Slate published an article called “Why Are Conservatives Are More Susceptible To Believing Lies?” (Here) I already hear the Republicans thinking, “Well, it’s Slate so it’s biased fake news from the start” and closing their minds. However, if you actually read the article, it’s a fascinating look into psychology and education. In fact, the article actually says “The right wing’s disregard for facts and reasoning is not a matter of stupidity or lack of education.” The article also points out that it’s not just the Right Wing that has a loose grip on reality, the left has its issues as well, but perhaps just fewer and further between than their political counterparts but “misinformation is currently predominantly a pathology of the right,” concluded a team of scholars from the Harvard Kennedy School and Northeastern University at a February 2017 conference. Harvard, guys, HARVARD. Not the local technical college or state diploma mill. But okay, let’s just keep assuming it’s all biased junk science and carry on.
This is where things get interesting, anyway. Picture a Conservative Republican. Some of you are picturing your favorite idiotic politician. Some of you are thinking of a patriarch with slippers and pipe while a female is in the kitchen cooking and keeping the kids quiet. Either way, the idea has a general waft of “moron” in it so imagine the surprise when I tell you that “college-educated Republicans are actually more likely than less-educated Republicans to have believe” utter nonsense. Buckle up bitches, this is going to take a turn.
First, it’s complete distrust or mistrust of the media and the government, which has sharply risen among conservatives since the 1980s (not so in liberals) and for the most part I have zero issues with taking the government and its social media with a massive grain of salt. (I mean, did anyone know about the “Secret Court” before the Nunes memo came out? NPR Nunes Memo) Anyway, some of the misinformation is on purpose- big pharma spins drugs as safe and then years later we get commercials about massive drug litigation settlements, big tobacco has been court -ordered to basically implode because of all the shady shit it was doing to keep everyone smoking, anyone with a certificate of stock in a gas company like Exxon wants to deny climate change and Exxon is going to let them, and of course evolution is just a theory (that may need to be a blog for another day).
Here’s part of my own personal theory: think of the social construct of the times and the resulting generations when all this started in the 1980s. The assassination of JFK was likely a huge turning point in dividing people about whether to trust the government and conspiracies about it exist to this very day. The Vietnam War was from 1955 to 1975 (ish). Now we know the truth about Agent Orange but back then it was just a conspiracy theory. We had the space race with Russia (that also spawned conspiracy theories about whether we actually landed on the moon). The Cold War with Russia and The Iron Curtain was beginning.
If you were a young and impressionable adult during these times, it’s not a long leap to think you’d distrust information provided to you, be it from scientists or government goons.
All those things aside, Slate says “finding facts and pursuing evidence and trusting science is part of liberal ideology itself. For many conservatives, faith and intuition and trust in revealed truth appear as equally valid sources of truth.”
Here’s the psychological part: Freud said there were errors and then there were delusions. An error is thinking you can create gold from any metal (Alchemy). A delusion is Christopher Columbus thinking he found a shortcut to the Indies because he wanted to believe he did, he wished that he could. While Freud isn’t the psychological heavy-hitter he used to be, the underlying truths of errors vs. delusions is still holding water.
we often use shortcuts when we reason, shortcuts that enable us to make decisions quickly and with little expenditure of mental energy. But they also often lead us astray—we underestimate the risks of events that unfold slowly and whose consequences are felt only over the long term (think global warming) and overestimate the likelihood of events that unfold rapidly and have immediate consequences (think terrorist attacks).
But again, Slate propounds, both political parties have this issue: “Liberals enthusiastically recount even the most tenuous circumstantial evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, and dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters happily believe that the crowd really was bigger at his candidate’s inauguration.”
So why are we picking on conservatives?
Psychologists have repeatedly reported that self-described conservatives tend to place a higher value than those to their left on deference to tradition and authority. They are more likely to value stability, conformity, and order, and have more difficulty tolerating novelty and ambiguity and uncertainty. They are more sensitive than liberals to information suggesting the possibility of danger than to information suggesting benefits. And they are more moralistic and more likely to repress unconscious drives towards unconventional sexuality.
Fairness and kindness place lower on the list of moral priorities for conservatives than for liberals. Conservatives show a stronger preference for higher status groups, are more accepting of inequality and injustice, and are less empathic (at least towards those outside their immediate family). As one Tea Party member told University of California sociologist Arlie Hochschild, “People think we are not good people if we don’t feel sorry for blacks and immigrants and Syrian refugees. But I am a good person and I don’t feel sorry for them.”
But here’s my favorite quote:
“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good.”
when you consider how these conservative traits and these conservative views interact with commonly shared patterns of motivated reasoning, it becomes clearer why conservatives may be more likely to run into errors in reasoning and into difficulty judging accurately what is true and what is false.
Conservatives’ greater acceptance of hierarchy and trust in authority may lead to greater faith that what the president says must be true, even when the “facts” would seem to indicate otherwise. The New York Times cataloged no less than 117 clearly false statements proclaimed publicly by Trump in the first six months of his presidency, with no evident loss in his supporters’ faith in him.
Fake news, though, right?
Conservatives are also less introspective, less attentive to their inner feelings, and less likely to override their “gut” reactions and engage in further reflection to find a correct answer. As a result, they may be more likely to rely on error-prone cognitive shortcuts, less aware of their own unconscious biases, and less likely to respond to factual corrections to previously held beliefs.
The article goes on to state that social media is smaller in the rural areas where conservatives tend to live and breed, while instant fact-checking is the name of the daily game in the urban cities where liberals hang.
But hey, me and science could be wrong.
Healthcare aside: I had a necessary surgery for some cancer this morning that’s going to run me between $2- and $3k. Because of this high expense, the doctor required that I pay a minimum of $500 up front. I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE. I can prove it: my antibiotics post-op cost me $1.61, while the guy in line with Tamiflu had to pay $309.00. I don’t know if he’s insured. I do know that’s a lot of money for a life-saving medicine. But hey, Obamacare needs to go, amiright?