....LMB: "Conservative Thought Patterns"....

June 25, 2003

For quite sometime now I've meant to write a long article explaining the conservative point of view to left-wing folks. In graduate school, I spent three consecutive semesters researching the American conservative ideology, conservative talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh for one of my professors (which means that I hate Rush Limbaugh more than you do, no matter who you are). At some point during the study, I had an antropologist's moment, where I was able to understand the mental framework, the way that conservatives' concepts, beliefs and values supported and reinforced each other. I couldn't disagree with it, and found many logical flaws in the belief structure, but I could see where they were coming from.

One day, I will write this article to explain to all the liberals and commies and anarchists who look at conservatives with absolute bewilderment, nearly certain that these people are not just wrong, but evil.

Today is not that day.

But I've found a good replacement.

On Calpundit's site today, he had a nice post about economic inequality and immobility in the United States. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and making the jump from poor to rich is getting to be harder and harder.

But in the comments following the article, I found a comment that got you halfway to understanding the conservative point of view. It was written by a fellow named Tim, who has his own blog here. I'm just going to reprint Tim's comments:

Conservatives are winning the debate because they have shifted the arguments to that of character alone...

By shifting the debate to one of character they've essentially won the war. It rhetoricaly fits every one of their issues: We live in a free country where everyone has an equal opportunity so if someone is poor it's because they have bad character. If someone is rich they have good character- there's no other reason for rich and poor. So, there's no reason to tax progressively, to do so would be punishing those that have good character and rewarding those that have bad character.

Every argument turns into one of character. Bad public schools? Let people go to private school! If they can't afford to that's they're own fault, they're poor because they have bad character, those with bad character don't deserve a hand-out. Lower taxation of capital? Only someone with good character is able to build capital, they shouldn't be punished for having good character. Estate tax? Only someone with good character was able to build all that wealth, they shouldn't be punished. Allowing corporations to set their own environmental standards? A corporation is led by people who made it, and therefore have good character, so of course they can be trusted. Racism? There is no other reason for racism than individuals with bad character acting badly. No such thing as institutional racism, no such thing as historical context, nothing but some people with bad character (so therefore no reason to reform anything or promote anything via things like AA).

The desire to dismantle social programs? Social programs only benefit those with poor character, why should people with good character pay to give hand-outs to those with bad character?

Of course some jackhole will probably refute this claim on a literal basis (as if I mean pundits and politicians are literally talking about "character"), but it seems pretty obvious to me. The modern conservative platform makes no sense whatsoever unless you think of it as a basic argument between good and bad character. None of their programs do what they say they'll do. Supply-side economics does not increase tax income, nothing trickles down; standardized tests do not improve schools, less environmental regulation does not mean less pollution; bombing Iraq does not mean less terrorism.

It's pretty easy, they do it themselves. Iraq? Saddam was bad, 'nuff said. France? They're arrogant, 'nuff said. Santorum? He's a good guy, 'nuff said. And on and on and on. It's a very easy debate to win, all they have to do is smear the other side and lie about their programs. If they never admit to lying, it's the same as not lying. After all, Bush, for example, is the president. He wouldn't be there unless he had good character. People with good character don't lie, they only make mistakes.

That is a significant portion of conservative ideology. It's the belief that if someone tries hard enough, they will be successful. If they are not successful, it's evidence that they need to try harder. Trying hard is a sign of good character. Refusing to try hard is a sign of poor character. Therefore someone who is a corporate CEO or a wealthy entrepreneur must have good character, because they must have worked hard to get to where they are. And someone who is poor must not have good character because they have not worked hard enough to pull themselves out of poverty.

That's only one of several pillars of the conservative belief system, and obviously most conservatives have points of view that are more flexible or nuanced. But these are some of the principles that are at the core.

Posted by Jake at 07:09 PM | TrackBack (3)
Comments

That is certainly part of the strict father morality that conservatives rely on and that George Lakoff points to in his book Moral Politics. I think Lakoff's take on the subject of liberal and conservative political views is right on.

Posted by: Norm Jenson at June 25, 2003 07:19 PM

I should have provided a couple of links the first link is a decent review of the book, and the second a bit on how it applies to the rights hatred of hillary
http://www.alltoohuman.org/blogarchive/000038.html

http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/000887.html

Posted by: Norm Jenson at June 25, 2003 07:25 PM

I should have provided a couple of links the first link is a decent review of the book, and the second a bit on how it applies to the rights hatred of hillary
http://www.alltoohuman.org/blogarchive/000038.html

http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/000887.html

Posted by: Norm Jenson at June 25, 2003 07:26 PM

Actually, that was one of the key texts in my research. Good catch, hombre.

Posted by: Jake at June 25, 2003 09:34 PM

Can you say "Ayn Rand"?

This is only an update of the Ciceronian "good man," the belief that good is more powerful than evil and good wins in the end. It's the marriage of the "good man" and the free market.

The liberals and progressives that I have met and respected believe in something rather different than this. Being good is our goal, but being a good person doesn't ensure success at anything other than being good. The "good man" is a failed metaphor for anything other than what it is. Lots of good people fell upon hard times in the Depression.

The distinction is one of the way life should be versus the way life is.

Posted by: Tx Bubba at June 26, 2003 07:03 AM

Can you say "Ayn Rand"?

This is only an update of the Ciceronian "good man," the belief that good is more powerful than evil and good wins in the end. It's the marriage of the "good man" and the free market.

The liberals and progressives that I have met and respected believe in something rather different than this. Being good is our goal, but being a good person doesn't ensure success at anything other than being good. The "good man" is a failed metaphor for anything other than what it is. Lots of good people fell upon hard times in the Depression.

The distinction is one of the way life should be versus the way life is.

Posted by: Tx Bubba at June 26, 2003 07:06 AM

Another aspect of the conservative ideology - "We're against big government...unless it's to enforce our moral codes."

As for affirmative action, conservatives are getting more sly at their manipulation. Instead of "it's not our fault that minorities are stupid," they're moving towards self-serving comments like "It demeans minorities. And I'll be damned if I'm going to stand by and let minorities be demeaned!" Of course, they'll win that argument! Conservative leaders and pundits are master manipulators.

Posted by: Eric at June 26, 2003 08:56 AM

You say "I couldn't _disagree_ with it, and found many logical flaws in the belief structure, but I could see where they were coming from." (emphasis mine). Is that double negative, "couldn't disagree" intended?

Posted by: Phil Zero at June 26, 2003 07:53 PM

What? Jake's a conservative?!

Posted by: Eric at June 26, 2003 08:29 PM

Y'know, I'm looking back at that sentence, and I have no idea what I meant to say there. Let's pretend that the words between "couldn't" and "and" were never typed.

Posted by: Jake at June 26, 2003 09:54 PM

Currentlly I'm making my way through Ayn Rand's turgid 'The fountainhead' -- Rand through her work of fiction sets out to demonstrate her philosopy --- the slight flaw though on Ayn's part is that it is a work of fiction -- like because something appears in a pulp science fiction book -- it has no bearing on whether there is any concrete basis in reality for the assertion.
what gives me a laugh and a bit of a cry is Ayn Rand has an institute dedicated to the promotion of her philosophy. The institute is staffed by what they like to refer to as 'Intellectuals' -- who are occupied 'interllectualizing'

The conservatives(I've always thought that a funny name) has everyone inculding themselves set on a course for self destruction ---- what is shocking is their ignorance of history and economics -- I was watching a documentary tonight on Herbert Hoover -- It was nauseating the parallels between George bush and Hoover and how the republicans today are set on undoing Rosevelts New Deal.

The great depression, our current one and even Andrew Jacksons recession of the 1830's are classic examples of the same idiot idealology.

The really funny thing,,, the real side splitting laugh of a thing is that I know people who vote for George Bush and will vote for him again,,even though they thought the war was a bad idea and he's destroying the economy. But to them he represents some pure ideal.

Herbert Hoover = George Bush = depression

Posted by: bob at June 29, 2003 12:23 AM

I also have a brilliant paper in the works regarding Conservative Ideology, and am giving you an "it's my copyrighted idea" taste here, in case some other genius who is less lazy than I beats me to it. It grows from my study of violent psycopaths. I call it "Republican Personality Disorder." There are individuals in society who lie, cheat, steal, rape, and/or kill with no remorse, no conscience, and an unwavering belief that they are right. They usually present a facade of normalcy and "high morals." They are arrogant,paranoid, contemptuous, and are very comfortable with their own hypocrisy. This pattern has also been called "sociopathy," and most recently,
"antisocial personality disorder." I also think they sound a fuck of a lot like everyone from Dick Nixon to Rush Limbaugh to Don Rumsfeld. Stay tuned for the full, earth-shaking synthesis of my stunning discovery. But don't, like, hold your breath...and Happy Armageddon!

Posted by: Scott at June 29, 2003 09:49 AM

A lot of this is crap, but there is a grain of truth here that has practical ramifications for a political campaign.

As Michael Douglas' character said in "The American President," being president of the United States is *completely* about character. And the only Democratic candidates to win the White House in the past few decades have been those who made that notion an integral part of their message. Jimmy Carter positioned himself as a moral alternative to the ethical swamp of the Nixon gang. Bill Clinton framed his 1992 economic message as one that would benefit those who "work hard and play by the rules." And I suspect that any Democrat wishing to have a hope of unseating George Bush must find a way to do the same.

Posted by: Lex at June 30, 2003 07:46 AM

Missed one phrase that carries the whole conservative argument about charecter:

"Personal Responsibility."

This phrase is at the front of the class war instituted by conservatives- it is a very ambiguous phrase that low/moderate income conservatives eat up in following the party line.

Posted by: ErolOtis at July 2, 2003 08:15 AM

I agree that conservative thought does not allow for social programs for the poor and downtrodden... There is one reason and it has nothing to do with "character": I am not my brothers keeper!

Good luck, bad character; good character, bad luck or any other permutation of lifetime excuses and events does not matter. A person needs to make his/her own way through this world. A persons productivity taken for the sake of the whole will never work (read: communism does not equal capitalism)

Can you honestly say that nothing ever "trickles down"? Do you not think that the world is a better place because Bill Gates lives in and is productive in it? How many millions of people have benefited from the increased productivity that his invention has provided us? The wealthy have certainly benefited, but the wealthy have, also, certainly created jobs for many others (yes, of course, including but not limited to debugging - that's life)

Liberalism is nothing but Communism with hefty dose of cowardice. If you're a commie, just come out and say it. Show people your true colors.

And, by all means, continue using the term "jackhole" - trust me it is an intelligent way to further your cause.

Posted by: conrad at August 27, 2003 12:48 PM

I agree that conservative thought does not allow for social programs for the poor and downtrodden... There is one reason and it has nothing to do with "character": I am not my brothers keeper!

Good luck, bad character; good character, bad luck or any other permutation of lifetime excuses and events does not matter. A person needs to make his/her own way through this world. A persons productivity taken for the sake of the whole will never work (read: communism does not equal capitalism)

Can you honestly say that nothing ever "trickles down"? Do you not think that the world is a better place because Bill Gates lives in and is productive in it? How many millions of people have benefited from the increased productivity that his invention has provided us? The wealthy have certainly benefited, but the wealthy have, also, certainly created jobs for many others (yes, of course, including but not limited to debugging - that's life)

Liberalism is nothing but Communism with hefty dose of cowardice. If you're a commie, just come out and say it. Show people your true colors.

And, by all means, continue using the term "jackhole" - trust me it is an intelligent way to further your cause.

Posted by: conrad at August 27, 2003 12:49 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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