Image by Flickr user Yvo_G
Image by Flickr user Yvo_G

A friend of mine adopted a new world view- for want of a better, yet equally ambiguous, term- recently.  She has adopted it wholeheartedly, and with remarkable conviction.  Generally a rather quiet soul, I’ve never heard her speak with such passion and such enthusiasm about anything before.

There’s just one problem.  What she believes is utterly false.

It’s not just a “difference of opinion”.  It is factually, veritably, provably false.

But when I have tried to engage with her on those issues, she seems fundamentally unable to critically engage with the questions.  She doesn’t critically engage with her beliefs at all.  I ask her questions, and she doesn’t answer them.  She recites talking points without thinking about what they mean.  I provide specific evidence that counters her beliefs, and rather than considering it, she explains it away.  The possibility of what she thinks being incorrect never occurs to her.

It’s a small-scale version of a problem that’s been plaguing my lately: how do you deal with people who just don’t think?  How do you deal with people who believe things that aren’t true?  In the health care debate, in the whole birther movement, people are believing thing that simply aren’t true.

How can democracy function when the voters are believing things that aren’t true?  It’s one thing for voters to cast their ballot based on a true difference of opinion.  It’s another thing entirely to do so because you believe myths about “death panels”.

And for all the stories of “left wing media bias”, the media has been decidedly quiet on calling out the lies of the likes of Palin and Bachman.  The pedalling of stories that are designed to instill fear, rather than inform.  I have no problem with people opposing health care because they don’t believe the state is obliged to provide it, and that guaranteed health care is not the right of the citizen.  I disagree, but that’s a fair opinion.

The problem is, a lot of people don’t have a fair opinion.  They have (false) talking points they’ve learned.  Like my friend, they adopt a whole series of beliefs without ever critically engaging with them.

But talking to my friend has made me increasingly despondent about the hope of improving the conversation.  In this single, small example, I am completely powerless to affect change.

So is it a case of affecting change in spite of this?  Or does the left need to better instill mindless talking points?  Can we be intellectually honest and still get the necessary votes?

4 Responses

  1. I’m that friend who has adopted a new world view, aren’t I? Oh wait, you included “quiet” in that sentence. I’m out.

    I know exactly how you feel, although down a different (or possibly similiar) vein. I struggle really hard with “persuading” people think about what they had just said. In most cases, I’ll out loud say an opinion and then hope they’ll disagree and bicking ensues, which, I hope toward the end they look at it differently. But more often than not, it’s never that conclusion.
    I’d really like to know how people successfully do it. Not change people by force, or even change them, but at least make it clear that there are factors to think about. Should they still keep that conclusion…well… what can you do.

    But redirecting to a similiar vein now, I’d like to know how many people said when K-Rudd won “Oh great now the economy is going to be effed”, basing Howard’s many terms by just remembering the economy or, more likely, cash handouts for them (the size of the baby bonus is truly ridiculous) and then when the GFC happened said, “See?” without actually factoring in a whole lot of events leading up to said deficit, and then talking about Howard again. I have a friend, okay, many friends who said just that. I mean, how do you just go, “Really? Did you just miss out on all those other factors? You know the Howard era isn’t all about a surplus for your Centrelink bonus.”

    I’m not saying that era was all terrible. Because it wasn’t. It doesn’t strictly just affect the right, there are also TOTAL wankers on the left.
    I’m just saying that, for some reason, it’s a very common attitude amongst my peers and I’d appreciate someone force ‘Political History, Present and Future: Properly Learning about the Government in the Country You Live In 101’ (subject title to be shortened) down any Gen Y getting all high and mighty and ridiculously biased and doesn’t know when to shut the hell up.

  2. This page is about Erin and why everything she likes is great. If you disagree with anything you find on this page, you are wrong.


  3. I know you’re teasing, Paul, but really I was saying the opposite to that… I have no problem with people holding vastly different opinions to mine, just as long as they don’t pedal things that are objectively false as truths.

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