Conservatism: resistance to change, simplistic black and white ethics, and the acceptance of inequality
July 27, 2003 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Conservatism: resistance to change, simplistic black and white ethics, and the acceptance of inequality. In what's sure to be considered a controversial paper by many, Berkeley psychologists analyze conservatives to see what makes them tick. The criticisms have already begun. [official press release here]
posted by skallas (62 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Of course, Berkeley's an entirely impartial, nonpartisan center of wisdom where political beliefs can be cooly, scientifically evaluated.
posted by 111 at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2003

OOPS. THIS is Jonah Goldberg on the same study.
posted by coelecanth at 7:27 PM on July 27, 2003

One of the defining characteristics of conservatism that was emphasized in the (single) politics class I took, is the idea that some people are "born bad". If you're poor, too bad, it's nobody's fault but your own and you had best sort out your own mess. If you're a criminal, it's because that's how you were made. There are no fundamental "causes" to your criminality. Better just lock you up and forget about any attempts to rehabilitate you. In terms of the association between Conservativism and Fundamentalist religion, look at the whole "everyone is born a sinner" concept.

The progressive stance, in contrast, is that all people are "born good", but bad, unfair things happen to them. If you're a criminal, it might be because you're poor and you need to steal to live. If you're poor, it might be because you're from a minority who are treated unfairly, or because your parents were poor and it's just a vicious cycle. Or maybe you didn't have a decent education because your parents couldn't afford it. Lets throw lots of money at you in the hope we can end the cycle, somehow.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere inbetween. Yes, people may be in a bad situation because of factors out of their own control. But people are fundamentally in control of their own destiny, and can "rise above" if they have the will and the resources. The result? Most western countries, to varying degrees, have a welfare / education system that makes sure people have a "leg up" to get out of their poor circumstances. Any model that involves a complete free-market, dog-eat-dog system is foolish, as is a completely socialist system. The middle ground, people, aim for the middle ground.
posted by Jimbob at 7:30 PM on July 27, 2003

Should be noted that some wise man (Sam Johnson) said that if you were not radical till you were 40 there was something wrong with you and that if yo had not become conservative after 40 there was also something wrong with you.

Conservatives are filled with rage. Liberals filled with guilt.
posted by Postroad at 7:36 PM on July 27, 2003

Jonah Goldberg's article is kind of amusing and well written, but completely self-defeating. One the one hand he's trying to say there's extremists and idealogues on the left and right. Well duh! Then he starts raving about how those nasty liberals are spreading lies about the environment. Talk about extremist in denial...

On preview: Postroad, maybe that explains a lot. Maybe what used to happen at 40 has started happening at 20.
posted by Jimbob at 7:41 PM on July 27, 2003

But I'm a liberal filled with rage. Where does that put me?
posted by at 7:47 PM on July 27, 2003

I think the problem with this study is that it confuses conservatism with absolutism. You can be a conservative without being absolutist, just as you can be a liberal and an absolutist.

Unfortunately, with charmers like Tom Delay representing themselves as the face of conservatism, the association of rigid, black/white, "if you're not with us, you're against us" people with conservative politics is a given.
posted by echolalia67 at 7:54 PM on July 27, 2003

Should be noted that some wise man (Sam Johnson) said that if you were not radical till you were 40 there was something wrong with you and that if yo had not become conservative after 40 there was also something wrong with you.

Conservatives are filled with rage. Liberals filled with guilt.

I've always read that quote as either utter rubbish or as both a stinging--and sadly poignant--critique of humanity's inability to struggle for positive change in the face of a daunting, swirling cauldron of self-interest and self-loathing.

I'm fairly certain it's more the second than the first, but that might be personal bias. Regardless, the whole business of that quote, especially in this context, is rather moot, at least as far as it being a quote goes. The only real point of quoting in such a situation is if the person being quoted has said something you, yourself, would like to say, only in a much more eloquent and/or concise manner, as it is certainly a matter of opinion.

So one would assume this would be the reason you quoted it, and would then try and decide why it is you did. Either you believe the quote interesting for the reason I do, or you think it's a clever way of generalizing a huge subject into a quick take-that, I've-figured-out-all-of-it jab to the verbal jaw of those amongst us who are more willing to ponder than conclude.

I would hope for the former, myself, but to each his own.
posted by The God Complex at 7:57 PM on July 27, 2003

How interesting that the two Goldberg and the other guy, instead of discussing the issue; out of hand reject everthing that is said.

Look, I'm as liberal as they come. Maybe even more so, but I will listen to a fair and valid argument of points being made. I may not change my mind, but I'm willing to listen and consider.

These people and if I may, conservative folks of their ilk, are quick to dismiss anything even remotely liberal as "bunkum" as the one guy puts it and cow farty, as the other guy puts it.

A shame that we can't have any kind of discussion. The sides are becoming increasingly polar and rigid in their views.

Of course the average American could give a rats ass and just wants to watch Joe Millionaire or whatever and eat their cheetos and have a miller lite.

I feel badly for us as a society.
posted by damnitkage at 7:57 PM on July 27, 2003

(Probably in a CIA filing cabinet somewhere, tpoh)
posted by Jimbob at 8:00 PM on July 27, 2003

Conservatism: resistance to change, simplistic black and white ethics, and the acceptance of inequality.

Or you could say: "Conservatism: respect for tradition, clear morality, no illusions pragmatism."

I wouldn't neccesarily agree, but there you have it, seems like the folks at Berkeley need to zip up their fly because their bias is showing. Picking Strom Thurmond and Hitler as representatives of "conservatism" is like picking Jane Fonda and Mao Tse-Tung as representatives of liberalism

But, aren't "conservative" and "liberal" political terms anyway, meaning that they can aquire different meanings over time.

Also, the study seems disturbingly eager to reduce the entire range of political thought to simple left/right dualism, when most people are either somewhere in the middle or (like myself) have opinions that fall on both ends of the spectrum.

So it looks like in this case it was the researchers who saw things in "black and white."

On preview: "Of course the average American could give a rats ass and just wants to watch Joe Millionaire or whatever and eat their cheetos and have a miller lite."

Or perhaps, they're exhausted and worried, (NTM, unimpressed by either side) and just feel like zoning out when they come home. Not a good thing, but certainly understanable.
posted by jonmc at 8:10 PM on July 27, 2003

The report is a "metastudy" - it creates and/or examines no original data, it merely studies other studies.

Studies of studies tend to tell you more about the studiers than the studied, no matter what the discipline.

In this case, finding that academics think that conservatives are 'bad' is about as enlightening as studies showing that skinheads think inter-racial marriage is bad. That would tell us a lot about the skinheads/academics but nothing about actual inter-racial marriage/conservatives.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:11 PM on July 27, 2003

FWIW, my 2c, etc., I think cons think they are more 'straightforward' (and will decry what they see as liberal sophistry) - while libs think they are more 'consensual' (and decry what they see as conservative 'black and white' absolutism). Kinda seems like two major meme ecologies to me - and ones that need each other to survive (or at least justify their own existence?).
posted by carter at 8:17 PM on July 27, 2003

So, where do libertarians fit in this study then?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:19 PM on July 27, 2003

jonmc: indeed, there is more than left/right dualism.

For instance, many modern liberals disagree with the NRA., and said point would be the only one where I generally am thrown far (and vehemently so) from the liberal platform.

Increases in gun control laws are not only anti-constitutional, they are socially backwards - not progressive - if one takes a hard look at the trends in violent crime in the US/UK starting from the point where firearms where outlawed in the UK. Why this is on the modern left's agendasheet I have no idea because all their other major items: pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, pro-marijuana decrim., opposition to TIA/Patriot Act/DMCA etc. all seem to increase civil rights and are therefore an obvious win. Why not this one, when it is generally proven to reduce crime?

It would be nice if the liberal platform were to include making sensible laws about guns rather than laws based on whether or not a gun 'looks scary' because then I might be able to feel a completely clean conscience when voting for Democratic candidates. Also, I wouldn't have to put up with the looks describing myself as a pro-gun liberal tends to generate.
posted by Ryvar at 8:34 PM on July 27, 2003

So, what snide stereotypes shall we be tarting up with pseudo-scientific horseshit tomorrow? "The psychological and physical parameters of Asian-Americans vis a vis Motoring Ability"? "Fiscal Responsibility and the Shylock Complex: A Ethnogeography of South Florida"?

I can't wait to hit refresh!
posted by UncleFes at 8:43 PM on July 27, 2003

...describing myself as a pro-gun liberal...

*whew* I'm not the only one!
posted by notsnot at 8:51 PM on July 27, 2003

This study is tripe. I especially love the notion that once a "liberal" becomes an autocrat, they no longer remain a liberal. I guess Hitler was thinking about small government right up until the end?

Clearly, these folks did this study for some reason, and I doubt that it was to understand conservative thought in anything other than a patronizing and superficial way. But where does this get us? What goals were served? Any MeFi conservatives thinkin' about voting Hillary in 2008 now?

Look, the Republican Party (which by the way is hardly a perfect portrait of conservatism) sucks for some of the reasons mentioned in the study, and I'm sure that there's no shortage of antecdotal evidence to concur, but if a "study" just props up a stereotype one has to hope that the approval status their next grant application will reflect that intellectual inefficacy.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:56 PM on July 27, 2003

But I'm a liberal filled with rage. Where does that put me?

Despite all your rage, you are still just a rat in a cage.
posted by kindall at 9:08 PM on July 27, 2003

What a great sentence (from the press release):

Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form.

Nope, no underlying bias there!
posted by mtstover at 9:10 PM on July 27, 2003

A caricature built up from a large amount of carefully selected material is still a caricature. In essence I think the study is as valid for its part as the phrase "liberal guilt" is. That is to say, not very. I'm a liberal and I don't feel guilty about one damn social issue. I feel that it's important to behave conscientiously, honorably and with justice, which is nothing to do with guilt. Equally, I believe that a person can be conservative without being motivated by the factors given in this study.

Rather than take swipes at conservatives, perhaps it would be more constructive to show that there's nothing conservative about the forces currently driving the administration: that their conservatism is a sham, that they are inimical to the very America they pretend to want to preserve.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:20 PM on July 27, 2003

Metafilter: I'm a liberal filled with rage.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:20 PM on July 27, 2003

That study is so ludicrous, it makes my paranoia gland throb: one might suspect that it was tailor-made and planted by conservatives to galvanize their constituencies in the face of BushCo's recent credibility problems, shoring up their defenses ahead of time for Election Day 2004...

...nah. That's too far fetched. Nobody would do something like that.
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:46 PM on July 27, 2003

Ryvar, notsnot, re: liberal gun-nuts - me too.

I could never understand why your typical lefty is against individual gun ownership. Probably because they're a bunch of pinko sissy-lovin' stoners. I mean, you've got your personal rights, you've got a big old voting block to be swayed, and hell, I'd rather have a bunch of edumacated yankee liberals packing heat than the racist fag-bashing numbnuts you generally associate with the gun lobby. Then again, maybe we're just not loud enough about it.

Hey! Neo-cons! We've got a whole bunch of pissed-off liberals over here, and we're all heavily armed!
posted by majcher at 9:48 PM on July 27, 2003

(Yeah, I've always wondered why those gun-totin' militias in the US don't rise up and do what the constitution allegedly demands...but anyway). I take it this "gun rights"="conservative" is a wholly American phenomena? Where I come from, there's no debate. Pretty much everyone, left and right, accepts that people don't have any particular right to own a gun, and society is quite happy about that.

I remember a poster on /. shovelling abuse at the Australian government, and showing pity for the Australian citizens who are denied their "right" to gun ownership. I told him sorry, but we don't need your pity; no-one down here is really complaining about this freedom being denied.
posted by Jimbob at 9:55 PM on July 27, 2003

well, jimbob, we americans are all john wayne.
posted by quonsar at 10:01 PM on July 27, 2003

I remember a poster on /. shovelling abuse at the Australian government, and showing pity for the Australian citizens who are denied their "right" to gun ownership. I told him sorry, but we don't need your pity; no-one down here is really complaining about this freedom being denied.

I know nothing about Australia, but maybe its a cultural thing. I hate guns personally, but because of the environment in which I grew up (rural, agricultural, lots of coyotes that need a'shootin'), I really see how guns are a legitimate need of some people's lifestyles and that to deny them wholesale would be a violation of their rights. I will never own a gun, but I'd rather see pitbulls made illegal than firearms.

I think that the general amalgamation of ideas that gets called the "left" in the US is starting to overlap more and more with libertarian principles. Maybe that will be relfected in the gun issue (or maybe some real compromise like mandatory trigger locks could be struck). And, Howard Dean is a "pro-gun liberal"...
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:05 PM on July 27, 2003

...describing myself as a pro-gun liberal...

notsnot :*whew* I'm not the only one!

Wow, me too!

So much for outdated sterotypes, huh?
posted by echolalia67 at 10:24 PM on July 27, 2003

*sigh* i believe this study. and while the points are large ins scope i think they are generally true.

Why? Well its like this. I have been since Bush took office, trying to get people who label themselves as conservative to tell me what they believe in, to *define* themselves. All I get back is anecdotes of what they don't like in people they claim to be 'liberals'. This is not self definition. I once had someone tell me that advocating civil rights was 'liberal' and by implication somehow evil. I found this befuddling.

I've been branded liberal, however ive seen someone who claims Marxist speak... these self branded conservatives have to get out more.

When i 'argue' with a 'conservative' my intention is to play a little game with them. It goes like this.

You label yourself a conservative. And you believe thats the opposite of liberal, correct? What do you believe in? Anecdotes are not acceptable for this answer. Optionally you can ask them what 'liberals' believe in. And once the setup is ready, you start playing the opposites game. The goal here is to get them to *think* about the words that are coming out of their mouths. Most people don't, I find conservatives less so.
posted by MrLint at 10:31 PM on July 27, 2003

As long as the liberal gun-nuts are coming out of the closet, I'll speak up as a conservative environmentalist. I believe that protecting the environment, conserving our natural resources, will help make this country and the world a better place to live, raise children and do business in. So there.
posted by wobh at 12:18 AM on July 28, 2003

MrLint: You don't actually believe the tripe you just spewed do you? I find it amusing as I read various blogs and the like to see so much of this said about both sides. Conservatives saying liberals don't think, can't have a cogent argument etc. etc. In about two seconds you can find a liberal saying the same about conservatives.

When it comes to arguments like that, both sides are being equally disingenuous. Face it, conservatives and liberals each have their fair share of idiots who spout party line drivel and those who actually understand the issues and believe deeply in their views.
posted by Plunge at 12:18 AM on July 28, 2003

It's worth noting that the lead researcher here is a professor from Stanford, not Berkeley. But of course it's the Berkeley press release everyone's pointing to -- makes it easier to discount the findings as the work of lefty loons with an agenda.

Because, as we all know, the entire university is controlled and staffed by radical extremists, and the appearance of the study in a peer-reviewed scientific journal is an obvious cover.

Anyone interested in reading the actual study, rather than just reflexive reactions from others who haven't, can find it here.
posted by jjg at 12:23 AM on July 28, 2003

jjg - nice posting
posted by Eirixon at 12:45 AM on July 28, 2003

the appearance of the study in a peer-reviewed scientific journal

Peer-reviewed psychology journal.

Jonmc has it right. They spend a lot of time establishing that people tend to be more conservative in scarier times. Then they conclude that conservatism is a response to feeling "threatened." They could also have said that people are more liberal when blissfuly complacent and more conservative when acutely aware.
posted by transona5 at 1:44 AM on July 28, 2003

What this study doesn't address, and hasn't really come up in this discussion, is the difference between social conservatism and economic conservatism. There was a front page post here a while back that tried to determine where you stood on the political compass. As far as that was concerned, there was no particular link between the two. That is, if you are socially conservative (gun rights,rights for minorities, prison sentancing) you could quite easily be economically liberal (taxes, welfare, budget deficits etc).

I'd agree that conservatives have a greater tendancy than liberals to see things in a black/white manner. In terms of conducting politics on a national scale, it's often easier to get people to accept a black/white argument, because most people don't care enough about a particular issue to really be able to make a reasoned judgement on it.
posted by salmacis at 3:37 AM on July 28, 2003

Come on - the study is absolute rubbish. Any attempt to charactarise the psychology of such disparate individuals can only hope to produce stereotypes. Equally the selection of examples seems to be entirely self-serving - particularly the attempt to claim that because Castro and Stalin were bad they must have been Conservatives! If this study had tried to claim that women, or black people, or car dealer all had the same psychological make up, people here would be flaming it to bits - this is just as ridiculous. Then again I am a Conservative (admittedly of the British rather than GOP variety) perhaps I'm just being dogmatic and intolerant to ambiguity?
posted by prentiz at 4:41 AM on July 28, 2003

Interesting how much assult there was on the report that an attack on conservatives came from Berkely... I hate tones of partisanship; that's why I read fair and balanced sources like, well, World Net Daily. (cough)

My point is that by and by, opposition to something tends to maintain the interest in releasing "studies" of it, or when the side releases a "study" to defend itself of extreme accusations (ex. the tobacco industry)

So, yes. Left-thinking people obviously wrote this. But if we're going to accuse people of using extremes in their analysis, then I can argue the most promiment "study" of liberals by a conservative highlighted in the U.S. media has been Ann Coulter's last two books. So really, in perspective....
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:45 AM on July 28, 2003

Um.. why is this even controversial?

They are conservatives - they want things to stay the same! Newsflash!
posted by cell at 5:43 AM on July 28, 2003

Seems to me this doesn't say a whole lot that the extant work on right-wing authoritarianism didn't already say, for good or ill.

I could never understand why your typical lefty is against individual gun ownership

You'd be unlikely to get people to admit to this, but my suspicion is that some of it -- and only some -- is distrust or dislike of the sorts of people who stereotypically own guns. Bubba-control, in part, rather than gun-control.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:35 AM on July 28, 2003

ROU: I hate using this as an example, because it only magnifies the already-abused stereotype of the anti-gun liberal, but the recent Michael Moore film explains a lot of it:

It's not as much the individual person with gun per se, but rather the culture of fear that makes these people want to own guns. I'm not as much afraid of an individual wanting a gun as I am of the culture around them which makes them want one, and moreover the culture that envelopes subsequent gun ownership: the fear of others, the sensationalism of crime, demands for more jails, racial fears, etc.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:49 AM on July 28, 2003

Seems about as profound and intelligent as the way people like Rush Limbaugh speak about Berkeley...
posted by clevershark at 6:59 AM on July 28, 2003

On of the few intelligent and interesting points I think Goldberg made in that article was to mention Hayek's idea that "conservative" is not a pan-national ideology. That is, what is "conservative" in say the US is not what is "conservative" in Britain or Canada. This is because all three countries have different traditions, and therefore, the people who are trying to conserve those traditions do not necessarily agree on any particular point. Thus the obvious silliness of comparing Hitler and Mussolini, who were conservative by European standards, with say, Ronald Reagan, who was conservative by American standards. For example, a conservative in America tends to be closer to libertarianism than a conservative in Canada, many of whom would be considered socialists in America (Progressive Conservative is not an oxymoron, but a party name up here). And likewise with the two of them and Britain - tons of Canadian Tories want to get rid of the monarchy and favour free trade, whereas most British conservatives I know favour protectionism and the monarchy. To say that these three very ideologically disparate groups are all motivated by "fear" to pursue their individual goals and whatnot seems, well, unreasonable.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:08 AM on July 28, 2003

haha, as long as folks like Rush Limbaugh, Tom Delay, and the rest of the right wing cabal are claiming they are conservative then yes, conservative will reflect what they are portraying. Perception is reality, don't you know?

I'm another gun toting liberal who is pissed off, maybe we can start a militia?
posted by jbou at 7:12 AM on July 28, 2003

Most people don't, I find conservatives less so.

The "opposites game" the using intellectual buzzwords, glibness and most people's general ignorance against them. Lay a little trap for them with And you believe thats the opposite of liberal, correct? and then score points. What does that prove? Whole lotta nothing, and it points up the disingenuousness of the entire process.

People buy into stereotypes because people are also, by and large, intellectually lazy. People like to have those stereotypes reinforced, because that gives them "proof" that their stereotypes are correct and, thus, they are smart and perceptive. Fact is that the stereotype conservative, which this study attempts to reinforce, exists only in small numbers. When labels are required, I claim the "conservative" (even the much maligned "neo-conservative" occasionally, in that I admire their pragmatism), but hardly ANY of the qualities spelled out in this study fit me. What is that? Because as we all should know, stereotypes break down the moment they are confronted with actual people.

It has been fashionable and approved in certain circles (cough) to disparage conservatives out of hand, and outright villify neo-conservatives. Posting studies to reinforce one's own prejudices only serves those prejudices, and further polarizes the environment. Would a study showing the psychological links between Clinton, Mao and Stalin get as much indulgence? No, and rightfully so. There are flaming-red liberals here whom I admire very much, and conservatives whom I'd like to pop into a burlap bag and throw in the river. I do my best to judge people on what they say, not what it says on the sign hung around their neck. Insert apropos Jefferson quote here.

There is no reason why, at least here (perhaps ESPECIALLY here) those who consider themselves liberal and those who consider themselves conservative cannot, if not agree, then discuss their various disagreements rationally and without rancor AND recognize that the label is not the person.

Perhaps it's un-conservative of me, but I hope for better.
posted by UncleFes at 7:25 AM on July 28, 2003

People buy into stereotypes because people are [...] intellectually lazy.

Well said. So much easier to hang a label on someone and forget about them than to actually engage with their ideas.

A word from a person with largely neutral politics: all of this bi-polarisation, mud-slinging and outright ignorance of other political positions is driving me, and most other people I speak to, away from any policies espoused by either "side". If we want progress from the political process, we must learn to drop the hate and engage in debate. Otherwise democracy is doomed to middle-of-the-road stagnation, punctuated by bitter in-fighting, with fat media vultures circling endlessly overhead. The trend I see these days in political discussion is a mutual turning-away-inside from all camps. Any potentially interesting debate is guaranteed to be dead on arrival from the inevitable dropping of buzz-words and stereotypes. What we're left with is a war of soundbites and percussive policy changes. It's democracy by straw man and straw poll, with no thought for the actual outcomes. This has now turned into a rant which I'm not quite sure how to stop, so I'll ju
posted by walrus at 8:01 AM on July 28, 2003

for me at least, it gets harder to give conservatives a fair ear the longer the "war" on terrorism goes on. yeah, I admit it!

I was never into the whole left vs. right thing until september 11th. I knew the stereotypes for both sides and I wasn't really interested. but after september 11th EveryThing Changed(tm) and I wanted to know whose fault it was. and sorry, but I found the most guilty party to be the crazy right wingedness of cold war republicans!

I remember reading something about "Slander" around that time so I started hanging out on ann coulter's message board to try to "know the enemy" or whatever and what I found there was a complete culture shock. every bad stereotype I ever had about republicans was a badge of honor for those cats. I tried to have debates with them and even though they would occasionally make sense it almost always boiled down to the fact that I was a dirty lefty and that my worldview was hopelessly tainted by the liberal media cartel. I even remember the moment I decided to leave the board forever, it was a post called "your stereotypes" and I admitted what in my mind made a stereotypical conservative and I asked people to post their own stereotypes with the hopes that we could get a good laugh out of it and get over that whole mess (which is also why I'm posting this Making Of A Liberal). but of course it was thrown back in my face. why try to understand the other side when they're automatically wrong?

I know somebody will want to tell me that the fanboys of Ann Coulter (and they were all boys!) are not the best examples of conservatism but she's frequently championed by folks here so I won't be so easy to convince. obviously my analyis won't be the most objective but I've found that populist conservatism nowadays is all about keeping your guns (and believe me when I tell you no one of any importances wants to take away your guns. thats just paranoia typical of people who are crazy about owning guns), keeping your paycheck (I work hard for the county and I don't make much but I can survive so I'm not gonna get in a huff over the tiny percentage of my taxes that feeds hungry people, opting instead to get in a huff over the far greater percentage used to killed foreigners), and god. Guns, Greed, and God if you will! but the central motivator seems to be "making liberals squeal." it seems like some people will get behind anything if it will "make liberals squeal."

but anyways, my experiences there and with people here on mefi and on fark and from various books I've read and the radio and fox news etc is that the definition of what a "liberal" is has been left to be defined by conservatives, and ergo has become incredibly perverted. I would define myself as a liberal so when I read the things by cats like hama7 and Durwood and Beholder and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter about the way liberals allegedly are, it's always news to me. I hate to be partisan about things because what're the odds that one side could be right on every issue? especially when there's only two sides to choose from. but for the time being, I'd like a little more howard dean in my life.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:22 AM on July 28, 2003

It's not as much the individual person with gun per se, but rather the culture of fear that makes these people want to own guns.

But you're agreeing with me here. You think of guns as something that fearful people buy because they're worried that a sinister black man will break in and ravish their daughters.

In my experience, the vast majority of people who have guns merely find them an enjoyable hobby and/or occasionally useful tool. Shotguns, for example, can be used to clear ice-laden brush that's overhanging power lines, in addition to skeet or defending your home from rabid watermelons and malicious old tin cans.

Of course, it's embarrassing to say that you want to have a gun because making watermelons blow up is cool, or that you just like shooting inanimate objects, or whatever. So it's not really surprising that people will tell that pesky damyankee that they have guns for some more meaningful purpose.

I don't mean to say that you're a jackass for wanting gun control, but there really is a bit of a cultural divide here.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 AM on July 28, 2003

Should be noted that some wise man (Sam Johnson) said that if you were not radical till you were 40 there was something wrong with you and that if yo had not become conservative after 40 there was also something wrong with you.

I usually see this quoted as something like:
If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart.
If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.
And it's attributed to lots of different people.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:14 AM on July 28, 2003

I'm grateful at the trend this thread took, because I read much on MeFi and learn less than I might. I can only take responsibility for my own ideas, but the instinct to change others begins with the shocking discovery that they are even ABLE to see it differently. I suspect we're all both conservative and progressive, in varying degrees, about our own understanding, which is, in the end, the only part of the political process we can reasonably expect to impact.

The article didn't deepen my understanding at all.
posted by divrsional at 10:29 AM on July 28, 2003

People buy into stereotypes because people are [...] intellectually lazy.

Wow, way to stereotype people! I'm sure people have lots of different reasons for buying into stereotypes.
posted by kindall at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2003

I really see how guns are a legitimate need of some people's lifestyles

that's really nothing to do with gun rights, though - you don't automatically have rights to things that you like or that you have made part of your life (murder is part of the mafia lifestyle, eg...). Almost no one is advocating denying people the right to own guns, anyway. The issue is gun regulation, and as I've said before, it seems to me that basic things like learning permits, licenses, registration and insurance should be made part of owning a machine made with the purpose of killing as much as it is part of owning a machine which can accidently kill.

The main argument against this is that gun ownership is a constitutional right, and that the purpose of gun ownership among the citizenry is to keep the government in check. However, few actual gun owners feel that the purpose of their weapon is to take the government by force, and even if they did, probably most of the population wouldn't stand behind their attempt, and also, the government would have a much greater advantage in the modern age with the technologically advanced army than the writers of the constitution imagined.

if you are socially conservative (gun rights,rights for minorities, prison sentancing)

how is "rights for minorities" socially conservative? & what do you mean by "prison sentencing"?

oh yeah, and that study was an embarrassment to academia.
posted by mdn at 10:52 AM on July 28, 2003

Metafilter: drop the hate and engage in debate
posted by romakimmy at 11:07 AM on July 28, 2003

I too am sort of happy about how reasonable this thread turned out to be. To my surprise, the largely liberal metafilter audience did not jump on this as an opportunity to insult conservatives, but were instead skeptical and perspicacious. If this were a board full of ultra-liberal bulldog lefties, as many people claim it is, you'd expect a lot more trolling to be taking place. I'll probably point to this thread as an illustrative example in the future.
posted by Hildago at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2003

For a far better examination of the differences between what's typically referred to as Left and Right political beliefs, check out Thomas Sowell's book "A Conflict of Visions".

It's a fascinatingly in-depth look at the core assumptions people have about how the world works and how those assumptions manifest themselves into sets of political beliefs. Including how these differing base assumptions logically result in different ideas about equality, fairness, power, and many other topics.

It's a remarkably even-handed book and Sowell goes out of his way to avoid saying that one set of assumptions is more "valid" than the other.
posted by wrffr at 12:44 PM on July 28, 2003

Something funny is going on here... To me, the WorldNetDaily article seemed like an attempt to sabotage the paper rather than report on it or sell it. Why would they make such a big deal about the embarassing Hitler thing?

I did quick little word search experiment, since I don't have time to actually read the article right now. I searched for "Hitler", and noted the places where Hitler is mentioned. Then, I searched on "Reagan", so I could see where and how the paper compared the two. Lo and behold, Reagan isn't mentioned at all. Neither is Limbaugh for that matter.

So, it seems like this is a case of false reporting to get people so pissed off about this paper that there's not a chance they'll actually bother to read it. Has anyone here actually read it yet? Did Acrobat's word search just screw up in a very odd way?
posted by badstone at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2003

badstone: They're all mentioned in the press release.
posted by Snyder at 2:14 PM on July 28, 2003

I really don't think that "conservative" and "liberal" are opposite terms. I always understood a "Liberal" to be someone who believed in less government control and a "Conservative" who wanted to stick with tried and tested ways of running the country. And from those definitions they aren't anaethema. And i would have thought that in America where the tradition seems to be that the less g-men the better that this would be evident. It probably comes from the fact that in Britain, liberals & conservatives ARE opposites. So get your own terminology!
posted by Celery at 2:39 PM on July 28, 2003

The problem I see with the study is that it was not a randomized interview study, but rather a study of intellectuals and pundits. The conservative (more accurately, rightist) point is that the world is simpler than it at first appears, and the liberal point (more accurately, leftist) is that the world is more complex than it at first appears. I don't think that bit of information was exactly hiding under a log.
posted by loafingcactus at 3:00 PM on July 28, 2003

I can't speak for the research, but there's certainly a few grains of truth here. Many of the conservatives I come across to have this "I know I'm right because I'm right" attitude instead of laying out an argument.

Hrmm... Because it's fits my stereotype for a conversative - or the few encounters I've had with "conservatives" - it must be true. Not that "liberals" ever use the "I know I'm right..." argument. Nope.

Some "liberals" I've talked to are mean, condescending, intellectually dishonest, and without morals. My experience is proof that all liberals are like this. Go Humanism.
posted by alethe at 6:45 PM on July 28, 2003

Dude, hanging out on Ann Coulter's message boards is not knowing your enemy, it's looking for another reason to feel good about being liberal. If you want to understand an ideology, don't look to the lowest common denominator. Look to something with a degree of intelligence, like National Review, or the (aforementioned) Thomas Sowell.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:44 PM on July 28, 2003

I think people are arguing this in what may as well be different languages. "Conservative" is a relative term. A "conservative" person is as the article describes him/her: fearful of change, idealizing the "way things used to be", given to judgemental extremes. This is independent of the specific ideology in question. The opposite of "conservative" should not be "liberal", it should be "radical". Whether a person argues for totally deregulating banks or nationalizing them, if they are currently somewhat regulated, then that person's philosophies are radical. There's nothing conservative about the total deregulation of banks. Refusal to strip women of the vote is a conservative viewpoint, because women have had the vote for far longer than most people have been alive.

The terms "conservative", "radical" and "liberal" have been so badly tainted over the last thirty years that IMHO an intelligent and educated person is best off avoiding them, and using the underlying definition that they actually mean instead.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:11 AM on July 29, 2003

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