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    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    Default Liberals vs Conservatives, Authoritarianism, SDO and Haidt's Moral Scales

    [This is long, but I hope someone finds this of interest. If not, it's been a good exercise in summing up. These are more personal notes than book reviews or full coverage, but I hope this provides food for thought.]

    Liberals vs Conservatives, Authoritarianism, SDO and Haidt's Moral Scales

    Over the past couple of months I've been trying to wrap my mind around the differences between how liberals and conservatives (and libertarians) think. I've been troubled by an internal response of "how can some one THINK that" when being presented with conservative and libertarian responses to ideas and current events. Since I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist household I felt I should be able to do better. Plus, as an INFP I pride myself on being able to take on the perspective of someone else, even if I don't agree 100% personally.

    So, I read through several books to try to get a handle on things. These included (ranked from most biased to least biased, IMHO):


    I'm going to cover each book briefly, in the order in which I read them (not quite the order above), and spend most of my time on The Righteous Mind.


    Altemeyer's The Authoritarians

    Altemeyer is one of main modern researchers on authoritarianism, and his version is called Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), with the "right" not necessarily referring to the political right. (You can take the RWA test here.) His list of RWA characteristics are:
    • a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society;
    • high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
    • a high level of conventionalism.

    Altemeyer has performed a whole series of studies correlating RWA with things like:
    • Being a Republican (more authoritarians, generally, in the Republican party)
    • Advocating harsher sentencing
    • Less even-handedness when judging groups (who the groups are matter in judging a group guilty, rather than the actions alone)
    • Greater belief of government propaganda
    • Greater "feedback conformity" (where one adjusts responses to match those of a reported "average person")
    • Placing a high value on being normal
    • Inability or unwillingness to cooperate between groups in "model United Nation" type exercises.
    • Tendency to maximumize short term pay-off over long term consequences (tend to ignore externalities, for example)
    • Willingness to relinquish civil liberty in return for safety.
    • Willingness to forgive leaders for law breaking.


    By the end of The Authoritarians, it's clear that Altemeyer sees authoritarians as dangerous folks, ready to be controlled by a strong leader (someone with a high score on Social Dominance Orientation, see below). Altemeyer believes that authoritarians are ready made followers for high SDO leaders.

    So at this point, authoritarians (and by correlation, conservatives) look pretty bad, and it will get worse before it gets better (but bear with me).

    Sidanius and Pratto's Social Dominance

    (Online SDO test available here.)

    The book Social Dominance lays out Social Dominance Theory (SDT). The wiki page has a decent summary.

    Individuals can be rated on a "social dominance orientation" scale (SDO scale), thar measures an individual'nnns preference for hierarchy (this was the scale Altemeyer refers to in his book). Questions in the SDO instrument include items like "Some groups are simply inferior to other groups."

    The book also describes "hierarchy enhancing" (HE) and "hierarchy attenuating" (HA) legitimizing myths. An HE myth might be "women are emotional and irrational," while an HA myth might be "all people should have equal rights."

    I'm not going to re-iterate the SDT (or even attempt to do Social Dominance real justice), since it is a theory with lots of specifics. I will list a few interesting things, though:
    • Belief in the protestant work ethic, individualism and meritocracy can reinforce the social hierarchy, since they give the illusion that things are already equal, and that any inequality is the result of individuals' inferior efforts/morals/talents.
    • People with high status tend to score higher on SDO (kind of obvious)
    • The extent to which people of both low and high status share legitimizing myths determines how stable the hierarchies are.
    • Low status group members often share HE legitimizing myths with high status people (so a racial minority may agree that the racial majority is better and inequality is the result of a moral failure on the minority's part)
    • Men are more likely than women to be the target of bullying or violence if they are members of a lower status group.

    Social Dominance covers all of the above, and goes on to make an SDT analysis of education, the housing market, the labor market, etc. It's an interesting (if the most academic in style) read, but definitely has its biases.

    Hetherington and Weiler's Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics

    Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics uses a simple National Election Study (NES) scale to measure how authoritarian someone is.
    "Although there are a number of qualities that people feel that children should have, every person thinks that some are more important than others. I am going to read you pairs of desirable qualities. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have." The pairs of attributes are independence versus respect for elders, obedience versus self-reliance, curiosity versus good manners, and being considerate versus being well behaved. Authoritarian choices are scored as 5 points, while non-authoritarian choices are scored as 1 point. Responses that indicate both are scored as 3 points. The authoritarianism measure is the sum of the four response scores, rescaled so that the measure ranges between 0 and 1. Those who value "respect for elders", "obedience", "good manners", and being "well behaved" score at the maximum of the scale. Those who value "independence", "self-reliance", "curiosity", and "being considerate" score at the minimum. [...]

    In creating an authoritarianism scale using the NES data, we array all four items such that the authoritarian response has a score of i and the nonauthoritarian response has a score of o. Since both values in each pair are desirable, a fair number of people volunteer that they value both. We score these responses as .5. We then combine the items additively and take the mean.
    (although note that the below questions are less effective at measuring authoritarianism among college students and those with children)

    As far as what defines an authoritarian, Hetherington and Weiler state:
    Quote Originally Posted by Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics p34
    The thing that makes authoritarians distinctive is their reliance on time-honored conventions, texts, or leaders who make decisions with these considerations in mind, to impose order. Taken together, we suspect that those who score high in authoritarianism have (1) a greater need for order and, conversely, less tolerance for confusion or ambiguity, and (2) a propensity to rely on established authorities to provide that order.
    Then also state, "In sum, authoritarianism is fundamentally motivated by a desire for order and a support for authorities seen as best able to secure that order against a variety of threats to social cohesion. For authoritarians, proper authorities are necessary to stave off the chaos that often appears to be just around the corner."

    Other insights from Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics include:
    • Americans are, on average, no more politically extreme than they have been in the past: we haven't generally gotten more polarized as individuals.
    • Americans are, however, better sorted into political parties (so the parties are more homogeneous in their non-authoritarian or authoritarian composition).
    • Non-authoritarians have a higher need for balanced information and cognition, and tend to be more opinionated than authoritarians. Conversely, authoritarians tend to make up their minds quickly using established rules.
    • Those who scored highest in political knowledge were the most partisan.
    • Non-authoritarians tolerate differences better than authoritarians
    • Symbolic, emotional issues are what divide the party today, and symbolic messages are better at motivating votes than walking them through complex issues and complicated governmental processes.
    • As of the 2008 election, African Americans tend to store higher on the NES scale, despite tending to vote Democratic.
    • Despite the above, Hillary appealed more to more white authoritarian democratic voters than did Obama.

    They also narrow down the core authoritarian/non-authoritarian conflicts to: "(1) racial and ethnic differences; (2) crime, law and order, and civil liberties; (3) ERA/feminism/family structure; and (4) American militarism, diplomacy, and the aftermath of Vietnam."

    One of the more surprising findings of the book was that authoritarians are more consistent than non-authoritarians. Under external threat (such as immediately after 9/11), non-authoritarians respond similarly to authoritarians. It's almost as though everyone responds similarly to high threat, but authoritarians exist in a high-threat state most of the time.

    Finally, I found the following interesting (and it alludes to some of the issues in The Righteous Mind):
    Quote Originally Posted by Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics p198
    Evolutionary psychologists make a distinction between opinions and behaviors that are driven by automatic processes in the brain, which humans developed long ago in the evolutionary cycle, and processes that humans can control better with their cognitive tools because such processes developed more recently. Bargh et al. (11996) find that a range of morally relevant behaviors, including things like altruism and racism, result from automatic processes that people have little to no control over. As for understanding polarization, their work suggests that when politics divides people along the cleavage that we have described, people with the opposing worldviews we have sketched may not be able to comprehend how their political adversaries understand what is right and wrong. Moreover, since automatic processes in the brain likely govern these opinions and behaviors, it might not be possible for people to understand the moral code that their adversaries are living by. To us, this is the final piece of the polarization puzzle. The differences between Republicans and Democrats have come to feel irreconcilable.
    While Polarization in American Politics was insightful in some ways (particularly about how regular Americans aren't actually more politically extreme than in the past, just better sorted, and how non-authoritarians respond in an authoritarian manner under threat), it was ultimately unsatisfying.

    It was finally with the last book that I felt like things made sense, and some balance was restored. Conservatives (and by correlation, authoritarians) are not just brain damaged liberals. There's more to the story.
    __________________________________________________

    Haidt's The Righteous Mind

    In the Righteous Mind Jonathan Haidt argues first that intuitions comes first and strategic reasoning (also called confirmatory, directive or defensive reasoning) second. Most decisions are made based on affect — that is, small flashes of positive or negative feelings.

    Generally we all tend to decide first intuitively/emotionally very quickly, then come up with reasons to support our decision. This holds especially true when deciding emotionally charged issues.. like those about religion, politics and moral transgressions.

    Haidt argues that this makes sense, given that our "reasoning" ability mostly evolved to serve a social purpose. We are much better as justifying ourselves and being convincing than we are at objectively reasoning towards the truth. Haidt says that it's as if we all have our own internal press secretary, whose job it is to justify our actions and decisions and make ourselves look reasonable and good. In general we ask "Can I believe it?" when we want to believe something, and "Must I believe it?" when we don't.

    In additional, we all have a need for self-esteem. This at first seems counter-intuitive from an evolutionary standpoint (and when thinking about our internal press secretary), but Mark Leary suggestions that self-esteem is like an internal "sociometer" that continuously measures our value as a relationship partner. It's an internal sensor to correct our behavior before it has too high a social cost.

    So, given that our reasoning is mostly social motivated, when hen do people make good decisions and engage in real exploratory thinking rather than just confirmatory reasoning?
    Quote Originally Posted by The Righteous Mind location 1473
    Accountability increases exploratory thought only when three conditions apply: (1) decision makers learn before forming any opinion that they will be accountable to an audience, (2) the audience’s views are unknown, and (3) they believe the audience is well informed and interested in accuracy.
    Otherwise, we mostly just use confirmatory reasoning. Higher IQ is correlated with being able to generate more (and more complex) confirmatory reasons, but not with being more objective.

    We also employ confirmatory reasoning to defend our group's beliefs and actions and to show commitment, particularly in political and moral matters. Haidt says our minds are fundamentally selfish, but they are also groupish and adept at promoting our group's interesting. As he says, "We are not saints, but we are sometimes good team players."

    You may be WEIRD, but most people aren't

    Haidt goes on to talk about WEIRD cultures (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) and how the WEIRD perspective has biased lots of research about moral reasoning. In the U.S., college educated people tend to be more WEIRD than non-college educated.

    WEIRD people (who tend to be Liberals) tend to emphasis certain moral dimensions, but those aren't the only moral dimensions. WEIRD cultures have a very narrow moral perspective, based mostly on autonomy. Most people in the world of aren't WEIRD, and to only see morality from a WEIRD perspective misses the much of morality. This brings us to one of Haidt's central points:
    Quote Originally Posted by The Righteous Mind loc2079
    Moral matrices bind people together and blind them to the coherence, or even existence, of other matrices. This makes it very difficult for people to consider the possibility that there might really be more than one form of moral truth, or more than one valid framework for judging people or running a society
    He then talks in about "hivishness" and how we, as human beings, are 90% selfish and 10% hivish (the "good team player" aspect written above). That, in practice, our altruism is mostly invoked by activating our group identity. (Haidt points out that religiously observant people are more charitable and active in the community than the non-observant, regardless of religious belief.) So, in order to build group identity one should:
    • Emphasize (and increase) similarity — not diversity! — including shared goals, values and interests.
    • Exploit synchrony (group movement, singing, etc)
    • Create healthy competition among teams, not individuals.
    • Model transformative leadership by showing self-sacrifice.

    (as an INFP who is largely a non-joiner, the above list seems pretty awful to me... especially in an enforce environment like work) You'll note that many of the above techniques are used by churches and civic organizations (which only makes sense).

    Haidt also argues that we gain a lot of personal meaning from transcendent group experiences, whether this is at church, at a football game, or participating in a choir, band or dance. Social groups, especially local groups such as bowling leagues, churches, teams and clubs, increase social capital and are crucial for the health of individuals and nations.

    He also spends a fair amount of time talking about the utility of religion: "There is now a great deal of evidence that religions do in fact help groups to cohere, solve free rider problems, and win the competition for group-level survival." Religion helps make sacred (and therefore inarguable) the very conventions that make civil society possible. "Sacredness binds people together, and then blinds them to the arbitrariness of the practice." (loc 4525)

    The six scales:

    Haidt eventually boils things down to six scales (in his TED talk, he had five scales, but based on data collected, he added liberal/oppression):

    1. Harm/care (doing no harm, caring for the members of society)
    2. Fairness/cheating (meaning to the left: equality, to the right: proportionality)
    3. Loyalty/betrayal (in-group identity)
    4. Authority/subversion (respect for hierarchy, social structures)
    5. Sanctity degradation (purity)
    6. Liberty/oppression (anti-bullying, domination)

    Liberals primary use the scale for care/harm the most, liberty/oppression. and, to a lesser degree, fairness/cheating (equality)

    Libertarians mostly use the liberty/oppression scale, almost to the exclusion of other concerns (they do se fairness/cheating scale a bit).

    Conservatives use all six scales, with the fairness fairness/cheating being
    about proportionality (being rewarded in proportion to your efforts). This also means conservative may overrule primary scales of favored by liberals and libertarians may lose in deference to other scales.

    (As a personal side, it makes sense to me that the loyalty, authority, and purity scales all tend to bind together. What is "pure" is partially social constructed, therefore rendering those from other societies/groups as impure and other. That other societies or groups don't follow one's own social structures also helps reinforce awareness of in-groups.)

    Strengths and weakness

    Haidt does a pretty good job of listing strengths and weaknesses of the various groups:

    Liberals:
    • Experts at care and better able to see the victims of current social structures
    • Are able to see the necessity of constraining corporations
    • Are able to see that some problems can be solved by regulation

    Conservatives:
    • Able to see the value of the current social structures
    • Provide ballast to liberals urge to change
    • Better understand the social value of group identity and religious belief

    Libertarians:
    • Able to see the value of markets (when externalities, etc, can be addressed)
    • Reinforce the importance of individual autonomy and freedom


    [Mooney's The Republican Brain and closing thoughts on this trek later.]
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    Senior Member Munchies's Avatar
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    Conservative <-> Liberal. a black and white scale of thought, for two infinitly grey subjects, bs if you ask me. Let's take each situation as it is and try to focus all aspects and not jus stick to a left or right take on things. This whole concept lacks individuality. Has there been no intellectual discourse on a different type of system? or is this whole left/right conservative/liberal thing the absolute truth of a 100% functioning democracy? cmon
    1+1=3 OMFG

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    Waiting to respond substantively until I see how the thread progresses.

    But good job so far Seymour.

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    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Munchies View Post
    Conservative <-> Liberal. a black and white scale of thought, for two infinitly grey subjects, bs if you ask me. Let's take each situation as it is and try to focus all aspects and not jus stick to a left or right take on things. This whole concept lacks individuality. Has there been no intellectual discourse on a different type of system? or is this whole left/right conservative/liberal thing the absolute truth of a 100% functioning democracy? cmon
    Of course it's not... but it's not entirely an artificial construct, either. If you look at the research, there are liberal and conservative qualities that remain consistent across cultures, and those qualities remain relatively consistent. One of the reasons the current US political environment is so destructive in the US is because we are locked into political parties that are increasingly aligned along the liberal/conservative dimension, which makes that divide increasingly hard to bridge. When the parties in the US were more mixed, communication and compromise were a lot easier.

    Intellectually the way issues fall out between liberal/conservative is clearly partially based on arbitrary social constructs, although I think Haidt's scales give us some heuristics we can apply to predict how they might fall within a culture. Certainly the way liberal/conservative positions in the US are divided aren't terribly consistent objectively.

    But meanwhile in the US, democrats and republicans (especially the politicians) have become increasingly polarized. Not only do they disagree, they tend to find each other stances increasingly incomprehensible. That's why looking into what's going on is important, even though people don't divide neatly into exclusive liberal/conservative buckets.

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    I find that it's unhelpful to associate authoritarianism with Republicans. Some of the most authoritarian governments in the world have been communist.

    Also, Western liberals can be socially authoritarian, for example, enforcing social norms that may even begin to ignore all common sense, like anti-white thought in the West. I've had people call me a fascist because I dared to suggest that we delve into race issues a little more deeply than their knee jerk assumptions about "good" and "evil" amongst racial or cultural groups.

    I have noticed some Democrats who are very extreme liberals still promoting their idea of what is normal, and feeling great pleasure in that normality.

    It's interesting because I would be considered non-Authoritarian (I'm very opinionated and balk at established rules) but I still fall under the category where I believe things like the death penalty are pragmatic, and that pacifism is idealistic and foolish.

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    Also, according to your scale I am both liberal and conservative. I understand the value of group identity and religion, which is one of the reasons why I became interested in cultural preservation, studying European nationalism from a distance, and found an article about Russian nationalism particularly informative and forboding...that basically in the USSR the Russian cultural mythology was taken away and replaced by the state. We cannot psychologically harm people by replacing their rich cultural identities with statism. Nor can we do this with corporate logos and globalization in business, either. That's one aspect of why I disagree with both communism and anarcho-capitalism, among other reasons.

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    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    I find that it's unhelpful to associate authoritarianism with Republicans. Some of the most authoritarian governments in the world have been communist.
    I agree with you (as does the literature) that in a culture that's been communist (or fascist) for a while, conservatives will tend to be conservative about change, and therefore tend to support dominant societal structures. In such a a society, authoritarians will tend to be deferential to the communist (or authoritarian) authorities. There's nothing inherent to conservatism, authoritarianism or liberalism that forces it to fall on the political spectrum as it does in the US.

    Still, in the US studies show that there's a correlation between being an authoritarian and being a Republican. That doesn't make all Republicans authoritarians, or even all Republicans conservatives (or all Democrats liberal non-authoritarians, for that matter). Over time, though, the Democratic Party is becoming composed increasingly of liberals and Republican Party is becoming composed increasingly of conservatives.

    I think it's fine to argue about whether "authoritarianism" is a useful concept and whether captures anything meaningful, especially since its such a negative term. Arguing that authoritarianism isn't correlated with the Republican party in the US currently is more difficult. (Again, not saying that all or even the majority of Republicans are authoritarians.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    Also, Western liberals can be socially authoritarian, for example, enforcing social norms that may even begin to ignore all common sense, like anti-white thought in the West. I've had people call me a fascist because I dared to suggest that we delve into race issues a little more deeply than their knee jerk assumptions about "good" and "evil" amongst racial or cultural groups.
    The liberal tendency to side with the underdog has its problems, too... for example, it can sometimes lead to treating the disadvantaged as above reproach. I would agree that not all social constructs are equally beneficial, and that liberals can be blind to that in some contexts. Never holding individuals morally accountable isn't a good solution, neither is pretending the playing field is already level and fair and that people always deserve what they get.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    I have noticed some Democrats who are very extreme liberals still promoting their idea of what is normal, and feeling great pleasure in that normality.
    I think most people like feeling they are right and socially supported. That's hardly a shock. In Massachusetts I find myself defending conservatives and Southerners, partially based on my own experience of being gay and relatively liberal (if not by Massachusetts standards) in Texas.

    Still, not all individuals show the same level of feedback conformity, and there is a correlation with authoritarianism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest View Post
    It's interesting because I would be considered non-Authoritarian (I'm very opinionated and balk at established rules) but I still fall under the category where I believe things like the death penalty are pragmatic, and that pacifism is idealistic and foolish.
    I'm sure there are good discussions to be had on the death penalty, but I'd prefer not to have them in depth here. And, as I mentioned above, the stances of the US political parties are not rationally consistent. As far as what counts as "practical," that's at least partially a matter of interpretation and implementation as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marmie Dearest
    Also, according to your scale I am both liberal and conservative. I understand the value of group identity and religion, which is one of the reasons why I became interested in cultural preservation, studying European nationalism from a distance, and found an article about Russian nationalism particularly informative and forboding...that basically in the USSR the Russian cultural mythology was taken away and replaced by the state. We cannot psychologically harm people by replacing their rich cultural identities with statism. Nor can we do this with corporate logos and globalization in business, either. That's one aspect of why I disagree with both communism and anarcho-capitalism, among other reasons.
    I'm not at all sure what you mean by "my scales" (since I'm not even sure I have one). If you mean Haidt's scales, I'm not shocked that you might not fall into the stereotypical liberal pattern. Haidt himself shifted from being a liberal to being more centrist, after seeing real value in the other moral scales during the course of his research and cross-cultural experiences. In any case, individuals may not fit the typical pattern for their party (if they can even be said to be liberal, conservative or libertarian). That's hardly shocking.

    I think it is a weakness of these kinds of books and research that it makes it very easy to overgeneralize (just as can be done with the MBTI). Things can be reduced constructs like "all Republicans are authoritarian" which is inaccurate, unfair and polarizing.

    And again, individual variation may differ and context matter a lot. I think if I hadn't been gay and remained living in Texas, there's a good chance I would have joined the majority of my family and been a Republican for longer (my straight identical twin brother is a Republican).

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    Warning word wall...

    Quote Originally Posted by Seymour View Post
    One of the reasons the current US political environment is so destructive in the US is because we are locked into political parties that are increasingly aligned along the liberal/conservative dimension, which makes that divide increasingly hard to bridge. When the parties in the US were more mixed, communication and compromise were a lot easier.
    You're so close, let me expand on your point a little bit.

    What you're talking about, the growing gap within the two party electorate, and the role the parties play in maintaining or widening that gap, are symptoms of the real problem.

    Your overall conclusion that compromise and communication were easier back in the day is right on the money though.

    The question that needs to be asked is why the parties have become so polarized, and how can we moderate this polarization.

    In my opinion the polarization of the American Political landscape can be mostly attributed to three things.

    First, is the emergence of the 24hour news cycle. One would think that more political coverage, and more focus on politicians generally would lead to a more reasonable and accountable political system. Unfortunately for us, this increased coverage hasn't made politicians more accountable to the public generally, just to their party and voters within that party. Originally though, the increased coverage had a positive influence on the electorate.

    When CNN emerged at the front of the 24hour news trend, news was still dealt with in a mostly non-partisan fashion. The news was something that the public needed but was not a money maker (in and of itself). With the birth of CNN, and especially their breathtaking coverage of the first gulf war, the large networks began to get hip to the fact that there was real money to be made in TV news. This isn't to say that they didn't know they could make money with news before. They did (otherwise there wouldn't have been any news on TV). They had just never thought that an entire network dedicated to news could be a real money maker.

    When the news used to be part of a larger portfolio of shows on the big networks, those networks didn't have to worry as much about ratings for the news. They didn't have to worry about ratings (as much) because there were:
    a) fewer channels
    b) usually a captive audience from the program prior to the news
    c) and most importantly, other programs on those networks that earned the majority of their profit

    Once one dedicates an entire channel to news however, the requirement of profitability forces that channel to begin thinking about how to make the news as attractive to viewers as it can be. And this is where the problem began.

    This brings me to my second point. The shift from news as education, to news as entertainment. Before TV networks just let the news be whatever it was, because they were already making money with all their other shows. But once one's entire channel is dedicated to news, that news has to compete with everything else on TV for viewers, and cannot afford to take actions that sacrifice ratings.

    The instant TV news producers began to consider ratings as equally or more important than things like the duty to educate the public and factual accuracy, we were destined to end up where we are now. In this way, the birth of CNN ushered in a new era in news. An era in which the news never stopped, and became increasingly (to its detriment) treated as entertainment.

    While CNN has largely remained non partisan, it opened the door to successors who would see an opportunity in partisan news. With CNN and most major networks saturating the vast moderate middle of the news consuming market, FOX News and MSNBC (to name a few) decided to try to capture the more partisan ends of the market.

    It was that idea that truly changed the American political landscape. As the success of partisan news has shown, deciding to shape your product (in this case the news) to appeal to a specific audience works. From a business perspective its smarter to make a product that appeals to a section of the market, than to try and create a product that appeals to the whole market, yet ends up being loved by none of the market.

    It is by this process that the media in the US has been a willing agent in it's own polarization. However, the developments mentioned above cannot account for all or even most of the hyper-polarization that can seen in political discourse in the US. The establishment of the 24 hour news cycle, and news as entertainment merely set the stage for hyper polarization. The growth of the internet and new media completed it.

    Here we come to my third and most important contributing factor. The media itself only has an incentive to shape news in a partisan fashion to the extent that they can capture sections of the market. I generally think if it were left up to them, those running the MSM would prefer to have less extreme political stances on all sides. While its smart to differentiate yourself enough to capture an untapped section of the market, it's not smart to become so extreme in catering to that section of the market that you alienate the rest of it. This is were the internet and new media come in.

    The internet has given a soapbox to anyone with passion for a topic. More to the point, the internet gives more traction to those who feel most passionately about an issue (the squeakiest wheel gets the grease). Many of these most passionate people are single issue voters, or voters with markedly extreme views. In this way, the internet and new media has become the mouthpiece of extreme political thought. This in an of itself is not a problem. Everyone knows there are crazies on the internet, and usually act accordingly.

    (I would go into how the growth of special interests has played into new media extremism, but for the sake of brevity I wont. Just know that special interest influence hasn't been kept out of my analysis, but is beyond the scope of my post here)

    The problem emerges when you combine the growth of extremist views in new media, with the rise of the 24hour news cycle, and news as entertainment. Extreme views make great headlines. And to an increasing extent the growth of extremist views have been a cash cow for partisan news. More and more, news networks look to the internet to see where the news is going, and use that knowledge to color their portrayal of the news.

    Everything mentioned up to this point would not be a problem if our political parties were less reactionary forces than they are. Regrettably, our parties are in the business of getting votes, not necessarily running the country effectively. The instant the parties began to buy into news media polarization, the game was over. The parties have seen that going along with partisan news media helps to galvanize the party electorate by creating a 360 degree cocoon of biased information.

    "Well if my party is saying it, and so is FOX/MSNBC, it must be true."

    We've now gotten to a point where watching biased news is almost a litmus test among the party bases. Now a days watching different news, or entertaining opposing points of view are seen as unacceptable by those who color the conversation within the parties. The echo chambers of political thought have become so insulated that many people don't come into contact with an idea that challenges their world view all day.

    That scares the shit out of me.

    This is how we've gotten to a place where the most extreme 10% of us on either side increasingly determine the tone and topics of our political discussion.

    The worst part is that all those of us in the silent middle are left holding the check.

    This to an extent answers why we're so polarized...

    I'll cover my thoughts on how to address this polarization once I've had some time to think about it.

  9. #9
    Sweet Ocean Cloud SD45T-2's Avatar
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    P. J. O'Rourke once proposed (semi-seriosuly) a 4 party system for the United States. One party would be fiscally/economically and socially conservative, sort of like the Republican Party. Another party would be fiscally/economically and socially liberal, like the Democratic Party. The next party would be fiscally/economically conservative and socially liberal (sort of like the Libertarian Party). The 4th party would be fiscally/economically liberal and socially conservative.
    1w2-6w5-3w2 so/sp

    "I took one those personality tests. It came back negative." - Dan Mintz

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    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    Sounds like it's time for someone to adopt the policies of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires and force integration

    Random comments:

    This reminds me in part of east/west shame culture/guilt culture divides

    Shame:

    "Shame is a reaction to other people's criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one."

    Guilt

    Guilt is a feeling that arises when we violate the absolute standards of morality within us, when we violate our conscience. A person may suffer from guilt although no one else knows of his or her misdeed; this feeling of guilt is relieved by confessing the misdeed and making restitution. True guilt cultures rely on an internalized conviction of sin as the enforcer of good behavior, not, as shame cultures do, on external sanctions. Guilt cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of restoring the social order. (Hiebert 1985, 213)

    Sounds kind of like fe vs fi lol



    Also another thing I read correlating iq to stages of moral development/ethical development/and values

    Random observation the authoritarians sound very similar to this:

    The conventional level of moral reasoning is typical of adolescents and adults. Those who reason in a conventional way judge the morality of actions by comparing them to society's views and expectations. The conventional level consists of the third and fourth stages of moral development. Conventional morality is characterized by an acceptance of society's conventions concerning right and wrong. At this level an individual obeys rules and follows society's norms even when there are no consequences for obedience or disobedience. Adherence to rules and conventions is somewhat rigid, however, and a rule's appropriateness or fairness is seldom questioned. [7][8][9]

    Also, I've noticed political social intellectual etc dichotomization throughout history. Generally they tend toward homogeneous, less deviation from the mean demographic, generally "superior" average members vs heterogeneous, higher deviations from the mean in terms of demographics (4 or more), extremes of specialization in development

    Examples

    Sparta vs athens
    Ussr vs usa
    Greece vs persia
    Britain vs france
    Etc

    I'm going to be incredibly typist and say that ntjs + sjs tend to work together as conservatives with ntjs in positions of authority abusing the sjs below. Think corporate financier and construction worker. The problem is this pair works against their own interests and necessitates the creation of their political/social foes. For example if a person becomes injured, exposed to trauma, or represent a deviation of greater than 4 from the mean, etc they are abandoned by the shame culture for not do-being what they are supposed to be. Most of the time these genes on the periphery do not survive, but occasionally they do the periphetic genes tend to unite and create an emergent culture based on their similarities. This also has problems as these cultures are less efficient on the individual level, but because specialized often more efficient as a whole. The rival cultures compete for supremacy till one dominates or external factors intervene. These agreements of being tend to diverge internally as well by countervailing themselves subconsciously as well (for example white guilt).

    I believe they keep recursively differentiating to greater complexity ad infinitum (barring resource constraints)
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

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