Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

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Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:49 pm UTC

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/04/AR2010020403698.html

Spoiler:
Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension.

It's an odd time for liberals to feel smug. But even with Democratic fortunes on the wane, leading liberals insist that they have almost nothing to learn from conservatives. Many Democrats describe their troubles simply as a PR challenge, a combination of conservative misinformation -- as when Obama charges that critics of health-care reform are peddling fake fears of a "Bolshevik plot" -- and the country's failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments. "We were so busy just getting stuff done . . . that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are," the president told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a recent interview. The benighted public is either uncomprehending or deliberately misinformed (by conservatives).

This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.

Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades, a tendency encapsulated by Lionel Trilling's 1950 remark that conservatives do not "express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas." During the 1950s and '60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival. In 1962, Richard Hofstadter referred to "the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind."

This sense of liberal intellectual superiority dropped off during the economic woes of the 1970s and the Reagan boom of the 1980s. (Jimmy Carter's presidency, buffeted by economic and national security challenges, generated perhaps the clearest episode of liberal self-doubt.) But these days, liberal confidence and its companion disdain for conservative thinking are back with a vengeance, finding energetic expression in politicians' speeches, top-selling books, historical works and the blogosphere. This attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function.

The first is the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a narrative made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton but hardly limited to her. This vision maintains that conservatives win elections and policy debates not because they triumph in the open battle of ideas but because they deploy brilliant and sinister campaign tactics. A dense network of professional political strategists such as Karl Rove, think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and industry groups allegedly manipulate information and mislead the public. Democratic strategist Rob Stein crafted a celebrated PowerPoint presentation during George W. Bush's presidency that traced conservative success to such organizational factors.

This liberal vision emphasizes the dissemination of ideologically driven views from sympathetic media such as the Fox News Channel. For example, Chris Mooney's book "The Republican War on Science" argues that policy debates in the scientific arena are distorted by conservatives who disregard evidence and reflect the biases of industry-backed Republican politicians or of evangelicals aimlessly shielding the world from modernity. In this interpretation, conservative arguments are invariably false and deployed only cynically. Evidence of the costs of cap-and-trade carbon rationing is waved away as corporate propaganda; arguments against health-care reform are written off as hype orchestrated by insurance companies.

This worldview was on display in the popular liberal reaction to the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Rather than engage in a discussion about the complexities of free speech in politics, liberals have largely argued that the decision will "open the floodgates for special interests" to influence American elections, as the president warned in his State of the Union address. In other words, it was all part of the conspiracy to support conservative candidates for their nefarious, self-serving ends.

It follows that the thinkers, politicians and citizens who advance conservative ideas must be dupes, quacks or hired guns selling stories they know to be a sham. In this spirit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman regularly dismisses conservative arguments not simply as incorrect, but as lies. Writing last summer, Krugman pondered the duplicity he found evident in 35 years' worth of Wall Street Journal editorial writers: "What do these people really believe? I mean, they're not stupid -- life would be a lot easier if they were. So they know they're not telling the truth. But they obviously believe that their dishonesty serves a higher truth. . . . The question is, what is that higher truth?"

In Krugman's world, there is no need to take seriously the arguments of "these people" -- only to plumb the depths of their errors and imagine hidden motives.

But, if conservative leaders are crass manipulators, then the rank-and-file Americans who support them must be manipulated at best, or stupid at worst. This is the second variety of liberal condescension, exemplified in Thomas Frank's best-selling 2004 book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Frank argued that working-class voters were so distracted by issues such as abortion that they were induced into voting against their own economic interests. Then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, later chairman of the Democratic National Committee, echoed that theme in his 2004 presidential run, when he said Republicans had succeeded in getting Southern whites to focus on "guns, God and gays" instead of economic redistribution.

And speaking to a roomful of Democratic donors in 2008, then-presidential candidate Obama offered a similar (and infamous) analysis when he suggested that residents of Rust Belt towns "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations" about job losses. When his comments became public, Obama backed away from their tenor but insisted that "I said something that everybody knows is true."

In this view, we should pay attention to conservative voters' underlying problems but disregard the policy demands they voice; these are illusory, devoid of reason or evidence. This form of liberal condescension implies that conservative masses are in the grip of false consciousness. When they express their views at town hall meetings or "tea party" gatherings, it might be politically prudent for liberals to hear them out, but there is no reason to actually listen.

The third version of liberal condescension points to something more sinister. In his 2008 book, "Nixonland," progressive writer Rick Perlstein argued that Richard Nixon created an enduring Republican strategy of mobilizing the ethnic and other resentments of some Americans against others. Similarly, in their 1992 book, "Chain Reaction," Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall argued that Nixon and Reagan talked up crime control, low taxes and welfare reform to cloak racial animus and help make it mainstream. It is now an article of faith among many liberals that Republicans win elections because they tap into white prejudice against blacks and immigrants.

Race doubtless played a significant role in the shift of Deep South whites to the Republican Party during and after the 1960s. But the liberal narrative has gone essentially unchanged since then -- recall former president Carter's recent assertion that opposition to Obama reflects racism -- even though survey research has shown a dramatic decline in prejudiced attitudes among white Americans in the intervening decades. Moreover, the candidates and agendas of both parties demonstrate an unfortunate willingness to play on prejudices, whether based on race, region, class, income, or other factors.

Finally, liberals condescend to the rest of us when they say conservatives are driven purely by emotion and anxiety -- including fear of change -- whereas liberals have the harder task of appealing to evidence and logic. Former vice president Al Gore made this case in his 2007 book, "The Assault on Reason," in which he expressed fear that American politics was under siege from a coalition of religious fundamentalists, foreign policy extremists and industry groups opposed to "any reasoning process that threatens their economic goals." This right-wing politics involves a gradual "abandonment of concern for reason or evidence" and relies on propaganda to maintain public support, he wrote.

Prominent liberal academics also propagate these beliefs. George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley and a consultant to Democratic candidates, says flatly that liberals, unlike conservatives, "still believe in Enlightenment reason," while Drew Westen, an Emory University psychologist and Democratic consultant, argues that the GOP has done a better job of mastering the emotional side of campaigns because Democrats, alas, are just too intellectual. "They like to read and think," Westen wrote. "They thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and getting the facts right."

Markos Moulitsas, publisher of the influential progressive Web site Daily Kos, commissioned a poll, which he released this month, designed to show how many rank-and-file Republicans hold odd or conspiratorial beliefs -- including 23 percent who purportedly believe that their states should secede from the Union. Moulitsas concluded that Republicans are "divorced from reality" and that the results show why "it is impossible for elected Republicans to work with Democrats to improve our country." His condescension is superlative: Of the respondents who favored secession, he wonders, "Can we cram them all into the Texas Panhandle, create the state of Dumb-[expletive]-istan, and build a wall around them to keep them from coming into America illegally?"

I doubt it would take long to design a survey questionnaire that revealed strange, ill-informed and paranoid beliefs among average Democrats. Or does Moulitsas think Jay Leno talked only to conservatives for his "Jaywalking" interviews?

These four liberal narratives not only justify the dismissal of conservative thinking as biased or irrelevant -- they insist on it. By no means do all liberals adhere to them, but they are mainstream in left-of-center thinking. Indeed, when the president met with House Republicans in Baltimore recently, he assured them that he considers their ideas, but he then rejected their motives in virtually the same breath.

"There may be other ideas that you guys have," Obama said. "I am happy to look at them, and I'm happy to embrace them. . . . But the question I think we're going to have to ask ourselves is, as we move forward, are we going to be examining each of these issues based on what's good for the country, what the evidence tells us, or are we going to be trying to position ourselves so that come November, we're able to say, 'The other party, it's their fault'?"

Of course, plenty of conservatives are hardly above feeling superior. But the closest they come to portraying liberals as systematically mistaken in their worldview is when they try to identify ideological dogmatism in a narrow slice of the left (say, among Ivy League faculty members), in a particular moment (during the health-care debate, for instance) or in specific individuals (such as Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom some conservatives accuse of being stealth ideologues). A few conservative voices may say that all liberals are always wrong, but these tend to be relatively marginal figures or media gadflies such as Glenn Beck.

In contrast, an extraordinary range of liberal writers, commentators and leaders -- from Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" to Obama's White House, with many stops in between -- have developed or articulated narratives that apply to virtually all conservatives at all times.

To many liberals, this worldview may be appealing, but it severely limits our national conversation on critical policy issues. Perhaps most painfully, liberal condescension has distorted debates over American poverty for nearly two generations.

Starting in the 1960s, the original neoconservative critics such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan expressed distress about the breakdown of inner-city families, only to be maligned as racist and ignored for decades -- until appalling statistics forced critics to recognize their views as relevant. Long-standing conservative concerns over the perils of long-term welfare dependency were similarly villainized as insincere and mean-spirited -- until public opinion insisted they be addressed by a Democratic president and a Republican Congress in the 1996 welfare reform law. But in the meantime, welfare policies that discouraged work, marriage and the development of skills remained in place, with devastating effects.

Ignoring conservative cautions and insights is no less costly today. Some observers have decried an anti-intellectual strain in contemporary conservatism, detected in George W. Bush's aw-shucks style, Sarah Palin's college-hopping and the occasional conservative campaigns against egghead intellectuals. But alongside that, the fact is that conservative-leaning scholars, economists, jurists and legal theorists have never produced as much detailed analysis and commentary on American life and policy as they do today.

Perhaps the most important conservative insight being depreciated is the durable warning from free-marketeers that government programs often fail to yield what their architects intend. Democrats have been busy expanding, enacting or proposing major state interventions in financial markets, energy and health care. Supporters of such efforts want to ensure that key decisions will be made in the public interest and be informed, for example, by sound science, the best new medical research or prudent standards of private-sector competition. But public-choice economists have long warned that when decisions are made in large, centralized government programs, political priorities almost always trump other goals.

Even liberals should think twice about the prospect of decisions on innovative surgeries, light bulbs and carbon quotas being directed by legislators grandstanding for the cameras. Of course, thinking twice would be easier if more of them were listening to conservatives at all.
This happens a lot on these boards, by the way.

What interests me more than a discussion of liberal condescension / conservative stupidity is the idea of testing that divide in perceptions- it's clear that many liberals are condescending, but how would we know whether or not it's justified? Moulitsas's poll clearly fails. A discussion of communication styles might serve better- but that is rife with its own problems. If liberals read newspapers and The New Yorker, and conservatives listen to talk radio and read The Wall Street Journal, making a judgment on newspapers versus talk radio (or The New Yorker vs. The Wall Street Journal) seems inherently political. If conservatives celebrate common sense, and liberals celebrate uncommon sense, how could we tell which preference is better? (The liberal would reply that, clearly anything better than normal is going to be uncommon; the conservative would rebut that there are many more ways to be wrong than to be right.)

If we were to make demographic inquiries, though (perhaps Moulitsas's poll directed at Democrats as well), we run into a different problem- popularity, sincerity, and correctness are all different things. If everyone believes they can have their cake and eat it too, and vote that way, reality will beg to differ. If Republicans end up as being more or less intelligent / educated / mentally stable (and, by the way, how do you measure those things?) in the aggregate, that doesn't mean their ideas are necessarily more or less correct. If going to college makes you more likely to have wrong* political ideas, then perhaps a degree is not a reason to condescend those without one.

*Here, wrong has to mean "out of touch with reality" rather than "having misplaced priorities." Someone who believes that dropping the tax rate always leads to an increase in government revenue is clearly incorrect (what happens when it hits 0%?), just like someone who believes that increasing the tax rate never leads to a decrease in government revenue (what happens when it hits 100%?). What someone thinks about the relative importance of economic growth and economic inequality can't be right or wrong.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Lucrece » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:53 pm UTC

From ample experience in both circles, they're both the same shit. Human penchant for partisanship; they got their "team" just like they do in football, in workplace groups/agencies.

Liberals just happen to deem themselves as the intelligent ones, while conservatives deem themselves as the good ones.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby The Reaper » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:55 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:From ample experience in both circles, they're both the same shit. Human penchant for partisanship; they got their "team" just like they do in football, in workplace groups/agencies.

Liberals just happen to deem themselves as the intelligent ones, while conservatives deem themselves as the good ones.

Remember, there is no I in team, just ME.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:07 am UTC

I used to be very conservative, now I'm getting more and more into the liberal camp. I've sat around in both church potlucks and college house parties - it really doesn't matter which group is doing the ranting and mutually reinforcing their views amongst themselves. There's plenty of condescension to go around on both sides. Exhibit A: Me. The same instinctive disdain and hostility I felt for the morally bankrupt, brainwashed liberals back in the day remains exactly the same in tone and flavor as the disdain I feel for morally bankrupt, brainwashed conservatives today.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby aleflamedyud » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:16 am UTC

We liberals will stop being condescending about our actually having intellects when the rightists (radical != conservative) stop condescending about their being the only Godly and moral Americans.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Nordic Einar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:17 am UTC

The Article wrote:Of course, plenty of conservatives are hardly above feeling superior. But the closest they come to portraying liberals as systematically mistaken in their worldview is when they try to identify ideological dogmatism in a narrow slice of the left (say, among Ivy League faculty members), in a particular moment (during the health-care debate, for instance) or in specific individuals (such as Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom some conservatives accuse of being stealth ideologues). A few conservative voices may say that all liberals are always wrong, but these tend to be relatively marginal figures or media gadflies such as Glenn Beck.


I'm sorry? Did you honestly just condense fucking McCarthyism into "A few conservative voices" or "A narrow slice of the left"? I'm pretty sure I've heard the term "Socialist" and "Libruhl" used as a derogatory term or as a "scary, evil" term almost constantly from the Right since I've started paying attention to politics.

** EDIT **

I wanted to clarify; I'm not saying liberals aren't condescending. But conservatives have a long standing track record as being just as condescending.
Last edited by Nordic Einar on Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:36 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:28 am UTC

As a person who's pretty much surrounded on all sides from conservatives, I can fairly safely say that condescension is hardly a liberal trait. I've heard liberals dismissed out of hand as idiots who cling to ideals and ignore the real world more times than I can count. Or there are the number of people who legitimately believe liberals are evil people who want to destroy America. And just watch Penn & Teller's Bullshit!* if you want to see how condescending libertarians can be.

Everyone thinks they're right, everyone gets frustrated when other people don't seem to get the ideology behind their statements, everyone gets condescending. You can't say one side is more guilty than the other.

*not bashing this show, I like it a lot of the time.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:29 am UTC

ITT: Generalizations taken for granted. Even this one.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby quieto » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:13 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:it's clear that many liberals are condescending, but how would we know whether or not it's justified?

Justification would imply a moral framework. Is it alright to be snarky if you're factually correct? Or is it more important to be factually correct than socially couth? I think the answer isn't clearly either, as I assume you believe as well.

I did enjoy the article, to the point of wanting to finally register. If we seek to improve the discourse in Washington it's important for both sides to see how they continually stub on their roommate's toe.

As an aside, since both sides are stomping on toes, I don't think its very relevant who stomps harder or more frequently. It only matters that both sides stop it.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby aleflamedyud » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:07 am UTC

Actually, I have a genuine point I'd like to raise. Whenever a party is in the minority here in America it likes to depict its opponents as radical ideologues (though sometimes this is true, as in the Bush Administration) or partisan assholes. My question: what is actually wrong with ideology? To me, it seems that the politics of not-having-an-ideology and the politics of faux-bipartisanship have actually worked out worse for the country than the politics of competing ideologies. Why shouldn't politicians subscribe to a broad vision of a better society (aka an ideology) and fight for the measures necessary to bring that vision about (aka partisanship)?
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Mokele » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:12 am UTC

Condescend? Did he not watch the last election? 30% of the contenders in the Republican primary didn't/don't believe in evolution. 77% of rank-and file Republicans think creationism should be taught in schools. 60% think humans were made out of dirt 10,000 years ago.

If you don't want us looking down on you, stop pandering to complete morons.

Nobody who seriously believes that crap deserves intellectual respect, period, regardless of party.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:22 am UTC

Mokele wrote:Condescend? Did he not watch the last election? 30% of the contenders in the Republican primary didn't/don't believe in evolution. 77% of rank-and file Republicans think creationism should be taught in schools. 60% think humans were made out of dirt 10,000 years ago.

If you don't want us looking down on you, stop pandering to complete morons.

Nobody who seriously believes that crap deserves intellectual respect, period, regardless of party.


So to clarify, someone can't understand how economics or civil rights or anything else works unless they believe one specific part of science that is trivial in everyday life.

This is in fact the entire point of the article, yes the Republican party is wrong about evolution and the teaching of it in schools; however, when you extend this to they are a bunch of idiots who don't deserve an opinion it makes you quite frankly a horse's ass.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby quieto » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:26 am UTC

This happens a lot on these boards, by the way.

If you don't want us looking down on you, stop pandering to complete morons.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Krong » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:29 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:...radical ideologues (though sometimes this is true, as in the Bush Administration) or partisan assholes. My question: what is actually wrong with ideology? To me, it seems that the politics of not-having-an-ideology and the politics of faux-bipartisanship have actually worked out worse for the country than the politics of competing ideologies. Why shouldn't politicians subscribe to a broad vision of a better society (aka an ideology) and fight for the measures necessary to bring that vision about (aka partisanship)?

As for Bush, though you have a case for his being a radical in foreign policy, I don't know how you can claim that with his domestic policy. If you add up the prescription drug benefit, his position on illegal immigrants, and his going-away-present bailouts, he's "moderate" enough that Republicans were quite upset with him. You'd probably see them calling him a socialist outright if there wasn't such a "hold the line" feeling about defending his foreign policy.

As for the rest, the issue isn't having an ideology. It's also not about believing that you're right, believing others are wrong, believing your arguments are more sound than theirs, or coming to your beliefs in the "right" way. The issue is that of refusing to listen; of thinking that someone who's wrong on issue A can't possibly be right on issue B (see mmmcannibalism's post); of thinking that the superiority of your beliefs makes you a superior person; of demanding respect before you're willing to give it.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby JonScholar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:36 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:So to clarify, someone can't understand how economics or civil rights or anything else works unless they believe one specific part of science that is trivial in everyday life.

This is in fact the entire point of the article, yes the Republican party is wrong about evolution and the teaching of it in schools; however, when you extend this to they are a bunch of idiots who don't deserve an opinion it makes you quite frankly a horse's ass.


People have patterns of behavior. The fact that republicans ignore evidence for evolution, shows a deliberant ignorance of the overwhelming evidence against their viewpoint. It doesn't mean they are automatically wrong on all issues, it just means they're partial to following their biases over logic.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Duban » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:41 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:
People have patterns of behavior. The fact that republicans ignore evidence for evolution, shows a deliberant ignorance of the overwhelming evidence against their viewpoint. It doesn't mean they are automatically wrong on all issues, it just means they're partial to following their biases over logic.

It basically comes down to this. Many of them seem to demonize their competition rather then working on the actual issues. I've heard more conservatives call Obama a commie for his health plan then who actually debate it legitimately, which is quite doable. It goes with the creationism comments, personal bias takes priority over logic. It's just a sign of someone who isn't smart enough to make an intelligent debate.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby quieto » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:41 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:People have patterns of behavior. The fact that republicans ignore evidence for evolution, shows a deliberant ignorance of the overwhelming evidence against their viewpoint. It doesn't mean they are automatically wrong on all issues, it just means they're partial to following their biases over logic.

This is still justifying misbehavior by saying someone deserved it. Stupidity doesn't justify cruelty. In fact, it often requires the opposite---if correction is your goal.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:52 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:So to clarify, someone can't understand how economics or civil rights or anything else works unless they believe one specific part of science that is trivial in everyday life.

This is in fact the entire point of the article, yes the Republican party is wrong about evolution and the teaching of it in schools; however, when you extend this to they are a bunch of idiots who don't deserve an opinion it makes you quite frankly a horse's ass.


People have patterns of behavior. The fact that republicans ignore evidence for evolution, shows a deliberant ignorance of the overwhelming evidence against their viewpoint. It doesn't mean they are automatically wrong on all issues, it just means they're partial to following their biases over logic.


While that does hold some merit, it only supports the reality that people are biased in favor of their opinion. Liberals are just as likely to ignore reports showing downfalls of social spending as Conservatives are to ignore reports showing the benefits of social spending.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby psyck0 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:55 am UTC

Let me post PZ Myer's response to this, which I wholeheartedly agree with and which can be summed up by saying "most conservatives are retarded evangelical bible thumpers who don't know policy from a hole in their ass and deserve to be mocked, and we will stop mocking conservatives when they kick those idiots the fuck out of the republican party and start having something intelligent to contribute like they did before Reagan."
He does demonstrate nicely that many liberals do categorize many conservatives as idiots, but he doesn't seem capable of addressing the question of why they think that. It's mostly a lot of waa-waa about the tone and how this attitude is an obstacle to politics.

He doesn't consider the obvious explanation that many conservatives are amazing idiots pursuing idiotic policies.

Seriously. Sarah Palin. Conservatives defending Palin's stupidities. Republican candidates for the presidency who are certain that the earth is only 6000 years old. A Republican party dominated by the religious right.

Years ago, I would have considered Alexander to have a good point: that on some policies, such as economics, conservatives had something to contribute. But then they elected Reagan and Bush and the crowd of clowns in congress, and any claim to being a serious political party went out the window. They are the silly party now, and where they do the most damage is when pompous wankers demand that we treat them seriously simply because they are the conservative party we've got. No, we shouldn't: we should laugh them out of office until they come up with candidates who aren't stupid shills.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:56 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:The fact that republicans ignore evidence for evolution
...is not a fact. It's a ridiculous generalization.

Honestly, I think TFA is full of holes and generalizations of its own, but saying "No really ur dum" is a fucking terrible way of attacking it. I think the PZ Myers quote above is the first reply here that hasn't even detracted from the conversation.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Velict » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:00 am UTC

This Gallup poll is a year old, but I think that it is relatively interesting.

Image

Not only are the Republicans a bit more diverse on evolution than some liberals allege, but it seems that a sizable percentage of Democrats are equally clueless.

(source)

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby EMTP » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:00 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:This happens a lot on these boards, by the way.


Conservatives blandly fabricating an imaginary set of "facts" which cast themselves in the role of long-suffering victims and creating a ludicrous fantasy designed tempt liberals into wasting their time explaining all the ways their account fails, factually as well as logically?

True enough. It does.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Velict » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:02 am UTC

EMTP wrote:
Vaniver wrote:This happens a lot on these boards, by the way.


Conservatives blandly fabricating an imaginary set of "facts" which cast themselves in the role of long-suffering victims and creating a ludicrous fantasy designed tempt liberals into wasting their time explaining all the ways their account fails, factually as well as logically?

True enough. It does.


Isn't the evolution of this thread an excellent example of the point Vaniver is illustrating (as well an a counter-example towards conservative behaviors)?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby EMTP » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:09 am UTC

Velict wrote:
Isn't the evolution of this thread an excellent example of the point Vaniver is illustrating (as well an a counter-example towards conservative behaviors)?


In a word, no. Being hostile to people of a different ideological persuasion is a routine fact of political discourse, and is not evidence of a pattern of condescension by one side in particular. Consider the following condescending remarks, fresh from the beating heart of American conservatism, the Tea Party movement:

• Joseph Farah, the publisher of the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com, drew cheers from the crowd by questioning whether President Obama was born in the U.S. "The media, the politicians ... all say, no, it's all been settled," said Farah. "I say, if it's been settled show us the birth certificate. Simple."

• Tom Tancredo, the former Colorado Republican congressman, declared that the president was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote." Such tests, of course, were used in the Jim Crow south to block African-Americans from voting. Tancredo, who ran for president in 2008 as a rabid foe of illegal immigration, referred to the president using his middle name, and added: "People who could not even spell the word 'vote' or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House."

• Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court charged that by proclaiming a gay pride month, Obama "has elevated immorality to a new level." Moore, who became a conservative darling after refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse, added: "An appeal to the God of hosts is all that is left."

• And Pastor Rick Scarborough -- a self-proclaimed "Christocrat" -- "went after homosexuals several times to choruses of amens," according to Time.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Velict » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:15 am UTC

EMTP wrote:
Velict wrote:
Isn't the evolution of this thread an excellent example of the point Vaniver is illustrating (as well an a counter-example towards conservative behaviors)?


In a word, no. Being hostile to people of a different ideological persuasion is a routine fact of political discourse, and is not evidence of a pattern of condescension by one side in particular.


Such hostility is derived from a belief that the other side's views are misguided, unfounded, or empirically wrong. If routinely treating people with differing political beliefs with that sort of hostility isn't condescending, I don't know what is.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby aleflamedyud » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:22 am UTC

Krong wrote:
aleflamedyud wrote:...radical ideologues (though sometimes this is true, as in the Bush Administration) or partisan assholes. My question: what is actually wrong with ideology? To me, it seems that the politics of not-having-an-ideology and the politics of faux-bipartisanship have actually worked out worse for the country than the politics of competing ideologies. Why shouldn't politicians subscribe to a broad vision of a better society (aka an ideology) and fight for the measures necessary to bring that vision about (aka partisanship)?

As for the rest, the issue isn't having an ideology. It's also not about believing that you're right, believing others are wrong, believing your arguments are more sound than theirs, or coming to your beliefs in the "right" way. The issue is that of refusing to listen; of thinking that someone who's wrong on issue A can't possibly be right on issue B (see mmmcannibalism's post); of thinking that the superiority of your beliefs makes you a superior person; of demanding respect before you're willing to give it.

None of that explains why "partisan" and "ideological" have become dirty words. The worst part of this is the hypocrisy: politicians use bitter accusations of "partisanship", "divisiveness" and "ideology" to cast themselves as centrist or moderate men-of-the-people, thus making their own partisan ideology look less like, well... partisan ideology. This is why Republicans have labeled Obama a "socialist ideologue" despite the fact that the progressive movement hates him for being too moderate, and why the Democrats labeled Bush a "neoconservative ideologue" (though he really did compromise less than any administration in recent memory) despite the Sarah Palin wing of the party practically demanding that he make it legal to hunt non-Christians for sport.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby guenther » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:30 am UTC

quieto wrote:Justification would imply a moral framework. Is it alright to be snarky if you're factually correct? Or is it more important to be factually correct than socially couth?

Is it more important that we drive safely, or that we don't tell racist jokes? How about we promote both? And if someone is being racist we shouldn't defend it by stating how good their driving record is.

quieto wrote:As an aside, since both sides are stomping on toes, I don't think its very relevant who stomps harder or more frequently. It only matters that both sides stop it.

I agree, but from this thread it's easy to see why that's a hard thing to accomplish: It's so easy to defend treating people badly. (The same would hold true for a discussion on a conservative forum). Framing the issue in terms of which team does worse makes it even harder because the bar immediately drops to "Hey the other side is no better!", which is a pretty low bar.

My opinion is that this behavior will only improve if it's socially enforced from within. As long as people defend treating others like crap, people will keep treating others like crap.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby poxic » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:31 am UTC

Finger-pointing, blaming, generalising, caricaturising, dismissal, contempt, condescension, demonising, fear-mongering, indignation-mongering... I'd like to say that both sides do it. It's closer to the truth to say that all but the most humble and enlightened of humans do it. And if you've already started thinking about how your side of the argument (any argument) is the most humble and enlightened side, you are neither.

Most people simply need to feel like they're part of something, opposed to something else. We do it in sports, music, fashion, food, drink, our choices in flooring and appliances, the colours we paint our homes, the myths and stories and movies and video games we ally ourselves with or against -- we all do it. All the time. Political parties are no different, though we think they should be.

There will always be opposition. When we forget that we need each other, that we need to compromise and consider and learn, war will be the result. And war is the worst possible outcome.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby quieto » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:39 am UTC

guenther wrote:
quieto wrote:Justification would imply a moral framework. Is it alright to be snarky if you're factually correct? Or is it more important to be factually correct than socially couth?

Is it more important that we drive safely, or that we don't tell racist jokes? How about we promote both? And if someone is being racist we shouldn't defend it by stating how good their driving record is.


Ah yes exactly. You framed this much better than I did.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:41 am UTC

Let me post PZ Myer's response to this, which I wholeheartedly agree with and which can be summed up by saying "most conservatives are retarded evangelical bible thumpers who don't know policy from a hole in their ass and deserve to be mocked, and we will stop mocking conservatives when they kick those idiots the fuck out of the republican party and start having something intelligent to contribute like they did before Reagan."


Funny thing about civil discource, when you start with the claim your opposition is retarded I start doubting the rest of your argument.

I would go on about how generalizing religious people as stupid is misguided and quite often wrong, or how people believing something irrational about how the earth was created doesn't destroy their ability to deal with economic policy. Then again, you will probably claim I am a fucking idiot.

This was the whole point of that article, if you are only capable of trying to discredit the opposition by calling them retarded or bible thumpers it shows you have a lack of actual arguments against them.

edit--I disagree with the use of retarded in civil speech, but it felt appropriate on the basis that I was opposing the use of it.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:49 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:What interests me more than a discussion of liberal condescension / conservative stupidity is the idea of testing that divide in perceptions- it's clear that many liberals are condescending, but how would we know whether or not it's justified?

A large roadblock to answering this question is the problem of differing sets of evidences. If a false belief is borne of a genuine search for knowledge but a lack of good resources or a set of experiences that would lead any purely rational person to the same conclusions, is it justified to call this person ignorant? If a true belief is erroneously borne of the most biased self-pandering imaginable, is it justified to call this person intellectual?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:50 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:
Let me post PZ Myer's response to this, which I wholeheartedly agree with and which can be summed up by saying "most conservatives are retarded evangelical bible thumpers who don't know policy from a hole in their ass and deserve to be mocked, and we will stop mocking conservatives when they kick those idiots the fuck out of the republican party and start having something intelligent to contribute like they did before Reagan."


Funny thing about civil discource, when you start with the claim your opposition is retarded I start doubting the rest of your argument.

I would go on about how generalizing religious people as stupid is misguided and quite often wrong, or how people believing something irrational about how the earth was created doesn't destroy their ability to deal with economic policy. Then again, you will probably claim I am a fucking idiot.

This was the whole point of that article, if you are only capable of trying to discredit the opposition by calling them retarded or bible thumpers it shows you have a lack of actual arguments against them.

edit--I disagree with the use of retarded in civil speech, but it felt appropriate on the basis that I was opposing the use of it.

Incidentally, one problem with the passage you quote is that it is a very poor summary of what Myers said.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Krong » Tue Feb 09, 2010 3:53 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:None of that explains why "partisan" and "ideological" have become dirty words. The worst part of this is the hypocrisy: politicians use bitter accusations of "partisanship", "divisiveness" and "ideology" to cast themselves as centrist or moderate men-of-the-people, thus making their own partisan ideology look less like, well... partisan ideology.

Well, you gave one pretty good answer to your question right there. There's also the idea that being partisan implies taking sides, which is perceived as being mean, unhelpful, and juvenile. Saying "I hope Obama fails" is perfectly in line with a normal partisan mindset, but it takes a certain kind of person to willingly publicly align themselves with such a statement. Also, if you're an ideologue, you're maybe too focused on what you want and less focused on what others want, which is something you should at least keep in mind when serving as an elected representative.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:00 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:Actually, I have a genuine point I'd like to raise. Whenever a party is in the minority here in America it likes to depict its opponents as radical ideologues (though sometimes this is true, as in the Bush Administration) or partisan assholes. My question: what is actually wrong with ideology? To me, it seems that the politics of not-having-an-ideology and the politics of faux-bipartisanship have actually worked out worse for the country than the politics of competing ideologies. Why shouldn't politicians subscribe to a broad vision of a better society (aka an ideology) and fight for the measures necessary to bring that vision about (aka partisanship)?


Well, if you go by Althusser's definition of ideology, which is a fairly good one, then every person not only has an ideology, but couldn't function without an ideology.

Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence


I suppose the real test is just how "imaginary" the ideology is; which, in the case of young-earth creationists is pretty damn. And, I suppose, a lot of the condescension you find from the left is, likely centered around what P.Z. already pointed out, which is in most cases already proved false. Though, given the data on actually belief between conservatives and liberals--aside from the 10,000 year old category and the no God involved part--is rather the same and leads to a bit of an ideological position on actual beliefs. The difference, thought, is that the right seems more likely to voice the incorrect scientific position than is the left.

The real point of this article is, like P.Z. also pointed out, to add yet another pejorative label to liberals. So la-de-freaking da if they're condescending to the conservatives, considering this article is the conservatives being assholes right back.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby JonScholar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:15 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:While that does hold some merit, it only supports the reality that people are biased in favor of their opinion. Liberals are just as likely to ignore reports showing downfalls of social spending as Conservatives are to ignore reports showing the benefits of social spending.


In addition to the evolution debacle, which group of people is discriminating against gays? Which group of people absolutely denies that Anthropogenic Global Warming or even Climate Change in general is occurring? I'll be the first to admit that liberals in this country have bias, but lets not pretend that both major parties are equal in their adherence to bias over logic

And yes, I am generalizing, but if this isn't the message the republicans want to put forth why have they let people who believe these things completely take over their party?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:19 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:Liberals just happen to deem themselves as the intelligent ones, while conservatives deem themselves as the good ones.
That's a really good way to put it! I spend most of my time in libertarian circles I sometimes forget just how much moralizing goes on in some traditional conservative circles- things like Treason mirroring Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.

EMTP wrote:Conservatives blandly fabricating an imaginary set of "facts" which cast themselves in the role of long-suffering victims and creating a ludicrous fantasy designed tempt liberals into wasting their time explaining all the ways their account fails, factually as well as logically?

True enough. It does.
Please, this discussion can be so much more interesting than that. While Lucrece's account was a bit too simple to accurately describe all of the difference, I think you can learn a lot about people from how they condescend, and who to. Conservatives seem to put a strong emphasis on personal responsibility, honor, and strength (making others weak and cowardly) while liberals seem to put a strong emphasis on collective responsibility and culture (making others greedy and uneducated).

That is, Gerard Alexander missed the point of his title: Liberals are so condescending because they value things they think they have and their opponents don't. It's only exceptional because he focuses on intellectual condescending, and the liberals he focus on view themselves as intellectual, while the conservatives that he focuses on don't.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:21 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:While that does hold some merit, it only supports the reality that people are biased in favor of their opinion. Liberals are just as likely to ignore reports showing downfalls of social spending as Conservatives are to ignore reports showing the benefits of social spending.


In addition to the evolution debacle, which group of people is discriminating against gays? Which group of people absolutely denies that Anthropogenic Global Warming or even Climate Change in general is occurring? I'll be the first to admit that liberals in this country have bias, but lets not pretend that both major parties are equal in their adherence to bias over logic

And yes, I am generalizing, but if this isn't the message the republicans want to put forth why have they let people who believe these things completely take over their party?

The nature of politics is that you don't always really get a say in who has power. Just as Obama's victory does not indicate that he is unanimously accepted by voters, the religious Right's alleged* dominance of the Republican Party does not indicate that it is unanimously accepted by Republicans.

*Because I'm rather skeptical of the idea that the religious Right has "completely taken over" that party. In fact, the cultural issues that you name are very frequently marginalized by both parties in favor of fields like defense and economic policy.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby JonScholar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:28 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:The nature of politics is that you don't always really get a say in who has power. Just as Obama's victory does not indicate that he is unanimously accepted by voters, the religious Right's alleged* dominance of the Republican Party does not indicate that it is unanimously accepted by Republicans.


The nature of democracy is that the politician who espouses the most popular views gets elected. Do you honestly deny that such stances on issues like evolution, gay rights, and climate change don't get at the very least majority support from the conservative base?

Edit: http://www.dailykos.com/statepoll/2010/1/31/US/437

Very interesting polls for you to look at

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby dosboot » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:57 am UTC

I feel that being condescending is never justified. In certain situations people don't care though. I really don't like politics for this reason, including the casual kind of face to face political discussion that happens daily.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Marbas » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:14 am UTC

Why are people taking the practicing pick up artist seriously? Clearly, the fact that they have beliefs in a specific area that are judged by the majority of people to be wrong means that we can't believe the things they say!

Well would you look at that. I can do it too.
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