Ground hornets and the big picture | On point
When I was 18, I mowed neighbors’ lawns to earn money. Once, while mowing, I got stung in the ankle by ground wasps. I had stepped on their entrance hole, and they let me know their presence.
Curious, I took a rake and put the rounded edge near their hole to see what they would do. The rake was long enough that if they followed the rake to me, I could escape, but they never did. They attacked the end of the rake, never realizing that the source of the threat was 5 feet away. These wasps couldn’t see the big picture.
The land wasps have taught me a lesson that we can apply to the current American political situation.
There is a great group of people in this country who are like wasps. They sense a threat to their way of life and their very existence, but, like wasps, only seem able to see the immediate threat and not the big picture – the larger danger, the existential danger.
R. Kelly Garrett and Robert M. Bond, in an article titled “Conservatives’ Susceptibility to Political Misconceptions”, in June 2, 2021 Scientists progress, argue in their thesis that American conservatives are particularly susceptible to misperceptions far superior to those of their progressive opponents. Think about QAnon and other conspiracy theories such as Trump’s “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him. Think about Marjorie Taylor Green and her wild and unfounded statements.
While facts and history strongly refute all of these claims, it hasn’t stopped their spread. Garrett and Bond’s study took place over six months. The results confirmed that the Conservatives had more difficulty distinguishing between true and false. Part of the reason is that there are more widely shared lies that promote conservative views than liberal views. Examples include beliefs that climate change is a hoax, that former President Obama is not a U.S. citizen, or that antifa broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Some researchers argue that the Conservatives are more biased than the Liberals. This seems to be the case with regard to race and the threat of illegal immigrants coming to our country. As the authors state: “We [the authors] provide strong evidence that conservatives distinguish between political truths and lies less well than liberals when assessing a wide range of real-world political demands.
Conservatives value order, cognitive closure (the need for a definitive answer to a problem) and dogmatism (a sense of absolute certainty) more often than liberals. Conservatives tend to favor intuition over science and reason.
The authors go on to suggest a second possible explanation: the media leans more to the left than to the right. As a result, Conservatives may feel more attacked and threatened than Liberals who find more confirmation of their beliefs in the mainstream media.
In short, “… the more politically neutral true stories in a wave, the more Liberals looked like Conservatives; the presence of politically charged true stories has exacerbated the ideological divide in sensitivity and response bias.
Because we live in a scientific age, “liberalism is more compatible with the… standards, values and practices of science”. But this explanation fails to “explain why lies disproportionately benefit the right.” The authors suggest that foreign powers are manipulating the news to sow discord. In addition, the former president found it politically advantageous to promote lying.
To summarize their research, 21st century, American conservatives are “only likely to have mistaken political perceptions” while the news media provide specific information that “disproportionately advances liberal interests.”
From 1949 to 1987, we were able to avoid much of the political polarization with the “doctrine of fairness” which required television and radio news to give equal time to different points of view. Its repeal was due to challenges from cable and satellite television networks. They claimed the doctrine violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The Federal Communications Commission ultimately opposed, saying the fairness doctrine had a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.
Talk show host Rush Limbaugh helped arm the media by taking advantage of the conservative lean towards gullibility. He helped create the polarization we see today. Conservative rejection of science has made the media “liberal” in their eyes.
Perhaps it is time to revert to an updated “fairness doctrine” where contrasting arguments could help us mitigate our tendency towards confirmation bias, whether or not it has a “chilling effect” on freedom of movement or not. ‘expression. The survival of our representative democracy is at stake.