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Turi: Today we are thrilled to be talking to John Hibbing. John is the foundation Regent university professor of political science at the university of Nebraska Lincoln and has published very widely on the relationship of biological characteristics and political orientations and behavior. His latest book. Which is just out, with university presses, the securitarian personality. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about. John, thank you so much for joining the Parlia podcast.
John Hibbing: I am delighted to be with you.
Turi: John, let’s start at the top, the securitarian personality, this extraordinary book, which is just out posits, that there is such a thing as the securitarian personality. And it not just, it’s a thing, but it’s kind of the thing you say in the first chapter of the security and personality. That the dispute between securitarians and their opposite, which you call Unitarians that this is the dispute. That must be understood if we are, if we are to come to grips with the ultimate source of political conflict in the world, this for you is where all of it plays out. Can you help us understand what this dispute is and where it comes from?
John Hibbing: Sure. And the reason I emphasize that particular dispute is that it seems to me from an evolutionary point of view, this is the one that is really at the core of our very beings. If you can kind of imagine yourself back in our Hunter gatherer age, uh, style of life that we adopted for hundreds of thousands of years. Virtually all of our existence as, as a separate species, we lived in Hunter gatherer bands. And of course in those bands, we really didn’t think that much about, uh, concerns regarding the size of government or the rate of taxation for capital gains or, or even things like abortion and gay rights. Those just weren’t, uh, salient to us.
But. What was salient was our relationship with those who are not in our group, uh, the tribe over the Hill, if you will. And these hundred other bands were not completely isolated, they did have regular interaction with other bands, but the question was what. What nature was that interaction going to take? Should we be suspicious and leery of those people who weren’t quite like us and didn’t really participate in our in-group or should we be open and welcoming and take advantage of the fact that they have new ideas and, uh, genetic diversity and entertainment and all kinds of things. So I think this, this has been with us forever. And so my thinking is that, uh, when. Those kinds of differences when, when the issues of the day become issues of identity and groupish NUS and insiders and outsiders, then I think those very primordial divisions are going to appear and it’s going to be particularly bloody and brutal and divisive and polarizing.
Uh, certainly we can all work up a good lather about, um, you know, uh, Size of government taxation center, periphery relations, social issues. So we, we we’ve, we fight about those. There’s no doubt about that, but I think the fundamental issue and, and the, the situations in which politics becomes particularly intense, whether it be, you know, I think of, of in the United States context, the 1860s with the civil war, certainly that was an argument about. Who’s an insider, who’s an outsider. How do we relate to people who are not like us? And then we had it in the 1960s, in the U S and around the world with, uh, with, uh, divisions appearing. And those were primarily about groups and, and, uh, you know, our protesters really part of the group. And are they threatening the insiders? And now I think we have it today. Uh, for reasons we can talk about, although I don’t have a great answer. Um, but I think it’s resurfaced and the core division is not economic, but it is this issue of, of insiders and outsiders. And that I think is why politics is, is so brutal today.
Turi: So with this idea of securitarians, the invention of the security area, which your book does, you’re also inventing it’s polar opposite. The Unitarian. Can you give us a kind of morphology of both the securitarian and the Unitarian.
John Hibbing: Right. Yeah. It’s, uh, you know, I hesitated about using that word because there is a religious denomination of sorts. Uh, it goes by Unitarian and I wanted to have this be a, a non capitalized. You, uh, but it did seem that the phrase seems to capture the, uh, the opposite of a securitarian. So if a securitarian is someone who, who really has as its most noble and central task, uh, uh, protection of person, family, culture, and country from. Tangible threats. Uh, and, and that’s, that’s kind of how I define it. Although I should emphasize tangible threats coming from outsiders, come from other human beings.
I think it’s important to emphasize that these securitarians. Um, are not threatened by everything. Um, perhaps emphasizing this because in my earlier work 10 years ago, I think I was a little bit off base on this. I implied that conservatives were just generally, uh, threatened by life situations. But I think now it’s really a much narrower thing that they’re threatened by outsiders, by other human beings who aren’t quite like them and who may pose a threat to their, uh, their family and their, their inside culture. So
Turi: that’s the security and the security and the key conflict for securitarians. The key threat is other people who they define as outside their social grouping, who can come to threaten. What was that list? You had kin family nation.
John Hibbing: And culture. I gotcha. And I think perhaps for securitarians, culture and country kind of become the same thing. So yes, you put that very well. Thank you. And then, uh, you asked about the flip side, whether these are individuals who really are very welcoming to outsiders. In fact, they don’t even like this concept of insiders and outsiders. That’s just not the way they think about the world. And thus, I think Unitarian is not, not a bad phrase for them, so yeah. And they. Instead of being concerned about outsiders, they’re actually much more concerned about insiders. And by that, I mean the powerful, uh, elites, whether it be government or, or corporations. Um, so they think that that’s where the danger is. And I think there’s, uh, an evolutionary basis for that as well, because of course it’s long been the case that the alpha male, uh, has been a threat to some people. If you, if you cross that individual. Then your, your status in the group and perhaps your life could be endangered. You might be ostracized. You might be banished from the group you might be killed. So, um, I think part of, part of us, uh, has this concern about insider power and for reasons that I don’t pretend to fully understand, I think we can, we can really see people in a group as dividing into those two categories at the extremes, at least whether are you really much more concerned about the threats of outsiders or are you much more concerned about the threats of insiders? And I think you can, can look at a lot of politicians today and it’s pretty easy to spot.
Um, who’s on which side, uh, again, in the U S context. The Elizabeth Warren gave a speech in New York that got a lot of attention. And I listened to that with amazement because it, it kind of became clear to me that she was as concerned about the power of these inside groups and corporations as Donald Trump was concerned about the power of, of, uh, immigrants and China and, uh, terrorists and protesters. So, uh, I think that, uh, to go back to your original point is, is for me the key division between securitarians, and Unitarians.
Turi: We’re going to come to that because you have such beautiful parallels between yeah. The overarching existential concerns of one and the other, let’s not forget. We’re all, we’re all human. We just direct our fear and anxiety in different places. But I was struck by, um, one particular detail, which is that you describe security. Marion’s there’s people who are threatened by the outside as dividing the world. Not in us V them. But in us V not us, everybody outside of a particular delineation becomes a threat.
Whereas on the Unitarian side, there’s a completely different thing at play here, right? As everybody is sort of in the same general bucket of humanity with a very, very specific threat around access power. Is that right?
John Hibbing: Yes. Yes. That’s, that’s nicely put again. And I think maybe one way to think about it is, uh, where is the onus? Where’s the burden of proof and for securitarians, um, they are very reluctant to extend that. I mean, they are only going to, going to trust a small group of people. Maybe one of the reasons that we see, uh, collections of securitarians in smaller towns and rural areas. They’re just not going to branch out. They’re not going to trust somebody unless that individual has proved to them that they can be trustworthy. So, you know, they’re, they’re a little bit suspicious and they’re reluctant, they’re reticent to trust unless that person, especially somebody who has different cultural customs, maybe a different language, you know, that’s, those are all red flags for our secure Attarian. So they’re going to, they’re going to be very careful to find out if that. Person who is not quite like them is trustworthy. The Unitarian is quite the opposite and they probably need a reason not to trust somebody. Uh, even somebody is completely different. In fact, they’re kind of fascinated by these differences and they’re intrigued by them. And so the notion that they would put her an extra burden approved for, or that this onus on individuals who are not like them to demonstrate their trustworthy nature, that’s, that’s just a foreign concept. So they don’t, they don’t do that.
Turi: John that’s beautifully described, and I want to come back to the psychological tendencies of securitarians versus Unitarians and a little bit, but before we go there, can we take a very, very long trip back in time to the primordial jungle or our caveman itself, um, and help us understand. Why this key distinction between those who are threatened by outsiders and those who are threatened by powerful insiders makes up the most fundamental political cleavage in the human body, body politic. Cause that’s I think what that’s your book’s
John Hibbing: thesis. It is. And, and yeah, I just think it’s, it’s the one that’s been with us the longest. And, um, these groups, you know, human human groups are kind of fascinating. Um, there’s, there’s one school of thought which maintains that the reason, uh, humans. Progressed so much more rapidly than our fellow great apes was that they were, that we were a bit open to outside influence and to these different groups. And, um, I, I think that’s a fascinating school of thought that, that in, in suggesting that we really. Obtain some very great advantages by being open to these people who are in other groups. And you don’t see that in, uh, certainly in, in chimps and some of our other, uh, near relatives. So whether that’s true or not, I do think it’s the case that somehow we had to achieve that balance. You know, we, we had these threats from outsiders. We had the threat from the powerful insider, which again is usually a male. They alpha male that could, uh, could really, uh, treat us badly if we, if we crossed him. So I think somehow we had to figure it out. Oh, which way to go. And I think that tension is still there with us. We still see people who, who lean one way or the other. And, uh, unfortunately that, that leaning, uh, has, has exacerbated. I kind of division that has created a lot of problems and leads to the polarization that we see around the world today.
Turi: Can I ask you to tell the wonderful story of the silver Fox in Siberia? Because it seems like your way in to describing the discovery of the securitarian political type.
John Hibbing: Good. Yes. Thank you. That, I’m glad you brought that up because I think it is a kind of nice illustration and this is a common story for a lot of people who kind of follow, uh, science and behavior. And, uh, it’s the story about the attempt to understand domestication and so a very well-known, uh, geneticist in the old Soviet union. Decided to try to see if he could actually domesticate a species. And the species he selected was silver Fox, which was, um, a species that was used widely in the Soviet union. They were raised for their, uh, for their pelts back. When, when for coats, didn’t quite have the stigma that they do today. And this was a major source of income for the Soviet union, the cash strapped Soviet union. Uh, but what, uh, the, the scientists named , uh, understood was that silver Fox would be a good opportunity to see if it was possible to actually domesticate a creature. Now, a lot of geneticists thought this was crazy. They thought domestication took thousands and thousands of years after all, uh, wolves did not become dogs overnight, but Bailey was convinced that it was not nearly as ponderous as all that. And that we could actually see this happen in this space of, of our lifetimes. So, uh, what he did was to. Self-select uh, these Fox and he would observe them and find the ones that seem to be the most comfortable with human existence, with human presence, I should say. So, uh, they would be in cages and when the humans would walk up, some would, um, become very vicious and in fact, most would, and try to attack through the cage. Um, Others, uh, would seem to be kind of gentle and, and panting. And they were curious about the humans and they would, uh, would kind of put themselves in, in vulnerable postures and, uh, want to lift the humans. So belly I’ve took those, uh, ladder, organ organisms, the Fox, and bred them back to themselves and in the space of just. Eight or 10 generations was able to produce a, really a kind of dog-like species that became much in demand as pets, their physiology changed. They, they had the kind of white, uh, PI baldness. It’s called the coloration on the chest and face that we associate with a lot of dogs. Uh, and they developed all those kinds of behaviors, short and mandible. So that was very interesting, but I guess the reason I spend a lot of time discussing this very well-known set of experiments is that I think there was one, one part of it that doesn’t get emphasized enough. And that is that there really was a third, uh, group of Fox. So he had the one group that attacked the humans. The second group that, uh, was, was very docile and the presence of the humans. And there was a third group that retreated to the back of the cages and just watched, uh, they would not take their eyes off the human beings. They didn’t want to be near them, but they didn’t attack. And to me, these Fox, th th this style of behavior is, is emblematic of a secure Attarian personality. Um, secure Tarion’s contrary to popular belief. They’re not the first ones that want to attack. Uh, if you think about what Donald Trump is doing right now, in fact, as he’s going out the door, so to speak, you know, he’s withdrawing American forces from around the world. He basically does not want to be involved in, in these situations around the world. He would prefer, uh, to come back and build a wall around the United States, fortress America. So, um, you know, these, these secure Tarion’s to me are clearly not, um, the docile organisms, but they’re also not the aggressive organisms. They’re the ones that want to, uh, want to be vigilant. And in fact, at one point in, in my work, I was going to title my book, the vigilant personality, uh, before I decided to secure a Tarion worked a little bit better, but vigilance is still a very important part of their repertoire.
They want to, uh, to defend themselves. They don’t want to go over and. No, they don’t want to take over the world. Um, just like the, the Fox don’t want to, to attack human beings. They just want to be left alone and they want to be protected and they want to be secure. So the reason I launched into the silver Fox thing was just because I thought that third group represented the security Tarion concept quite nicely.
Turi: Thanks so much. That’s a beautiful way in to looking a little bit in more detail at what this security Marion type really is. Um, the first question I’m going to ask, particularly as to ask you whether there is such a thing as a political type and how you can justify it and. You of all people, um, you of all people can, but, um, but, but then to move into this question of what makes up your typical security area and how are they different from all the other various different political type labels that we have out there, whether it’s authoritarians or conservative or even liberal, but let’s start with that first question. Um, how can. We decide how, how can we believe that there are political types?
John Hibbing: Well, uh, good question. And certainly I don’t want to overstate this. You know, I think all human behavior can be a raid on a spectrum. So the notion that there, that it’s dichotomous, that everybody has either a secure Tarion or unitary and that’s clearly not true. So we have a range of people. Um, a lot of people are in the middle of the neither. Neither one. Um, you know, they’re, they’re perhaps a little bit concerned about outsiders, but a little bit concerned about insiders. So, uh, they certainly exist, but I don’t think just because we recognize that this is a spectrum condition, that, that it arrays across a, a wide field, uh, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t kind of lumps in there. And I think we do see that kind of, uh, Uh, attractive, uh, elements of the spectrum. And so we get these individuals that feel very strongly, that are kind of on the extremes of that spectrum, who really just, uh, you know, are completely averse to outsiders or who just really want to hug every outsider’s outsider.
They see. Um, so I think, you know, it’s useful while recognizing the, the, the vast variety here. I think it’s useful to, to describe these kinds of extreme types so that we can understand. A little bit better, uh, what’s going on and what that, what that extreme type looks like. So, yeah, I, I think, I think there are types, um, W in my survey research, you know, I see a big spread, but then I also see these clumps, uh, things fitting together pretty nicely and fairly tightly, um, in a way that would seem to suggest that there was a, uh, a type, you know, in earlier work, uh, not by me, but, uh, you know, in the 1950s about the authoritarian personality, the same kind of issue was raised. Is this really a personality, but they were quite insistent, uh, that. You know, they, they, in fact they use words like subspecies, um, and wow. Uh, in which, uh, you know, it’s a nice way to think about it, but, uh, it’s suggested this concept’s been around a long time. I think you’re right. We need to be careful and not overstate it, but I’m going to stick with it. I think it’s useful to conceptualize them.
Turi: Yeah. And we have the, we have the Fox type as a reminder as well. Um, okay. So, so, so take us on a tour of the security area. Personality, what makes up her, his key characteristics concerns, approaches
John Hibbing: to the world. I think one of the interesting questions here is the extent to which it’s really personality based or worldview based. And then here, I think again, older research is a little bit back and forth on this. So, uh, when they did studies of the authoritarian personality, they would ask questions about your personality type. Um, in other words, um, one that comes to mind is, um, Do you, uh, values, strength, personal relationships. And so that’s about you as an individual, but then you could also ask questions about a country, you know, uh, is it possible for a country to be great without being strong is one of the worst things possible for a country to be perceived as weak.
So I do think it’s, it’s useful in talking about this, even though we frequently use the word personality, it really is kind of a, um, a mixture of these very personal traits. How you like to. To pursue your life as an individual and maybe in your family, uh, but also with your conception of how, uh, countries and cultures and large things should work and what the best way is for a country to be led, as opposed to, what about you? Do you like to be told what to do? Are you craving of, uh, of certainty in your life? But then the parallel question is, what about your country? Do you want your country to be, uh, in connection with other countries and controlled by other countries or does that really bother you?
Turi: So, John, perhapsthere’s a way of splitting this, um, and asking, are there certain personality features that go hand in hand with a secure Attarian approach and then ask you what the worldview. Um, have a secure Tarion well, the characteristics of a secure Tarion worldview are
John Hibbing: good. Yes. I like that. And, uh, yeah, because I think the personality traits are a little bit interesting. You know, one of the common findings, if you just use the old left right. Uh, political spectrum, uh, then the personality studies have tended to find. I shouldn’t say tender. This is fairly universal that people on the left are much more open to new experiences, but people on the right are much more conscientious. There hasn’t been much found on the other big five personality traits, things like that’s just,
Turi: sorry, I’m going to unpack that pretty much. Universally. Now there is an understanding that the big five personality test is applicable across. Pretty much all cultures and that, those big five, I’m going to ask you because I’m going to get them wrong. Those big five, that sort of like the, what are they, they’re like a graphic equalizer of personality. Is that right? Right. And I think you and your work demonstrates that in fact between left and right. Everybody’s pretty much the same, except for on the difference between conscientiousness on the right and openness to new experience on the left. Is that
John Hibbing: right? That’s correct. Um, but then I think it gets more interesting when you, when you drill down to these securitarians, to the Trump supporters or the supporters of Nigel Farage or whatever. And, um, there, you tend to find that, that they’re not typical people on the right, in some respects, you see a little bit more tendency toward extroversion, which. Previously had not been, uh, present on the right generally, but if you look at just Trump supporters, they’re fairly extroverted. Um, and they are a little bit more open to new experiences than other people on the right. And, uh, this in fact kind of goes back to, I think, one of my original motivations and in trying to understand Trump’s supporters, uh, I live in Nebraska, which is a very conservative part of the United States. And, um, I am around a lot of people who, who are quite supportive of Donald Trump. I have some in my family, so I wanted to understand them. And one of the things that, that was clear to me before I even did my research. Was that they were hardly shrinking violets. They, they did not seem to be, um, you know, close to new experiences. They did not seem to be, uh, particularly, uh, neurotic. Um,
Turi: are those, are those features of conservatism or do they, do they feature more strongly in the conservative psychology?
John Hibbing: No, but they do feature more strongly in. And the psychology of Trump’s supporters. So that’s where I’m trying to draw a little bit of a distinction here. So you’ve got to the overall left, right. Which led to a lot of answers that we’ve already had. Uh, but when you look at these, you know, right-wing populous Trump supporters specifically, then you find that, that they do tend to be, um, much more open to new experiences. At least they claim to be. And they also claimed to be much more extroverted. So there’s a kind of a branch of the Trump supporters. So it’s sometimes there are a lot of groups called bikers for Trump, kind of, um, motorcycle gangs, you know, that, that, uh, go to Sturgis and have these events. And, you know, they’re the kind of individuals that are not exactly eager to take orders from anybody else.
So this is one of the reasons kind of spread to maybe your next point of authoritarianism. I think we have to be careful with that term because the classic vision, the, that. Dictionary definition of an authoritarian is somebody who likes to be told what to do. And authoritarian follower wants, wants order and structure, and is so confused by the world that if somebody comes along and says, here’s what we’re going to do, they like that. And at least with regard to that literal definition of the term, I just don’t think that fits Trump’s supporters at all on the survey research would suggest that’s true as well. They do tend to be more extroverted than other conservatives. Um, and. You know, they, they want to try new things. Trump himself was really a new thing.
You know, they said we don’t want this traditional conservative. We’d like to take a shot at this, uh, because we don’t like the way things are. So in that sense, I’m just not sure that that typical understanding of authoritarianism fits what we see today.
Turi: Okay. So on the personality side, the key ways in which these security Marian personality type differs from your standard conservative is one they’re more open to new experiences as voting for Donald Trump or both scenario or Brexit, um, might suggest then we’ll extrovert.
Um, it turns out there are also, um, Much less happy with being told what to do. So they don’t also fit in that authoritarians bracket, which is a sort of subset or subspecies if you’d like of conservatism as well. So those are the personality differences. Now let’s talk about worldview, the key elements of a security area and worldview.
John Hibbing: Yeah. Well, I, I could actually, you know, maybe read you a couple of questions that I use to get at this in the survey. Things like this, a central goal for our countries should be to become as strong as possible. So outsiders will realize that it does not make sense to attack us. That’s a bit of a mouthful, not the best survey item, but you get the idea. Another one was, if we are not vigilant, we will quickly become victimized by criminals, immigrants and powerful foreign countries. Just about the worst thing possible for a country has to be perceived as weak. We need leaders whose focus is solely on the people of our country, not other countries, um, and patriotism is necessary in order for our country to be strong and unified in the face of threats from terrorists and other countries.
So there, I just thought that might help you get a little bit of the idea of, of the kinds of, of, uh, responses that would indicate a person had a secure Attarian worldview. One of the things
Turi: that you flag loudly and very explicitly is that actually the kind of survey questions that you’ve just shared with us and to which security Tarion’s answer. Yes, absolutely not the kind of things that hard conservatives or hard fascists or authoritarians would answer to either. There’s something interesting. You quote Donald Trump’s speech to the United nations, where he says. I’m misquoting. I’m paraphrasing. We want America to be super strong and stop anybody coming to take advantage of us. Right. And we fully expect all other nations to do the same thing. There is not an implicit assumption of superiority, despite some of the things Donald Trump has said about third world countries, but it’s sort of a, we’ll stay in our yard. You stay in your yard and we’ll all be okay.
John Hibbing: That’s right. Yes. I’m glad you picked up on that. And, and yeah, I have to be careful here because certainly, uh, Trump on occasion has, uh, sounded a superiority, superiority, um, uh, mindset and, and his followers do that as well. But I guess my point is it doesn’t have to be the case. And, and yeah, I think that that speech to the UN. Was a good illustration of that, where he said, I, it just struck me as odd that a, uh, an authoritarian leader, a fascist leader would say to other countries, you go be strong, but that’s really the way they feel about it.
You go be strong because then your people aren’t going to leave these shithole countries and want to come to our borders. And that’s what we really don’t want. We want. To be here by ourselves. We don’t want diversity. We don’t want infiltration by these other things. And if that means that you have to go over across the pond and be strong, then go do it.
And that just struck me as, as a really, uh, kind of different aspect. I don’t know. I suppose fascists could still be isolationists in a way, but a lot of times we do associate it with, with the desire to take over the world. And I really think that if you, if you tried to imagine the symbols of a Trumpian philosophy, it would not be. You know, pans are tanks and death camps so much as border walls and gated communities. That’s a really
Turi: helpful distinction. Can I ask you to jump straight into this sort of side topic, but it’s something that you address head on in the book, um, which is the question of authoritarianism. You, you, you spend a lot of time discussing Theodore Adorno’s work sort of slightly counter do-now ask work on the authoritarian personality, but also lots of work has been done recently, um, on the back of Karen Stenders, uh, research. In part, because there was an assumption that there was a rise in authoritarians lists and authoritarians, and with our terrorism around the world, can you help me understand what the authoritarian personality is? Whether you agree that it exists and to how security Tarion’s a different.
John Hibbing: Yes, that’s an important point. And yeah, I don’t know. Maybe I was a bit strong in the book and in saying that this is something that’s different than authoritarianism, because it all depends how you define an authoritarian. I mentioned the kind of dictionary definition before. I’m not somebody who was just submissive and to be fair to, to the people who believe that what we’re.
What we’re witnessing now is a kind of revival of authoritarianism. They’ve defined it differently. And usually they recognize three components. One indeed is submissiveness. One is conventionalism and the third is aggressiveness. And so the question is, do those terms, describe the supporters of Donald Trump or the supporters of other, uh, leaders of that ilk, whether it be Rodrigo, Duterte, or some of the other individuals that you mentioned, Molson aro, uh, Victor Orban and, um, You know, I guess there’s some truth to it, but I want to raise some questions as well, or just ask people to think about it a little bit differently. Uh, I really don’t think submissiveness fits. I think that that first one, uh, is wrong for reasons that I’ve already suggested a little bit, that I think there’s almost a rebellious against authority. We certainly see that with the people who are refusing to wear masks or to be told that they have to social distance, they don’t like the idea of these various governors telling them what to do. Um, in, in my own city right now, there’s a recall effort to, to get rid of the mayor who had the temerity to, uh, say, you know, that we need to wear a mask in certain situations. So I think that to me fits with this mindset, not submissive, but rather, uh, this is a really, that they’re graded. They are bothered by the idea of someone powerful telling them what to do. So it’s, it’s kind of anti submissive. If you ask me conventionalism. The second leg of the three legs of modern visions of authoritarianism, I think could be true to some extent, but I think you also have to ask. What kinds of conventions? I think the only conventions that they really want to subscribe to are those that they believe will make them more secure and safer and protect them from foreign powers. So, you know, I think of the Bible to some extent. So, you know, a lot of these individuals who, um, are allegedly authoritarians or they’re supposed to be, uh, very devoted to the Bible, but yet they have a lot of trouble with some aspects of the Bible. They’re much more comfortable with the old Testament than the new Testament. Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek, you know, that’s not a convention that they want to even talk about, but they were much more convenient or much more comfortable talking about a convention, such as an eye for an eye, which we get in the old Testament. So a convention or the conventional, I think only when it suits their purposes. And, um, you know, if. Separation of church and state. That’s a time honored aspect of American culture, but they don’t really like it because they want Christianity to be important. So I think they’re, they’re using this kind of for a larger end in, in their view. It’s the means justifies the, are the ends justifies the means and the ends is to be secure. So I think they’re very selective and in the conventions that they adopt. And then finally, are they aggressive? Uh, I honestly don’t know. This is a very difficult thing to measure with survey items. And I guess it seems to me.
That they’re aggressive only toward these outsiders. I don’t think they’re particularly aggressive toward other things. So, uh, there, again, my, my basic vision is that they might be authoritarians if you’d like to use that word, if that’s what you’re comfortable with, but recognize that, that they want this authority to do certain things. The authority has to be one that they believe is pursuing security for the in-group. They certainly weren’t very fond of an authority figure. Like. Like Barack Obama when he issued executive orders and kind of took power in his own hands, there was an outcry among the people who would become devoted supporters of Donald Trump. But when Donald Trump does it, uh, to limit immigration, uh, then it’s a wonderful thing. So it is again, if you want to use authoritarian, do it, but recognize that it’s gotta be authoritarian strategies directed toward these secure Tarion ends. Oh, sure. It’s as if
Turi: that last piece, that, that aggression is directed towards defense rather than attack. And that’s that. Peculiar, I suppose, nuance of the word aggression itself, which feels like it’s outgoing. Whereas in fact, in this instance it’s more about protection. Is it almost as if the authoritarian is a type it’s a psychological type one, which differs to authority, but actually defers to authority for a kind of a higher purpose, which would be the security Arion. Dr. So authoritarians might be the response to a securitarian instinct. And I bring that up only because in your book you describe, um, this very long period of history in which. Um, on some level protection always came through or authority. It would only ever be granted by the big Chimp at the top of the tree, protecting others, protecting the clown from outsiders.
But it’s, as I understand what you’re, what you’re doing is isolating what you call a new distinctive pheno type. The secure Attarian drive the secure turn instinct, which is actually one level deeper than the authoritarian response to it. Am I misrepresenting you?
John Hibbing: No, I don’t think so. And yeah. You know, governments play an interesting role today and you’re right in, in the old days, you know, the, the King or the tribal chief was so intimately involved in providing protection. For the, um, the subjects or the, the, uh, fellowship tribe members. And today certainly secure Tarion’s, don’t view it that way. And that’s why there’s been a separation. Now. It’s not just the fact that you say, well, you know, I want the security and therefore it’s going to come from the government. Uh, They don’t see that.
In fact, they view government as a problem. I’ll tell you use a Ronald Reagan’s famous phrase. So they, they think that the government has been too lax. Um, you know, maybe they have been willing to share power with. With Brussels or with the United nations, maybe they think they’ve been too generous and allowing people to come from other countries to our shores. Maybe they think they’ve been too lax on defense that they’re not supporting the police enough, all these things. So in that sense that there’s now a divide between desire for security and the belief that well, that security automatically has to come from the government. And back, one of the things you see with Trump supporters, maybe a little bit unusual to the United States case with regard to, you know, our attitude toward guns is that, you know, this is a very big thing to, to, to be able to protect yourself.
So they no longer believe that the government can do that. In fact, one of the survey items I had asked, if you had a choice between a very powerful, uh, military and defense. And the right to bear arms, which would you pick? And Trump’s supporters overwhelmingly picked the ladder, the right to bear arms.
Turi: Is that different from normal conservatives? Normal conservatives? I mean,
John Hibbing: yeah. Yes in degree. That’s right. Um, traditional conservatives are much more likely to say, to be the kind of interventionists the, uh, John McCain or a type of conservative who really did believe in the defense, uh, of the establishment. And, you know, don’t get me wrong. Uh, Trump supporters do believe in a strong defense. They love the fact that Trump increased spending on the military, but. When push comes to shove, if they had to kind of trust somebody else to defend them, even the military, uh, as opposed to being able to defend themselves, they would take the ladder. They, they really do like the idea of having some personal agency in their own defense.
Turi: It’s fascinating. It feels, it feels almost less hypocritical. Or if I have to be more consistent, let’s put it that way. Um, this is a sort of entrepreneurial authoritarianism. It’s the authoritarian ism of, of one.
John Hibbing: That’s right. And, and, uh, exactly. And, and that’s why I think, you know, this thing we were talking about before the distinction between security Tarion’s and authoritarians, that might seem like just a semantic, uh, argument and, or a trivial point. And maybe it is, but I also think it might suggest that we could be looking over the wrong shoulder if we’re trying to decide what we should be concerned about and an authoritarian that seems to imply that our real concern is that that there’s going to be too much power concentrated. Uh, in this one entity.
And I actually think that going into the future, uh, a bigger problem may be the fact that these individuals just go off on their own as survivalists or, uh, militia members or whatever it is, and not trusting anybody else, even the defense establishment, you know, you saw how they turned down the intelligence community in the United States when some of the intelligence reports were not consistent with what they wanted to hear. Right. So I think they could, they could just withdraw, uh, and arm themselves to the hilt and, and, uh, become survivalists, um, obviously overstating things. But I, I do think that that’s almost a bigger danger than the authoritarian possibility. John,
Turi: you mentioned concern and looking over the wrong or right shoulder. Let’s address this head on you in your last chapter. You have this lovely. Section which says I’m quoting you. Democracy needs people who are committed to it. Even when they’re not getting the policies and outcomes, they want security Aryans now, and in the future are in no mood to offer that commitment because safeguarding insiders is far too important to leave for the, to the vicissitudes of democracy. That’s the end of your quote, our secure, Tarion’s actually a threat to democracy.
John Hibbing: Well, they are in the sense that they, they have no desire to tend to democracy. And my belief is that democracy is a fragile, uh, creature and, and needs to be tended. I think both on the left and right. People need to recognize us. Um, in a more recent survey, I asked a question of people on the left. If you had a choice between, uh, saving the planet and democracy, which would you pick and they picked saving the planet. Now that I think this is an important point because to somebody on the left that’s well, obviously what, what good is democracy if the planet’s gone, but what if you want to understand Trump’s supporters?
Then I think the best lesson I can give you is that for them, this vulnerability there’s this threat to the core group is as existential to them as a planetary collapse is to people on the left. You know, I w both sides need to recognize that democracy does not come naturally to us. We need to take extra steps. Um, and you know, I’ve always said democracy is for losers, and I don’t mean to be too glib about that. And maybe it especially applies to Donald Trump right now, the whole notion of democracy is that you’re going to be, you’re going to have a chance four years from now, or whenever the next election is, you have to believe that. Uh, or else you’ve got nothing. If you really think that by losing this election, you’ve lost everything. And you’re never going to have a chance for you to have a fair shot at winning an election in the future. Then democracy is nothing. So we have to, we have to recognize that losers are going to be disappointed, but they’re going to have a fair shot in the future. And, uh, unfortunately that, that kind of attitude is very much in jeopardy right now.
Turi: Okay. So just, I’m going back to the, to our caves. Um, We’ve got two phenotypes, the one, the security Tarion, which, which, which is obsessed with protection, protecting the in-group from everybody outside that. Ideal setup is strong. Most likely put possibly authoritarian, a strong leader at a big Chimp at the top of this or war organizer or organism or protection organism, um, on the other, you have. This, the other phenotype, the Unitarian one whose greatest concern is a single Chimp becoming so very, very dominant as to crush the life expectancy and opportunities of the little people on some level isn’t democracy already. Unitarian democracy is the Unitarian approach to government. Is that why secure Italians would be inimical to the project itself? Am I oversimplifying?
John Hibbing: No, I think, I think you’re definitely on the right track. I mean, the whole notion of democracy is indeed that we’re going to empower these people who may not have had power otherwise, you know, if it was just, uh, a might makes right. Kind of situation. And so you’re right. Built into the concept of democracy is indeed a sensitivity. To the role that outsiders are going to play. And again, outsiders don’t have to be people outside the borders. They can just be people who live in this country, but who maybe are not part of the core community are not doing so well, who need extra help.
And you’re absolutely right that, uh, that democracy is based on the idea that we’re going to give a voice to people who might not have had that voice otherwise and who are in some sense of the word outsiders.
Turi: So. It’s perfectly natural to expect security Marion’s to chief, very hard at the constraints that democracy imposes on them because it’s kind of not really then natural ideal.
John Hibbing: Is that right? That’s right. I mean, I think the only, the only other possibility is if, if we could imagine, uh, uh, loo uh, ruler, uh, you know, non-democratic situation, somebody who grabbed power, who was just totally against what these security Koreans wanted, but that’s, that seems unlikely to happen. The kind of people who gravitate toward, uh, toward, uh, power in that sense are probably going to have a security Tarion mentality as well. So, uh, yeah, w with that one exception, I agree with you.
Turi: I want to extend this a little bit, because you talk in your book about the fact that actually across media, um, across journalism, even in research, there was some suggestion that security Tarion’s a much less concerned with. Accuracy, um, facts, et cetera, et cetera, and see media far more as a means to achieve security. Marion ends not in a deliberately malevolent or insidious way, just from a gut perspective. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?
John Hibbing: Well, yeah, I think we’re maybe circling back to that point about, about everything being a means to an end. And if, if security is what you just have to have, if you think that your, your insider group is under threat from all kinds of places and that people just don’t get you the way that they should, that, that the modern world is, is kind of, uh, pushing against what you’re all about. Then I think you’re going to be. Eager to believe whatever it takes. Uh, one of the things I found that I thought was kind of interesting. I hope this isn’t too much of a tangent is that, uh, when I ask questions, you know, what are you threatened by? And it turns out that the people on the left are much more threatened by most things.
But when you get down to these, these types of threats that I’m talking about, and that we’ve discussed today, uh, immigrants. Uh, protestors, terrorists, uh, foreign countries, uh, then you see that, uh, the Trump supporters, uh, their level of threat goes up dramatically. So, um, No, I think we need to recognize that if you think that that’s such a threat, then you’re going to be willing to do just about anything. And if, if somebody else doesn’t seem to imply that that’s a threat, then you’re probably just going to deny the accuracy of that. And that’s where the, uh, the fake media comes through that. They just think that can’t be true. And I guess I started to say that, uh, you know, some Trump supporters aren’t threatened by immigrants about 25%.
So that’s kind of interesting. What I think is even more interesting is if you look at those individuals, uh, they frequently say that immigrants make the country better. Uh, they don’t commit a lot of crime. Um, they like immigrants, but then they say we don’t want immigrants to come. We want to reduce the level of immigration. So I think that’s kind of fascinating. It’s it’s like, regardless of what they might contribute to society, They don’t belong here and we want them to go away, even if we think they make the country better. So it doesn’t have to be a threat. It just has to be, this is my vision of how the world works. And if media isn’t providing that vision, then the media must be wrong. One
Turi: of the features of today’s world, today’s political world across the West, um, which has had millions of column inches, um, Published about it is this feature of polarization political sorting. Um, one of the things that you say is it actually today secure Italians, much like your Trump supporters who not necessarily anti-immigration and not so worried about the threat of invasion and therefore, because the world is not a dangerous place, militarily, at least on the surface.
But they are much more worried therefore about, um, those people they think might destroy their vision from within I’ve expressed this badly. But I think what you talk to is the fact that this, um, this harsh vision of the outsider for many has turned inwards and sort of prompts what might look like a witch hunt or the beginnings of a civil war inside societies where security Tarion’s feel at threat.
John Hibbing: Yeah. Um, that’s right. I think maybe the way I’d put it is for a lot of securitarians the only thing worse than an outsider is an insider who doesn’t understand the threat posed by outsiders. Um, and, and so that’s where. To go back to my survey results. I think I said 75% of Trump supporters are threatened by immigrants. 75% are also threatened by liberals. So I think that’s, they almost expect more out of liberals. They can’t imagine why somebody who lives in their society, who maybe also is a white, straight male Christian, how can they not get this? How can they not see the threat? How can they want more immigrants to come to our show?
Uh, so I think that is, uh, just, uh, Uh, absolutely. Uh, you know, uh, bamboozles them and I leads to a lot of the polarization that we see today. I think, I think it’s going to be interesting, you know, a lot of, of, uh, racial minorities, um, do have security Tarion tendencies. And I think as, uh, not as many as, as whites, but it’s, it’s there and it’s growing, uh, in Hispanics and in the black community, we see a lot of security and attitudes. And I think as those attitudes have been muted, of course, because when you’re not a member of the core insider group, then that’s going to be very difficult for you to kind of manifest those security and tendencies. But, uh, hopefully this will. Be an issue as life becomes better as, as these racial minorities become more insiders, uh, than in the past. And we saw that in previous generations were Italian immigrants or Irish immigrants would eventually become part of the insider group. You know, that’s going to happen with others as well. Um, and then it may be that, that, that actually increases the number of securitarians in a way, because those individuals who have been able or who were suppressing that because they weren’t treated properly. Uh, and that would be able to manifest that. I love this
Turi: parallel that you’ve just flagged because as, as I was reading your book, I’m hearing about the very large number of securities that emerged out of ethnic minorities, which of course is natural. Um, the pheno type, as you describe, it exists across all racist as it, as it would. Um, but my reaction was very much, um, the same as the security Marion’s view that somebody inside might want to let the. The bad guys in, I sort of had the same reaction. And in fact, we’ve seen it very strongly in the UK. We have a home, um, a home secretary called pretty Patel who is of Indian descent, who is extremely Securitate in her approach, but is attacked by the left. All the more, very literally precisely because she is an immigrant second gen herself because she’s Brown. The assumption is that she could no, there’s no way that she could have taken that position. It makes it somehow it makes her even more culpable as
John Hibbing: a result. Yeah, that’s that’s right. That is an interesting kind of flip side of it. Here. We have a lot of people who are, uh, who can’t understand why, uh, white male straight Christians would be, would be liberal. And then here you have the opposite situation, which is certainly a really revealing one. How could a minority member have, uh, have some of those ideas? And we have that in the States too. Of course. So going to Ben Carson ran for president and is now in the Trump administration. And I think maybe this is an important point. Uh, and I know we’re running out of time, but, um, one of the reasons that a lot of Trump supporters insist that they’re not racist is that they will embrace some people who are, uh, members of the minority community, if they have secure Tarion values. So I think that’s going to be an interesting thing as time goes on. Yeah. Um, it’s almost like we’ve moved this. The key thing is not, are you a minority or are you an outsider insider, but what is your attitude toward outsiders or insiders? It’s almost as though there’s an ideological components rather than the racial and ethnic components are going to become Supreme.
Turi: So last question for you. Um, we’ve unearthed, you have unearthed this security Aryan personality. It feels as if we are at a security, Marion moment across Western politics. Now that Trump has been. Um, has been moved down and Biden comes over. Do, does this movement disappear is the fact that the cat is out of the bag now mean that we are going to be living with security and politics across conservative politics for the foreseeable. What does the future look like? Can this cat be put back in the bag?
John Hibbing: Well to start with your, your last question. My answer would be no. And you know, I think this, this mindset has always been with us. Um, it’s, it’s there, whether it’s, you know, I mean, it’s surprising to me, if you look around the world, how often around 20%, maybe 25, maybe 15, somewhere in there of a lot of countries, uh, voters will vote for a right-wing authoritarian people’s kinds of parties. And so that’s, that’s curious to me, but I think it does suggest that this is a fairly universal attitude or personality mindset, whatever you want to call it. I think it’s always been with us. Uh, sometimes it doesn’t manifest itself. Sometimes the political issues of the day deal with completely different issues, issues that are our fog and Alto security and Unitarian divide.
Uh, but we could go back through history and identify leaders that appeal to this, uh, this kind of mindset. So I think it’s always been there. I think it’s always going to be there in the future. You know, a lot of people ask me, why did it really come to a head here in recent years when we can go around the world and spot a lot of people seasoned control who have this, this mindset? Uh, I don’t have a good answer for that. I think a lot of it depends on the structure of the system. And here, you know, a lot of European multi-party systems probably are advantageous to, uh, an American and British two-party system where if one party is, uh, the, the levers of power at that party are, are seized by, uh, people like Donald Trump. Uh, then you know, that party has a chance of winning, whereas in a multi-party system, that’s a little bit less likely, although you could play a King maker role in a, in a cabinet coalition. Well, the point is, you know, these structural things can make a difference in terms of whether or not that kind of mindset is going to come to power. But my answer to your question is if this is going to be with us for a long time, it’s probably going to be worse now that they have had their day in the sun, they have had their, their. Favorite person in the world, uh, serve in the white house for four years. Uh, you know, I think that’s going to make it very difficult for them to, uh, to kind of retreat gracefully.
And this is something that the Republican party is certainly going to have to deal with. But I think democracy is all around the world as well, because as you said, securitarianism is on some profound level inimical to the very process.
Turi: Exactly John, this is not, I never managed to finish podcasts on an optimistic note. I think it must be a personality type of mine, or maybe it’s my politics. Um, this has been absolutely fascinating. We will link to the book in the, uh, in the author notes of the podcast. Um, thank you so much for spending time with us walking us through this central
John Hibbing: idea. Oh, it’s been a pleasure. I really appreciate the depth that will choose you approach this. A lot of times that doesn’t happen in these kinds of interviews. Thank you very much.