follow CCP

Recent blog entries
popular papers

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing

What Is the "Science of Science Communication"?

Climate-Science Communication and the Measurement Problem

Ideology, Motivated Cognition, and Cognitive Reflection: An Experimental Study

'Ideology' or 'Situation Sense'? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment

A Risky Science Communication Environment for Vaccines

Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government

Ideology, Motivated Cognition, and Cognitive Reflection: An Experimental Study

Making Climate Science Communication Evidence-based—All the Way Down 

Neutral Principles, Motivated Cognition, and Some Problems for Constitutional Law 

Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus
 

The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Science Literacy and Climate Change

"They Saw a Protest": Cognitive Illiberalism and the Speech-Conduct Distinction 

Geoengineering and the Science Communication Environment: a Cross-Cultural Experiment

Fixing the Communications Failure

Why We Are Poles Apart on Climate Change

The Cognitively Illiberal State 

Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study

Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology

Whose Eyes Are You Going to Believe? An Empirical Examination of Scott v. Harris

Cultural Cognition and Public Policy

Culture, Cognition, and Consent: Who Perceives What, and Why, in "Acquaintance Rape" Cases

Culture and Identity-Protective Cognition: Explaining the White Male Effect

Fear of Democracy: A Cultural Evaluation of Sunstein on Risk

Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk

« How big a difference in mean CRT scores is "big enough" to matter? or NHT: A malignant craft norm, part 2 | Main | NHT: A malignant craft norm, part 1 »
Monday
Sep142015

Is the unreal at least *sometimes* rational and the rational at least *sometimes* unreal?

If you can't read the type, click for now & schedule appt w/ optometrist for laterFrom something I'm working on . . .

Identity-protective cognition and accuracy

Identity-protective cognition is a form of motivated reasoning—an unconscious tendency to conform information processing to some goal collateral to accuracy (Kunda, 1990). In the case of identity-protective cognition, that goal is protection of one’s status within an affinity group whose members share defining cultural commitments.

Sometimes (for reasons more likely to originate in misadventure than conscious design) positions on a disputed societal risk become conspicuously identified with membership in competing groups of this sort. In those circumstances, individuals can be expected to attend to information in a manner that promotes beliefs that signal their commitment to the position associated with their group (Sherman & Cohen, 2006; Kahan, 2015b).

We can sharpen understanding of identity-protective reasoning by relating this style of information processing to a nuts-and-bolts Bayesian one. Bayes’s Theorem instructs individuals to revise the strength of their current beliefs (“priors”) by a factor that reflects how much more consistent the new evidence is with that belief being true than with it being false. Conceptually, that factor—the likelihood ratio—is the weight the new information is due. Many cognitive biases (e.g., base rate neglect, which involves ignoring the information in one’s “priors”) can be understood to reflect some recurring failure in people’s capacity to assess information in this way.

That’s not quite what’s going on, though, with identity-protective cognition. The signature of this dynamic isn’t so much the failure of people to “update” their priors based on new information but rather the role that protecting their identities plays in fixing the likelihood ratio they assign to new information. In effect, when they display identity-protective reasoning, individuals unconconsciously adjust the weight they assign to evidence based on its congruency with their group’s position (Kahan, 2015a).

If, e.g., they encounter a highly credentialed scientist, they will deem him an “expert” worthy of deference on a particular issue—but only if he is depicted as endorsing the factual claims on which their group’s position rests (Fig. 1) (Kahan, Jenkins-Smith, & Braman, 2011). Likewise, when shown a video of a political protest, people will report observing violence warranting the demonstrators’ arrest if the demonstrators’ cause was one their group opposes (restricting abortion rights; permitting gays and lesbians to join the military)—but not otherwise (Kahan, Hoffman, Braman, Evans, & Rachlinski, 2012).

In fact, Bayes’s Theorem doesn’t say how to determine the likelihood ratio—only what to do with the resulting factor: multiply one’s prior odds by it. But in order for Bayesian information processing to promote accurate beliefs, the criteria used to determine the weight of new information must themselves be calibrated to truth-seeking. What those criteria are might be open to dispute in some instances. But clearly, whose position the evidence supports—ours or theirs?—is never one of them.

The most persuasive demonstrations of identity-protective cognition show that individuals opportunistically alter the weight they assign one and the same piece of evidence based on experimental manipulation of the congruence of it with their identities. This design is meant to rule out the possibility that disparate priors or pre-treatment exposure to evidence is what’s blocking convergence when opposing groups evaluate the same information (Druckman, 2012).

But if this is how people assess information outside the lab, then opposing groups will never converge, much less converge on the truth, no matter how much or how compelling the evidence they receive. Or at least they won’t so long as the conventional association of positions with loyalty to opposing identify-defining groups remains part of their “objective social reality.”

Bounded rationality?

Frustration of truth-convergent Bayesian information processing is the thread that binds together the diverse collection of cognitive biases of the bounded-rationality paradigm. Identity-protective cognition, we’ve seen, frustrates truth-convergent Bayesian information processing. Thus, assimilation of identity-protective reasoning into the paradigm—as has occurred within both behavioral economics (e.g., Sunstein, 2006, 2007) and political science (e.g., Taber & Lodge, 2013)— seems perfectly understandable.

Understandable, but wrong!

The bounded-rationality paradigm rests on a particular conception of dual-process reasoning. This account distinguishes between an affect-driven, “heuristic” form of information processing, and a conscious, “analytical” one. Both styles—typically referred to as System 1 and System 2, respectively—contribute to successful decisionmaking. But it is the limited capacity of human beings to summon System 2 to override errant System 1 intuitions that generates the grotesque assortment of mental miscues—the “availability effect,” “hindsight bias,” the “conjunction fallacy,” “denominator neglect,” “confirmation bias”—on display in decision science’s benighted picture of human reason (Kahneman & Frederick, 2005).

It stands to reason, then, that if identity-protective cognition is properly viewed as a member of bounded-rationality menagerie of biases, it, too, should be most pronounced among people (the great mass of the population) disposed to rely on System 1 information processing. This assumption is commonplace in the work reflecting the bounded-rationality paradigm (e.g., Lilienfeld, Ammirati, & Lanfield 2009; Westen, Blagov, Karenski, Kilts, & Hamann, 2006).

But actual data are to the contrary. Observational studies consistently find that individuals who score highest on the Cognitive Reflection Test and other reliable measures of System 2 reasoning are not less polarized but more so on facts relating to divisive political issues (e.g., Kahan et al., 2012).

Experimental data support the inference that these individuals use their distinctive analytic proficiencies to form identity-congruent assessments of evidence. When assessing quantitative data that predictably Likelihood ratio is 5x10^8! Seriously! click it!!!trips up those who rely on System 1 processing, individuals disposed to use System 2 are much less likely to miss information that supports their groups’ position. When the evidence contravenes their group’s position, these same individuals are better able to explain it away (Kahan, Peters, Dawson, & Slovic, 2013).

Another study that fits this account addresses the tendency of partisans form negative impressions of their opposing number (Fig. 2). In the study, subjects selectively credited or dismissed evidence of the validity of the CRT as an “open-mindedness” test depending on whether the subjects were told that individuals who held their political group’s position on climate change had scored higher or lower than those who held the opposing view. Already large among individuals of low to modest cognitive reflection, this effect was substantially more pronounced among those who scored the highest on the CRT (Kahan, 2013b).

The tragic conflict of expressive rationality

As indicated, identity-protective reasoning is routinely included in the roster of cognitive mechanisms that evince bounded rationality. But where an information-processing dynamic is consistently shown to be magnified, not constrained, by exactly the types of reasoning proficiencies that counteract the mental pratfalls associated with heuristic information processing, then one should presumably update one’s classification of that dynamic as a “cognitive bias.”

In fact, the antagonism between identity-protective cognition and perceptual accuracy is not a consequence of too little rationality but too much.

Nothing an ordinary member of the public does as consumer, as voter, or participant in public discourse will have any effect on the risk that climate change poses to her or anyone else. Same for gun control, fracking, and nuclear waste disposal: her actions just don’t matter enough to influence collective behavior or policymaking.

But given what positions on these issues signify about the sort of person she is, adopting a mistaken stance on one of these in her everyday interactions with other ordinary people could expose her to devastating consequences, both material and psychic. It is perfectly rational under these circumstances to process information in a manner that promotes formation of the beliefs on these issues that express her group allegiances, and to bring all her cognitive resources to bear in doing so.

Of course, when everyone uses their reason this way at once, collective welfare suffers. In that case, culturally diverse democratic citizens won’t converge, or converge as quickly, on the significance of valid evidence on how to manage societal risks. But that doesn’t change the social incentives that make it rational for any individual—and hence every individual—to engage information in this way.

Only some collective intervention—one that effectively dispels the conflict between the individual’s interest in forming identity-expressive risk perceptions and society’s interest in the formation of accurate ones—could (Kahan et al., 2012; Lessig, 1995).

Rationality ≠ accuracy (necessarily)

. . . . Obviously, it isn’t possible to assess the “rationality” of any pattern of information processing unless one gets what the agent processing the information is trying to accomplish. Because forming accurate “factual perceptions” is not the only thing people use information for, a paradigm that motivates empirical researchers to appraise cognition exclusively in relation to that objective will indeed end up painting a distorted picture of human thinking.

But worse, the picture will simply be wrong. The body of science this paradigm generates will fail, in particular, to supply us with the information a pluralistic democratic society needs to manage the forces that creat the conflict betwen the stake citizens’ have in using their reason to know what’s known and using it to be who they are as members of diverse cultural groups  (Kahan, 2015b).

References

Akerlof, G. A., & Kranton, R. E. (2000). Economics and Identity. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(3), 715-753.

Anderson, E. (1993). Value in ethics and economics. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Druckman, J. N. (2012). The Politics of Motivation. Critical Review, 24(2), 199-216.

Kahan, D. M. (2015a). Laws of cognition and the cognition of law. Cognition, 135, 56-60.

Kahan, D. M. (2015b). What is the “science of science communication”? J. Sci. Comm., 14(3), 1-12.

Kahan, D. M., Hoffman, D. A., Braman, D., Evans, D., & Rachlinski, J. J. (2012). They Saw a Protest : Cognitive Illiberalism and the Speech-Conduct Distinction. Stan. L. Rev., 64, 851-906.

Kahan, D. M., Jenkins-Smith, H., & Braman, D. (2011). Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus. J. Risk Res., 14, 147-174.

Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Dawson, E., & Slovic, P. (2013). Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self Government. Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 116.

Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2, 732-735.

Kahneman, D., & Frederick, S. (2005). A model of heuristic judgment. The Cambridge handbook of thinking and reasoning, 267-293.

Kunda, Z. (1990). The Case for Motivated Reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480-498.

Lessig, L. (1995). The Regulation of Social Meaning. U. Chi. L. Rev., 62, 943-1045.

Lilienfeld, S. O., Ammirati, R., & Landfield, K. (2009). Giving Debiasing Away: Can Psychological Research on Correcting Cognitive Errors Promote Human Welfare? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(4), 390-398.

Lodge, M., & Taber, C. S. (2013). The rationalizing voter. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Peirce, C. S. (1877). The Fixation of Belief. Popular Science Monthly, 12, 1-15.

Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L. (2006). The Psychology of Self-defense: Self-Affirmation Theory Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 38, pp. 183-242): Academic Press.

Sunstein, C. R. (2006). Misfearing: A reply. Harvard Law Review, 119(4), 1110-1125.

Sunstein, C. R. (2007). On the Divergent American Reactions to Terrorism and Climate Change. Columbia Law Review, 107, 503-557.

Westen, D., Blagov, P. S., Harenski, K., Kilts, C., & Hamann, S. (2006). Neural Bases of Motivated Reasoning: An fMRI Study of Emotional Constraints on Partisan Political Judgment in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18(11), 1947-1958.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (25)

Interesting article. Thanks.
From our point of view, Bayesian reasoning is useful and is what a brain does, but the appropriate metric is not whether a particular likelihood function is increased by new data or whether certain priors change. It is how the posterior odds of personal satisfaction or health are changed by accepting the new data. This change in posterior odds is rational but the calculation of the change is not accessible to most people's thinking. So Bayes' theorem applies but the priors and likelihood function that needs to be considered in order to predict posterior odds of a certain 'rational' conclusion is hundreds of time more complex than we want to think about.
(The above is a summary of a really long discussion. If you are craving the long version, contact me.)

September 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric Fairfield

Dan,

Have you seen this new paper?

"The ideologically objectionable premise model (IOPM; Crawford, 2012) posits that people on the political left and right are equally likely to approach political judgments with their ideological blinders on. That said, they will only do so when the premise of a political judgment is ideologically acceptable. If it’s objectionable, any preferences for one group over another will be short-circuited, and biases won’t emerge."

Sounds familiar, eh? What do you think of it?

September 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV--

Have seen Crawford's paper(s). Haven't read the new paper you cite. Thanks!

September 17, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Lot's of crossover here, Dan.

http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

Unfortunately, I don't think that these researchers give enough attention to the crossover to Identity Protective Cognition, motivated reasoning, etc.

September 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua-- this "microagression" thing is apparently a new meme ... I'm skeptical of stories with big, vague moving parts like "dignity" & "honor cultures"; they are pretty impervious to evidence...

September 18, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

It seems to be exploding. I'm likewise skeptical of this supposed cultural evolution into a victim culture, with college students leading the charge. A cute theory but it seems to lack empirical support. There's no doubt that things like social media have altered social and communicative norms to some extent, but extraordinary claims and all that.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Oh, yes. Microaggressions...

We're after power and we mean it [...] There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.

It's a standard method of totalitarian societies. People have an innate sense of justice, but if you can persuade them that they're guilty of something, they'll accept anything you do to them without complaint.

The point of "microaggressions" and similar acts of "political incorrectness" is to make virtually any innocent comment or statement a social crime to be determined not by any objective standard, but at the whim of the "victim", who decides whether or not to take offence. This makes people nervous, inclined to placate and desperate to avoid any kind of confrontation or conflict with the person who has such arbitrary power over them. And as people have got ever more constrained in their expression, so the goalposts have moved to maintain the same level of danger and risk. The rules are meant to be broken, because when people break your rules you gain power over them. If you read the history of how totalitarian movements and societies got started, systems of arbitrary and capricious justice, and the demand for systematic mutual denunciations is a common theme.

Exhibiting your own victimhood is a way of demonstrating your "need", and in a system whose overriding principle is "From each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs", need gets you more. People claim to be micro-aggressed against because it gets them lenient treatment, buys them free sympathy and support from the rest of society, gives them power over others, and acts as a pre-emptive defence against others who might do the same to themselves. Human nature never changes, and the response to such perverse incentives is all too predictable.

It's not a new transition in moral culture, it's a very old one.There's nothing new under the sun.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "It's a standard method of totalitarian societies...This makes people nervous, inclined to placate and desperate to avoid any kind of confrontation or conflict with the person who has such arbitrary power over them. And as people have got ever more constrained in their expression, so the goalposts have moved to maintain the same level of danger and risk. "

Yes. I pine for the days when people could fly their Confederate flags on statehouses without being nervous about recrimination. Or when no one was nervous about making innocent homophoic slurs. We were so much better off then.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

BTW - an excellent case study for examining victim culture.

http://judithcurry.com/2015/09/17/rico/

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/War_on_Christmas

One minute they persecute you for the political incorrectness of saying "Happy Holidays," and the next minute you're in a gulag. I don't know about you, NiV, but my shelter is coming along nicely.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@NiV & @Joshua--

I thought it had to do w/ mean nanotechnology robots.

bTW, care to predict *who* fears AI? Stay tuned...

September 18, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"Yes. I pine for the days when people could fly their Confederate flags on statehouses without being nervous about recrimination. Or when no one was nervous about making innocent homophoic slurs. We were so much better off then."

Yes. You were. People invented this "free speech" thing for a reason. But as history teaches us, we only realise that after it's too late.

Those who do not remember the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat it. What, you think nobody else in history has ever cried: "Oh, but that sort of thing could never happen here"?

"I thought it had to do w/ mean nanotechnology robots."

Like bacteria? Oh, yes, that too.
:-)

"bTW, care to predict *who* fears AI?"

The Luddites? :-)

I think the main fear people have is for their jobs.

But assuming you're asking about the Terminator-style robot apocalypse, I would hazard a guess that it goes together with fear of technology, industrialisation, and environmental degradation. The sort of people who are pessimistic about human intervention in the world.

Although I'd also expect there to be several discrete groups with different characteristics. People who see nature as red in tooth and claw may assume that the same principles will apply to artificial life as well. People who like scifi and technology are more likely to be aware of the possibilities and speculations, and so on.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "Yes. You were. People invented this "free speech" thing for a reason. But as history teaches us, we only realise that after it's too late."

Well, NiV, if it's ok with you, I'll reserve the right to determine for myself what makes me better or worse off. I realize that isn't in keeping with your inherent superiority, but I guess you'll just have to suffer with my ignorance.


==> "What, you think nobody else in history has ever cried: "Oh, but that sort of thing could never happen here"?"

A rather bizarre question. Just because I don't sign on with your alarmist beliefs, it doesn't mean that I think that no one has ever been caught off guard by societal developments.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

NiV -

I thoight of y o I when I read this comment over at the RICO thread.

Daniel E Hofford | September 18, 2015 at 8:59 pm |
“Get a grip. No one has gone to jail for opposing the new EPA regs on coal.”

You seem incredibly naive…no one has yet! The ground work is being laid right now. Dictatorships don’t usually arrive by coup but by bits and pieces and everyone thinks, sheesh, your being alarmist when the thugs act like thugs because there is no violence today. How many days do we tolerate thugs before becoming inured to it to the point where it just seems like the next logical thing or we are so used to capitulating to the IDEA that when the ACT comes we just cave to that as well.
What these scientists have done is the prelude to evil. You really should read Atlas Shrugged. Though fictional it is amazingly accurate in describing how these things happen.
75 years ago, the Federal thugs who use asset forfeiture laws to steal would have been unthinkable. Like the proverbial frog in a kettle of water building to a boil. And when you start screaming ‘This isn’t what we meant’ or ‘I didn’t think they’d go this far’ it will be too late.
This sort of thing should draw instant excoriation and condemnation from every scientist, with a PhD,regardless of their field!

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Well, NiV, if it's ok with you, I'll reserve the right to determine for myself what makes me better or worse off."

that's exactly the point. It's *not* up to you, it's up to the arbiters of political correctness what you're allowed to think and say, it's up to the social elite what counts as "better" for you. You don't have that right - only society does. And in particular, society's leaders and trend-setters do.

And if you disagree, they can bully you, persecute you, drive you out of business, throw you out of college, force you to resign from your job or get your employers to sack you. No trial. No appeal. Because NO you do NOT have the right to determine these things for yourself. They do.

You happen to agree with some of the choices they've made; they're being enforced on people you disagree with and don't like, and not on you, so of course you don't perceive any problem with it. It forces society more towards your own ideal, and therefore "improves" it. But the problem with authoritarianism is that once the precedent is set, you can't legitimately argue exceptions when suddenly they pick on something you believe in, like, or do. Too late.

You have given up the right to determine such matters for yourself, because it is temporarily convenient to support the power of authoritarians who happen to agree with you, who have more power than you to enforce your will on others.

Believe me, you're not the first.

"You really should read Atlas Shrugged. Though fictional it is amazingly accurate in describing how these things happen."

Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum was of course a Jewish refugee from the early days of the Soviet Union, and knew from direct experience what she was talking about. She understood intimately how it worked, what its real aims and objectives were, its ultimate inevitable consequences, and how human nature made societies vulnerable to it.

She knew "how these things happen", because she had just seen it happen to another society.

You can laugh at the experiences of the russian jews if you like; I happen to think they might know the signs rather better than we do.

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "You have given up the right to determine such matters for yourself, "

Wrong. I've gained in the right to determine such matters for myself, as have many others who previously were bared from having a say.

I appreciate it that you've may have some rights to some incredibly minor degree, but it's to be expected that you would see that course of events as some horror victimization, and honestly I'm not going to lose any sleep because people now think twice about using epithets for homosexuals in public discourse, or flying a flag that represents slavery on a Statehouse. Of course, the slippery slope argument never gets old for some, and of course sometimes in the noise amidst the signal there are certainly some developments that I think go over the line, but I'm comfortable with the trajectory we've taken over the last 400 years, 300 years, 300 years, 100 years, 50 years, 25 years, and 10 years. And I think that for all the change that's taken place over that time, we've managed to move much farther away from the nightmarish tyranny that you're so alarmed about. Despite the decades of hand-wringing about "road to serfdom" and similar doom and gloom, and despite that of course, things can always go to far, I'll just be quite content to let you and other pearl-clutchers do the worrying.

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

==> "You can laugh at the experiences of the russian jews if you like;I happen to think they might know the signs rather better than we do."

Doesn't get much more unintentionally ironic than that, NiV.

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Just to add, because I've learned that in blog discussions it's unfortunately necessary, that isn't to say that I'm dismissive of real people losing meaningful rights, or that the discussion shouldn't be ongoing. Absolutely it should. And no doubt, like I said, it is inevitable that there will be times when the "noise" crosses over the line.

But I just can't get behind your alarmism about the future direction of the trend when the current trajectory is so dramatically in the other direction (do I really have to mention slavery, women's rights, sexuality-based rights, hell, even protection of property rights that libertarians so love?) that I can't take it seriously when alarmist whinge about how we're all headed to doom and gloom because, largely abetted by technological developments (such as social media), the exchange about who has what rights has become a more fluid. diverse, and inclusive process.

And in case it wasn't obvious, you should check on people's backgrounds before you appeal to the authority of the experiences of Russian Jews.

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

BTW, I think you might enjoy this, NiV:

http://concurringopinions.com/archives/2015/03/guest-contributor-floyd-abrams-liberty-is-liberty.html

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"I appreciate it that you've may have some rights to some incredibly minor degree, but it's to be expected that you would see that course of events as some horror victimization, ..."

Free speech is free speech. Either it's free, or it's not. There's no slippery slope here. You have lost the right to free speech. Period.

And you can consider that right "incredibly minor" if you like, but a lot of people today, as well as throughout history, don't.

"... and honestly I'm not going to lose any sleep because people now think twice about using epithets for homosexuals in public discourse, or flying a flag that represents slavery on a Statehouse."

Don't confuse the ends and the means. If someone persuades people through reasoned debate not to denigrate homosexuals, I'll cheer them on all the way. If someone makes them do so out of fear of persecution, then it makes no difference what sort of speech is being stopped, the method is still a violation of people's liberty.

Would you lose any sleep if people who used epithets for homosexuals were tortured to death? Beheaded? Burnt at the stake? Imprisoned in gulags? Starved and beaten? Could you ever come to think that people who used such words were not human, and therefore not deserving of human rights? History demonstrates that most people could.

Like I said, you've decided that just because the behaviours being stopped are ones that you don't approve of, that an authoritarian solution is acceptable. Authoritarian society always sounds good when you're the ones in charge of it. Would you still think the methods were OK if it was expressions in support of homosexuality, or expressions speaking against slavery, that were banned?

Suppose I pointed out that such language is Islamophobic? Homosexuality merits the death penalty under Islam, and Mohammad himself owned many slaves. (Including sex slaves.) Saying that homosexuality shouldn't be penalised and that slavery is morally wrong are direct criticisms of the moral foundations of Islam, effectively accusing Muslims of following an evil creed, and thereby clearly intolerant anti-religious, and probably racist "hate speech".

So are you OK with being hounded from your job for what you just said? For exercising your so-called "right" to hatefully support homosexuality and condemn slavery?

Because it's applying the same principle, and the same "incredibly minor" loss of rights. We're just interpreting the target of the method a slightly different way.

September 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

My whole point is that your argument makes perfect sense if you divorce it from context.

I have a lot of respect for some libertarian arguments, in the abstract, in principle. But my point of departure comes because I live in a different world than the Shangri-La, binary construct that drives libertarian extremism.

Not only do you want to use an abstracted frame for observing reality, what's worse is that the abstracted frame is also a static one.

10 or 20 year ago, college students organizing loud campaigns to aggressively protest the flying of Confederate flags would have been called whiny, entitled liberals who need to grow up and stop self-victimizing. They would have said that the flags weren't intended to harm anyone, they were only symbols of a proud heritage. And why make such a ruckus when no real harm was done? Listening to those students would shake the very principles of the founding fathers and constitute an unacceptable infringement on freedom of speech.

Now, many of those same folks who would have been those outraged by the intolerance of the protesters would be among those who supported removing the Confederate flags from the racks at Walmart.

And of course, I'll add, that many of those same folks also spend time ranting about the horrible persecution they endure when someone wishes them a Happy Hollidays, or, perhaps, calls them a "denier." :-)

The point is that of course there will be examples that will be over the line, examples that aren't just noise amidst the signal. But there will also be examples where over the long term there will be much that seem like signal in the moment but in the long term either turn out to be just noise, or even more so eventually turn out to be part of a shared desired trajectory that serves in the interests of far more people than would have been served by staying with the status quo. Change will always be resisted, so the resistance to change should be viewed in context. Hand-wringing alarmism based on slippery slope disaster scenarios should be avoided - particularly when they come from the usual suspects who at least should be expected to control for the obvious manifestation of motivated reasoning, whereby they're playing the tired identity politics that could easily be predicted by the political group identities in play.

Nothing doesn't have unintended consequences In the abstract, and in a static frame, perfect liberty is a thing of art and a work of beauty. In the real world, there is no perfect equilibrium point upon which you can balance the pulls on freedom of speech. It's ugly. It rocks back and forth.

September 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"10 or 20 year ago, college students organizing loud campaigns to aggressively protest the flying of Confederate flags would have been called whiny, entitled liberals who need to grow up and stop self-victimizing."

Yep.

"They would have said that the flags weren't intended to harm anyone, they were only symbols of a proud heritage."

True.

"And why make such a ruckus when no real harm was done?"

Precisely.

"Listening to those students would shake the very principles of the founding fathers and constitute an unacceptable infringement on freedom of speech."

No. Listening is OK. But doing as they demand would be.

"Now, many of those same folks who would have been those outraged by the intolerance of the protesters would be among those who supported removing the Confederate flags from the racks at Walmart."

It depends what you mean by "support". If you mean "speak in favour of" then that's obviously OK. Free speech implies it's just as OK to 'support' the Ku Klux Klan, in that sense. (Even if you're a US Senator!)

And if you're talking about supporting Walmart voluntarily removing flags from its own property, that's also OK, just as it would be if Walmart was to remove all instances of the word 'nibble' from its property. It doesn't have to make sense.

If you're talking about threatening violence and criminal damage against Walmart unless they remove the flags, when they don't actually want to, and there's a serious possibility of a lot of you doing it, then that's a fish of an entirely different stripe. There are shades of Kristallnacht there.

So far as I can tell from over here, this flap over the confederate flag is made up nonsense. Having run out of real things to complain about, they're now inventing things to be offended about. I'm definitely no supporter of slavery, but so far as I can tell the confederate flag has absolutely nothing to do with that, except in the fervid imaginations of the grievance mongers looking for some new excuse to start a riot. And all the people taking them down are basically appeasing them in the face of violent threats.

There is a part of the world in the news today where slavery is a reality. Thousands of women and children are taken and traded as slaves, in a place about 12 hours passenger flight time from New York, today, here, now. Not 150 years ago. Not non-slaves and never-have-been-slaves offended by the sight of a flag being flown by people that was once flown by an entirely different group of people all of who are now long dead and who, among other things, supported slavery. There is slavery going on *today* that it is within our power to do something about.
(And homosexuals in those same places suffer from more than being called by disparaging terms...)

And do the people objecting to the confederate flag want to go rescue those slaves? Do they even spend a lot of time talking about them, campaigning for them, raising funds, lobbying the government, publicising their plight? No, of course they don't.

Because they've got no interest at all in slaves or slavery as an issue in itself, as a matter of principle or compassion. All they're interested in is finding ways to use it so they can claim compensation from society for their own personal victimhood. And that, quite frankly, is disgusting behaviour.

But free speech means that while I detest what they say, I'd defend to the death their right to say it.

"... or even more so eventually turn out to be part of a shared desired trajectory that serves in the interests of far more people than would have been served by staying with the status quo. Change will always be resisted, so the resistance to change should be viewed in context."

This is more "the ends justify the means" stuff. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs...

<I>"In the real world, there is no perfect equilibrium point upon which you can balance the pulls on freedom of speech. It's ugly."

It is. And it's what the authoritarians *always* say, just before they ban it. :-(

--

That's enough of that, though. Let's get back to the identity-protective cognition.

I've heard that "opposing groups will never converge, much less converge on the truth, no matter how much or how compelling the evidence they receive." What do you think? Have we converged on this particular truth yet? :-)

September 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "but so far as I can tell the confederate flag has absolutely nothing to do with that, ..."

Dude. First you need to look up the history of the Confederacy. Second, you don't see how you're now being relativistic and determining what should or should not cause someone else harm?

=>? "Have we converged on this particular truth yet? "

Not merely converged on it. I'd say more or less proven it.

September 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Sheesh.

"Dude. First you need to look up the history of the Confederacy."

So educate me. How many of them are still alive?

"Second, you don't see how you're now being relativistic and determining what should or should not cause someone else harm?"

What harm?

September 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "And all the people taking them down are basically appeasing them in the face of violent threats.

It must make it interesting to go through life knowing better than other people do why they do things.

September 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>