Green Gullibility

…and hyperpartisanship:

What we have here is a death spiral: the worse things get for the movement, the more scrupulously and cautiously it needs to behave, but the more incautiously and emotionally it becomes — leading to more failure and worse advocacy.

The root cause of all this remains, in VM’s opinion, a truly idiotic set of policy proposals that, no matter the state of the underlying science, simply cannot and will not be implemented.

Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make green. Just ask Peter Gleick.

To get back to the source material for Mead’s post, this phenomenon of conservatives/libertarians comprehending the left’s positions much better than vice versa is just a special case. Jonathan Haidt has an interesting piece in this month’s issue of Reason (not on line yet) on the consistent and persistent asymmetry of this miscomprehension, which is described in a review of his book at the New York Times:

The hardest part, Haidt finds, is getting liberals to open their minds. Anecdotally, he reports that when he talks about authority, loyalty and sanctity, many people in the audience spurn these ideas as the seeds of racism, sexism and homophobia. And in a survey of 2,000 Americans, Haidt found that self-described liberals, especially those who called themselves “very liberal,” were worse at predicting the moral judgments of moderates and conservatives than moderates and conservatives were at predicting the moral judgments of liberals. Liberals don’t understand conservative values. And they can’t recognize this failing, because they’re so convinced of their rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment.

From the Reason article:

We asked more than 2,000 American visitors to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answer as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were by comparing peoples’ expectations about “typical” partisans to the actual responses from partisans on the left and right. Who was best able to pretend to be the other?

The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal.” The biggest errors in the study came when liberals answer care and fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with statements such as “one of the worst things one can do is to hurt a defenseless animal” or “justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree. If you have a moral matrix built primarily on intuitions about care and fairness (as equality) and you listen to the Reagan narrative, what else could you think? Reagan seems completely unconcerned about the welfare of drug addicts, poor people and gay people. He is more interested in fighting wars and telling people how to run their sex lives.

If you don’t see that Reagan is pursuing positive values of loyalty, authority and sanctity, you almost have to conclude that Republican see no positive value in care and fairness. You might even go so far as Michael Feingold, theater critic for The Village Voice, when he wrote in 2004, “Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet…Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.” One of the [many] ironies in this quotation is that is shows the inability of a theater critic–who skillfully enters fantastical imaginary worlds for a living–to imagine that Republicans operate within a moral matrix that differs from his own.

Not also the leftist eliminationist rhetoric from the people who deign to lecture us, the great unwashed, about civility.

As I said, Gleick was just a special case of this broader problem. Many of the leftist warm mongers continue to fantasize that the faked Heartland document is real, while it was almost immediately obvious to those on the other side, even those sympathetic to the AGW thesis, like Megan McArdle, that it was faked, because no conservative would have written such a thing in such a way. Gleick wrote it that way, and his partners in fraud thought it perfectly plausible, exactly because they lack this ability to understand the motivations of their political opponents.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s another example of the new civility: Twitter explodes with Cheney hate after his heart transplant. Aren’t these people sweet? And more proof that they can’t imagine that Dick Cheney may not be evil.

[Early evening update]

First link fixed, thanks to the commenter who pointed it out.

16 thoughts on “Green Gullibility

  1. RNB

    It’s only anecdotal, but my own impression, based on years of talking and contending with liberal friends and colleagues of mine, is that they are more inclined than conservatives to believe that they can discern the internal beliefs and motivations of others.

      1. Karl Hallowell

        Wikipedia calls this the Dunning-Kruger effect.

        The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which the unskilled suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

        The question is why does this particular incompetence accumulate enough on a political issue to be measurable? One possibility is that this incompetence correlates with youth (liberals tending to be younger).

        1. George Turner

          I think another factor may be parenting and early socialization, as liberal parents are more likely to have liberal children and conservative parents are more likely to have conservative children (a well-noted demographic nightmare for Democrats since conservatives are much better at breeding).

          My guess is that liberal parents explain the world to their children in their simple liberal value system, conveying the worldview that conservatives are evil and answering each of their child’s questions with the typical and badly mistaken liberal explainations of what conservatives believe and how they think. Not knowing any better, the children construct their worldview based on these invalid inputs and carry those into adulthood. As such views are echoed in the media and in liberal social circles, most would encounter few reasons to re-examine their assumptions. Their parents told them that it was so, their friends agree, as do all the talking heads on the television.

          For many of them, the epiphany will only strike when the weight of failed evidence creates enough mental entropy to force them to tear down their old worldview, reanalyze all the bits and pieces (facts about events, predictions, and responses gleaned from the real world), a construct a new mental model that provides a better, simpler, and more elegant explaination of the real world.

          Conservative children rarely go through this process because their model of liberals is already accurate, so mental entropy regarding liberalism doesn’t accumulate. Even if they did go through a re-examination, they would rarely become liberals because it would mean adopting a mental model that’s a worse fit for the real world than their old model.

          One of the more amusing and obvious effects of this is seen in writing, especially in Hollywood, where conservative writers can write fully developed liberal characters (and most have to if they want to keep working), whereas liberal writers’ attempts at writing a conservative character invariably produce a laughably bad, two-dimensional caricature. Conservatives and liberals then watch two different movies. The liberals think the conservative characters are spot on, while conservatives instantly recognize that they’re watching yet another amateur attempt by an idiot liberal writer who doesn’t have the vaguest idea how a conservative thinks.

          1. Josh Reiter

            I dated a girl for a while that was very liberal and she was like when describing conservatives. She’d almost get foaming at the mouth insisting that conservatives all want to return back to the Puritan days of forced worship. And they all wanted to bring back the inquisition because they just love having us a good ole’ witch burnin’. And of course women should be dumb, barefoot, and pregnant all the time. And that they all want to keep fighting wars in the Middle East because of Revelations and the end of times. As you can tell she wasn’t a big fan of religion.

  2. Barbara Skolaut

    I hope, after Mr. Cheney is a little bit better, someone shows him printouts of the lefty Twitters about his transplant – it should really help his recovery to know that he’s still making lefties’ heads explode. ;-p

    1. Leland

      Yeah, it’s been a year and 2 months, but apparently its ok to incite violence against politicians now. Yet, they want us to believe they are civil.

  3. Roga

    It’s interesting how strongly such a belief correlates with completely sucking at it.

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which the unskilled suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.

    That, or they’re just sociopaths.

  4. Raoul Ortega

    Not[e] also the leftist eliminationist rhetoric from the people who deign to lecture us, the great unwashed, about civility.

    Not just civility, but tolerance. But listen to ‘em talk for a bit and should the subject of Mormons or Republicans or even trivial like hunting or NASCAR comes up, they demonstrate what the casual bigotry of the pre-1950s South must’ve been like.

  5. Schteveo

    Raoul,
    as someone who grew up in the south, among southerners, and I now live in the country even further south, you’re wrong about southern bigotry.

    Yes it existed, bigotry still does exist in pockets, and most of them are in places like NYC, L.A., Chicago, etc. Those being the new homes of racism and hate. Most of the southern racists are dead. They were NOT replaced with a new generation of racists.

    What most people don’t understand about southern racism, is that it wasn’t about HATE. Those tweets are ALL about hate. Southern racism was about power, and even fear. But it was not THAT vociferous or out in the open. It never used that kind of language or rhetoric.

    And if a ‘nigger’ managed to live as opposed to the preferable death of ANY ‘nigger’ at ANY time, NO one would have carried on like that. If for no other reason that as racist as they were, most southern men didn’t talk like that then. When I was growing up, it was said to be the kind of talk only a damned fool or a damned Yankee would use!

  6. ken anthony

    the leftist eliminationist rhetoric

    I don’t think about eliminating the left. I do fantasize about dividing the country along the Mississippi and giving the left a choice… east or west, we’ll take the other half and either is fine. We will have to ignore the screaming that we cheated them.

    Then we build a really big fence.

  7. cthulhu

    The thing that I notice about left-wing acquaintances and co-workers is that they seem incapable of acknowledging any possibility that they are mistaken about anything having to do with their ideology. True Believer is an understatement.

  8. Trent Waddington

    I think this looks like an interesting book (I haven’t read it), but the review seems to imply that moral choice is synonymous with political choice. It also seems to equate “moderates” with classical liberals. Presumably the survey gave only a single dimension along which to rate one’s political position, so everyone who just thinks government shouldn’t be involved in the majority of questions about morality scored themselves in the middle. Is it any surprise that they recognize other people’s moral positions better? If you recognize that people disagree over moral issues, then you’re likely to accept the travesty that can result from attempts to legislate morality.

  9. Larry J

    Last Saturday, I saw a sign on the back of an SUV that read, “Tea Party is a nice way of say Bigot and Homophobe.”

    Talk about hate projection!

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