Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Political "Other"

Assistant Village Idiot long has observed that progressivism is tribal and relatively resistant to evidence. So does Pajamas Media's Belladonna Rogers:
Even without a heated argument, a calm discussion is difficult to have with many liberals because they limit themselves to so few sources of information. An interesting exchange is foreclosed by their willful ignorance. It can be like talking with a cult member whose involvement forbids contact with anything that isn’t cult-approved.

When your interlocutor reads the New York Times and The New Yorker, listens to National Public Radio, and watches The Rachel Maddow Show -- all uncritically and in the mistaken belief that these are objective sources of accurate information, what you’re dealing with is a person with an extremely restricted understanding of the country and the world. These parochial news sources reinforce one another. And even worse, the liberal will usually refuse to expose him-or-herself to a wider variety of sources. I, myself, had the experience of emailing a liberal acquaintance a link to an insightful op-ed piece that appeared in a newspaper that is, apparently, on the liberal "do not read" list. In reply, he wrote, "The Wall Street Journal? Please take me off your distribution list, Belladonna." Wouldn’t even read it. He saw the source, knew it wasn’t approved, and that was that.

What not to do: Don’t think you can convert a liberal to your views. Political affiliation has become a matter of tribal and personal identification with a group. Although it may appear to be rational, it isn’t, entirely. It’s emotional. The desire to remain a liberal, even in the face of all the evidence of its failures, is born of humanity’s -- and all living creatures’ -- deepest instincts to affiliate with others and to retain that affiliation regardless of logic or facts.
Disheartening, but I'm beginning to agree.


Whitehall said...

Everyone has to have some sort of discriminator about how to allocate their time gathering information. As a conservative, my liberal San Francisco Bay Area family members keep giving me books as presents that I need not take the time to read.

But I think I have a reason. For example, I was given Friedman's "The World is Flat." I could hardly finish the first chapter - it was clearly based on unclear assumptions and faulty reasoning that going further would be a waste of time.

So, given a choice of spending 20 hours reading Fareed Zakaria or the same time with Paul Johnson, my choice is clear.

I also cancelled my subscription to the San Jose Mercury-News after deciding it was a waste of time and money.

So, am I "tribal" too?

Warren said...

Unfortunately, there's just as much tribalism, if that's what you want to call it, on the right as there is on the left.

One can believe in god and still believe in evolution -- yet we have this from Ben Stein discussing his film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."
Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: … Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.


In a conservative salon discussing Stein and his film, I brought up many facts to support the position that Stein was wrong to believe that what he calls Darvinism is "the most compelling argument yet for Imperialism" and the inspiration for the Holocaust.

All that came back were hard looks and cold shoulders, a challenge for me to disprove that god exits, and an offer to see Stein's film for free.

This would all be fine if beliefs like Stein's did not impact government policy. As you know, several states have passed bills to discuss "the controversy" in science class.

Both the right and the left have gods that are, for many, off limits to rational thought.

OBloodyHell said...

>>> All that came back were hard looks and cold shoulders, a challenge for me to disprove that god exist, and an offer to see Stein's film for free

Warren, you take the wrong approach on this, though I agree with you that there is a strong degree of such tribalism on the part of "strong conservatives", just on a different (and, I think, less catastrophic) set of precepts...

On the whole Darwinism-v-God element, the fun track is much like that you would take on racism with a libtard ("I just can't understand why Democrats are so racist..." -- if their heads don't explode right there, you can have real fun and get a lot of mental exercise dictating all the racist practices, history, and presumptions inherent in postmodern liberalism).

For a conservative/Xtian, the fun solution is to demonstrate to them how rejecting Darwin demonstrates a weak Faith in God, to wit:

1) It is self-evident that God, if He exists (and we're taking that as a given, mind you) does not WANT to Prove to us He exists. This is self-evident -- if He wanted us to Know, then all He would need to do is to open the heavens, and, with a mere whispering shout, say "I'm HERE ya big dummies!". Q.E.D, He does not wish to Prove Himself -- He wishes, for some reason we do not fully, if at all, comprehend, for us to have/develop Faith in Him.

2) The classical arguments against evolution ALL revolve around some idea/notion that God MUST have created things, because the Universe is "too improbable" (no point in arguing this, just ack it to them). Ergo, if we assume this assertion correct -- God must be incompetent, since He could not create a universe in which there was not inherent proof of His existence.

3) God is not incompetent (says it right there on the label), at least, if you have true Faith in Him. Therefore the assertion made in "2" must be false -- you cannot by logical inference assert that the universe requires God to exist. To do so results in a Proof By Contradiction.

4) From this we can make a rational assertion that there MUST be another logical explanation for the universe and life's development, an explanation which is both possible and which does not require Him to have any hand in it.

To this point, then, the best current understandings available to us lie within Cosmology and Evolution.

And right about here, you get some real mileage and fun by reiterating your initial assertion:
"So, tell me... why do you have so little Faith in Him(God)?"

You won't likely win or change their minds, but there IS a chance that they'll get their eyes open, since there is no analogous counterpart in Conservatives to the Liberal Midnight Reset Button**... you will have made an impact on their world view and, though it may take time to percolate, if they are actually intelligent instead of braindead echobots for conservativism and/or Xtianity, they will, in time, Figure It Out.

** Liberal Midnight Reset Button: see next missive

OBloodyHell said...

The primary thing to grasp about liberals is The Midnight Reset Button.

There's a device built into their tiny widdle brains (such as they are) which acts on their memory processes as it processes the day's experiences into permanent storage.

It examines all the day's learning in light of Officially Accepted Liberal Positions®.

If it finds ANYTHING which violates an OALP, it is instantly purged and removed from further affect on the brain (such as it is).

This explains how you can, with any liberal, start from one of their more Cherished OALPs, take them, step by step, through a reasoning process and show how that OALP is categorically guaranteed to result in exactly the opposite of that thing which the OALP is intended to promote, and have them agree with you utterly and completely every step of the way, even unto the conclusion that the OALP is blatantly, inherently wrong (They'll weasel it almost every time with "Hmmm. I'm going to have to think about this some more").

Then, despite this, when you see them again a day, or two days, or a week, later, they will still be arguing in total and complete support of the OALP you just wasted your time demonstrating to them was utterly and completely defective in every way, shape, or form.

The Midnight Reset Button has done its nefarious work.

Once you grasp that this is not a joke, that it's an actual, functioning mechanism inside libtard brains (such as they are), you will have a far greater understanding of how it is that liberals make no sense.

Now, this does NOT mean it is a waste of time to perform such an action -- It still forces YOU to process the information, and examine it for flaws related to newer data you have obtained, and/or new viewpoints which you might deem relevant.

But the purpose is always for your benefit -- a reality self-check -- and not for the benefit or expectation of a change in their point of view.

It may still happen -- some people are liberal because of environment -- they've never gotten it shoved in their face before (Neo-neocon is a prime example) but they are exceptions, not the standard.

@nooil4pacifists said...

Whitehall: No--because conservatives CAN'T escape contact with the MSN and it's liberal views. We may not subscribe to the Times (or the Mercury News), but we hear their views incessantly.

I couldn't read "World is Flat" either, btw, for the same reasons.

Lame-R said...

@OBH--your explanation of the Midnight Reset Button is brilliant!

@Warren--unfortunately, you're right, there is plenty of mindless-zombie tribalism among conservatives. However, it seems to me that at least when it comes to political and economic matters, conservatives seem to have a more evidence-based approach to the issues. ofc, this might all just be a self-flattery, though I like to think that being a former moderate Lefty I at least have a little experience with both sides.

Nevertheless, this is a major reason I so appreciate Carl's thorough and balanced analyses, because among the likes of him I would be considered a mindless conservative zombie in comparison. My more informed and more articulate peers help me remain grounded in reason, and leave me more likely to profit from an encounter with a mindless liberal zombie.

Warren said...


Good strategy but I've long given up engaging people in discussions about god.

In any case, the conversation that night was more about whether "Darwinism" led directly to Hitler and the Holocaust.

I think more than a reset button, many have a Teflon memory ... or a file with a hole in the bottom. Nothing sticks, or nothing really enters permanent memory in the first place. I don't think they have to sleep on it.

It's sort of like how the iris closes reflexively in bright light. A mind snaps closed reflexively when a fact counters a strongly held belief. It's sort of a survival instinct.

Facts may be retained on the surface so you can hold a brief conversation, but after that they're gone.

There's not much incentive to admit you've been wrong all these years.

If conservatives are evil scum who who want to hurt the poor and needy, there's not much incentive to agree with them. How can you face yourself? And what would you say to your fellow travelers?

I believe psychology has a term a for what we're discussing: disconfirmation bias.

OBloodyHell said...

> Good strategy but I've long given up engaging people in discussions about god.

Warren, recall, the purpose of arguing your position should never solely be to change the mind of your opponent. As a matter of fact, I never assume I'll have any luck in that regard.

"What's the point, then?" you may ask...

The purpose should be twofold:
1) To do a thorough review of your own position and its basis elements. This encourages you to analyze all of these parts in the possible light of new information or changed information, as well as forcing you to defend them against another viewpoint or "attack direction" than you have experienced in the past. It also allows you to review your web of reasoning, which often leads to either corrections in the web or newly added threads based on new information unavailable when you first made the web, or even new notions of things relevant to the web which you hadn't put in place before. I have this happen all the time.

2) This assumes a semi-public venue, but: Recall that others may be listening/reading, not just your opponent. By carrying your position well, you provide others the opportunity to see how your argument and its related claims stack up against your opposition's. If you comport yourself well, you may convert 10 people to your point of view even if you don't make the slightest change in the PoV of your opposition. Moreover, if your opponent does badly -- especially if they resort to cheap attacks and/or vile invective -- it can lead others to properly distrust them as a source of information, as, if they are libtards, is generally A Real Good Idea.

Finally, never underestimate the value of meme percolation. An idea placed in the mind as a seedcorn, even in the most rock-hard and hidebound brain on the planet, can, over time, act just as water in a crack in a boulder over years, and break it down. Though you may never, ever see it, it's at least possible to change a mind this way. No, that's not the way to bet, but it's incidental anyway. The real purposes of having the discussion lie in 1 and 2.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives are doing a good job of destroying the USA via the Tea Party and the Republican Party. They've abandoned patriotism, democracy and sanity. The posturing with self-righteous anger doesn't make their greedy, self-centered, destructive positions correct. Most of the wrong-doers of history had the same self-righteous, indignant posture all the while they did (and continue to do) murder of innocents and destruction of civilization.

Warren said...

Here's a good example of emotional speech. Margaret Carlson wasn't aware of what she just said.

Charles Krauthammer Scolds Margaret Carlson for Saying Tea Party 'Strapped Explosives to the Capitol'

Read more:

Warren said...


I'll engage a stranger if I see him wearing a Che t-shirt. But I avoid discussing the existence of god even with friends. Done it too often in the past.

Warren said...


You wrote: "Most of the wrong-doers of history had the same self-righteous, indignant posture all the while they did (and continue to do) murder of innocents and destruction of civilization."

You must be referring to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the Mullahs in Iran, and other proponents of limited government, free markets, personal responsibility, the right to bear arms and personal liberty.

Anonymous said...

You know who they are. Be honest with yourself and others.

Self-righteous indignation is a pose of some people trying to dominate other people.

Why do you care what people believe? It is how they behave that counts. Agnostics and atheists are as moral or more moral than many who claim to believe in God, especially those who insist that their particular word for God, e.g., "Allah," "Jesus" is the ONLY correct name to use for God. Let's truly respect the right of individuals to think and believe what they believe and think and not insist they march in lockstep with all those dead powerandcontrolfreaks who sought to impose their beliefs on others.

Warren said...


First of all, I'm an atheist. And speaking for myself and a couple of other atheists I know, you are a terrible embarrassment.

Second: it's the liberals in government and the press who are calling conservatives "terrorists" and "Taliban".

How exactly does that jive with "Let's truly respect the right of individuals to think and believe what they believe and think and not insist they march in lockstep with all those dead powerandcontrolfreaks who sought to impose their beliefs on others" ?

Third: I don't know who "they" are. But I bet their belief in god is less destructive than the liberal blind and mistaken belief in the Hope & Change of Barack Obama.

Anonymous said...

The Conservative Republicans and Tea Party people are destroying the USA....our economy and our society. They have offered nothing at all to create jobs. Republican George Bush's tax cuts for the rich did nothing to create jobs. Republican George Bush's big spending of taxpayer dollars started the upward spiral of the now huge national debt while Republicans remained silent. That's okay. The stock market is trying to tell you what you can't hear from intelligent economists and business people. Even Warren Buffett realizes that his paying half the income tax rate his receptionist pays is simply wrong. You don't seem to get that. The middle class is now poor. A million children a year are entering poverty from what used to be a middle class in our country. Good going. Conservatives are destroying the USA. It's that simple. We are in or on the brink of a great depression. Open your ears and eyes and minds and you will get it. Try truth. It works. Listen to the stock market. Can you hear what it's trying to tell you?

OBloodyHell said...

>> Listen to the stock market. Can you hear what it's trying to tell you?

"Obama is an incompetent jackass".

I'm willing to bet that YOU are the one not "hearing" what it's saying.

OBloodyHell said...

>>> Why do you care what people believe? It is how they behave that counts.

In the purest sense, yes, this is accurate.

I'd much rather get behavior I agree with by reason and dialogue, than by fiat and force.

Being such a libertarian fascist and all that.

I also find the former is much more enduring, and generally far more pleasant. Especially since I'm not a sadistic liberal who gets off on forcing others to do things against their will because it feeds their petty little tyrant egos.

OBloodyHell said...

>>> Even Warren Buffett realizes that his paying half the income tax rate his receptionist pays is simply wrong.

Yes, but the CLAIM is what's wrong, not the actuality of it.

For one thing, a large proportion of Buffet's "income" is derived from capital gains, not from any salaries. This makes for lots of ways charlatans and fools, whichever category you come from, can make lots of silly noises over.

Anyone who has seen the ACTUAL figures for across-the-board tax payments by people with incomes in various quintiles knows what a total crock of excreta this whole "Buffet pays less than the middle class" meme is.

OBloodyHell said...

Oh, and one last bit of relevancy, the REAL problem is that Buffet's vast assets, and the income generated by them, were protected a century ago by the laws that created "tax-free foundations", which the majority of Buffet's wealth (along with the other 1% of 1% who are the REAL people being targeted with this folderol in the first place) is hidden from taxation in.

Shifting INCOME taxes won't change jack or his smelly companion as far as the "Rich Bastards" you find so odious.

But you'd have to be something other than a totally ignorant FOOL (aka "liberal") to even have an inkling of this widely available FACT.