritarianism exists— “Authoritarianism can be found on both sides of the political spectrum”—but they are intrepid enough to study it and release their findings. Moreover, they intend to continue exploring the subjects of left-wing authoritarianism and dark-ego-vehicle-principle:

‘At present, the DEVP is not an elaborated theory as it is yet unclear whether it refers to a robust, stable, and reproducible empirical phenomenon,’ they told PsyPost. ‘Therefore, we are currently investigating the validity of the DEVP in the context of different forms of activism (e.g., anti-sexual assault activism, feminist activism, LGBQ activism, etc.)’

Godspeed in that endeavor, for it is not only academia that refuses to admit the existence of left-wing activism; or, worse, excuses and justifies it. One need only look at how the media refuses to use the term “far left,” or its claims the 2020 riots were “mostly peaceful.” 

But there is another entity infiltrated by “dark-ego-vehicle-principle” individuals with the power to manipulate and direct other institutions’ denial and justification of the same phenomenon, and to persecute their collective and individual opponents: the administrative state. 

The failure to recognize, let alone redress, the existence of authoritarianism on both Left and Right constitutes an erosion of the fundamental checks and balances required in a constitutional republic and the foundational principle of equality before the law required in a just society. Tragically, the rank-and-file Left is embracing this political justice agenda. The metastasizing of “political justice”—which is but mobocracy disguised by the corrupted legal institutions—throughout the past years has been abetted by left-wing authoritarianism.

Moreover, as Krispenz and Bertrams note:

While pretending to be prosocial, narcissists tend to have low empathy and to be primarily interested in satisfying their self-centered needs. Therefore, instead of striving for reasonable solutions, narcissistic individuals will rather be interested in keeping the perception of problems going to maintain their highlighted position.

Admittedly, it is easy for me to renounce and to battle against right-wing authoritarianism (corporatism/fascism) and left-wing authoritarianism (socialism/communism), for I disagree with both ideologies and their tactics, consequences, and proffered aims. It is not easy for the Left. For when it comes to left-wing authoritarianism, the Left’s compulsive and practical need for the end to justify the means renders them purblind to its existence. 

More’s the pity that some may have a psychological and, yes, selfish reason for so doing. In our shared free republic, we cannot defend the Constitution and our God-given liberty and equality against authoritarian ideologies with one arm tied behind our back.

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

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