Saturday, March 7, 2009

Are conservatives dumb?

I was accused recently of thinking that all conservatives were a bunch of ignorant rubes. It's probably because I said, "Conservatives are all a bunch of ignorant rubes". No, just kidding. I didn't say that. After all, I don't actually think that. Or do I?

First of all, terms like "liberal" and "conservative" are becoming more and more meaningless every day. They're just convenient little labels that people like to slap on themselves. I wrote some time ago about how even though I tend to fall more on the liberal side of things, I hesitate to describe myself as one. After all, what if the liberal side of some future issue (like the cloning of robot/alien hybrids) isn't the one with which I agree? And to be fair, I think that my stance on gun control is further on the conservative side than the liberal one (even though I have no intention of ever owning one).

Also, I have known plenty of people who lean more conservative who I thought were as smart or smarter than me. (But to be fair, they tended to be more of the libertarian type of conservative.) I've also seen interviews on The Daily Show with certain conservatives where I thought that they came off as being pretty thoughtful and intelligent. (Mike Huckabee, believe it or not, is one of these guys, even though some of the things he's said has been jaw-droppingly ignorant.)

Still, there seems to be this culture of willfull ignorance that tends to dominate the popular conservative movement. This accusation was thrown at me when I constantly referred to a conservative's position on global warming as being ignorant. Basically, the argument consisted of "It's really cold this winter; therefore, global warming isn't happening." I pointed out that a statement like that shows that the person has little knowledge of what the issue actually is, and it was consequently an ignorant statement.

And see, here's the thing, the nuance that I don't see in a lot of argument from the side of conservatives: I wasn't saying that you're ignorant if you don't accept global warming. I was saying that you're ignorant if your reason is that we just had a cold winter. There may very well be arguments out there that debunk the whole issue, BUT THAT'S NOT ONE OF THEM.

Still, my point continued to fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes, as this was an online debate). And then it got turned into how I was saying that all conservatives are a bunch of ignorant rubes. Well, crap, what am I supposed to say to that? "Hey, that's a good point! It was really cold this winter! Man, I've got a lot of thinking to do!" What all this gets to is this backward notion of how every opinion deserves respect, as though they're all of equal merit. Well guess what? Some things are just wrong.

Whatever, I could argue this until I was blue in the face (or crippled from carpal tunnel), and this all turns out with me somehow being the asshole in this equation. Even though the same old stupid, tired, thoroughly debunked arguments keep getting used and reused, I need to somehow act like they're somehow saying something that isn't stupid at a death-defying level.

Okay though, that's just one argument. What about everything else. Well, I'm starting to realize that this could be turned into several blog posts, but let's just say that I have a hard time believing that any intelligent person could take people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin seriously. These people make ignorant statements for a living, and even when they're shown for being the carnies that they are, a lot of conservatives will still defend them with their dying breath. And yeah, I know, a lot of people think that they're all actually pretty smart, and they laugh all the way to the bank. That might be true, but I'm referring to the personas that they broadcast. Whether Michelle Malkin really believes that Rachel Ray is a terrorist sympathizer or not is beside the point - it's a stupid comment. And anybody who devotes an entire chapter of a book on debunking evolution (like Coulter did) using a bunch of tired-old bullcrap creationist claims, needs to be jailed by the intellectual honesty police.

So, what's to conclude? I suppose that before I do, I should point out the fact that there are a lot of smart people out there who believe some pretty stupid things. After all, somebody like Dan Barker used to preach young-Earth creationism, and now he's one of the most articulate proponents of the scientific method. Was he dumb and then suddenly turned smart? And I'll mention Mike Huckabee again. I think that he's actually a pretty smart guy, but I think that in many ways he simply hasn't exposed himself to a lot of things that are outside his conservative Christian bubble.

If anything, there seems to be an almost willfull ignorance on the part of many of this country's conservatives. Perhaps that exists amongst the liberals as well, and I just never notice it because I tend to not argue with them as much. However, I have never seen anybody deny simple facts and reality the way that I have seen many conservatives do it.

I think that there's a reason why Stephen Colbert's show is so popular. It's because he's completely nailed the popular conservative idealogy better than even the conservatives can. "I'm not a fan of facts. You see, the facts can change, but my opinion will never change, no matter what the facts are."


Matthew said...

Yes, conservatives are dumb. I can't argue with that... but so are liberals.

If it's dumb to point to cold winters as evidence against global warming, is it equally dumb to cite warm summers as evidence supporting global warming? How about hurricanes?

I read a study a while back that correlated levels of education and party affiliation with views on global warming. As you'd expect, republicans are more likely to view global warming as unsupported propaganda (though I don't think that's the term they used) while democrats are more likely to view global warming as established fact. But, when you separate the groups out into uneducated vs educated republicans, and uneducated vs educated democrats, the uneducated groups even out somewhat, while the educated groups are more polarized. So, the more educated an individual is, the more likely they are to accept information that supports their particular political views.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

is it equally dumb to cite warm summers as evidence supporting global warming? How about hurricanes

Good point. Shoot, I actually remember making fun of a guy who pointed out the warming temperatures as evidence of global warming. See, I'm an equal-opportunity offender.

Now, I'm not an expert on this, but isn't the hurrican thing not so much hurricanes by themselves but an increase in hurricane activity and intensity? I'm willing to submit that I might be wrong on this point though.

Bryan said...

I think in most cases people are purposely ignorant. We like to believe what we believe and actually being knowledgeable of facts can be pretty darned inconvenient. Liberal and conservative are pretty meaningless labels. There's really no linear ideological scale on which people can be accurately measured. Ideologies are too complex to be measured two dimensionally. Global warming? It is interesting to note that as more and more of the data related to the global warming theory, such as the "hockey stick theory - ," is debunked, the more its proponents use the term, "climate change" instead. I honestly have to say, "I don't know." I just wish there were a lot more people, especially those with political clout, who were willing to say the same. In comparing the evidence, there's not a lot that makes an objectively solid case either way. I tend to lean toward the solar variation - and natural greenhouse - theories, myself. But before we throw ourselves fully onto any bandwagon and join one side or the other, we should ask the all important question, "Cui Bono?" The industrialists' interests are obvious, but what of the "scientists" who are making their living off of government research grants? (Not to mention the King's ransom Al Gore stands to rake in if carbon trading is implemented. - )

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Thanks, Bryan. I'll have to check that stuff out.

Matthew said...

Yes, I think increased rainfall is supposed to be a consequence of global warming... but so are droughts... figure that one out. I suppose it depends on location? but to be honest, I don't understand the arguments so I try not to make too many judgments about it. And, maybe this shoves me in the dumb conservative camp, but pointing to Katrina as evidence of global warming seems just as stupid as pointing to snow on Mt Diablo as evidence to the contrary.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I heard that. Honestly, I usually don't like to argue it much, as I find it confusing myself. The person I was debating wrote something along the lines of "I know you have strong feelings about global warming". The thing is, I really don't. But at least I have the intellectual honesty to admit that, whereas so many people like to just shoot off their mouth without having any clue as to what they're saying.