WASHINGTON, October 29, 2013 — As America sinks deeper into depression, division and diminution, it’s easy to blame the vast mass of those who vote for progressive policies. You hear your neighbor, your coworker, your own family member spout nonsense, and wonder what’s wrong with them? How could they possibly believe the things they do? Don’t they get it?
Well, no, they don’t. But that doesn’t make them stupid, much less evil. They are unwitting tools of cynical power grabbers, but they are still good folks. Demonizing and demeaning them is not only counterproductive, it’s wrong.
We are all prey to powerful psychological games that play upon very real foibles of human character. Think you are immune? The logical, clear-thinking sane one? Perhaps.
Psychologists have delved deeply into the dark recesses of human behavior and perception. Those in power have made a fine art of manipulating us with this understanding. Consider the following cases and see if your own shortcomings have made you vulnerable.
Global warming and gun control
The arguments for these fundamental tenets of progressivism exploit the very human bias to avoid a small downside risk even with the tradeoff of a large cost.
Better to take no chance with earth’s climate, even if all available evidence indicates human agency has little effect. Why not risk radical restructuring of our fossil-fuel economy, despite the undoubted poverty and oppression the one-world governance required to pull it off might one day bring?
Better to disallow all private ownership of guns, lest one is misused. Though mass shootings are rare compared to lives lawfully saved, it’s easier to imagine deranged gunmen on a rampage than government gone berserk.
Sixteen years of global cooling? Mass killings exceedingly scarce? Attribute disregard for these salient facts to the fact that when people have to choose between the facts and their beliefs, they usually go with their beliefs. And why do so many believe non-truths in the first place? Blame it on the Big Lie. Repeat anything over and over — in MSM news, TV shows and movies — and eventually it becomes truth.
Al Gore may be a cynical manipulator, but many of those who buy his line are really not dishonest. They just follow human nature that accepts facts that agree with our beliefs and rejects them when they don’t. We may not realize our misperceptions, but don’t think our leaders don’t.
And what of professional scientists, supposedly hard-nosed seekers of testable truth? They are human, too, and frequently fall prey to confirmation bias — preferentially accepting facts that agree with them — and herd mentality. They put outsize emphasis on the dramatic and the scary, just as we all do. We did that last year with Superstorm Sandy, seeing it as a harbinger of climate doom, but it was followed by the quietest year for hurricanes in more than three decades. It’s natural to place greater emphasis on big, scary events while ignoring the humdrum numbers of every-day life.
Researchers unknowingly skew data and experiments, finding the results they expect. The flip side is unconsciously naysaying numbers that counter their beliefs. Correlation is not causation, but it’s common to see coincidence as meaning more than it really does. Typical is the tendency to find meaning in small sets, in pieces of a larger whole. We see patterns that aren’t really there.
Folks invest a lot of themselves in their beliefs. We will go to great lengths to convince ourselves with logic that the ideas we invested in were worth the price paid. Now, how much would you pay?
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