Don’t threaten me with a meh time

Posted by – August 13, 2019

The ideological Turing test is an idea by Bryan Caplan, where you’re tested on whether you can convincingly imitate someone on the other side, ideologically. Conservatives have long complained that liberals have absolutely no idea what conservatives actually think, and I’ve found that to be largely true. Anyone who reads is aware of liberal ideas, but only people who specifically seek out conservative ideas are aware of them.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has suggested that this is inherently so, because while conservatives care approximately equally about all of his six “moral foundations” – care, fairness/proportionality, loyalty/ingroup, authority/respect, sanctity/purity and liberty – leftists (in American usage “liberals”) mostly care about two – care and fairness – and libertarians, who we might call liberals, care most about the liberty foundation.

Anyway, even quite enlightened leftists/liberals frequently demonstrate that they don’t really understand what they’re talking about when it comes to ideological attitudes. Or maybe people who do become so enlightened that they become centrists/unaligned. I saw a striking example of this on Twitter the other day.

Maria Petterson, who is a quite influential left-liberal muckety-muck in journalism and politics, had retweeted a tweet, adding the comment “Accurate.” The original tweet contained a screenshot of a cartoon, with the comment “Hilarious to me that even in their worst visions of how society could be, everyone is still white.” In the screenshot (Twitter gets complicated), the comment reads “This is the future the Left wants.”, with the source not visible.

The suggestion was that a right-wing/conservative cartoonist had made this cartoon showing how horrible the future might be if the liberals take over – cloning vans, abortions on demand, drugged-out kids, men kissing each other, a man driving with his sheep partner, a statue of Bill Clinton etc. And was still so white-minded that they included only white people. But to me it was immediately obvious that it wasn’t a right-wing/conservative cartoon at all, but a parody of one. Those things just aren’t what right-wingers are worried about, even as a joke. And of course right-wingers/conservatives are actually enthusiastic about non-whites in their ranks, as it (hopefully) shows they’re not racists. A quick search confirmed it – the cartoon is actually a send-up of the elderly couple in the middle, who are saying in the original, “I knew this would happen if the liberals took over!”

(And about the white thing – people really care a bit too much about that. The fact is, there are plenty of places in the US where seeing 10 identifiably white people and no other ethnicities at once is not statistically unlikely. Hell, I’m pretty sure that happened lots of times when I was last in New York City. Everything from America gets imported to Finland, and I’ve even heard of people complaining that walking the streets of Helsinki they saw only white people. It’s like – yes, you are living in one of the whitest places in the world. From time to time you will see a lot of white people at once. What did you expect?)

So, yeah. Even people whose job it is to understand things of this nature, routinely don’t. And I’m saddened to say it, but I’d put most of my friends, an esteemed and educated group, in that category of people who don’t really know what they’re talking about when it comes to politics across ideological boundaries. Even Trump voters aren’t as stupid as you think.

1 Comment on Don’t threaten me with a meh time

Respond | Trackback

  1. sam says:

    Facebook comments:

    HH: I don’t have the time to interact with all of what you just said, but one of the things that piqued my interest was where the definition of the moral foundations comes from. Is it Haidt’s own, or did he refer to someone else’s definition?

    Sam Hardwick: He developed it by having people fill in questionnaires and doing statistics on them to find the best latent variables, and then making up names for them. He wrote a fun and accessible book called The Righteous Mind, I recommend it.

    HH: Interesting, thanks, I’ll have to look into that!