Monday, November 2, 2015

One Sided Perspectives

It is interesting to me how often you hear statements such as "You're a conservative, of course you deny global warming*," while rarely hearing the opposite, that one's liberalism clearly entails specific beliefs. Not only does it imply that conservatism involves, not reasoned positions, but rather knee jerk, irrational, rote beliefs, but it also suggests that the liberal positions, being well reasoned and thought through, are the beliefs of the common man, or at least the educated one**.

The first implication is clearly the most prominent, that being that conservative, rather than thinking through issues and coming to independent conclusions, simply adopt a politicized slate of beliefs, without any thought, the additional implication being that such beliefs would likely not withstand critical analysis. Of course, this is completely absurd for any number of reasons. First, it is quite possible a given belief could be associated with conservatism, not because all conservatives blindly adopt it, but rather because those who believe it tend toward conservative positions. For example, free market supporters tend toward conservatism (or libertarianism, but let us ignore that for now). Thus, it would be absurd to assume conservatives just adopt free market beliefs, as it is far more likely those beliefs drove them to conservatism. Second, it is also possible that, rather than a given belief being explicitly conservative, that instead the contrary belief is a liberal orthodoxy, and thus anyone holding the contrary view is seem as conservative. And that is, at least in part, the case here. It is not so much that conservatives deny AGW, as that a specific set of beliefs have become liberal orthodoxy, and anyone promoting a contrary view is dubbed a conservative "denier".

That second point brings us to the other implication, and one that is a bit troubling.  While it is true that a certain set of, rather extreme, beliefs about AGW are pretty much a litmus test of one's liberalism***, and thus the fact that conservatives hold differing opinions is not so much due to their conservatism, as due to the lack of a need to uphold that dogma, there is another side to the matter. It seems the mainstream also holds to the liberal line, or, at least among those who have no truly strong opinions, who have neither staked out an ideological claim, or undertaken any research into the matter. Thanks to the media, government and much of academia, the most extreme AGW positions have been placed firmly in the public consciousness, at least among those with a casual interest or less.

This is a problem for conservatives, and not just because it shows to what degree the left is winning in the popular culture. It is a problem because, in recent years, I have noticed a growth of what I dubbed the "Angry Right", our version of the angry left we saw so much in 2000 and 2004. This angry right has one serious problem (well, more than one, but one that is relevant here), and that is a tendency to see those holding any liberal beliefs, not as misguided, confused, or potential converts, but rather as the enemy, to assume anyone espousing liberal positions is not wrong, but evil, motivated by dishonest and sinister motives. And thanks tot his belief, a small but very vocal element among conservatives has essentially given up on reaching out to the left, attempting to convince them of their mistakes, and win back those who have accepted left wing beliefs****.

That would be a dangerous belief under almost any circumstances, but is especially dangerous today. As I have demonstrated with AGW beliefs, the left still has a strong hold on popular culture, despite the rise of "the new media", and thus, for the most part, those without a strong political identity tend to accept the left's view on any number of issues. So if we choose to view anyone holding left wing beliefs as the enemy, to circle our wagons and allow none of them in, then that would mean writing off a significant majority of the American public, and condemn conservatism to become an insular minority, one growing smaller -- and politically less relevant -- year by year.

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* I won't discuss it here, but it is fascinating how the debate has been framed in terms of "global warming deniers", to place those who question specific conclusions in the same camp as Holocaust deniers and other fringe beliefs. Given how many perfectly reputable scientists, especially among climatologists, disagree with various elements of the doomsday story which dominates the public story about AGW, it seems a bit bizarre to call anyone who disagrees with the media's Chicken Little tale a "denier". I also note there is not similarly insulting term for those pushing the specific, excessively extreme version so popular among politicians and the media.

** It is hard to tell whether liberals imagine their belief is supported by the public at large or some educated elite. Given their tendency to view themselves as an elite within the populace ("Arrogance", "The Essence of Liberalism", "Arrogance and Gun Control", "Man's Nature and Government", "Seeing People as Stupid", "Our View of Our Fellow Citizens", "Individual and Aggregate", "Those Other People", "The Condescention of Understanding",  "Liberalism, "Idealists" and Internal Contradictions", "Humility and Freedom", "Outsider Art", "The Problem of Pornography", "Lying Politicians and "Other People"", "Selfishness as Reason - "Wants", "Needs", "Fairness" and Other Guises for Arbitrary Decisions", "Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences""Apology as Arrogance", "Big Government, Arrogance and Part-Time Psychopathy", "Intellect and Politics"), probably the latter, though in truth, by pushing their agenda through the mass media, their position is held by the "unthinking masses" they imagine despise them, rather than their imaginary intellectual vanguard.

*** If you doubt this is true, visit liberal blogs and just note the venom they spew upon "climate change deniers". It seems questioning the hockey stick graph or claims of multi-degree temperature increases in the next century makes one subject to worse abuse than racists, sexists, homophobes and others that normally receive such verbal abuse. It is actually rather shocking to read the amount of abuse heaped upon people for simply holding differing beliefs on a scientific question. (And one that non-politicized scientists agree is far from settled.)

**** See "The Path of Least Resistance" and "Technophobes and Conservatives -- The Risk of Assumptions".

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