Better to remain silent and be thought a bolshevik eradicationist than to speak and remove all doubt.
I think that’s largely sound advice for our readers on the left. That’s because eradictionist Bolshevism tends to have a suppressive effect on the good-will of those to whom it is directed. As a result the bland politesse that lubricates our every-day social order tends to be most productive in an environment of ignorance. For instance, if you feel compelled to advise me that you want my children planted due to their ‘privilege’, I might smash your face into the sidewalk rather than say “thank you.” And that’s just not a congenial situation for anyone.
Thus social interactions are generally more pleasant the less its factionalized members share with each other. Of course that’s a difficult concept for Prius owners in particular to absorb, since those vehicles are laminated with an adhesive coating that continually attracts banal leftist slogans.
But oddities of Prius-Americans aside, the notion that ‘coming together’ or ‘bringing down walls’ will actually foster worse rather than better relations is not entirely intuitive to many people. But it probably should be. I’m a staunch believer, at least.
My belief in the power of shared opinions to produce impressively profound animosity is repeatedly validated by reading liberal twitter. I sporadically spout-off on that platform, though with little real enthusiasm. However, it is a very effective laboratory for testing visceral human responses—your own included.
One of the self-tests I occasionally conduct is to compare my baseline sentiments about leftists to the level and trend of those feelings after reading several examples of their own words. To the surprise of no one but Harvard researchers, these clinical trials have produced a remarkably robust and uniform response. Specifically, 100% of the instances reading liberals’ heartfelt and candid remarks resulted in not a sense of understanding and shared humanity, but a sense that they are almost certainly hybridized insects. That sounds harsh, and it is. So I attempted to re-create the trial with inputs that omitted the words NAZI, SUPREMACIST, and HATE, but was unable to find any samples that qualified.
In any event, I was fascinated to see these results replicated recently by peer researchers.
Dwelling in a political echo chamber — where you only encounter people who agree with you — is hardly conducive to a healthy democracy.
But it turns out that broadening your horizons by perusing opposing points of view on social media may just make the partisan divide worse.
That’s the depressing result of an unusual experiment involving 909 Democrats and 751 Republicans who spend a lot of time on Twitter.
The dynamic at work here is man’s innate familiarity bias. I don’t talk to many people who think destroying people like me is a good idea. So I tend toward a flawed presumption that that position is somewhat universal. It is, of course, anything but. So when exposed to the honest—and in their mind utterly uncontroversial—opinion that people like me should be destroyed, the response is one of recoil and reciprocal animosity.
Compared to the Democrats who did not follow the conservative bot, those who did “exhibited slightly more liberal attitudes.” The more they had paid attention to the bot’s retweets (as measured by additional surveys), the more liberal their attitudes became. However, none of these changes were large enough to be statistically significant.
It was a different story for Republicans. Compared to those who did not follow the liberal bot, those who did “exhibited substantially more conservative views” after just one month. The greater the number of liberal tweets the Republicans absorbed, the more conservative they became. These results were statistically significant.
In other words, the experiment backfired.
So when exposed to conservative opinions liberals became slightly more liberal, while conservatives exposed to liberal opinions became much more conservative. Almost assuredly this is a function of the varying stridency between mainstream left and right opinion writers. Respectable conservatives craft every sentence in context of the prevailing liberal narrative. Thus when liberals read a conservative—such as anyone from National Review or Weekly Standard—they are not reading fundamental challenges to liberal orthodoxy, but simply suggestions on how its precepts might be politically reapplied.
To use a widely-mocked example, conservatives will agree completely with the liberal premise that racial solidarity among whites alone is the world’s greatest evil. They simply mewl that Dems R Real Racists! That is to say, we’ll be better race liberals than the liberals. So having their premise completely validated, leftists who read this are only slightly moved to annoyance in responding, “No, Republicans R Real Racists.” It’s really not much of a chasm to cross.
In contrast, liberal writers are compelled to grant conservatives absolutely nothing. No premise is spared. In fact to concede as virtuous any conservative pieties or positions whatsoever would be NAZI in itself. As a result, when cloistered conservatives are exposed to completely accepted and mainstream liberalism, it is like seeing Lucifer tap-dancing on his hooves in Sunday school. It is a thing of comprehensive hostility. And thus quite a disappointment to some that exposure to it creates such deep right-wing retrenchment. I mean, can’t we just find common ground to bury you in?
At any rate, it’s back to liberal twitter for me tonight. I’m starting to settle on a hypothesis of rhinotia hemistictus.