Baffled By Community Organizing
First, it appears that hardcore left-wing and hardcore right-wing folks don’t process new data. An fMRI study found that confirmation bias — “whereby we seek and find confirmatory evidence in support of already existing beliefs and ignore or reinterpret disconfirmatory evidence” — is real. The study explicitly looked at politics:
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, while undergoing an fMRI bran scan, 30 men–half self-described as “strong” Republicans and half as “strong” Democrats–were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.
The neuroimaging results, however, revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning–the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex–was quiescent. Most active were the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in the processing of emotions; the anterior cingulate, which is associated with conflict resolution; the posterior cingulate, which is concerned with making judgments about moral accountability; and–once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable–the ventral striatum, which is related to reward and pleasure.
In other words: “‘We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,’” said the study’s leader in an Emory University press release. “Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones,” Westen said.
So maybe this explains how a party that offered churches and other faith-based organizations who, as far as I know, engage in community organizing to achieve social goals, can attack the idea of community organizing. Now before our more conservative readers jump in, no, I do not have a great example for the left. I am sure it exists. As stated above, BOTH sides engage in this rather poor example of living up to using their brain to process.
If this finding is accurate, where does Orwell’s newspeak fit in?
By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
Is it that we are subject to these sorts of force-fed, binary positions? Or is it that we are all likely to engage in these behaviors, but it is our duty to stop and think? And in thinking do we seek logical, supported positions, even ones that force us to leave a comfort zone but that may lead to better understanding or do we fake it and rest easy in what we want to hear and know as the fMRI study suggests? I believe that we are capable of breaking these lazy habits. It is not easy and the endeavor never ends. Still I am not sure what else it is we are supposed to be doing if not continually asking questions and engaging with the views we may not like on our way to better understanding.
image source: wikicommons, public domain