This website places at your disposal a free ebook entitled The Authoritarians. I wrote this book in 2006 when a great deal seemed to be going wrong in America, and I thought the research on authoritarian personalities could explain a lot of it. (The book is set in that era, but you will have no trouble finding present-day examples of what the experiments found back then.)
Updating Authoritarian Nightmare
Bob Altemeyer October 8, 2020
We finished editing the text of Authoritarian Nightmare (“AN”) on June 26, 2020 and sent the manuscript off to the typesetter. Since then four books about President Trump have shot to the top of the bestsellers lists that provide information unavailable when I tried to develop a psychological understanding of the man: Mary L. Trump’s book about her family, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man; John R. Bolton’s extensive account of his service as National Security Advisor from April 2018 to September 2019, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir; Bob Woodward’s Rage, reporting his extensive conversations with the president and his advisors during 2019 and 2020; and Michael Cohen’s Disloyal, which details the author’s service as Trump’s “fixer” from 2007 to 2018. Any of these books could show that my analysis landed somewhere between “Terribly Flawed” to “If They Put Your Brains In A Bumblebee, It Would Fly Backwards and Land Upside-down in a Tar Pit.” So I felt it important to compare and contrast these descriptions of the president with the one offered in Authoritarian Nightmare, and take my lumps.
As well, Donald Trump keeps doing things that test the durability and depth of my explanation. For example, on that late-June day when we put the book “to bed,” Trump reprised his absurd impersonation of someone who cares about the law and issued an executive order promising severe punishment for defacing public statues and monuments. The following day he laid down a Tweet bombardment aimed at Obamacare and the mainstream media. The next day he (falsely) insisted no one had told him Russia was paying Taliban fighters a bounty for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Each morning when people get up they wonder, “What did the president do now?” It just never ends, and he partly does it on purpose. He uses Today’s Outrage to distract us from Yesterday’s, and besides that he is constantly pumping up his base. But also, as proposed in the book, Donald Trump withers in his own mind whenever the spotlight leaves him. Plants can go without sunlight for a time and survive. Trump starts to shrivel inside the instant the light leaves him, so he remains a child searching for a piece of “birthday cake” to throw at somebody so he’ll be noticed. Nobody can keep up with someone acting this badly that often. But some reckoning had to be reckoned about his behavior from July to September, 2020, especially his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Black Lives Matter awakening, and his campaign to get re-elected. We will cover these topics as we move along. Then we’ll face the dark, dark problem of what might happen after November 3rd. At the end of this update, we’ll look at some things that landed on the editing room floor when the manuscript of Authoritarian Nightmare was finalized.