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The Stupidity of Conservatism

Added: Sunday, February 12th 2012 at 7:52am by SAUSAGE-PANTS
 
 
 

The Guardian / By George Monbiot

Conservatism Thrives on Low Intelligence and Poor Information

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood.
 
 
 
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 Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today's progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly "different" others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the "critical pathway" from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to "rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order" and "emphasise the maintenance of the status quo". Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretence of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won't drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that "conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics". The result is a "shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology" which has "ominous real-world consequences for American society".

Lofgren complains that "the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital centre today". The Republican party, with its "prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science" is appealing to what he calls the "low-information voter", or the "misinformation voter". While most office holders probably don't believe the "reactionary and paranoid claptrap" they peddle, "they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base".

The madness hasn't gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.

These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires' feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord MoncktonLord Lawson orthinktanksfundedby ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls "terminal niceness". They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It's turkeys all the way down.

 

http://www.alternet.org/story/154082/conservatism_thrives_on_low_intelligence_and_poor_information?page=1

User Comments

Rodgers & Hammerstein summed it all up 50 years ago in "South Pacific" with the song "You've Got To Be Taught!"

"Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information."

"It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalisation but empirical fact."

..." today's progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, ..." (LOL)

"Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly "different" others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking."

"Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information."

"They (Conservatives) fail ..... to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation."

Let me get this straight;

All of this voiced opinion about the stupidity of Conservatives.......was resulted by an.....open-minded, understanding, covered mouth of a Liberal.....

{#rofl.gif}

And the "stupid" Conservative (as defined, by the covered mouth of an open-minded Liberal).......is the one with the MONEY, that he somehow gained through his "stupidity"......and he is further "stupid" because he will not "distribute" his wealth, to the highly intelligent, but broke Liberal...

{#popc1.gif}

(Liberal memo.......covered mouth now means speaking)...lol

(Liberal memo......the intelligent poor, want stupid wealthy peoples wealth)....lol

Is there going to be sequel to this nonsense?  LOL  

 

 

 

 

Rachel, you imply that the rich conservatives are proven to be smart because they are rich (they must have known something valuable to get rich, right?) and that this disproves the article's entire argument.

1. You can be dumb and rich

2. Not all conservatives are rich, nor are they all dumb.

3. The article takls about conservative IDEOLOGY and POLITICS. Tell me: can an ideology acquire wealth?

So, your comment did not address the same subject of the article, and it did not dispute anything-off topic or on topic- anyway.

i feel like a lot of the time the mass following behind ridiculous and idiotic conservative ideas is not because they are stupid per se but because they have been ensnared by an emotionally manipulitive information source and are comfortably unaware, unwilling to see what is really there. There are some really smart fools out there, so I feel like it may be the illusory comfort and the "ignorance is bliss" mentality that may have created this following. Especially when you're not prone to awareness or are running on auto-pilot to begin with I could see how these people could get caught up following their emotions or false senses of comfort and safety (which are created by scaring them in the first place) even if they may be smart. I'm thinking of the blogster user "nobullthinker" as a good example of this. The dude's smart, but he follows a false and manipulative information source. Also its very potent in manipulation to espouse ideas that the audience may already have inclinations to (selling conservativism to conservatives) and thereby gain their trust and just create "bobble-heads" out of them where their just mindlessly agreeing to everything. I'm sure a liberal channel could do the same thing and eventually create a following that believes in a totally made up and false reality, because there will always be some people who are just not thinking/are not aware, even if they may be smart. Although the article does talk about low intelligence in childhood and its connection with prejudice and close mindedness, which is a staple of modern conservativism, so maybe it really does just appeal to the stupid people. I don't think I know of any racist liberal movements in history, although I'm sure there must be some. Lul some conservatives (specifically Glen Beck fans) would argue that Hitler was actually a liberal and socialist (National "socialist", get it?) and that would be evidence of a racist liberal movement. But they're just dumb.

That's a good, balanced perspective.

I would dare say that both parties are idiots because the answers lie somewhere in the middle. 




Happy Valentines Day 

I just came

YUM!   I just guzzled!

Sorry, I accidentally clipped post before I could finish. I meant to say "I just came to blogster".

lol, shame on you getting a girl all excited like that

well written, and I can see as how the conservatives aren't even commenting except the one who actually thinks shes smarter than everyone else on the planet...and Italian provides a great responce as well. Thanks, great read.

Thanks Charlie {#basic-smile.gif}

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