Saturday, January 28, 2006

Political beliefs and change

Blogging is scarce at the moment because of a pressing deadline.

However, in case you don't read neo-neocon, I definitely suggest checking out her recent posts on "change" -- evolution, sometimes radical, in views on political issues. A mind is a difficult thing to change is the latest in the author's continuing story of her own political journey. There are also several recent posts on other changers, including Guardian writer Jonathan Freedland. All these are admittedly changes from "left" to "right," at least on foreign policy issues. But I think they're quite fascinating, particularly in view of that recent study about how resistant people are to facts that contradict their strongly held views.


Rainsborough said...

Freedland supports the Iraq war because it deposed Saddam, and because, as he sees it, it has planted the seeds of the democracy in what was taken to be the inhospitable soil of he Middle East.
But I take it he isn't saying that the Bush's greatness has been proved yet. Just that it MAY be, if Iraq turns out democratic and so also other Arab countries take a democratic turn.
So Freedland himself, apparently, will renounce his left liberalism if in five or ten years time democracy has taken root in the Arab world? And stick to it if not?
Apparently, Freedland's left liberalism is such that if events take this turn, he would find them to outweigh Mr. Bush's firm embrace of an eavesdropping program that violates a criminal statute, his attempt to put the governmental centerpiece of financial security on a path to dismantlement, the heightened influence of Islamists in Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran, his embrace of torture and other vile policies as weapons against the evil ones, --well, never mind, he knows the litany but thinks it may all be rendered nugatory if democracy does come to flourish in the Arab world.
I don't know what accounts for Freedland's rather strange perigrinations and speculations. But it surely isn't the power of reason and evidence to overcome ideological dogma. Or perhaps Mr. Freedland's particular variety of left liberalism was even more weakly supported by reason and evidence than was his recent employment of futurology in vindication of manifest folly.

Dustin Ridgeway said...

I'm appreciative of Mr. Freedland's self reflection on the war ( I can relate) to bad he had to be co-opted by the likes of neo-neocon.

mythago said...

I recall a similar study that found that people's willingness to have new information affect their beliefs depended in part on their education level--people with high-school degrees or less were more apt to change their opinions than people with lots more book-larnin'.

The study did not conclude whether this was a function of educated persons having formulated opinions on more evidence, or whether they were simply more invested in Being Right. I'd put my money on the latter.

Synova said...

I suppose I'll have to look into the study more deeply (though I don't really want to) but I know that I *do* react at a gut level to ideas I find distasteful. It doesn't even really matter if I'm trying to be objective, that reaction still happens. But the objective reaction *also* happens.

I also react strongly and negatively to anything that I percieve as a triumphant destruction of my perceptions. Nor do I react with intellectual detatchment to something that I percieve as either an attack, or a trap. From what little has been described of the study here and elsewhere it would seem that *both* the Democrats and Republican subjects of the study were shown their "guy" making contradictory statements. I doubt I'd have reacted any better.

And lastly... political thought tends to depend on a person's understanding of human nature, why we behave the way we behave. I can change my mind, or at least modify my views on issues but it's not a matter of being *shown*, it's a matter of being convinced.

Rainsborough said...

Two separate issues.
1. The general human tendency to retain central beliefs and schema even if that requires screening out contrary evidence. The sort of thing the study Bailey reports on picks up at the neuronal level, so to speak.
2. The increased partisanship of America's leadership and citizenry. The data on this is nicely summarized by James Q. Wilson in the current issue of Commentary. What Wilson shows is that more Americans c. 2006 are inclined to dismiss inconvenient facts from consideration than c. 1956. And also more inclined to demonize those who don't share their views of the world.
So we have an important feature of human nature operating at a higher rate, so to speak, in current political-social conditions. The world's only superpower functioning less rationally than it did during the Cold War?
What difference has 9/11 made? Notice Joseph Ellis's view that the danger we confront today is not so great as it is perceived to be. Yet it's also true that tens or hundreds of thousands of folks--well, actually, mostly extremist Muslims--are highly desirous of or at least quite amenable to getting hold of a nuclear or maybe biological weapon and using it to kill many thousands of us. That's the fear Bush has addressed in a remarkably effective way, even as his policies have served to heighten the actual danger.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the link to Neo-Neocon. She's definitely joining my roster of regularly-visited blogs.

Anonymous said...

People should be resistant to changing their views, as long as they don't overdo it. Not everything that comes along purporting to be a fact really is one.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not going to repost, but I just posted in the older thread about resistance to political change and boomers unhealthy obsession with the late 60s/early 70s. Even though I still get the impression that neo-neocon is haunted by the ghosts of the 60s, at least she sounds much more reasoned in her approach than so many of the others I have run into.


Lori Heine said...

Some people's convictions stay the same, but their strategies change. I still believe in the same basic values I did as a college kid, but I no longer believe in forcing my vision on others via government regulation. This is why I have evolved into a libertarian.

I wonder if it is possible for the Libertarian Party to break out of its protective little cocoon of ideology and make the leap from fringe party to major player. It could be that people have become so addicted to the fantasy of totally destroying those with whom they disagree that we are stuck in our little camps. If we are really that isolated from one another, I don't see how our country can survive.

Revenant said...

I wonder if it is possible for the Libertarian Party to break out of its protective little cocoon of ideology and make the leap from fringe party to major player.

I'd say no. Many -- most, I suspect -- of the people in the party are members *because* it is a protective little cocoon of ideology. That's true for third parties in general, really; they appeal to people who like to think "I might have lost, but at least I didn't sell out".

Plus, of course, few people are really libertarians at heart. That's why neither party makes a serious effort to push libertarian ideals.

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