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Yep, Kids Can Be Fascists Too

How can you tell if you're raising a despot? There's actually a test for that.

Fascism is, in practice, the support of radical authoritarian nationalism, typically enacted through anti-democratic abuses of power, violence against minorities, and interference with free markets. The term gets bandied about a lot (Republicans are fascists! Political Correctness is fascist! Southwest Airlines is fascist), but it’s generally misused. Analysts have argued that, in an age of reactionary politics and crude political labels, we’ve cheapened the term “fascist” into meaninglessness. That said, the impulse to embrace fascism is a real thing. Extreme ideologies have a magnetic pull on certain sorts of people. And, yes, it’s quite possible to tell if your child is one of those people.

The Right Wing Authoritarian Scale (or California F-Scale), developed by Bob Altemeyer in 1981, tests whether the people who take it are fascists, who it suggests are cynical, destructive, untrusting, and untrustworthy. If you have a child that seems overwhelmingly attracted to people who wield power with impunity, it’s worth going through the scale. It’s worth trying to figure out if you’ve got a despot or sympathizer on your hands.

Meet The Right Wing Authoritarian Scale

Ask your child to answer the following questions with: Very Strongly Disagree (-4), Strongly Disagree (-3), Moderately Disagree (-2), Slightly Disagree (-1), Neutral (0), Slightly Agree (1), Moderately Agree (2), Strongly Agree (3), Very Strongly Agree (4). Don’t count questions 1 and 2 (they’re warm-ups) and, for questions 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 20, 21, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31, make sure to reverse score (just change the plus or minus sign to the opposite sign). Finally, average all the scores by adding up the total score and dividing that by 32. (It’s a lot, we know. Sorry.)

  1. The established authorities generally turn out to be right about things, while the radicals and protesters are usually just “loudmouths” showing off their ignorance.
  2. Women should have to promise to obey their husbands when they get married.
  3. Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.
  4. Gays and lesbians are just as healthy and moral as anybody else.
  5. It is always better to trust the judgment of the proper authorities in government and religion than to listen to the noisy rabble-rousers in our society who are trying to create doubt in people’s minds.
  6. Atheists and others who have rebelled against the established religions are no doubt every bit as good and virtuous as those who attend church regularly.
  7. The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get back to our traditional values, put some tough leaders in power, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad ideas.
  8. There is absolutely nothing wrong with nudist camps.
  9. Our country needs free thinkers who have the courage to defy traditional ways, even if this upsets many people.
  10. Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash the perversions eating away at our moral fiber and traditional beliefs.
  11. Everyone should have their own lifestyle, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, even if it makes them different from everyone else.
  12. The “old-fashioned ways” and the “old-fashioned values” still show the best way to live.
  13. You have to admire those who challenged the law and the majority’s view by protesting for women’s abortion rights, for animal rights, or to abolish school prayer.
  14. What our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush evil, and take us back to our true path.
  15. Some of the best people in our country are those who are challenging our government, criticizing religion, and ignoring the “normal way things are supposed to be done.”
  16. God’s laws about abortion, pornography and marriage must be strictly followed before it is too late, and those who break them must be strongly punished.
  17. It would be best for everyone if the proper authorities censored magazines so that people could not get their hands on trashy and disgusting material.
  18. There is nothing wrong with premarital sexual intercourse.
  19. Our country will be great if we honor the ways of our forefathers, do what the authorities tell us to do, and get rid of the “rotten apple” who are ruining everything.
  20. There is no “one right way” to live life; everybody has to create their own way.
  21. Homosexuals and feminists should be praised for being brave enough to defy “traditional family values.”
  22. This country would work a lot better if certain groups of troublemakers would just shut up and accept their group’s traditional place in society.
  23. There are many radical, immoral people in our country today, who are trying to ruin it for their own godless purposes, whom the authorities should put out of action.
  24. People should pay less attention to the Bible and the other old forms of religious guidance, and instead develop their own personal standards of what is moral and immoral.
  25. What our country needs most is discipline, with everyone following our leaders in unity.
  26. It’s better to have trashy magazines and radical pamphlets in our communities than to let the government have the power to censor them.
  27. The facts on crime, sexual immorality, and the recent public disorders all show we have to crack down harder on deviant groups and troublemakers if we are going to save our moral standards and preserve law and order.
  28. A lot of our rules regarding modesty and sexual behavior are just customs that are not necessarily any better or holier than those other people follow.
  29. The situation in our country is getting so serious, the strongest methods would be justified if they eliminated the troublemakers and got us back to our true path.
  30. A “woman’s place” should be wherever she wants to be. The days when women are submissive to their husbands and social conventions belong strictly in the past.
  31. It is wonderful that young people today have greater freedom to protest against things they don’t like, and to make their own “rules” to govern their behavior.
  32. Once our government leaders give us the “go ahead,” it will be the duty of every patriotic citizen to help stomp out the rot that is poisoning our country from within.

What’s My Kid’s Score Mean?

As of 1950, the average American scored 3.84. But that was in the immediate aftermath of World War II and we’ve mellowed since then. Nowadays, any score shy of 4.5 is considered non-fascist. Scores of 5.5 or greater suggest possible fascist tendencies, and scores lower that 2 suggest that you may have a bleeding heart liberal on your hands. (Good luck with either).

But I Don’t Want My Kid To Be A Fascist.

Too late. Sorry.

Seriously?

No, not seriously. First of all, this test was designed to be administered with clinical controls and by trained professionals. You’re probably not a trained professional, and your living room is probably not a clinic setting. So take any results with a grain of salt. But if you are concerned that your child is displaying dangerous political views, one of the only studies on the subject suggests you’d be better off not talking about it. Researchers found that parents who train their kids to engage in political discourse tend to see their efforts backfire when they get to college and talk themselves into opposing political ideologies. On the other hand, if you ignore politics, most odd opinions disappear on their own, as children usually regress toward the mean—a fancy way of saying that American society will probably beat the fascism out of them for you.

If, however, your children gave specifically problematic answers to certain questions, it may be time to have a frank conversation about individual rights and respecting others. And of course, if you’re truly concerned, it’s never a bad idea to discuss that with a doctor or psychologist.