Anyway. You know for the longest time, I figured that humans, being humans, and not giraffes or hermit crabs, probably thought pretty much the same way. Not the same opinions, mind you, but they processed in similar ways.
You know the drill, gather the information (in your head), sort through it, categorize it, and in the end define your “opinion”. As you came across new facts, you tweaked your opinion, were happily confirmed in your opinion, or ditched it for a better one.
A couple of remarks by folks the last week or go, brought me to the utterly sure conclusion and “opinion” that that is simply not the case. Most people might operate as above, but whole groups of people do not, and I think they are identifiable.
Know thy enemy various sage warrior types tell us, and indeed it’s true. But one cannot do that if one just assumes that your enemy thinks like you do. Often they don’t.
It has happened more than once that a commenter on this or one of my other blogs will bemoan the fact that “the people who need to read this won’t.” And that seems undeniably true. I’ll explain further in a moment.
The other statement that struck me (because it was not at all true) went something like this: “You criticize everybody on our ‘side’ as wrong, and you think everybody on your ‘side’ is right.” Actually no.
So in trying to fathom these two statements I realized that indeed, we don’t think alike.
Now this is not a new concept I suppose, for it’s well documented that the certain minds do operate quite differently, yet I had never see it in how they process information.
The fundamentalist mind is a mind in terror. It doesn’t like the world as it exists, and finds it both chaotic and scary. So it creates an illusory perfect world that works for them. If everyone were to behave in the “right” way, then their lives could finally be happy and safe. They are prone of course to religious fanaticism, finding this a perfect vehicle for achieving the world they want. They also are, if you hadn’t noticed, unreservedly conservative.
In fact, they aren’t conservative by any known definition at all. They are reactionary in their outlook. And it is this that causes them to process information so very differently.
As we engage in the back and forth of normal dialogue and debate, one thing becomes obvious. Liberals and progressives read all the material offered up by the reactionary right. We read it, find the errors in it, check out the sources, check out the backgrounds of the writers. Then we make our objections and our arguments. Reactionaries don’t return the favor. They studiously refuse to read any material you offer to them as proof of the point you contend.
At first I saw this as a manifestation of passive-aggressiveness. And partly, that is probably the case. However, it goes much deeper.
The reactionary is on very unstable logic grounds. They somehow intuitively know this. The people I debate with are frightfully uninformed about basic information and what information they do have comes from unreliable sources that makes them even worse, mis-informed. They tend to engage in hit-and-run tactics. They present the information, and when you show them the reasons why it is unreliable, they don’t argue the facts, they simply argue that you are “just against the conservative point of view.”
That is because that is how they operate. They read ONLY what pleases them and reinforces their predetermined beliefs (ones that serve their purposes). They are not interested and don’t want to contend with information that is contrary to what they believe, because they are comfortable in their world and don’t want it disturbed. Facts might do that.That might cause them to have to think. Horror of horrors they might find out (as liberals and progressives do every day), that they have to change their mind about something.
Talk about upset the apple cart! How is one to survive in this insane world without the anchor of truth, justice and the American Way on your side? How to live with a book that is the recipe for how to live?
The reactionary right will always claim that the liberal/progressive is the same as they are. They truly believe that. They believe that MSNBC and CBS are “just as bad” as Fox at telling lies. They believe that en mass the Democrats are just as evil as the Republicans. To them, proving that Fox is an awful “news” outlet and not to be trusted, means nothing, because to them, MSNBC is no better. There is no distinction in their mind whatsoever, no shades of grade, not qualitative difference.
They cannot fathom for instance that some liberals on some subjects are very unhappy with the President. That some are very unhappy with Harry Reid. They don’t think we “know” that Democrats are often as guilty of self-serving greed as Republicans. When we agree with them that MSNBC is often lousy at news, they are taken aback and think we are lying.
They refuse to see a qualitative difference, because they don’t engage in any media EXCEPT right-wing blathering. They assume we are all alike, just opposites. We know they are not the same, because we engage in both.
It is true that the people who need to read things which would help them see themselves in a mirror, won’t. No amount of asking them to will work because it is just too damn dangerous. A created worldview is a fragile thing. It cannot bear the light of reason or facts. It crumbles in the daylight, and therefore must be kept safe.
I believe what I believe because it suits me, and I read what tells me I am right. I do not read what threatens that. Ever. I simply project my own closed mind onto everyone else. They are just like me. I am not ignorant. Fox is really fair and balanced, at least it’s no worse than the rest.
Such minds are not reachable.
They are locked away, growing dusty and angrier by the minute.
They are more susceptible to demagoguery.
They are sure they are right, and no fact will ever be allowed to tarnish that shiny bag of beliefs.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
A lot of minds out there are being wasted.