I recently finished a book called The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney. It’s highly informative and, as the author promised, full of criticisms of both sides – not just Republicans. Though those of course were the most entertaining for me.
In fact, in his critique of liberals (in the introduction, no less!!) he stopped me dead in my tracks, then compelling me to read on despite my slight embarrassment. Behold, a passage that will almost certainly make you laugh when you think of how it applies to sites like this one:
“For after all, what about liberals? Aren’t we wrong too, and dogmatic too?
The typical waffling liberal answer is ‘er… sort of.’ Liberals aren’t always right – I’ll show some cases where they’re misguided and even fairly doctrinaire about it – but that’s not the central problem. Our particular dysfunction is, typically, more complex and even paradoxical.
On the one hand, we’re absolutely outraged by partisan misinformation. Lies about “death panels.” People seriously thinking that President Obama is a Muslim. Climate change denial. Debt ceiling denial. These things drive us crazy, in large part because we can’t comprehend how such intellectual abominations could possibly exist. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a fellow liberal say, ‘I can’t believe the Republicans are so stupid they can believe X!’
And not only are we enraged by lies and misinformation; we want to refute them – to argue, argue, argue about why we’re right and Republicans are wrong. Indeed, we often act as though right-wing misinformation’s defeat is nigh, if we could only make people wiser and more educated (just like us) and get them the medicine that is correct information.
In this, we both underestimate conservatives, and we fail to understand them.”
That pretty well shut me up.
The rest of the book, while quite informative and even hilarious at times, is devoted to detailing why exactly Republicans cannot be reached through reason, especially this particular variety of it – you know, the traditional “show them facts and statistics” method. He even tries to make the existence of “Republican facts” (versus actual facts) seem understandable.
This is because of a certain cognitive dissonance in their heads that occurs when they are faced with two conflicting ideas that appear to work against one another (for instance, the Bible telling people to give away their possessions to the poor, versus their belief in the virtue of hard work eventually leading to prosperity). In order to reconcile these two opposing ideas, they engage in what is called “motivated reasoning.” This can be seen in liberals, Democrats, Progressives, leftists, moderates, gays (whatever you want to call us) as well; for example, there’s a reason I picked up a book called “The Republican Brain” whereas a typical Republican probably would not. I’m expecting it to be insulting, and for the same reason, one group gravitates towards it, and the other avoids it.
However, where we get into a discussion of “right” and “wrong” where the two parties are concerned is when we consider what exactly is being denied, in which precise areas we are using our “motivated reasoning” skills. Most of the areas wherein Republicans deny reality have to do with things that are demonstrably true like global warming and evolution, whereas Democrats tend to have much more respect for science and actual facts, which is why more highly-educated people like scholars and experts are being pushed to the left when many of them might normally identify with a more right wing economic or social ideology. This is also the reason why universities and schools are being seen more and more as the seat of left-wing political indoctrination; the “elite” are filling our kids’ heads with facts that conflict with the Republican dream of reality, and suddenly being smart and legitimately qualified to do so becomes a bad thing. This kind of thinking can be extremely dangerous when rich, powerful, fact-denying people are the favoured representatives of a majority of the most powerful country on Earth.
The most dangerous case of widespread Democratic denial is probably the quasi-religious faith in the safety of nuclear energy — but there are so many more cases of Republicans denying the truth, and even going so far as constructing their own version of the truth, so that they do not have to reconcile their opposing ideas with reality. And they do it across the board, in nearly all categories from science to economy to their understanding of current events. Even history!!
So, since I now understand everything I do here to be a complete waste of time where effecting positive change is concerned, I’m going to treat it as a soapbox from which I can happily preach to the choir, saying all the things I generally hold back from saying because I don’t want to offend people. I mean, if I’m not going to change anyone’s mind anyway, why bother being politically correct?
And what’s more, I’m going to continue confronting sensitive topics, but my stance will be far more incendiary. For instance, I’m blaming the thousands of drug war-related deaths of Mexican civilians on Republican policies regarding drug laws, gun laws, and immigration, because in my mind and those of others far smarter than I, they are directly responsible. And if Republican halfwits and Tea Party cretins don’t agree, I now know it’s because their brains just don’t allow them to see reason. (Conservatives, however, are a different story. Conservatives are friends, not food!!)
Thank you, Chris Mooney. In many ways, I feel you have freed me from the bonds of “having to be polite and reasonable toward the idiots that are ruining my country.” Since, you know, they aren’t listening to politeness and reason anyway!
– THE DUEL CITIZEN