Researchers from Berkeley have recently published materials that help define the fundamentals of political conservative thought. After compiling data from fifty years of research literature on the psychology of conservatism and studying thousands of journal articles, conference papers, speeches and interviews, psychologists from Berkeley, Stanford and Maryland have identified the psychological factors linked to conservative thought. They are :
- Fear and aggression
- Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
- Uncertainty avoidance
- Need for cognitive closure
- Terror management
French-Bashing has mainly been a conservative passtime, the question is, how does it fit in with these principles of conservatism ?
Fear and aggression. Aggression has clearly been behind a lot of France-Bashing, and in the context of the Iraq situation, the fact that the political leaders of France tried to restrain the Bush administration’s desire for aggression and managing fear only made matters worse.
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity. France-Bashing has certainly revealed a deep intolerance for nuance, no and, if, or buts about it. When certain elements of the conservative press decided that France had become fair game, it became the new dogma : France was the new ennemy. All kinds of stereotypes were put back into the public mind to serve this new dogmatic, un-liberal, approach to foreign policy. « You’re either with us, or against us »
Uncertainty avoidance and the need for cognitive closure. Bashing France using all manner of stereotypes filled a void in the Conservative Psyche. The fact France loudly opposed the war created an immediate uncertainty in the minds of political conservatives. Rather than ponder the obvious question : what reasons had led the French Government to oppose the war?, Conservatives filled that uncertainty with prefabricated Anti-French rhetoric, thus providing cognitive closure.
Terror management, as pointed out by these psychologists, can be seen in post-Sept 11 America, and has to do with shunning and punishing outsiders. Does France-Bashing provide a safe substitute for those who do not dare punish and shun visible minorities, often seen as outsiders within the gates ?