I've lived and learned for close to four decades now. I've talked politics with Liberals and Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and people from parliamentary democracies who think Americans are all nutjobs and wonder why we don't have a real range of choices in our candidates. (For the record, I'd love a chance to chuck the two party system, but it's going to take an environment we just don't have). I've read books in the SF/F genre sure, but also in history in which I hold a degree. (Oakland University, 2010) Something I've noticed in far too many instances is that the Irene Gallos of the world are just too common. It took a psychologist to figure out why.
Jonathan Haidt did the research far better than I could have. He has a Ph.D. in Psychology and I don't. Put bluntly, that makes him much more qualified to offer explanations for human behavior than I am. He also has scientific evidence that is actually falsifiable by anyone who wishes to test them. It's all explained in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. He has actually proven two things:
1.) Liberals in the US are not capable of articulating the arguments of their conservative countrymen.
2.) Conservatives in the US are capable of articulating the arguments of their liberal countrymen.
The reasons he presents are wrapped in psych-babble (he _is_ a psychologist after all) but have to do with a couple of important things: One, he argues that ideology is based on emotion. This rings true to me. Human beings are not rational actors. Every human being thinks that they act in a rational manner. We're all capable of coming up with perfectly logical rationalizations afterward. If you don't believe me, study sales technique. You don't sell something to someone by offering them rational reasons as to why it will be good for them. You sell them something by making them want it. Wanting something is an emotional response. Wanting leads to buying, leads to the salesman getting the money he wants to buy the thing that he wants. Bottom line, every time. If you want it, you'll buy it. This is the reason why so many people smoke, drink, weigh too much, have promiscuous sex, etc. People know that all of his is bad for them but they do it anyway because it's what they want to do. (Yes I am aware of the effects of addiction. Any addict in existence had experience with their drug before they were addicted to it though. It's that usage which led to their addiction.) There is a lot of sense here.
The other has to do with how liberals evaluate things versus how conservatives evaluate things. This has to do with a set of sliding moral scales: Conservatives have five, liberals have two. Conservatives are therefore able to understand liberals because conservatives use both of the liberal criteria plus some. Liberals, so says the book, are unable to understand conservative belief because they only understand things based on their two criteria and are leaving out much of the context that a conservative uses. (Read the book if you want the details. It's his thesis and it's too long to go over in detail here.) This is very elegant but, I think, wrong.
I'm not drawing on scientific study or the understanding of the human mind possessed by Mr Haidt. I am drawing solely on my experience as a human being and a student of history. It should be mentioned though that my experience includes living in a blue state. If further includes taking graduate level history courses at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan; a school known for having an annual Labor History conference and a Labor History archive both on campus. My undergraduate mentor was also a labor historian. (And if you speak badly of Dan Clark in my presence we're fighting. Physically.) I've taken seminars with these people, I've seen how they think and I know what they're like. There is no other way to state things: Leftists do not understand rightist thinking because they refuse to listen to it. They keep themselves deliberately ignorant.
Maybe this is not something you can understand until you've experienced it. Seriously, when you sit in a classroom full of people who look at you like you grew a second head when you spit out a fact (and yes, my point of view is biased as well) because they've never heard one. Seriously. Listen to a room full of leftists talk and they'll mention the evils of Capitalism (never what they are, just that they exist) the evils of gun ownership (while ignoring real life statistics on the effects of gun possession on crime in general and violent crime -including rape- in particular. Oddly enough, the fact that gun control laws in the US started in the Jim Crow era for the specific purpose of preventing black men from firing back when people showed up to lynch them gets left out too.) the horrors of rape culture (in the West, where rapists are punished, but not in places like the Middle East where women are executed for the crime of being raped) etc., etc.
The bottom line is that anyone who opposes the liberal narrative is seen as going beyond the pale. It's a weird sort of dynamic when viewed from the inside from an outsiders perspective. I think an example might just be in order. (And yes, I understand that anecdote does NOT equal data, but work with me here.)
One night while in one of my seminar classes (a class in modern US history) the subject of Europe and its quickly increasing Muslim population came up. The professor asked a question.
"What are all of these white people afraid of?" (For the record, the prof was as white as the new-fallen snow.)
I perked up. "That's a long story. Literally. If you're really interested check out a novel by Tom Kratman called Caliphate. He makes his case through fiction, but you're not going to find a nonfiction history of something that hasn't happened yet. Actually, a lot of you would probably find it offensive. Kratman doesn't exactly go out of his way to make the Muslims look like the good guys."
A guy named Sam looked up. He was very visibly confused. "Why would you read something that's offensive?"
I looked back at him. "I didn't say I thought it was offensive. I said you would. Honestly though, if you want to know what someone who disagrees with you thinks, you have to be willing to listen to what they're saying."
The shock in that classroom was palpable. It went dead silent. I've never been stared at by so many people with their jaws so low to the ground in my life. The prof ended up calling for a break.
All of this brings me back to the Sad Puppy controversy in a roundabout way. Some people are shocked by the comments of one Irena Gallo. I'm not. It's about what I expected. This is what happens when Leftists won't listen. Yes, I get the fact that the argument that the Pups nominated women and minorities. Yes, I get the fact that it is demonstrably true. What all of you people who are shocked are missing is that the arguments don't matter. The other side has no interest in reading them or evaluating them. The Sad Puppies are offensive in their eyes. We didn't follow the narrative. We must be repudiated. I get why the Pups were pissed. I don't blame them. The fact remains that this was predictable.
The principle of not feeding the trolls is an old one in internet terms and it's one worth remembering. You're not going to win the argument with them because they're not listening. When they reject the information you're giving them without evaluating it you're wasting your time. Concentrate on the elebenty bajillion people out there who are not truly the enemy. There are millions of people in this country who read/watch/play SF/F. They're the people you need to recruit. They're the ones who can help us beat Noah Ward in the Hugo Voting. The hardcore Anti-Puppies are haters and haters gonna hate. And remind me sometime and I'll tell you all about how no rightist could ever truly be a neo-Nazi because the Nazi party (actually the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National Socialist German Worker's Party) was a Leftist party. Yeah, it has nothing to do with us nor do we have anything to do with it. Don't ask them to believe that either.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion can be purchased here: