A Précis on How Conservatives Think by Adam Strange

A great little video explaining the root differences between systems of Progressive thought and systems of Conservative thought and what this difference means for the country and our future.  This principle is based on the 1996 book Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think by George Lakoff.

25 comments to A Précis on How Conservatives Think by Adam Strange

  • PJ

    Strange’s call needs to be answered, no doubt. But how? A couple of thoughts:

    1. The conservative position is codified. The only way to truly kneecap conservatism is to codify an alternative – an actual structural contrast. Support only those candidates that work together to achieve it. Strength in diversity only occurs on common ground.

    2. Press the press. Insist the media cease its tacit acceptance of propaganda and unabashed lying including its uncritical examination of historical revisionism and “controversy” couched in Conservative-Libertarian “ideals.”

    3. Agree to disagree. Refute muddling simplicity by insisting that complex problems require complex solutions.

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  • If you really want to know what a conservative thinks, you don’t ask a liberal. The video should have been titled “How a liberal wishes/hopes/pretends a conservative thinks.” I know what I think as a conservative and it doesn’t even remotely resemble what was portrayed in the video. But I suppose it is comforting to believe lies about conservatives insofar as it will make liberals feel better about themselves and their causes.

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    • Steven Reynolds

      Dennis, are you willing to stand and say no conservatives think this way, and that they are not encouraged by folks like Rove to think this way? Serious question.

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      • Steven, I can only tell you what I think. Of course Karl Rove also tells us what he thinks and I have never heard him or any other conservative describe their belief system in the way that the video did. The video shows stronger animals killing and eating weaker ones and somehow leaps to conclude that conservatives believe that whites are superior to blacks, America to all other countries, straights to gays etc… and I suppose that it is then our job, ie the moral thing to do, to suppress, dominate, exploit, kill, etc… the weak. Again, I know many conservatives and I don’t know anyone who believes this stuff. And while every philosophy/belief system has their sins to answer for, note that some of the most effective at killing the weak have come from the left. Think National Socialist Party (Nazi’s) and the various communist regimes that have disposed of millions. And let us not forget the party that has been fully behind the extermination of the weakest humans of all, those residing in the wombs of their mothers.

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        • Memory Man

          “…some of the most effective at killing the weak have come from the left. Think National Socialist Party (Nazi’s) and the various communist regimes that have disposed of millions.”

          You’re incorrect there. Both examples that you cited were extreme right-wing regimes. As most of us know, “wolves wearing sheep’s clothing” is not uncommon. Please look at the actions, not the false flag labels.

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          • MM, so the National Socialist Party and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, run by communists, are not of the left because of their actions, which we know included the killing of millions of people. By that reasoning, the left can’t commit atrocities because, as soon as they do they become extreme-right.

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            • Memory Man

              Denis, I get it that you’re trying very hard to say that anything with the word “Socialist” (capital S) in it automatically makes it “left”. And I’m telling you that is only true between your ears. Using inductive reasoning doesn’t alter the fact that you’re…I’d say wrong but you’re not even coherent enough to be wrong.

              Although ideal fascism is supposed to be neither left nor right on the political spectrum, Hitler’s Nazis are considered to be far to the right.

              There never has been true communism ever, for the very simple reason that humans can’t behave like robots 100% of the time. The Soviet leadership consisted of a small, clannish group of secretive men who lived in decadent splendor, in stark contrast to the other 99% of the Soviet people who lived at subsistence levels. The government was strongly hierarchical and authoritarian. If that’s what you call “communist” then you’re alone in that. But perhaps that explains why red is the color of the Republican Party.

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              • Memory Man, I get that you would want to dissociate yourself from the atrocities of your fellow leftists. And I get that the left/right or liberal/conservative labels is imperfect. I prefer a statist/free continuum as it is much harder to dodge where your coming from. Re the Nazi’s, I recognize they are considered far right by the left and that there has been considerable effort by leftist historians towards that end, but it doesn’t make it so.

                That there hasn’t been “true” communism is irrelevant. Certainly there was a “true” effort to get there, as evidenced by the millions killed who preferred not to have their farms collectivized. Communism was the attempt to equalize and that is the stated desire of the liberal according to the video. That it went amuck is certainly true but that does not exonerate the philosophical underpinnings.

                MM, in order to achieve the equality desired by liberals, you have to deal with or eliminate the people who oppose you. You need a big and powerful government to do that, and, by extension, weak and compliant citizens. To achieve equality you need unequal political power. What could go wrong?

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                • Memory Man

                  Denis, I never claimed to be “leftist” or to any have “fellow” people. Why do you lie Denis?

                  If you will define and present your alleged “atrocities” I’ll be happy to respond. As it stands you’re writing checks that you can’t cash.

                  You can make up excuses for dismissing the experts, call them names an use other forms of intellectual dishonesty, but in the end the facts still stand and you’re deeper in the liar’s hole.

                  Frankly you’re in no position to dismiss others when you refuse to back up your claims. You claimed that the Soviet Union was “run by communists”. Now, after you’ve been debunked, you say that it’s “irrelevant”. If that was the case, you never would have used it to form the basis of an argument. Nice try, but you’re busted and it’s too late to weasel out of it.

                  I’m amused by the irony in your creation of an imaginary slippery slope situation that implies (without any factual basis) that “liberals” in power means that things go wrong during the reign of the 112th Congress that the Republicans have all but shut down.

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    • Memory Man

      Good point, Denis. I was bothered too, although from my POV it seems unlikely that the very simple explanation could hold true for so many individual and unique people. I believe that the author is using the fallacy of complex cause to over-simplify what is in reality a far more sophisticated phenomenon.

      Unfortunately the censors here at Blogging Blue have decided that my rational and well-planned explanation is “too spammy” so I am unable to share it with you here. Obviously this site is run by Conservatives and not Liberals. ;)

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      • Unfortunately the censors here at Blogging Blue have decided that my rational and well-planned explanation is “too spammy” so I am unable to share it with you here. Obviously this site is run by Conservatives and not Liberals.

        Really? The spam filter rejected a post? If you like, you can send it to me via email and I’ll post it.

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      • MM, I’ve been running Blogging Blue for the better part of four years and I have yet to understand why whys and hows of my spam filter. I’d be happy to post your unedited comment….just send it via the “contact us” page.

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        • Memory Man

          Thanks Zach! As you see, Phill posted for me. I tried to post my thanks to you last night, but I got a server error message when I did so I decided not to press my luck. :D

          I’ve never had much success with automatic spam detection software either in my 20 years of IT work. I advise a guy who runs a streaming audio website with a forum. He’s a crack coder himself, and he relies on the denizens of the forum to alert him when spambots strike! I know the need, but have yet to come across a solution that’s not at least as much work as simple vigilance. Oh well…

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      • NOTE: This is a response by Memory Man that I’m posting on his behalf. The SPAM filters on BB were blocking it because there were so many links.

        Good point, Denis. I was bothered too, although from my POV it seems unlikely that the very simple explanation could hold true for so many individual and unique people. I believe that the author is using the fallacy of complex cause to over-simplify what is in reality a far more sophisticated phenomenon.

        Believe it or not, one thing that I do for recreation is study why passenger planes crash. The answer, time and time again is that no single cause or person can be blamed for the tragic outcome. In other words, the system works up to the point where the compounding of several mistakes and/or failures makes failure inevitable.

        The difference with the Republican party is of course that unlike the professionals in the aviation industry, who don’t wish for tragedy, the Republicans act spitefully and deliberately to cause a disaster. In other words, the Republicans are like terrorists who want to crash planes to further their political agenda.

        The major difference that I see is that the GOP leadership and the GOP rank and file are completely separate entities. In this respect the author’s simple idea works. The GOP command structure has a wealthy few at the top, who use the affluent gentry to give orders to the foot soldiers.

        The most puzzling thing to most people IME is understanding why the rank and file, the cloth coat Republicans, participate in a system that is designed to crush them right along with everyone else? Why would any sane person want to harm his or her self on purpose?

        In some cases the answer may well be that they’re not sane people at all. And while that will hold true for a certain percentage of the population, it can’t account for the bulk. My observations tell me that the GOP leadership relies almost exclusively on lies, and in particular appeals to the darkest parts of human behavior to motivate their rank and file. Appeals to what I call the seven deadly sins have motivated otherwise decent people to commit terrible crimes against humanity over the ages. I believe that this easy to understand, yet quite varied (see points 3 through 16) explanation fits much better. After all it is based on years of observation, and as the saying goes “the camera doesn’t lie”.

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        • MM, if your beliefs lead you to conclude that roughly half the population of the US is either insane, hopelessly gullible or both, then perhaps it is time to question your premises, particularly the claim that Republicans want to crush them. By no means am I in lock step with everything Republican, but I am more concerned with being crushed by Dems. And by crushed I mean having Dems limiting my freedoms, namely to keep the bulk of what I earn, to smoke if I feel like it (I don’t), to have my vote count, to hire and fire whom I please, to purchase high deductible health insurance not larded up with mandates to pay for other people’s stuff, to use a light bulb that doesn’t contain poisonous mercury etc….

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          • Memory Man

            Denis, you either need to begin to understand or stop lying about the fact that you cannot represent others, only yourself. You and only you claimed that “roughly half the population of the US is either insane, hopelessly gullible or both”. It’s yours to defend, retract (the honorable way out) or lose by default.

            I think it’s interesting that you felt the need cry out that you aren’t “in lock step with everything Republican” when nobody was asking. Usually when people say things like that, it’s a tell that they are in fact the very thing that they deny. Honest people have nothing to motivate them to sudden disclaimers.

            Likewise, claiming an irrational fear of “being crushed by Dems” in a non sequitur fashion looks…well, paranoid. This bizarre notion that “Dems” are going to sweep in and take the place of Republicans when it comes to abridging Constitutionally protected personal freedoms, running up debts that will be paid for through taxes (or worse) sooner or later etc. Why would it be more objectionable for “Dems” to do these things? Why is it acceptable for Republicans to do them?

            I don’t see anybody controlling other people’s personal spending habits, so if you throw away “the bulk of what (you) earn” you only have yourself to blame. If you’re implying that your income is so high that you would be in jeopardy of being taxed over 50% as was the case under Eisenhower, I doubt that the ultra-rich are posting for themselves on a backwater blog’s comments section.

            IMHO the hypocrisy of what you say is best represented by the paranoid statement about “a light bulb that doesn’t contain poisonous mercury” but not saying a word about the mercury and other toxic elements that are contaminating everything from the food we eat to our water supply.

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    • I think the evidence is pretty compelling that the division between Progressive and Conservative thought is well summed up by the difference between a belief in equality and in hierarchy. I challenge you to offer another framework that explains the differences more accurately.

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      • That is an easy one Phil. I see the struggle as between equality and freedom.

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        • Ah yes: “I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality.” — John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833), who did at least free his slaves once he was dead and had no further use for them.

          That is, he loved his own liberty. Others’ liberty was of less importance to him than his being well and aristocratically served during his life. With, inter alia, drink and opium.

          In just how much do you take him for a model?

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  • PJ

    “Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth; and that I am sure, is the ultimate and sincere object of us both. We both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by the Constitution, not to cherish its exercise even where in opposition to ourselves.”

    Thomas Jefferson, 1815

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    • PJ, I wish I shared your optimism regarding both sides ultimately and sincerely searching for the truth, as though some aren’t after money, power, control etc…

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      • Memory Man

        Although I’m barred form saying it myself, I share your belief about their motives. I’d like to cite a well-known event that defined the mid-20th century, but I’m pretty sure that that observation, no matter how accurate it may be, will never be allowed to be written here.

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  • The point of the “up is more” example in the video is to illustrate how 98% of our conscious reasoning can be traced back to unconscious ideas and experiences. How ironic that people will dismiss the arguments in the video as too simple, and then offer the rebuttal argument that “I am a conservative and I don’t think that way.” As far as arguments go, I can’t think of one much simpler than that. You may not think that you think this way, but there is no arguing that this concept ties together and explains all the conservative policy positions for the last 150 years.

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  • PJ

    MM is spot on with Nazism, but I’d add that Denis isn’t entirely incorrect in assigning communism to the left. At least in its inception communism was supported by intellectuals from the left with ostensibly democratic ideals. But where Denis might be off the mark is in how communism developed, particularly Soviet communism. It evolved into an extreme right-wing regime. MM is correct there and in the clarification: socialism is not synonymous with left.

    Denis, you and I have similar concerns – historical revisionism. I’m not so sure it would be accurate to ascribe the far right aspect of Nazism to the conjuring ideas of “leftist” historians. Enquiry: Are you suggesting that “rightist” historians interpret Nazism differently? I’m unfamiliar with any historical analysis of Nazi Germany that suggests Nazism was somehow “leftist.” Please pass along your sources, I’d be very interested in reading them.

    MM is also correct to point out that Strange’s video is slightly flawed in its presentation. Its construction is propagandistic by virtue of its simplicity, but the premise is not demonstrably false so I don’t think it would be right to label it propaganda. Its point about about how conservatives and liberals think may be broadly true, but a little reductive.

    Adam – you cite an oft heard conservative talking point in the name of liberalism, equality of opportunity, without commenting on its counterpart – equality of outcome. Your point concerning authoritarian and egalitarian structures may be incomplete without addressing it.

    You seem to suggest that patterns of thought are hard-wired. I don’t think any data (including the most recent – Mooney’s The Republican Brain) supports that assertion. If our political and moral tendencies are, in the main, subconsciously generated then it doesn’t logically follow to call out conservatives for their policy positions. It doesn’t make sense to insist there’s a “battling of minds” occurring in this nation if “98% of our conscious reasoning can be traced back to the subconscious.” I’m assuming “subconscious” was your intended meaning, not “unconscious.”

    There is a battling of minds going on, but I’d hesitate to source that conflict within the realm of subconscious tendencies. It plays a part – yes. But I think the greater part of that conflict is more insidious – in what Newt Gingrich warned about – right wing social engineering. I agree we need to engage conservatism in terms of messaging. I’d suggest by zeroing in on hypocrisy and realism, especially with respect to liberty, elitism, totalitarianism, anti-intellectualism, democracy, freedom, and honesty. I don’t think the conservative position in any of these areas is credible or defensible.

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