Archive for September 13th, 2010

September 13, 2010

Glenn Beck…is a Collectivist??

by Vince

Peter Montgomery doesn’t get it either:

In the Tea Party era, ‘collective’ is a four-letter word. Beck and Barton don’t even like the terms “human rights” or “social justice” because they see them as collectivist. In a televised conversation in April, Barton dismissed social justice, saying “That’s collective rights. Jesus was not into collective rights. He didn’t die for world in large. He died for every single individual.” Beck is spending so much time on collective salvation because he wants people to believe it is behind all the nefarious things he wants them to fear:

Get into your church and demand, demand that your minister, your priest, your rabbi, your pastor talk about individual rights. If they don’t know them, tell them to pick up George Whitefield. Tell them to pick up the sermons. They are available online. They are available in bookstores everywhere. The sermons that led to the American Revolution, on individual rights. Please, I beg of you. These people will take over the Internet. These people will destroy talk radio. These people will take Fox News off.

Oh lordie. I am so glad I am not a card carrying member of the Church of Beck. I guess I need to read the book of Mormon to understand more of where Beck is coming from. But then again, he is a stereotypical scared white man and that may require a separate set of readings.

September 13, 2010

Song of the Day

by Vince

Brett Dennen is great!

September 13, 2010

The Brain: To Heed or Not to Heed a Differing Viewpoint

by Vince

The brain is an interesting part of our being. Two articles that I came upon last night explained what it does when it is confronted with differing viewpoints than which we are accustomed (or conditioned) to. Both of them are worth the read in full, especially so that you can understand the ins and outs of the study within the article.

First, the politically related one:

But the political brain also did something we didn’t predict.  Once partisans had found a way to reason to false conclusions, not only did neural circuits involved in negative emotions turn off, but circuits involved in positive emotions turned on. The partisan brain didn’t seem satisfied in just feelingbetter. It worked overtime to feel good, activating reward circuits that give partisans a jolt of positive reinforcement for their biased reasoning. These reward circuits overlap substantially with those activated when drug addicts get their “fix,” giving new meaning to the term political junkie.

In a nutshell:  Arguing the facts with people who staunchly oppose you will tighten their grip on their on what they think, not loosen it.  Giving them information — information that refutes their beliefs — will actually make them even more convinced they’re correct.

Then the storybook study:

Twenty-six participants were given Aesop’s advert for hard work and another 26 were given Kafka’s more pessimistic tale. As predicted participants who read Kafka’s story perceived it as a threat to the way they viewed the world. They reacted to this threat by affirming their cultural identities more strongly than those who had read Aesop’s fable, which didn’t challenge their world-view.

In other words the participants in this study were pushing back against Kafka’s story by reaffirming their cultural identity.

I can feel myself react in similar ways when it comes to religion and politics. The first study makes me think of those times we want to sit down with someone we know and talk about our differences in politics. I’d be curious to find out what makes someone have a brain, heart, soul, or outlook that is open to change or differing viewpoints as well as one that tends towards an unbending allegiance and hardens up under “threats”. The study concludes that “we can’t change the structure of the political brain,which reflects millions of years evolution. But we can change the way we appeal to it.”

A final quote that sums things up:

What this research underlines is that we push back against threats to our world-views by reasserting structures of meaning with which we are comfortable.

The researchers measured cultural identities, ideas of justice and a generalized yearning for meaning, but they probably would have found the same results in many other areas, such as politics, religion or any other strongly held set of beliefs.

When there’s a challenge to our established world-view, whether from the absurd, the unexpected, the unpalatable, the confusing or the unknown, we experience a psychological force pushing back, trying to re-assert the things we feel are safe, comfortable and familiar. That’s a shame because stories like Kafka’s contain truths we’d do well to heed.

I was given a nice comment yesterday that I play things here pretty fairly when it comes to covering both sides. I refuse to be an agent strictly for the left or right and both sides deserve the benefit of the doubt and a chance to speak beyond pernicious snippets their enemies crop out. Here’s to reading books, blogs, and articles that are beyond our comfort level.

September 13, 2010

Itching for Racial Division Ctd.

by Vince

Doug Mataconis adds his two cents on the Newt Gingrich/Dinesh D’Souza madness:

What I really think we’re seeing here is anything example of Newt Gingrich pretending to be a deep thinker and, in the process, saying things that are monumentally stupid. The idea that Barack Obama, who was educated for all but five years in American public schools, attended American universities, and only saw his father once after his parents divorced in 1964 is somehow guided in life by the dreams of the Luo tribe from the 1950s-era movement for Kenyan independence from Great Britain is, quite honestly, absurd.

I can honestly think of only one reason for Gingrich and D’Souza to say stuff like this. It’s not racism per se so much as it is a desire to feed into the idea that Barack Obama is not a real American. Why else emphasize his ties to a country he’s only visited twice in his entire life and to an era of history that most Americans have no connection to at this point ?