alien & sedition.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  Not Getting It, for Business or Pleasure

I've suggested before that conservatives tend to have a very poorly developed theory of mind when it comes to liberals -- that is, they seem to be very bad at understanding how liberals actually think. It's something I ponder because as a liberal who purports to write about how conservatives think, it's good to stay pretty humble about my capacity to genuinely understand the psychology of the other side.

I was reminded of this again while reading John Miller's interview with Manhattan Institute scholar James Piereson, who has, apparently, written a book about how the JFK assassination transformed -- and destroyed -- American liberalism, by making liberals all cynical and angry. I wasn't around at the time and I won't comment on the main thesis (which may have its grains of truth, or may be nonsense). But the interview is funny-odd, full of head-shaking moments, like when Miller asks Piereson if it bothers liberals that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist. There is, especially, Piereson's devotion to The Big Lie that Bush-era conservatives insist on propagating about the American left:
We know from looking back over the decades that Kennedy’s sudden death cast a long shadow over American life, which I have tried to describe. Many of us thought that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would also have great consequences for the way Americans looked at politics, the parties, and national security. In particular, some felt that the attacks might drive out of our politics the tone of anti-Americanism that had been a key feature of the American Left from the 1960s forward. That did not really happen. The liberal movement today remains far more the product of the 1960s than of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Indeed, the terrorist attacks now seem to have had very little effect on the thinking of American liberals who view the war on terror and the war in Iraq through the lenses of the Vietnam War. That is not true of conservatives. In that sense, the terrorist attacks have simply deepened the divide between liberals and conservatives. What is surprising, then, is what little enduring effect the terrorist attacks have had, particularly for liberals.
Honestly, for the longest time I thought that conservatives were smarter than this, that they didn't actually believe this garbage but merely used it for their own political gain. But I'm starting to think that they really do believe it. These are ostensibly intelligent people, getting paid to write books about this stuff. And they really have no idea.

(Incidently, I have to wonder how well Piereson really understands conservatives, given his rather preposterous claim that they don't view Iraq through the lens of the Vietnam war.)

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I saw this the other day and was similarly taken aback. I think it comes down to this. There is a powerful instinct in human's to reduce our opponents to caricatures. Once you can characterize an entire movement as "fatally flawed" you can justify anyhting to discredit that movement.

To put it into context. The idea that liberals are flawed, has long been a conclusion in search of an arguement. The conservative movement will continue trotting out these arguements, not to convince liberals, but to assure the faithful that they are following the superior path.
Well said. So I'm trying to avoid doing the same time, which can be tough - it's easy to slip into caricature, especially if you're being lazy. Or if you're angry. Or if the other side just seems determined to make a caricature of itself.

See, there I go...
*same thing
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"An obscure but fantastic blog." - Markus Kolic


Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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