Power of Political Story in Educating Our Own Old Brains

12 06 2008

From JJ’s long and probably annoying comment in a diverse homeschool parent discussion dubbed, “A Re-Defining Moment”:

Spunky, I’m glad you brought that up, particularly in this context of whether words and rhetoric are “empty” without “substantive evidence.”

Refuting political attacks, rumors and even outright lies would logically seem to be a matter of substantive evidence, yet cognitive scientists are proving it’s really not. It’s power of story. And even as I say this and you might believe me, we both will continue to rationalize our own beliefs as strongly evidence-based even when they’re not. There IS substantive evidence for that as the way our minds really work — and that we won’t actually accept that evidence even as we think we do.

I’m one of the biggest champs of thinking and reason and research around, but I’m learning that my own brain doesn’t always tell me what it’s thinking. 🙂

Even as we research the facts to repeatedly reject an untrue rumor or “story” we are embedding it in our brains’ data bank about “reality.” These mechanisms are in FACT mostly unconscious and that’s the substantive evidence I find most enlightening to my own politics, both educational and presidential. 🙂

Language whether from blogs, ads, speeches or polls isn’t ever just what it seems.

Repeatedly calling a candidate “an empty suit” for example — is that in itself empty rhetoric of no consequence or does it influence our reasoning and therefore our actions?

I think the answer is both at the same time in different ways, so if we’re serious as home educators about substantive evidence and how it really works to change minds (for good or ill) then we ought to learn a lot more about how! And we ought to start with what’s going on in our OWN brains.

Anybody ever see The Manchurian Candidate? Various resonant frames and expressions shape our thought unconsciously as it is repeated and embedded, actively connecting to what’s already in our brains. All these scripts and frames and metaphors, right-seeming in the interconnected web of my brain’s other powerful stories, are drummed into our perception of reality through years of cultural programming — EDUCATION — like our own reality show, our operating system software.

Like it or not, know it or not, in all that magnificent working of our minds is also hidden virus and malware causing our brains to loop unbidden into storylines we don’t consciously choose or control but will rationalize to ourselves as “true” and “real” because that’s the way we experience them. And we just can’t understand why the other guy is such a liar! 🙂

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3 responses

12 06 2008
JJ

Two things occur to me in this ongoing conversation:

1. Which words and freedoms and rights are right-thinking can’t really be determined by some immutable god-given natural law, not unless all the western democracies including Canada are godforsaken and only the USA is worthy:

Many foreign courts have respectfully considered the American approach — and then rejected it.

. . .The United States’ distinctive approach to free speech, legal scholars say, has many causes. It is partly rooted in an individualistic view of the world. Fear of allowing the government to decide what speech is acceptable plays a role. So does history.

“It would be really hard to criticize Israel, Austria, Germany and South Africa, given their histories,” for laws banning hate speech, Professor Schauer said in an interview.

In Canada, however, laws banning hate speech seem to stem from a desire to promote societal harmony.
. . .Mr. Steyn, the author of the article, said the Canadian proceedings had illustrated some important distinctions.
“The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they’re not about facts,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re about feelings.”

“What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins,” Mr. Steyn added. “Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.”

2. This is despicable wording and power of story to evoke, whether it’s illegal or not. Even in America. (Hat tip COD)

Michelle . . . Malkin defends Fox News’ use of the “Baby Mama” phrase by essentially making two arguments.

First, Michelle Obama once called Barack Obama her “baby’s daddy,” and as we all know, a married woman factually and correctly calling her husband her child’s father is exactly the same as a major news organization calling a potential First Lady some chick what got knocked up on a fling.

Second, the term “baby-daddy” has gone out into the common culture; heck, even Tom Cruise was called Katie Holmes’ baby-daddy, you know, when he impregnated her and she subsequently gave birth while the two were not married, which is exactly like what happened between Michelle and Barack Obama, who were married in 1992 and whose first child was born six years later.

So by Malkin’s reasoning it’s perfectly fine for Fox News to call Michelle Obama the unmarried mother of Barack Obama’s children because an entirely different phrase has to her mind entered the common culture, and there was this one time that Michelle Obama once uttered something that sounded like that entirely different phrase, which is not the phrase that Fox News used.

But wait! Malkin also points to someone in her comment thread saying that one time, Michelle Obama actually used the phrase “baby daddy”! No apostrophe! It’s in a comment thread, so it must be true.

15 06 2008
JJ

Op-Ed Columnist
Angry Clinton Women ♥ McCain?

By FRANK RICH

Along with the “Great Derangement” post, this column explicates the power of false story in constantly repeated political narratives, as altering and eroding if not destroying reality itself. . .

The real question is how Mr. McCain and his press enablers could seriously assert that he will pick up disaffected female voters in the aftermath of the brutal Obama-Clinton nomination battle. Even among Democrats, Mr. Obama lost only the oldest female voters to Mrs. Clinton.

But as we know from our Groundhog Days of 2008, a fictional campaign narrative, once set in the concrete of Beltway bloviation, must be recited incessantly, especially on cable television, no matter what facts stand in the way. Only an earthquake — the Iowa results, for instance — could shatter such previously immutable story lines as the Clinton campaign’s invincibility and the innate hostility of white voters to a black candidate.

Our new bogus narrative rose from the ashes of Mrs. Clinton’s concession to Mr. Obama, amid the raucous debate over what role misogyny played in her defeat. A few female Clinton supporters — or so they identified themselves — appeared on YouTube and Fox News to say they were so infuriated by sexism that they would vote for Mr. McCain.

16 06 2008
JJ

Good explanation of how evidence isn’t always rational:
“Thinking by druthers”

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