This is a highly thought-provoking article, and I appreciate your posting it.
I have a question that is somewhat related to the topic. I’m wondering if there are any psychological insights to be derived from my observations from arguing with progressives? As I have a bit of time during the day between clients, I often jump into political discussions online in mixed groups. It’s generally an unholy mess, but I have noticed a few things that are regular as clockwork about progressive minds-in-motion..
1. No matter what the statement is, I have to challenge the assumption. Practically everything that progressives open with is simply not true. I won’t even call them ‘liberals’ for that reason. This gets down to even basic word definitions.
2. Expect strawmen and absurd misrepresentation of other positions.
3. Expect faulty logic, distorted history and half-true stats.
4. Expect attacks against conservative moral legitimacy, general via accusations of racism, sexism, religious intolerance or general meanness.
5. Expect attacks against conservative intelligence, generally via accusations of being ‘anti-science’, but often on no grounds at all.
5. Expect high intensity offense to perceived hypocrisy. This is often true when there is in fact no hypocrisy at all, except from strawman projection.
6. Expect high intensity offense to any source of authority or information that runs counter to their own. Not just disagreement, but white hot fury. Fox News spelled with a swastika instead of an X. That sort of thing.
7. Expect sneering, sanctimony, closed mindedness and essentially every stereotypical trait they claim to hate about conservatives to be present.
These qualities seem specific to progressives (conservatives have other weaknesses when they argue) and broadly universal to them in varying degrees. I could go on at book length on examples of how these things manifest or in effective tactics to counter them (and I’d like to at a future time, as I’m very good at this), but I’m curious about the root of these reflexes. There are a lot of conservative ideas that are frankly not expressed well by many online conservatives, but even articulate progressives are without fail arrogant, moralizing ignoramuses teetering on the edge of emotional chaos.
I won’t go so far as to say it’s a mental disorder, but there’s some weird psychological mechanism at play in the progressive mind that I simply can’t identify. If you had any insight I would be interested to hear it.
We are noticing all of the same things, and I think teh answer lies in understanding the r/K material here:
I did a post on examinations of people’s brains as they did things, and it showed high-dopamine function individuals were showing activity in areas associated with the task at hand. They were competitive, and were focusing on the task, to achieve victory. These are conseratives.
Low-dopamine function individuals showed activity in different areas, associated with social maneuvering. Note, having a defective dopamine receptor gene would reduce dopamine function, and is known to predispose one to ideological Liberalism.
As I see it, if you are Conservative, you want to perform your activity right. You need to, in order to succeed in competition with others, for limited resources. If you set a task and fail, you are out-competed practically, and don’t get resources.
If resources were everywhere, and you pursue that strategy, then you have wasted your time, because task success is not useful. The loser will just go somewhere else, and get their food there, and you have wasted a lot of effort winning a fight which gave you no real advantage. You end up right, but the r-selected psycholgy ends up with the offspring, which is where the real battle was all the time. This could be likeend to the sexy sons hypothesis, which only holds so long as the less sexy individuals don’t start killing off the metrosexuals, and denying them resources competitively.
In this r-selective environment, the only way to “win” is to achieve social dominance to facilitate increased mating activity, and this is what Liberals are programmed to do. So while you argue facts, logic, reason, and try to be technically correct, the Liberal’d brain focuses on getting the crowd to support them and ally with them, and doesn’t focus on the mechanics of the task at hand, namely finding truth.
The techniques they use to do this are many, as you noted. Attack your morals, attack your intelligence, lie, cheat, present false assumptions, ridicule, and get angry over anything which makes them look like a tool, to show socially that it is not only wrong, it offends them, and should offend the crowd. I call this all out-grouping. They want to out-group you, to turn the crowd on you. It is their only focus.
As they do this, their brain will show the activity in social maneuvering on a brain scan, and actually look different from ours, as we try to be technically correct.
That is why I make the case I do, to meet the Liberal on this battlefield, and out-group them preemptively, rather than focusing on logic and reason. What point is being right, if Liberals aren’t made to be ashamed of their Liberalism?
It is also why I think an evolutionary understanding of the purposes which ideologies serve in nature is so vital to moving forward. Without it, we are just flying blind, fighting something about which we understand nothing - not even its purpose.
I wonder if “Fuzzy Trace Theory” is useful to help discourage conservatives from using logical arguments in the belief logic will change a liberal’s mind? Fuzzy Trace Theory suggests that people make bad decisions based on using trace bits of evidence to support a general belief they want to have. If you query the same individuals, they tend to know the facts and understand the logic—it is simply not what they want to believe, hence they draw upon the occasional bit of supporting evidence or imagined evidence in support of their belief. If there is no negative consequence to that belief, arguing logic with them won’t change the belief. Inside, they have a good sense of the facts, they just don’t like them.