Skip to main content

I just don't get it.  Maybe I'm over-educated.  Maybe I think too much.  Maybe I expect too much of other people.  But I just don't get just how many people in this highly advanced, technical civilization seem incapable of recognizing a blatant logical or factual contradiction when it stares them right in the face.  I just don't get how people can make two completely contradictory statements, often in the same breath, and not for even one second realize the irony of what they've just done.

In this diary, I want to share a few real world examples of this phenomenon before ending with a dream I had that seems to perfectly crystallize what I've been thinking and feeling on this topic lately.  In between, I hypothesize that one of the reasons that the Republicans might do well in this election, despite having done everything in their power to make sure there is no economic recovery, is that people seem either incapable of holding more than one fact or idea in their heads at a time, or, though they can hold multiple ideas in mind at once, they seem to think of those ideas in isolation from one another and incapable of recognizing the connections among them.

The two examples I want to share involve family members that I love to death.  Both are loving, supportive people who have never been anything but kind to me.  They are both good, well-meaning and decent human beings.  They're even pretty bright. Which is why it is all the more vexing when their logic goes off the deep end.  (I will slightly change their relationship to me to protect the innocent...or maybe to protect myself at the next family gathering...)

A few weeks ago, my grandfather told me about his week.  His biggest complaints had to do with his expensive private health insurance.  He complained that Medicare did not offer extensive enough coverage, and that was the reason he bought the private insurance.  Then he complained that the money he received each month from social security wasn't nearly enough to make such expensive insurance affordable.  Then he told me about one of his favorite parts of the week--when the lady from the public library comes to his apartment building to visit the older residents and bring them new books.  He went on and on about how wonderful a program this is and about how much he loves the public library.

Now, in the same conversation, he says that the reason for many of the ills in our society is that "government" is too big and spends too much money.  If "they just left us alone," he said, things would be much better.  I'm guessing that many of the people reading this diary will immediately recognize the blatant contradiction between this statement and what was complained about and praised in the preceding paragraph.  Lack of Medicare services and low social security payments could only improved by increases in government spending, not by cutting it.  And the public library is one of the best examples of what government can do positively when it spends money on behalf of collective public goods.  Free books for everyone, paid for by "hard earned tax dollars."  What could be more socialistic than that?  And yet, it never occurred to my beloved grandfather that he might be contradicting himself in any way.  I actually did try to point out where PUBLIC libraries get their funding, but he dismissed my point by saying that the money came from LOCAL governments and that he only meant the FEDERAL government.  I thought it impolite to continue to argue the matter, so I did not point out the federal support of Medicare and Social Security.

Then, just a few days ago, another family member, let's say a cousin, railed against several evils in the world.  One major complaint was about the way coal and gas companies damage the environment.  Longwall mining, for example, can cause the ground above it to simply drop five or six feet when the mining is completed.  You can imagine the pain this may cause for anyone who owns say, a house, above the site of the mining.  She complained about the safety record of both mining and drilling operators, and how something should be done to make these industries both safer and less harmful to the environment.  Then she went on to complain that, in an effort to be more efficient and save money, the local post office had cut four full-time jobs and that now all the mail was sent to the nearest large city for processing.

At this point, I'm somewhat surprised and thinking that maybe this "cousin," let's call her "Becky," had come around to my way of thinking.  She's sounding pro-environment, pro-safety regulations and pro-government jobs.  But then she went on to talk about the root of all these problems.  Want to guess the cause of all the problems she just described?  That "idiot Pelosi" and that "fool Obama" and all those crazy big-spending liberals who were just ruining the country for everyone.  Those jobs were cut, she said, because the government is spending too much money.  (Wait, isn't cutting those jobs an attempt to spend less money?)  She likes West Virginia's governor, Joe Manchin, but then blasted his recent Senate appointment for "voting to spend more money" when he got to Washington and became just as corrupt as all the rest of 'em.  (The vote in question was to extend unemployment benefits.)

This time I didn't even bother.  There were so many convoluted missed connections leaps of faulty logic in there that I wasn't even sure where to begin.  It just seemed so depressing that even people I care about, even decent honest people who can even clearly see many of the problems we face, so quickly leap to the wrong conclusions about both the causes of and the solutions to those problems.  And that's only talking about trying to hold several ideas in place over the course of the same conversation.  We're even worse at it when trying to remember things that happened in ancient times by today's 24-hour media standards, like say...18 months ago.

I was pleased by Paul Krugman's article in the Times today about the way that Republicans seem on their way to being rewarded for their obstructionism.  I want everyone to think back, for a moment, to when the stimulus bill was passed.  Does anyone remember the initial amount of money that was requested?  I believe it was somewhere around $1.2 trillion.  This was the amount that would be needed, according to the Obama administration and many prominent Democrats, to not only halt the recession but to get the economy moving forward in the right direction again.  In fact, if my memory serves me correctly (and it seems to be better than most), some on the left were saying that even THAT total wouldn't be adequate to do the job.  But all were in agreement that spending an amount substantially less than that, like the $800 billion or so bill that was eventually passed, would do a decent job of stopping the bleeding but would not be sufficient to promote a real recovery.

So, fast forward to today.  Just like most on the left predicted, the $800 billion stimulus bill did a decent job of keeping us from getting into an even deeper hole, but did little to encourage a real recovery that would mean robust growth and declining unemployment.  So, in effect, the Democrats were right.  Right?

WRONG!  The failure of the stimulus clearly shows, according to the logic of those who can't hold more than a couple of independent ideas in their heads at a time, yet alone see the connections between them, this set of facts PROVES not only that this particular stimulus bill "failed," but that the reason it failed is because "big government spending doesn't work" ever and that it's made things worse because now we have a huge deficit.  Most of the people who have read this far will see the shear idiocy of drawing this conclusion.  But for those who are still reading (thank you) and need a little help, consider an easier, more familiar scenario:

A family member is having a tough financial time.  He is in danger of having his electric shut off because he is behind on his utility bills.  Furthermore, he works on his computer from home, so that IF his electric is shut off, he won't even be able to pull himself out of this trouble because he won't be able to do his job.  So, he comes to you and says, "Hey, in order to not have my electric shut off, I need $100 to pay my past due amounts.  I'll pay you back in a few months because with the electric ON, I'll be able to keep working and making money."

Now let's imagine that you're married.  Your spouse thinks that giving your friend, let's call him Bob, is a good idea.  It's just the right thing to do, your spouse says.  Let's call your spouse Jamie, because that can be a male or a female.  Jamie says this is the right thing to do.  You both like Bob, you both want Bob to do well, so Jamie says, and besides, if you do not give him the money now and the electric goes off and he loses his job, then Bob will probably be coming to you again later in need of even MORE help, which will cost you more in the long run, unless you want to see poor Bob living out on the street.

But you, like the Republicans in Congress, think that spending money is always a bad idea (unless you're giving it to someone who already has more than enough).  Furthermore, you are a contrarian and a kind of domestic obstructionist.  You disagree with Jamie on just about everything, and love nothing more than proving Jamie wrong.  So, you say, "No, I'm not willing to do this.  I'm not willing to give Bob any more than $70."  Now Jamie explains to you that $70 won't really help the situation.  It won't solve the problem.  It might keep the electric on for a few more days, but in the end Bob can't recover and the electric is still going to be shut off.  But you invoke the filibuster rule (by refusing sex or by threatening to not pick up after yourself or by whatever marital filibuster strategy you want to assume) and say, "Nope, $70 or nothing!"

So you lend Bob $70.  Then a few weeks later he comes back to the two of you and says, "They turned off my electric.  Now I also lost my job.  I'm in worse shape than before."  Jamie is about to say that s/he told you so, but you are always quicker to blurt out a blustering answer and say, "AHA!  Just like I said.  Giving Bob money was a waste of time.  Giving money to people just makes them lazy and makes them want more money from you later.  See, Jamie, I hope you can admit how WRONG you were for wanting to give Bob money."

Jamie is about to respond and defend his/her idea when all of a sudden, Bob, of all people, agrees with YOU!  "You're right!" Bob says, "Jamie is to blame for all my problems!  If Jamie hadn't wasted that $70 bucks on me everything would be better."

And Jamie can only shake his/her head and frown.

This is already too long, but I promised a dream at the beginning, but here is my dream at the end:

I'm standing on a kind of stage at a religious/political gathering.  I've just read through the beatitudes (sermon on the mount stuff, you know, "blessed are the poor" and rich people can't get into heaven and all that...) and I'm about to expound on what these teachings of Jesus mean for our current society.  But then I'm interrupted by my high school Geometry teacher, who springs forth onto the stage to light applause (this is the man who kept a copy of the book "EVILution: The Lie" on his desk and who told a Jewish student that she was going to hell).  He smiles and starts talking about how these teachings of Jesus mean we need prayer in schools and tax cuts for the rich.  He goes on and on about how the man who said "whatsoever you do to the least of these you do to me" wants us to execute more criminals (rather than visiting them when they were imprisoned...although I guess you could visit them to serve them their last meal, right?) and stop giving handouts to the poor.

Disgusted, I throw down my own Bible/sacramentary thing (dreams are very non-specific) and storm off the stage.  I get a bite to eat and feel a bit more energized and determined to come back and rebut this crazy man.  But as I approach the auditorium again, there is music playing and lights flashing and the people are all clapping and singing along and have now been whipped into a frenzy.  They just don't see the irony of believing the Prince of Peace is all for a never-ending War on Terror.  I give up on trying to point out all these contradictions to them, and just walk away.

But we can't walk away.  Can we?  In religion, in politics, in economics, how do we get people-the good, well-meaning, well-intentioned and honest people--to see the inherent contradictions in so many of the beliefs they hold?

Edit: Thanks to the rescue rangers!

Originally posted to greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:38 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  This explains a lot of it (11+ / 0-)

      Fox leads for trust

      74% of Republicans trust Fox News, but no more than 23% trust any of the other four sources.

      When someone's main source of information is an echo chamber full of wildly distorted half truths, and fear mongering they see a world through a prism manipulated by self-serving elites.

      "These old Wall Street boys are putting up an awful fight to keep the government from putting a cop on their corner." - Will Rogers

      by Lefty Coaster on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:03:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A huge part of the problem, to be sure (7+ / 0-)

        I just don't see why people don't recognize an obvious contradiction when they see it, even if it's from a source that they like.  I watch Fox News all the time because it seems like some kind of sad tragic farce to me.  It doesn't all of a sudden start changing my perception of reality.  Furthermore, when I was Olbermann or Maddow or other lefty news sources, or when I read liberal news media, I still can and do spot faulty logic and bad arguments and irrational appeals.  I often point the out because I want to make liberal arguments stronger and don't want to rely on poorly supported evidence.  Of course, I'm always looking for contradictions and mistakes.  Maybe most people just don't care.

        "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

        by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:07:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  They see that things are bad, that something's (9+ / 0-)

        wrong, and FOX offers them "proof" of what they suspected might be the problem in the first place: the gub'mint run by that furr'ner, Obama. After all, the economic problems didn't exist under the white, male Republicans.

        Human beings want to be "right." They want their conclusions affirmed, they want to belong to the "correct" side/crowd, and the winning side as well. FOX is able to assure them that they were right all along, even that they were on the winning side all along (since ACORN stole the election).

        And indeed, once they're hooked, and start actually believing the tripe that FOX trots-out as fact, they don't listen to or believe anything that the other news sources say and in the absence of anything to contradict the Faux Noise, what FIXed NEWS has to say is easier to be accepted as truth. Even when they do happen to step outside the echo chamber and hear an opposing point of view, it hardly makes sense to them anymore, since it runs so VERY contrary to what they've now accepted as the truth, that what everyone else says MUST be a lie.

        They are VERY adept at pandering to some of a human's most base emotional needs.

        Never has so much been taken from so many by so few for so long...

        by JWSwift on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:14:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm just surprised at how quickly it works (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bigjacbigjacbigjac, JWSwift

          Yeah, you have a gut feeling that something is wrong.  But you would think that we would want to be accurate about not only WHAT is wrong but how it got that way and how to fix it.  But I understand, I guess.  I mean, I would really want to believe someone who told me I was overweight because I wasn't eating ENOUGH chicken wings, but at the same time, I think I would be naturally suspicious of ANYONE who told me exactly what I wanted to hear.  I just wonder why other people aren't the same way.

          "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

          by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:25:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Mutch to my surprise (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      I was able to convince an old school 70 year old John Birch Society member to ditch the Tea Baggers because they did'nt support repealing the Patriot Act.

      Just when they think they've got the answer, I change the question. -Roddy Piper

      by McGirk on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 11:29:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Intelligence is only one axis of human thought (7+ / 0-)

    There are emotional responses as well. So you can have a smart, greedy person. To a dumb, noble one. Intelligence is only an indication they have had some learning, but if that learning didn't help shape their core values it won't have much of an effect on them.

    Those who forget the lessons of history are probably watching Glenn Beck.

    by ontheleftcoast on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:42:15 AM PDT

    •  Yes, that is true (5+ / 0-)

      And it's not even a problem of intelligence, per se, but more a problem of a lack of training in logical and critical thinking.  But I don't think it's just an emotional problem that I'm describing here, or a problem of values.  These people value most of the same things I do, they identify the same problems and the same positives in the society around us.  They are just terrible at identifying the causes of those problems and for that reason offer the wrong solutions to  them.  This isn't an emotional issue, in my opinion, but one of not thinking through something clearly.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:49:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was just picking emotion as an example (5+ / 0-)

        There are lots of parts to what makes us who we are. But I've had the same problem as you. People that I know are super smart, still have no trouble rationalizing ridiculous positions because it benefits them. Maybe the real axis I'm looking for is "me versus we" self-absorbed rather than working for a common good for all.

        Those who forget the lessons of history are probably watching Glenn Beck.

        by ontheleftcoast on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:53:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  EXACTLY! Schools have given up on teaching skills (5+ / 0-)

        like critical thinking. They only have the time and resources to "teach to the test" and concentrate on simply cramming knowledge into the kids, and basically nothing more (other than trying to keep their teachers from being assaulted and such).

        Having freedom of speech and access to lots of sources of information and not squashing other ideologies besides our own only really works when the people are smart enough to be able to digest all of the information and critically view the other points of view. Instead, we simply buy-in to whatever point of view is popular or that our friends happen to like at the moment.

        Never has so much been taken from so many by so few for so long...

        by JWSwift on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:19:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As a teaching assistant at a university (6+ / 0-)

          I saw this all the time.  Students were able to absorb tons of factual tidbits, but when you ask them to write an essay that relates those facts to each other, they draw a blank unless you've already told them what the relationship is.  But of course, that's not showing them how to make connections, that's just giving them a slightly more complicated fact to digest.

          It's not an entirely lost skill of course, and I did have some students who could do the thinking on their own.  But we don't teach people how to do it, so we're left only with the innately curious and inquisitive few who will critically examine all new information just because it comes naturally.

          "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

          by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:22:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm being a bit subversive (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'll insert some "thinking" questions on homework that ask them to take a few concepts from the readings, define them, and explain how they're related to one another. This week's homework was on the race and gender chapters in our text. One of the "thinking" questions was:

            Explain how prejudice, selective perception, stereotypes and discrimination relate to each other.

            The answer could not be copied from the book as some of the other "define this" and "what does the author say about that" questions could; I put it in the middle of a bunch of questions designed along those lines. The responses I got were amazing.

            I've already handed back these assignments, but I should have photocopied them, because there were some real gems. The quotes below are my best-recollection paraphrases of what they wrote.

            One student said:

            "They're like a chain. If you have one link you're going to see all the others eventually, because prejudice leads to selective perception, which leads to the creation of stereotypes, and that creates the action of discrimination. They all hang together."

            Another student's response was:

            "Without prejudice, you wouldn't have any of the others. Prejudice is the seed, selective perception is the water, stereotypes are the fertilizer, and discrimination is the fruit."

            These are students from "underserved" populations at the trade school where I teach part-time. They put these responses together on their own, without having had the class on the chapters first. Frankly, knowing what I do about their probable educational background and preparation, I'm amazed at their ability to take these concepts and succinctly explain how they work together.

            Students can critically think and learn to associate concepts together. We just have to give them the tools to do it. One of those tools is misdirection so that they learn how to talk about things without feeling like they're incapable of doing it.

            There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

            by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 12:12:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Rather than pay Bob's electric bill. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you might just run a small extension cord from your house to his computer. If Bob's gonna get it together he's on his way.

    I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fightin' off them Viet Cong, they're still there, but he's all gone. The Boss

    by DaNang65 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:45:54 AM PDT

  •  Remember We're 40 Years Along in Conservative (4+ / 0-)

    propaganda about economics. And remember that the Democratic party is also economically conservative on the overarching issues. So there has been no important refutation of any of the major conservative economic policies such as free trade, sub-protective upper end income taxation, and corporate consolidation.

    Think back the last two years and try to recall any Democratic leadership attacking Reagan. I don't recall a peep, only from some fringe liberal politicians and of course our microscopic liberal media.

    The Democrats have focused like a laser on confining their attacks to Bush and Bush policies. They were elected on a platform that Bush was incompetent and excessive, which is something many of the conservatives have been supporting.

    40 years of being taught conservative economics, two parties agreeing that Bush is what caused the crash, Dems unable to pull it out and completely unwilling to educate voters.

    It's not at all unexpected that ordinary reasonable people will think and vote as they do. Most people are not rational thinkers in much depth. They get their information and opinions from a mix of personal experience, peers, trusted authorities and some of their own reasoning.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:02:49 AM PDT

    •  Maybe people don't trust or DO their own reasonin (8+ / 0-)

      I ran out of space for a "g" there.  I remember that I trusted my own reasoning from a very young age.  In the 8th grade, for example, as I went through Confirmation classes, it became clear that much of what standard Christian theology has to say about the afterlife (that all non-believers go to hell, etc) was a contradiction of the ethic of love, forgiveness and redemption that is found all throughout the New Testament.  In my opinion, one side or the other had to give, and when we  had our required meeting with the bishop, I even tried to tell him so.  I expected, for some reason, that he would have a good, rational reason that made sense of the seeming contradiction, OR that he would recognize that my point was valid and change his mind.  In the end, he told me if I wasn't going to accept his bishopy answer then maybe I wasn't ready for confirmation, and out of deference to my dear grandmother who would have been crushed if I wasn't confirmed, I shut my mouth.  But I don't do so anymore.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:12:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Naw, it's not that people don't trust their own (5+ / 0-)

        reasoning. It's simply that the process of critical thinking is too hard. Too much effort! It's boring!

        It takes too much time to gather information from different sources, determine the validity of the information/sources, digest the information, seek-out different points of view, and then decide what makes sense.

        Everyone's just too BUSY. They've got their lives, careers, outside interests, kids, whatever. What they don't realize is that their life simply becomes a tool, a pawn in a bigger game, if they are allowing other people to think for them.

        Never has so much been taken from so many by so few for so long...

        by JWSwift on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:27:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah, the BUSY problem. No one looks before they (8+ / 0-)

          leap.  Before I start playing a game, I want to get the big picture.  I want to know the rules, the field, the equipment, everything.  I'm not going to jump into anything before I know what I'm jumping into.  And even when I'm thrust into something, I want to take the time to step back, reflect, and see what is going on.  This just comes naturally to me.

          Most Americans, though, go for the immediate, small picture right in front of them, and as you say, never realize there's a larger game going on.  What's really irksome is that when you step back and SEE the game that's being played, it makes you sick and you don't even want to play it.  And then everyone calls you either unpatriotic or lazy.

          "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

          by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:33:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Indeed. We've become socialized to believe that's (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bigjacbigjacbigjac, Egalitare

            normal now. There's no negative stigma to that way of doing things anymore, mostly because it is a HUGE gift to the people who WANT to be able to manipulate us.

            Never has so much been taken from so many by so few for so long...

            by JWSwift on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:44:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Knowing what you do (0+ / 0-)

            I agree with what you say about this.  A friend asked me the other day,why I always say "I'll think about it", or "I will try" when he asks me to agree to do something (in the future).  I told him that it is because if I tell someone that I will do something, then I feel bound to do it (my agreement is a promise).  So I want to know everything first so I can make an informed decision.

            I attribute this to my father, who, if he gave his word on something, would carry through to the best of his abilities.  This sometimes confounds my wife, but she has learned to live, and agree, with it.

            I think this is an attitude that is sadly missing today.

      •  And as for shutting our mouths, (5+ / 0-)

        I COMPLETELY agree that we cannot afford to do so.

        When their crap goes unchallenged, even though initially a majority (if they'd all heard it at once) would probably recognize it as crap, it doesn't stop there. They continue to repeat it, and the repetition starts to sink-in to a few more people, and before long, there's enough people out there subscribing to the point of view that the other news sources consider it to be newsworthy and will report on what's being said. They won't necessarily bother to fact-check it, they'll just consider what they're doing to be reporting on the issue, flatly and without bias, by simply repeating the meme. Then more people will hear it, and will have heard it from a source that they tend to trust, so they'll think to themselves, "Hey, maybe there's something to that point of view," even if they don't fully buy-in to the crap right off the bat. Eventually, it's become part of the national discussion and has done it's job, even if not everyone is won-over right away.

        Furthermore, when they are unchallenged in spewing crap, they get emboldened (ah, haven't heard that word in a while) to spew even BIGGER loads of crap, and the process starts all over again, but this time, the envelope has already been pushed a bit more to their side, dragging the perceived middle position further over, along with it.

        Never has so much been taken from so many by so few for so long...

        by JWSwift on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:42:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You've nailed it. (4+ / 0-)

          If the lies are a closed circle, once you step in, you can't see out, much less get out. If people are beat down enough they won't bother to try.

          I'm stopped cold when I realize that those who control our destiny would let us die for their profit, or even for their convenience.

          by JG in MD on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:57:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

          This is a point I have tried to make repeatedly.

          A liberal friend of mine has a libertarian/conservative friend who he is reluctant to call out on his BS, because he is "a pretty good guy" (I disagree with this).  In my opinion this merely allows him to keep spouting the BS, including potentially violent rhetoric.

          I feel that we have to challenge these people at every turn or they win the "information" cycle.

  •  It's like calling Suze Orman and saying, (12+ / 0-)

    "I'm in a lot of debt. What should I do?" and she replies, "go to your boss and ask him to cut your salary. Then stop eating."

  •  cognitive dissonance (4+ / 0-)

    When beliefs don't match what's staring us in the face, most people take the easiest way out to resolving the dissonance.

    Sometimes that means grasping at logical straws to pretend that there are no contradictory facts.  You twist the facts until they are unrecognizable so you don't have to change a belief.

    Other times, notably with health behaviors, you change your belief that X will have an impact.  Ergo, you don't need to change behavior X.

    _Karl Rove is an outside agitator._

    by susanala on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:35:05 AM PDT

  •  It was easy to bamboozle us (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac, Deep Texan

    When I was a kid, I saw family members selecting their reality from a limited menu, especially the women. I swore I wouldn't do that if I could avoid it. I didn't do well in school because I couldn't settle for what I was told. College was a revelation in some classes and a bitter disappointment in others, based on whether the prof wanted regurgitation or thought.

    As an adult in the 1980s, I asked questions like If they can't afford it now and buy it on these newfangled credit cards, why do think they can afford it later? and If a bank can invest money in stocks and whatnot, how can it be a bank that keeps my money safe?

    I (and others like me) didn't think there would be raises in pay to cover the debt. The FDIC was just initials, not a license to risk our money. What the hell have they done to the banks?

    About this time the IRA [later the 401(k)] was invented. We were shown tables & figures & charts & graphs showing how if we invested $100 a month starting now, we'd have a million dollars by 1998 or 2001 and could retire in comfort.

    If we had an extra $100 a month, we could either quit spending and pay down credit card debt or put it in an IRA. It was so much sexier to put in the IRA and think about that million dollars we were going to have.

    Looking back, it was easy for them. There were very few of us who didn't buy in.

    I'm stopped cold when I realize that those who control our destiny would let us die for their profit, or even for their convenience.

    by JG in MD on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:48:44 AM PDT

  •  You Can't Only Use Logic (7+ / 0-)

    In at least one way Conservatives are smarter than Progressives. Conservatives are more persuasive than Progressives. The reason why is that progressives hold the notion that using the ethical and emotional appeals in rhetoric is Orwellian and therefore unethical.

    If you have studied rhetoric, you know that there are three types of arguments or appeals, the logical, emotional and ethical appeals. A good teacher will tell you that the most persuasive people will use all three types of appeals. But most progressives believe that the ethical appeal is Orwellian and some even the emotional appeal. Thus, when it comes to debating, progressives are short handed because conservatives use all three types of appeals.

    Conservatives also are more persuasive than Progressives because they answer political questions using a principal. For example, you ask them why they support such a postion, they will answer "Because I'm for smaller goverment," or "I'm for freedom and liberty," or "I'm for personal responsibility," or "I'm for stronger national defense." Progressives will answer the same question with a multiple of paragraphs, which is less effective as a persuasion tool. This is because by using themes and principles, Conservatives can communicate "The Big Picture" or a vision more effectively than Progressives can.

    Conservatives are better at seeing the big picture than Progressives are, and thus frame their arguments better. Progressives see the details better, and therefore prefer to break down politics into separate issues and into a series of separate programs.  Thus, while a progressive like Rachel Maddow will have fun telling their viewers that Ms. Conservative said A=B, and B=C therefore A=D. Most non-progressives will scoff at Maddow for nit-picking and failing to see the big picture.

    Progressives do better in one area of political communications than Conservatives. Progressives tend to be better at telling personal stories. We know that Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer from Plaines, Georgia. We know about Dukakis and his lawn mower, that Bill Clinton was from a place called Hope, and that Obama was raised by a single white mother and abandoned by his Kenyan father. Except for John McCain, who had a compelling personal story, we actually no little about the personal lives of most Republican presidents and candidates. Even in the 1980's we knew little of Ronald Reagan even though he was a Hollywood movie star.

    So its not all bad for progressives when it comes to persuasion, but the conservatives definitely have the advantage until progressives throw away the notion that the use of anything other than logic during debates is Orwellian.

    •  Good points (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cherryXXX69, bigjacbigjacbigjac

      It's hard for me to sum up in a simple statement what I believe in.  I'm for "equality" I guess, and I'm almost a fundamentalist of sorts when it comes to being for "freedom of speech," (I'd even fight for that teacher's right to tell his student she's going to hell if that's what he really believes), but on most issues I think that the problems and the solutions are too complex to boil down to simple slogans.  I make the ethical appeal a lot, but the Republicans have hijacked the "moral values" approach and make Christianity about individual responsibility and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps somehow.  And I must also have different emotions than most people.  I see a person on death row, a human being who is confined and defenseless and about to be killed, and my heart goes out to them.  When I try and make that emotional appeal, I get back "they committed a crime so fry 'em!"  Very different emotion there.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 02:34:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Freedom of sppech only goes so far (0+ / 0-)

        Except that the teacher that told the student she was going to hell, is infringing on the religious freedom of the student by substituting her beliefs for the students (the rest of that amendment).  This has no place in our schools.

  •  I had a very similar discussion last night (3+ / 0-)

    I'm also surrounded by people, who otherwise would be intelligent, yet often contradict "their" ideas within the very same sentence.

    Like when people say "We need to cut spending and extend the Bush tax-cuts."

    Are people really so stupid to believe that tax-cuts are actually cutting Gov't spending?

    Why is criticizing Bush for horrible policy and incredible spending so "UnAmerican," but to criticize others you may disagree with based upon their culture, religion, or character so patriotic?!

    Are people really so eager to believe that forcing women to have their rapists' babies will somehow not result in increased Gov't & "welfare state?!" The right to life begins at conception and ends at birth, for these very people.

    Or that trillion dollar wars have nothing to do with our current economic state?  

    The world watches with dropped jaws and wide eyes...

    I was out to dinner last night with my family, and I tried to explain to them that we're paying our taxes so that rich people can save more money.  It was obviously expanded upon, but to save space, they just didn't get's almost as if they didn't want to understand.

    They'll take anybody who appears on Fox at face value, but unless I'm labeled as one in which they politically align with, they won't even consider what I have to say as a valid argument.

    The basic concepts of economics, such as simple supply and demand, are absent in people without critical thinking skills.  

    They actually believe that when rich people have more money, they will hire more workers.  The idea that the money saved will just be sent for overseas jobs (where you can get 12 workers for the price of one here) or invested into personal-wealth growth (the market) or used to increase productivity measures (to fire  more people and increase labor of employees had) just didn't compute in their brains.  

    Many people seem perfectly content in allowing fear and ignorance to run their lives and the media to form their opinions for them.  We've lost our identity as a Nation.  

    The extreme right may have gained a short-term political advantage, but in the middle and longer terms, they've committed political suicide.  

    It's just sad we may have to go through another 10 years of Bush-like policies before people begin to remember the past over a 1 year period...

    •  These People Have A Different Frame of Mind (3+ / 0-)

      No amount of logic is going to change their minds because they see the world from a different frame than what you see. Everyone makes up a story of how the world works. Progressives have a story and Conservatives have a different story. If the facts don't fit their story, people tend to keep their story and either dismis the facts or question whether the facts are actually true.

    •  This pains me greatly--why is a Fox reporter more (4+ / 0-)

      credible than I am?  Most of my family members and even close friends would tell you that I'm the "smart one" and the one "with all that education" and that on politics and current events and history and religion and everything else, they will tell you that I'm the one that "knows that stuff".  Yet, when we have a discussion, they'll give more credence to something an anonymous Fox news anchor says than to what I have to say.  It feels personally very offensive a lot of the time.  And it boggles the mind.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 02:37:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They're Just Protecting Their Limited Self Esteem (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    look at how populist movements ridicule the "eggheads" (as Hitler put it). There's the special kind of low self esteem pseudo stupidity that refuses to acknowledge that smart people even exist, that education isn't just a bug scam run by "liberal professors" (another Hitler boogey man actually).

  •  What an absolutely remarkable diary! n/t (3+ / 0-)

    When you're chewing on life's gristle, Don't grumble, give a whistle. And this'll help things turn out for the best... ~The Life of Brian (crucifixion scene)

    by denig on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:09:26 PM PDT

  •  It's a human trait. And we're just as bad. (9+ / 0-)

    I did a diary today about a spot I saw on TV that had Fred Thompson saying that Obama is about to raise taxes on every working person in America. A lie, but the most efficient kind of lie, a half-truth twisted into a lie, because you just can't flat out say it's a lie.  Obama is about to let tax cuts for the wealthy lapse. That's the half-truth.  The whole lie is the claim that taxes will go up for everyone.

    You have to make the distinction, you have to explain and that takes time. The old saying is very true: a lie can go halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.

    I posted the diary to warn people that we'd better get ready to fight this lie. What I got was a lot of comments claiming that no one is going to listen to Fred Thompson because he's too old and he's too--what? Southern? Folksy?

    "No one will believe this. It's too crazy. It's so obviously a lie."

    Now examine the logic of that. Or rather the total lack of logic.  No one will believe Thompson and the GOP's lies about taxes? Yet millions believed the "death panel" lie. Millions believed the "Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11" lie. Millions believe the birther lie. Millions believe the "Obama is a Muslim" lie. Millions believe the "all Muslims are terrorists" lie."

    So logic indicates that they just might believe this lie too.

    But try to convince the supposedly logical people on DKos of that. I tried; I failed.

    Human beings don't operate on logic. They operate on emotions, and emotions can be easily manipulated. And an emotional conviction, once created, doesn't easily change because of mere evidence to the contrary.  

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:15:58 PM PDT

  •  The Bob scenario (4+ / 0-)

    has another name - it's called "being set up to fail."

    Repugs are really good at it, and they've ramped it up big-time with Obama. Rabid leftists who keep saying Obama "hasn't done anything" have taken the Repug bait - hook and all - and have (unwittingly or not) become part of the echo chamber.

    That's my take on it, anyway.

    Good job with this diary. Tipped & rec'd!

    "The good earth - we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy" ~ Kurt Vonnegut

    by jan4insight on Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 10:10:37 PM PDT

  •  be persistent, and ASK... (4+ / 0-)

    One thing we all have to remember is that the human mind learns best through repetition.  Saying something once will not suffice to convince most people.  

    But before making assertions, it helps to soften people up by sowing a little doubt.  Break down their walls a little bit, and make them receptive to new ideas. You never know why people believe the way they do, so all you have to do is ask them. Ask questions, and ask nicely.  If they say Pelosi made poor mining companies destroy entire mountains, don't get shocked and walk away, just ask: "how so?"  And when they offer some rationalization:  "what do you mean?"  And so on.  Eventually, because their position makes no logical sense, they will express confusion, or point to the media, and change subject or go away.  But the seed of doubt will have been sown.  

    The key is to not be confrontational, even if they get personal (If they call you a sheep? ask: "How do you mean?") and don't be shocked because people express an immoral belief.  Instead, sow a seed of doubt, and let it germinate.  Then come back to water it regularly (remember: Repeat! repeat! repeat!).  Not all your flowers will bloom. But those that do will go on to spread their own seeds.  And besides, in a democracy, you don't need everyone on your side.  Just half plus one.

    •  And ask and ask and ask... (2+ / 0-)

      I used to try to point out the errors in folks' thinking, used to cite sources, used to argue, lecture and, yes, indulge in a bit of name=calling when all else failed. None of it changed people's minds one iota.

      But six little words seem to work wonders: why, who, what, when, where and how. Ask questions, keep asking questions, and resist mightily the urge to supply the answers. Takes some practice, but the results can be quite amazing.

      •  This is how psychotherapy works (0+ / 0-)

        Instead of supplying answers (as a counselor would) the therapist asks questions like "Why do you think that?" or "What would be the next step?" and lets the patient figure it out on their own. That makes the answers that much more meaningful.

        But damn, it's hard to resist the urge to supply the answers, isn't it?

        There is an art to teaching that is independent of the subject matter. - daveinojai

        by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 12:30:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Good advice n/t. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 03:01:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reframe the Message (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    I've been told that there is a certain segment of the population with whom reason doesn't work; they are not capable of the kind of thought required to actually connect two dots.

    And so, appealing to the middle minds is the best we can hope for. Whether the former are a lost cause unto eternity remains unclear. However, this moment behooves us to strengthen arguments and positions for the as-yet reasonable among us.

    But if they're going to be reached before the mind-numbing mantras of FOX wash their brains out, we need to reframe the Democratic message way in better, more concise ways. This does not mean rote repetition of emotional buzz-words and talking points ("tax and spend!!!"). Rather, we ought to be encapsulating the more lengthy but well-reasoned positions into understandable, digestible short phrases that hit home - and then keep using them.

    For instance, never use the word "spend" (even though it's not a dirty word and we all know that but the meaning of the word has been hijacked). Use the word "invest" instead. Follow that with a brief explanation and, when possible, the real discussion it deserves.

    We must move away from words, terms, and phrases that have been bastardized by the far right, and learn how to reclaim our message by resetting the stage from the outset.

  •  We actually know a lot about how this works (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    Two of the most important factors are Cognitive Dissonance

    Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

    and the tendency for the incompetent to think themselves competent, while the competent are aware of their limitations. This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, after the researchers who verified and quantified it.

    This is the essential difference between the total truth Republicans and the Big Tent no-organized-political-party Democrats. Unfortunately, it gives the American Taliban (Thanks, Kos) the edge in likely voter polls. Which means that every Progressive should help with Getting Out The Vote.

    The key discovery in the Dunning and Kruger research is that teaching the incompetent soon reveals to them the nature of their previous misjudgments. That's the good news. The bad news is that Cognitive Dissonance can make them refuse to learn more.

    Nevertheless, thousands of Republicans, Tea Partiers, members of racist and bigoted Evangelical churches, fall away every day, amounting to about 6 million annually according to various polls.

    The End is indeed Nigh.

    Busting the Dog Whistle code.

    by Mokurai on Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 11:33:20 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site