The dynamic of the authoritarian group, is on which the individual, out of herd consciousness, develops a dependent relationship with the group, similar to the bond of the child with the mother. This bond can cause the individual to act contradictory to his character. Jeb Magruder, one of the participants in the Watergate break-in, explained his involvement this way:
“We were willing to subvert our own moral character to the character of the group, and we went down the tubes in the process. I cannot justify it, but I can say that it was not unique. There were thirty-eight people involved in Watergate. Most of them were competent, well-to-do lawyers and businessmen, all with good motives. We did not come to Washington to commit crimes; However, we did.”
This subverting one’s values can and does take place in any group dynamic, however, it is especially strong and negative in its mental impact in authoritarian systems of religion, or secular groups wherein an irrational fervor akin to religious feeling is stimulated.
Most groups, whether they are primitive tribes, nations, or religions, are concerned with their own survival and the continuation of the power of their leaders, and they exploit the inherent moral sense of their members, to arouse them against outsiders with whom there is conflict. Moreover, they use the incestuous ties, which keep a person in moral bondage to his own group, to stifle his moral sense and his judgment, so that he will not criticize his own group for violations of moral principles which if committed by others would drive him into violent opposition.
Fidelity to the group can cause one to live by a double standard. An extreme example of this was enacted under the Nazi regime.
The Nazis declared the Jewish race the most heinous presence on the earth and enumerated a long list of grievances against them.
They then proceeded to commit terrible atrocities against Jews with impunity. These atrocities far surpassed anything the Jews were supposedly guilty of. Had the Nazis been the victims, they would have protested vehemently. This double standard was nothing but a secular brand of religious fervor.
Nazism, after all, was nothing but worship of the state; and religious fervor, however it is evoked, is a powerful motivator. In this connection,
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as “moral outrage,” which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.
Moral indignation was precisely what the Nazis felt in their justification of “the final solution”.
Of course, this is an extreme example of where rationalization can lead. Usually, milder forms are enacted.
Nevertheless, we shall see that when an authoritarian dynamic is rationalized, it has a negative psychological impact on both the perpetrator and the victim.