One of the quirks of my personality (yes, I know you thought my whole personality was the quirks) is that I tend to think that nothing I do well is particularly unique. I am under the impression that everyone can write, that baking is a merely a matter of reading and that if people took the time everyone could analyze stacks of data and come to a rational understanding of how inputs and process interact to determine output quality. These are all skills that I have spent a little time and effort to develop, so I figure anyone could duplicate what I have done.
Where I don’t expect people to be like me is in what they think. I assume that people are going to be of a different mind on some issues than me, we are all different in experience and temperament, so how in the world could we be similar in our views, even in large numbers? Yet the Republican base and many of its elected officials can’t seem to get their heads around the idea that most of the nation does not agree with them and their agenda.
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
Take Sen. Cornyn’s assertion that the public's view of the criminal former President Bush is rising. It is not even close to empirically true. Take a look at this chart from Brendan Nyhan of the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) of the approval rating of President Bush from the various news organizations.
Even those polled by Fox news, the unabashed mouth-piece for the Republican Party, have found that the former President is not worthy of their approval. This is not the only place where Republicans fail to understand what the nation is really saying when it is polled. Right before the HCR bill was completed the Republicans were going around saying that a majority of the people did not want this bill passed. What they failed to recognize was the large percentages of Liberals and Progressives who were willing to let the bill die because it did not go far enough. It was not that the people did not want HCR, they wanted more.
There is also the Republican faux obsession with the deficit and the national debt. The issue of extending unemployment benefits has them up in arms about our trillion dollar plus deficit and our 14 trillion dollar debt. Yet for all the talk that the American people are concerned about it, recent polls have shown conclusively that the people want these extensions and want them now.
This contrasts shockingly to the Republicans adamant position that the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (the top 2% of all earners, if you aren’t making a million plus a year, this isn’t you!) including allowing no taxes to be paid on billion dollar plus estates’ must be extending and made permanent. The fact that it will put $55 billion a year back into the coffers of a cash strapped nation seems to be a real problem for them. Not to mention the on-going cognitive dissonance of claiming that revenue you don’t collect pays for itself through some visit form the Tax Fairy.
All of this leads to the question, how can they believe and say these things in the face of reality? Chalk it up to the idea of epistemic closure. Not the technical term but the usage coined by blogger Juan Sanchez. This is idea that there is a narrowing of the belief of anything but the preferred source of information. On the Right this defines itself as a total faith in Fox News and other conservative sources like the Drudge Report and Red State.
It is not that they do not look at other media, but rather that conservatives have a bed-rock belief that other media is biased and can not be trusted. So while you might see some conservatives reading Daily Kos or Fire Dog Lake or watch MSNBC or CNN they are not there for a new opinion but rather to confirm their belief that these places are all hopelessly and completely biased against reality. This means every time there is something that challenges their world view, it only feeds into the idea that these sources can not be trusted.
We know for sure that the conservative media outlets influence Congressional Republicans, if only from the way that Reps and Senators will quote the wacky and completely incorrect conspiracy theories from these outlets. The idea that China is exploring for oil off the coast of Cuba is one that has been debunked time and again, yet we have Republicans like Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida who claim they are doing so.
The conservative movement has just about shut itself off from reality. The danger in such a closure is not only does the policy that comes out of it fail to match reality, but there is an amplification of intensity. The echo chamber is great for making your message seem more important than it really is, but when the chamber is closed, the echoes amplify each other becoming louder and louder. This is what is going on inside the Republican Party right now.
They see the anger of the Tea Party section of their base and think that just because the rest of the nation is unhappy too that the reasons for the anger are the same. This is a mistake brought on from their information closure. However what is really dangerous about this anger is the echo effect. We are seeing more and more instances of conservatives who live in epistemic closure getting so angry they lash out violently at society. From the man who flew his plane into the IRS building to the man involved in a shoot out with police in Oakland, Bryon Williams, all have something in common; they are believers that the nation is being taken over by Socialists. As much as my Socialist friends would love that, it is so far from reality to make them laugh and weep at the same time.
This meme is one that is hit on a daily basis by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh but it is not only these "shock-talk" hosts. Elected officials like Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Jon Kyl are willing to say the same and not even question the validity of it nor the danger presenting such a warped view of reality presents. This makes sense if they are all living in the same information bubble and can not or will not accept new data that might contradict their position.
Conservatives are not the only ones who suffer from the failure to accept new data. Everyone of us knows someone who holds a belief that is contradicted by the facts. The difference that I see is that liberals don’t have a single orthodoxy like the conservatives do. Without organizing principles like less taxes and smaller government that is the hall conservatism, liberals are more likely to think for themselves or at least be open to the idea that they don’t have a lock on the truth. Of course that is a generalization and so it will be wrong in certain specific cases, but in the main it seems to be true.
What, then, can be done when a large segment of the population and the political party associated with it has closed itself off from reality? I just don’t know. Without the ability to process information that you don’t like there can be no compromise and no growth. The good news is that the increasing the intensity of purity inside the bubble will drive more and more folks willing to talk about the facts, not just their version of the facts, out into the larger reality. The bad news is there is a certain hard core that will never be convinced. They are angry, they believe their nation is being overrun and they accept that they are in the wrong.
This is the cost of allowing a propaganda machine to grow in your nation. The success of talk radio and Fox News in spouting right wing view points has left us in a state where there is a significant minority of the nation who can not be reached by facts or reason.
The floor is yours.