Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The latest "Republicans are racists" screech is here. This version of the screech is dressed up in the language of social psychology, however. I know that language very well. I have myself written many academic publications in it and have come to similar conclusions. When the screech ends ""We have 50 years of evidence that racial prejudice predicts voting", the article is quite right. The correlation between expressions of conservative attitudes and expressions of racially negative attitudes does not always emerge but mostly it does.

For an intelligent person, WHY that happens is the interesting question, however. That the finding might arise because conservatives are more honest in saying what they really think or that it might arise because Leftists are more deluded (including self-deluded) is never to my knowledge examined. Instead, complicated Freudian explanations for the correlation are offered that fall apart when closely examined.

I have myself done umpteen surveys of what people say about their thinking (attitude surveys) and have come to the commonsense conclusion that "You can't trust 'em". People "put their best foot forward" when answering surveys and often do not say what they really think. Psychologists do have some ways of coping with that. They include in their surveys "lie scales" or "social desirability scales" -- sets of questions that try to detect how frank and honest the respondent is being. I myself routinely included such scales in my surveys. But the most common such scales -- the ones I used -- examine lying about one's behaviour and one cannot assume that lying about behaviour and lying about attitudes are the same. To do so assumes a generality that may not exist. I hate to state the obvious, but people may lie about one thing and not another. You can never tell.

And that people who do not in general lie might lie about particularly sensitive issues such as race should, I hope, be supremely obvious. And given the always tense relationship between Leftists and the truth (as evidenced by the long history of Leftists denying the evils of the Soviet empire) that the liars concerned might be mostly Leftists seems in only marginal need of proof.

So my final conclusion is that attitudes surveys are unreliable sources of information. I rely on behaviour. And when history's most infamous racist said this,

"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions."

I think you can see why. The expressed attitudes associated with a given behaviour may vary greatly with time and place. Expecting a permanent link between one set of expressed attitudes and one set of behaviours is something that only a psychologist would be stupid enough to do. Which is why I study history these days instead of psychology.

The truth of what I have just said has however begun to seep into some psychological skulls and some do therefore make an effort to use brain scans rather than expressed attitudes as a source of information about what people think. The limitations of using such gross measurements of such finely articulated phenomena as brain processes should, I hope, be obvious to all but some of the findings so far have at least been amusing. Such procedures have on some occasions shown fanatical Leftists to be "prejudiced". How awful! I say more about such studies here.

The link I have just given does deal with the work of Banaji -- the main protagonist in the latest screech -- but I might perhaps make one additional observation. At best, Banaji's research technique shows who has bad feelings about blacks. And on her results many Leftists do but there is nonetheless a preponderance of Republicans. Again however, the interesting question to non-simplistic people is: WHY? There is an old saying that "a conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night" so perhaps the technique is detecting those who have had REASON to be negative about blacks. And that such people might vote for a party that panders less to blacks would surprise only a psychologist.

Leftist psychologists are very keen to point the finger at possible instances of "motivated social cognition" ("bias" to you and me) so Michelle Malkin's comment on the latest screech does a good job of lobbing that ball back into their court. Or to put Michelle's point in the language of academic psychology: One wonders what precautions were taken to avoid a Rosenthal effect. But of course who needs such precautions when you know the answer before you start?



There is an amusing news report from Sweden here. The article does not explicitly say so but apparently the Swedish police preferred the word of a Muslim doorman to the word of one of Sweden's most prominent Leftists. Make of that what you will. A possible case of the pot calling the kettle Afro-American, I think.

Marginal Revolution on Islam and modernity "In my view all religions of reasonable age and numbers contain traditions and teachings compatible with modernity and all religions of reasonable age and numbers contain traditions and teachings incompatible with modernity. Call it the completeness theorem. It's how religions adapt and evolve to modernity that is important. Religions are constantly changing, emphasizing certain features, downplaying others, creating new interpretations. Given enough time, I believe that any religion will evolve towards compatability with modernity because it's the memes that combine modernity and religion which will survive and prosper. The problem is that Christianity has had hundreds of years to adapt itself to modernity while Islam has had modernity thrust upon it. Fish don't walk overnight and neither do religions. Nevertheless there are Islamic leaders who, under the pressure of current events, see the direction in which Islam must move and who are actively encouraging evolution in that direction".

Tibor R. Machan on Roe and privacy: "One reason that Roe v. Wade is still with us is that legal scholars and jurists are arguing about the wrong issue. The question isn't whether the US Constitution contains any reference to a right to privacy. Let's assume it does. Let's assume that the Ninth Amendment, as argued in Griswold v. Connecticut and some other cases, implicitly refers to the right to privacy every human beings has. Why would this be relevant? Some might argue that if one has the right to privacy, a woman who has an abortion is doing something private, something no one else has the authority to regulate or ban. But this simply will not do. If a pregnant woman is carrying a child -- as pro-life folks call it, 'an unborn child' -- she has no authority to have a procedure that will kill this child. Wherever one locates a human being, inside the pregnant woman or in a crib or at some hotel, unless he has threatened to attack someone, no one is justified killing him. Only self-defense justifies killing another human being, period. ... Privacy, then, is really quite irrelevant to the debate surrounding Roe v. Wade. The relevant question to be answered is, 'Is the being to be killed in an abortion a human being or is it human only potentially?'"

For more postings, see EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. Mirror sites here, here, here, here and here. On Social Security see Dick McDonald and for purely Australian news see Australian Politics (mirrored here).


Practically all policies advocated by the Left create poverty. Leftists get the government to waste vast slabs of the country's labour-force on bureaucracy and paperwork and so load the burden of providing most useful goods and services onto fewer and fewer people. So fewer useful goods and services are produced to go around. That is no accident. The Left love the poor. The Left need the poor so that they can feel good by patronizing and "helping" them. So they do their best to create as many poor people as possible.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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