2012 September 02 Sunday
Conservatives Have Lost The Culture War

In a review of Dinesh D'Souza's documentary film about Barack Obama (which I'd never heard about before - I avoid personality politics due to lack of time) Steve Sailer praises the aesthetics of the movie and comments Republicans need to produce films with high aesthetic value. This makes sense.

Aesthetics are crucial to Republicans, since, let’s face it, most partisan politics are status games, and looks are the prime status marker. The GOP has started nominating good-looking candidates. Now they need more good-looking films like this one.

Partisan political rhetoric involves large quantities of rhetorical ploys such as definitional retreat, loaded language, poisoning the well, pregnant negative, and the classic red herring. This is all very effective because most people aren't competent enough to recognize how they are being deceived. Plus, they are too dumb to realize they are too dumb to recognize they are being fed a steady diet of deceptive rhetoric. Who is winning this rhetorical war of irrational arguments? On most fronts the Left wins and the anti-scientific sentiments of the Left have grown much larger as they face no faction powerful enough to call them on their nonsense. The Left packages their own propaganda in much more pleasing cultural products and in much larger quantities. The Left controls so much media that their rhetorical nonsense just plain drowns out right-wing rhetorical nonsense. At the same time the Left's rhetorical onslaught of irrationality drowns truths spoken by the heterodox minority of rational and empirical thinkers on the Right. Even reasonable liberal scientists can't be heard on human and most are cowed by the propagandists from expressing their views.

Why is the level of discourse in American politics so incredibly low after science has advanced so far? My guess at the biggest root cause of why our elites lie so much: near universal voting suffrage. If our elites didn't need to appeal to the left half of the IQ bell curve then their main audience would be much smarter and much more demanding of honesty and rationality. We need intellectual standards for voters. Our voters are too dumb and they are the targets of competing irrational arguments. It could be worse. At least criminals are still excluded - but for how much longer? We need a reversal of the trend toward universal voting suffrage.

I am stimulated to think all of this from reading a Chuck Rudd post on Gucci Little Piggy: The liberal media conditions people in ways that make it hard to have rational debates about important issues.

This is the first and hopefully the last time I link favorably to Jonathan Chait.  But his article at New York magazine is great.  The point, in a nutshell, is that the media is liberally biased (no news there) – conservatives’ worst fears have come true; that media has an impact on culture rather than just being a prism through which prevailing culture is reflected; the medium can be seen as a source of political capital for liberals to refer back to.  It contains memes, tropes, and entrenched arguments which evoke knee-jerk scoffs among liberal ideologues which allow them to bypass the detailed argumentation that is more often required of conservatives. Conservatives have lost the culture war because they have been routed by this medium.

Chait makes, in my mind, a stunning admission at the end of his piece:  “But they [conservatives] do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.”

Can the Right find ways to create media products that do a better job of meeting irrationality for irrationality in a way that partially cancels out the Left's irrational onslaught of conditioning for myths and falsehoods? If it can't then it will keep on losing ground.

Or can the forces of rationality prevail? The science of human nature will advance far enough just in the next 10 years as to disprove in much greater detail assorted myths on the Left (further undermining the Blank Slate and denials of the importance genetic variation frequency distributions on cognitive differences). So can secular liberal propagandists continue to prevail against advances in science? Will members of the secular liberal high church (think Harvard social scientists) more openly rebel against the mythology promoted by liberal propagandists? Will a loss of secular liberal faith undermine the excesses of the Left in America?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 September 02 08:11 AM  Cultural Wars Western


Comments
chris said at September 2, 2012 8:26 AM:

Conservatives should
a) Push for online education to undermine leftist hegemony in academic institutions.
b) Push for a liberalising of intellectual property laws with respect to media products and the internet, i.e. moveis, tv shows, music, as this would undermine leftist hegemony in media institutions.

The good thing of both these policies is, even with poor rhetoric they'd have popular support, and it would gouge out the ideological and financial underpinnings of leftism.

James Bowery said at September 2, 2012 10:27 AM:

Integrity is more important than intellect since with integrity the stupid can self-limit and without integrity the intelligent can be (and obviously are) vastly more destructive than the stupid could ever be.

Joe said at September 2, 2012 10:35 AM:

Hasn't razib posted gss results that the highly educated are more likely to favor environmental rather than genetic causes to human differences? This refutes the idea that universal suffrage is the result of all this.

Mercer said at September 2, 2012 8:11 PM:

"elites didn't need to appeal to the left half of the IQ bell curve then their main audience would be much smarter and much more demanding of honesty and rationality"

There was not universal suffrage in the early years of the republic. I don't think the debate was any more honest or rational then today according to the history I have read. Even today the lower class votes much less than the upper class. People who participate in politics beyond voting are mostly on the right half of the bell curve. Congressmen spend most of their time talking to rich people to raise money. How many rich people do you think are on the left half of the curve?

"Can the Right find ways to create media products that do a better job of meeting irrationality"

The right has the most popular news network and the WSJ is probably the second most important newspaper. The right also dominates talk radio. I think the problem is not a lack of media for conservatives. The problem is conservative media pushes irrational beliefs: tax cuts are the answer to every economic problem, the US should police the world, etc.

Randall Parker said at September 2, 2012 8:59 PM:

Joe,

Part of the problem is inherent biases in how human brains think. But one reason even most smart people don't hear the truth is that leaders don't want to offend the masses of voters by making it clear just how dumb most of them are.

chris,

Gutting the universities by automating education would certainly reduce the cultural damage they cause. I think that is going to happen. Online is going to make big inroads against bricks-and-mortar schools for reasons of cost, convenience, efficiency, and quality.

James Bowery,

Even dumb people with integrity will make big mistakes. The Dunning Kruger Effect assures that dummies with good intentions will embrace false beliefs with confidence.

Higher IQ reduces the size of the problem. But of course higher IQ doesn't prevent confirmation bias and many other very common reasoning errors.

Joe said at September 2, 2012 11:33 PM:

Perhaps, but that doesn't address my objection at all. Allowing only the well educated to vote would make the problem you bring up worse. Even if we substitute for the intelligent, rather than well educated, the results aren't much better.

WJ said at September 3, 2012 1:04 AM:

Ultimately you have to confront the Left on their ideological dishonesty (i.e., with regards to racial disparities in intelligence, etc.). You have to be careful about how you do it, but it can be done. You cannot retreat, back down, or apologize, as so many conservatives seem inclined to do.

I've mentioned my belief in an equity-based voting system before: give each citizen one vote to start, then additional votes for passing a civics test (an implicit literacy test#, for not being on welfare, for being a military vet, for having minor children, for being a native-born citizen #as well as both parents being native-born), etc. No vote at all if you're a convicted violent felon. How you would weight each "contribtuion" is open for debate.

I understand that it will almost certainly never happen, but in some fictionalized, ideal nation-state that's how it would be done.


"The right has the most popular news network and the WSJ is probably the second most important newspaper." - Both Fox and WSJ are owned by the same open borders, neofeudalist, neocon businessman. They are not very conservative on the issues that really matter.

James Bowery said at September 3, 2012 8:32 AM:

Randall, the conceptual slipperiness of "integrity" is greater even than that of "intelligence" so I should have described what I meant by it. In terms of the Dunning Kruger Effect "meta-cognitive capacity" may be correlated with intelligence, but it seems to me that it, unlike general intelligence, can be inculcated as part of a good moral system. This can be tested.

WJ said at September 3, 2012 8:22 PM:

"Allowing only the well educated to vote would make the problem you bring up worse. Even if we substitute for the intelligent, rather than well educated, the results aren't much better."

The radical Left dominates the left and right ends of the bell curve. Chop off the left side - the least intelligent/informed/educated - and you reduce the size of the Left. Of course that may lead to the Left cultivating a new entitlement class...

Joe said at September 3, 2012 11:08 PM:

"The radical Left dominates the left and right ends of the bell curve. Chop off the left side - the least intelligent/informed/educated - and you reduce the size of the Left. Of course that may lead to the Left cultivating a new entitlement class..."

Any evidence of that? I think the left half of the curve simply doesn't have an ideology at all. They'd vote for crude perceived self interest.

Check it out said at September 4, 2012 3:17 PM:

The left-wing orientation is the only class act nowadays. Chomsky has been recognized as "arguably the most important intellectual alive" by the New York Times.

Of course we didn't need the Times to tell us that in order to recognize Chomsky's great mind.

pa said at September 14, 2012 9:19 PM:

"The science of human nature will advance far enough just in the next 10 years as to disprove in much greater detail assorted myths on the Left (further undermining the Blank Slate and denials of the importance genetic variation frequency distributions on cognitive differences)."

The left suppresses research it does not like, and they have gained so much power -- and become so much more brazen in their repressive attacks -- that they may well prevent the research you predict from ever being conducted.

Consider their determination to crush any opposing voices on climate change research, gay parenting (the Regnerus study: Children in traditional families do better than those raised in non-traditional settings), race, and dozens of other critical subjects. When research is suppressed, forbidden, and simply not started out of fear of reprisal, then there can be no advance in knowledge and therefore no advance in social mores and cohesion.

Last, the left has NO interest whatsoever in fact-based reasoning or actual evidence. They believe what they WANT to believe, regardless of facts. So we have stinky toilets because they don't use enough water to flush the pipes properly. We have washing machines that don't clean clothes. We have alternative energy sources that cannot provide reliable, affordable, and abundant energy. And the list goes on.

We are doomed. Not to be a downer or anything.

PacRim Jim said at September 20, 2012 7:41 PM:

Republicans have lost the culture war because it's more difficult to act the parents than the children, to say "no" instead of "yes."
Remember "Never trust anyone over thirty"?
Apparently freedom and prosperity are self-terminating.


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