The birthers made me do it
I was intrigued by a remark made by social scientist Jonathan Haidt during an interview on The Colbert Report, May 2nd:
We use our reasoning just to basically figure out how to tell the worst possible story we can about the other side and since now we can all watch cable news shows where we just — conservatives can just watch conservatives and liberals can just watch liberals, we tell the most toxic, nasty story we can. It might work great to get the team together, but it’s pretty bad for the nation. …
I was a liberal my whole life until I started writing the book [The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion] and then while trying to explain conservatives to my fellow liberals — I’m a professor — while trying to explain conservatives I realized actually conservatives see a lot of things that liberals can’t see. They actually have a very good understanding of human nature.
I grew up and lived my whole life in the South. As a child the conservatives around me were the advocates of “state’s rights,” which was a code word for segregation and their spokesperson was our governor, George C. Wallace. In college, conservatism equated to support of the Vietnam War. Today the face of conservatives to me are political attack ads, Creationists, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and of course the birthers and their friends.
Is Haidt right? Do conservatives have an accurate understanding of human nature? I haven’t a clue. The right-wing nut jobs around here have so dominated the conservative message, that any true insight conservatives might have has been drowned out.
Why am I a liberal? I’m a liberal because I look conservatism in the face, the face it presents to me, and I know “that’s not me.” (The thoughtful reader might ask why I am not repulsed by the excesses of liberalism. The answer to that is that we don’t have any liberals around here, and I don’t watch cable news. The time I might have spent browsing liberal web sites is taken up researching the birthers.)
By the way, the comments by the German Ambassador to the United Nations in the segment starting at 9:44 of that episode of Colbert is one of the funniest things I have ever seen.