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The conservative’s slippery slope and Allport’s scale of prejudice

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The conservative’s slippery slope and Allport’s scale of prejudice | Politics and Insights - kittysjones

Gordon Allport studied the psychological and social processes that create a society’s progression from prejudice and discrimination to genocide. In his research of how the Holocaust happened, he describes socio-political processes that foster increasing social prejudice and discrimination and he demonstrates how the unthinkable becomes acceptable: it happens incrementally, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries, and propaganda-driven changes in our attitudes towards “others” that advances culturally, by almost inscrutable degrees.

The process always begins with political scapegoating of a social group and with ideologies that identify that group as an “enemy” or a social “burden” in some way. A history of devaluation of the group that becomes the target, authoritarian culture, and the passivity of internal and external witnesses (bystanders) all contribute to the probability that violence against that group will develop, and ultimately, if the process is allowed to continue evolving, genocide.

Economic recession, uncertainty and authoritarian or totalitarian political systems contribute to shaping the social conditions that seem to trigger Allport’s escalating scale of prejudice. The conservatives are authoritarians, they manufactured an economic recession, as did the previous conservative administrations. And prejudice towards vulnerable minority groups is almost a cardinal conservative trait.

The media is being used by the right-wing as an outlet for blatant political propaganda, and much of it is manifested as a pathological persuasion to hate others.

The conservative party has said that they are “controlling immigration” by: clamping down on “benefits tourism” and “health tourism” – so that we only welcome those who want to “work hard and contribute to our society”, cutting net immigration from outside the EU to levels not seen since the late 1990s – to “ease pressure on the schools and hospitals that all hardworking people rely on”, and introducing a new citizen test with “British values at its heart”.

David Cameron is asking for our views on immigration. I didn’t bother responding to the highy selective, deliberately poorly designed, loaded survey.

As someone who has designed sociological and psychological surveys, I know that rule number one for conducting genuine research is that we do not use “loaded” or “leading” questions.

And I can’t abide the distraction tactics – “finger pointing” politics at its Tory worst: scapegoating and bullying exploited minority groups, those least able to speak up for themselves. We know it is Tory polices that have damaged our Country, and not migrants, or sick and disabled people, or the poor.

So I sent the following qualitative response to David Cameron:

“I’ve always felt the Tories don’t belong here, they have stolen all of our money, jobs, best houses, they’re scrounging off the hard-working taxpayer, and are draining our welfare, public services and NHS. We can’t afford them, they contribute nothing to society, and cost ordinary people pretty much everything. They are also known criminals and terrorists, so they should be immediately deported back to the feudal era, and never allowed back here again”.

Well, it is said that in satire, irony is militant. I pointed back and found the truth.

We are obliged to critique, in every way we can, the constant subliminal drip of Tory bullying, imperialist white supremacist, social Darwinist, patriarchal political culture, because it is normalized by the complicit mass media and rendered opaque, presented tacitly as unproblematic “common sense”.

It isn’t common sense; it’s nasty, right-wing prejudice, scapegoating and diversion.

And for those of you who welcome the political permission to exercise your own racism, it’s worth bearing in mind that prejudice tends to “multi-task”: once a social group is targeted for discrimination, others quickly follow, as pastor Martin Niemöller observed very well, in his famous statement about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
 
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The Ladder of Prejudice – Gordon W. Allport | Mr. Larson's Learning


The Ladder of Prejudice – Gordon W. Allport

The Nature of Prejudice: The Escalating Levels of Prejudice

In his book The Nature of Prejudice psychologist Gordon W. Allport describes a kind of ladder of negative actions that spring from prejudice. It is interesting to compare how the ladder of prejudice worked in the past and how it works today. It is possible to see parallels in history that help to explain or clarify what happened in Nazi Germany.

Allport’s Ladder of Prejudice:

1. Spoken Abuse—the first rung on the ladder of negative actions is speech. This often takes the form of talking or joking about a group as if all members of that group were one personality or had one set of features. Spoken abuse includes all of the following:

• Degrading names

• Verbal attack

• Stereotyping

• Music/songs that are degrading

• Jokes

• Rumors

• Ascribing evil motives and behaviors to a whole group/class of people

2. Avoidance—is the second rung of the ladder. At this level people seek to avoid the group which has been stereotyped. Like speech, this seems harmless in the beginning. One has the right to choose one’s friends, and choosing not to be friends with a particular group of people does not seem so awful. The trouble is that lack of contact and friendship with a group leads to ignorance about them. Ignorance, in turn, leads to stereotyping, fear, and prejudice.

Avoidance includes the following:

Avoiding homes, schools, and churches
Avoiding businesses and recreation areas/activities
Boycotting *

This separation/avoidance breeds fear and increases negative feelings

* Boycott—a group refusal to have dealings with a certain person, store, organization, race, etc. in order to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions. (Please Note: Boycott has been used as both a positive force to fight prejudice and a negative force to express prejudice.)

3. Acts of Discrimination—avoidance leads to the third rung, discrimination. The unwanted group is now kept out of some neighborhoods, shopping areas, social clubs, schools, churches, gathering places, and public centers. Laws are enacted to enforce this discrimination and make it legal for society to discriminate.

Institutional Racism = Legalizing prejudice, which includes the following:

Treating others as legally inferior
Segregation laws
All types of institutional racism, sexism, age-ism, etc.
Making legal distinctions that deny rights to others

4. Physical attack on people and property—such physical attack may be a mob’s expression of anger or resentment. It may take the form of gang warfare resulting from prejudice, or it may take the form of defacing buildings or places of worship. Physical attack includes all violence to people or property based on hatred, fear, ignorance, and revenge. (When institutional racism is prevalent in a society, physical attack is likely to go unpunished and may even be encouraged.)

• Such groups as the KKK and the neo-Nazis use forms of physical attack to frighten and intimidate their victims, such as burning crosses, painting swastikas on synagogues, inciting riots, gay bashing, etc.

• On the ladder of prejudice, the steps may be short between speaking against a group and attacking it physically.

5. Genocide/extermination—the final step in the ladder of prejudice escalates from murder to genocide and includes lynching, massacre, mass murder, and attempting to annihilate members of an unwanted group.

Genocide = The systematic attempt to destroy an entire people

(Please Note: The actual word genocide was first used at the end of World War II during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials to describe the Nazi attempt to destroy the Jewish people.)

Examples of genocide in history include the following:

• The Nazi extermination of the Jews and other enemies of the state (11 million)

• Cambodia in the late 1970s—the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot murdered 3 million people (one-third of the population)

• White settlers/Native Americans

• KKK & white supremacists/ non-whites

• Ethnic cleansing in Y ugoslavia

• The anarchy and violence in Rwanda and Somalia
 
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