Yes, They Are Convincing Themselves
Thoseboringpolitics recently asked:
Here’s my question to everyone who participates in this name-calling-fest: Why? Honestly, how is it constructive? Who are you convincing? Yourself? Do you need to convince yourself by calling others who may disagree with you “scumbags” or “oppressors” or “retards”?
The answer is: Yes, they are convincing themselves.
“Politics is kind of a team sport,” as former DNC chairman Tim Kaine once put it. And as Jonas Kaplan, a UCLA psych professor, put it five years ago, “in the political process, people come to decisions early on and then spend the rest of the time making themselves feel good about their decision.”
In short, we pick our side — and then look for reasons.
Hence: confirmation bias. Evidence that our side is right? Reblog without a second thought! Evidence that our side is wrong? Quick! Find some information to disprove it!
Hence: Ignoring our own side’s foibles while scrutinizing the foibles of the other side. Notice how conservatives are digging into the Solyndra scandal, while liberals are more interested in Rick Perry’s cozy ties with a Merck representative? Notice how Dan Quayle’s “potatoe” gaffe proved he was a total idiot, while Obama’s “57 states” gaffe proved nothing other than that he was tired? (Or was it the other way around?)
Hence: subtly different ways of describing the same thing. When Side A rehashes old ideas, it is just cobbling together a “greatest hits package drawn from the Republican hymnal.” But when Side B does the same thing, it is deploying “a very tested set of strategies.”
Hence: Name-calling, when people are short on time or simply lack the vocabulary or resources to gin up more sophisticated arguments as to why they were right all along. If the other side is a bunch of scumbags, then obviously we made the right choice when we cast our allegiance with our own side … all other evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
From an evolutionary-psychology standpoint, this all makes perfect sense. Maintaining our hostility against those who are not part of our in-group is a good strategy to safeguard the tribe’s resources and protect our offspring. Today, of course, we play in-group/out-group games all the time in sports**. And of course politics. As UC San Diego prof Gary Jacobsen put it in 2008, “Party identification is part of your social identity, in the same way you relate to your religion or ethnic group or baseball team.”
We are all cavemen still. It’s harmless enough, in sports.
** (see The Onion’s excellent commentary, “You Will Suffer Humiliation When The Sports Team From My Area Defeats The Sports Team From Your Area”) …
- barticles posted this