Thebastidge: Doltish Polarization
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    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Doltish Polarization

    A friend mentioned this:

    I was reading the 'best of' section of salon's discussion boards, the well, and I came across this post. the woman who posted it puts forward what to me is an interesting theory...

    Nancy Richardson - 09:41 am Pacific Time - Aug 24, 2004 - #8156 of 8241

    For along I have been puzzled about why Wingnuts are the way they are, and I have observed a few things about them which seems to be endemic in their ranks.

    1) No sense of irony. The inability to understand paradox. Extreme discomfort with ambiguity.

    2) Poor critical-thinking skills. The inability to write about what they read with much competence. Unable to sort out the larger meaning of what they read. Tend toward not being about to sort out the difference between the theme of what they are reading, and unimportant details

    3) Lack of imagination, and a singular lack of ability to intuit how to make elementary character judgments.

    4) Lack of empathy. To the extreme.

    5) Dislike of reading fiction.

    6) Absolutist binary thinking run amok.

    7) blah, blah, blah.

    I have always wondered how these people turned out that way ... and though I have seen a bit of absolutist non-critical thinking on the left, I read something today on Atrios, where a troll was unable to understand why liberals like a "fake news show" like "The Daily Show."

    Someone made a remark about "Goodnight Moon" and the person said, "What is 'Goodnight Moon'?" And like a bolt from the blue, it came to me.

    His parents didn't read to him as a child.

    When I was a new mother, and was cramming what to do to make sure my kid was going to be a reader, the advice that was repeated over and over again was, "Read to your kids"

    And I did. From the time he was 4 months old it was ritual with my son, until he started reading independently, to read out loud to him every night. (Actually, it continued until he was 9.)

    Now we see that the most important time in developing cognitive skills is between the ages of 0-5.

    And I am willing to bet, that if you want a kid with an imagination ... and who is able to make character judgments, and who wants to read fiction, and learn to identify with people not like him or her.

    You got to read to your kids. Every night, without fail.

    Too bad her own spelling and grammer aren't better, but hey..that's the frustrated english teacher in me speak.

    To which I replied:

    I've seen almost exactly the same thing advanced from a right-ist perspective.

    1-No sense of humour when it comes to their pet peeves- check

    2- lack of critical thought- check.

    3-Lack of imagination and inability to make character judgments- check and check

    4-Usually, this complaint is broached from the opposite angle- i.e. leftists empathize so much with the opposite viewpoint that they lose their sense of identity and perspective. They sympathize with criminals and enemies more than with victims and patriots. But using the term 'wingnuts' doesn't exactly make a strong case for empathy.

    5- Dislike of reading fiction- I dunno about this, but conservatives generally consider non-fiction more important. If it comes right down to it, which is more important to read, history, or 'culturally-aware' fiction? Personally, I read a LOT of fiction, and especially SciFi or speculative fiction. I think most conservatives would encourage any type of reading as they consider it to be a basic skill that requires practice to improve upon. But if it came down to a choice, it's true that many might consider fiction a lower priority than basic education. I can't tell you how many times I've wished a person I was speaking to had at least cracked open an economics book, just once in their lives.

    6-Absolutist thinking- like what-"all cultures are equally valid" isn't an absolute statement?

    I'm sorry, most of these qualities run equally on both sides of the house- the worst is the second point- fuzzy thinking. Many people I agree with in essence, seem to get there through questionable routes. That dismays me as much as people I disagree with. This obis one more problem that I have with the self-identified 'liberal' side of politics- they don't seem to care about that- only that they get the results they desire through any form of disinformation or manipulation of the media that's necessary. People have to be '(mis)lead to the right decision' rather than informed and persuaded.

    BTW: I never heard of Goodnight Moon, either. Of course I am not a parent. Of course people do grow up reading different children's books. Of course there's probably a million books this woman has never heard of... But I'm sure she has a point in there somewhere.

    This woman makes no empirical case, doesn't even have multiple anecdotes, the least compelling of logical arguments. Merely assertions.

    Polemicists, of either extreme wing of the political spectrum, have more in common than they would be comfortable admitting. The tactics used to 'debate' (ha, really, it's kind of laughable) are so damn childish. Note to the folks in the back of the bus: ridicule is not a valid form of logic, and it rarely convinces anyone except the extremely stupid. If you're ridiculing something rather than addressing the points logically, and drooling simpletons on each side of you are nodding in time, consider the company you're keeping.

    (Note: I don't want to appear completely humourless, and I'm not ruling out actually funny spoofs, satire, and use of sarcasm to make a point. But most of what we see is not any of those things, merely schoolyard gutter-talk and childish rants.)


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