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June 11, 2016
Banging the Biasphere


The biases that form our ideologies

Ahhh… Equality – that mutable concept of liberty. It fastens easily to the binary predispositions toward altruism and financially compensated achievement plus ownership. Harmonizes with the merit-based status idea that trumped the inherited hierarchy-based British model of the 13 colonies. Siri: find a synonym for that word – trump.

Despite the broad margin of deviance from that equality ethic since the moment of the country’s founding, that ethic – really, the goal of striving toward that ethic – has been a source of national unity (sort of), pride and an example to the rest of the world. I use the word equality here to include economic class as well as the skin color, gender, ethnicity bandwidth.

Now every fiber of that promise is under attack by the Republican Party and sold in a package of Orwellian framing that speaks the language of those most harmed by the Republican agenda – the working class end of the middle class. Republican economic policy since the Reagan era has led to the largest inequality gap in a century and a quarter but those on the comfy side of the gap keep reeling in the votes of those on the struggling side. The rest of us – the majority of voters – scramble to point out the obvious disconnect between the stated ideology of conservative voters their chosen predators.

Focusing on the contradictions of delusional ideology is counter-productive. Delusions are medicinal and self-protective. Trying to pierce a person’s worldview shield with a fact arrow generates anxiety, not eurekas. And the first-responder to that spasm of anxiety is the brain’s Department of Delusional Biases.

Turns out we’re critters that are far more likely to form opinions based on emotional signals than by contemplating facts and figs. And most of those emotions and motivations lie below the level of consciousness. They fester in our gray matter in the form of biases. Biases are basically conclusions drawn from a combination of facts, observations as well as culturally and parentally programmed attitudes and notions that may contradict the facts and observations. Conclusions are likely to be the product of the rewards we experience when a certain bias is expressed. Depending on where you live, saying that homosexual acts should be criminalized might get you some likes and kisses or get your ass kicked out of the party.

Many of our biases have been hard-wired since childhood and marinated in a certainty elixir that reinforces a sense of stability as we navigate life on a planet where certainty about anything is virtually impossible. But lack of that feeling of stability can generate anxiety and depression which is why the need to double down on our biases is second nature.

Many of those biases are in direct opposition to the ideas we sincerely promote but that’s understandable because we’re prone to promoting particular ideas strategically to get something we want. When what we want begs for a different idea we evolve with the grace of a gymnast. It’s not that a particular bias shifted. The same bias bank will be drawn on to explain away whatever serves our comfort zone. Doesn’t have to make sense.

A Tea Party rally has Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cards, foods stamps and unemployment insurance stubs in many a wallet. The marchers may return to their homes in flood zones confident that the day’s primary object of scorn – the federal government – with its tyranny straw will suck the water out of their flooded living rooms every time a storm hits.

Rationality has nothing to do with it. We on the Left are no less prone to biases. We just lack the will and the wit to appy some creativity to framing our bullshit. The Right has turned that framing into an art form. The GOP toxified the Affordable Care Act by framing end-of-life counseling – something they’d fully supported before that colored guy took over – as death panels. And it worked. Meanwhile the Dems framed the universally revered Medicare paradigm as the public option. That’ll show em. Raise estate taxes on the super-wealthy? The GOP calls it death taxes and suddenly people who are struggling to pay the monthly are on fire about ending the death tax which mainly applies to the super-wealthy.

Far more than we’d like to acknowledge our ideologies are forms of religion that bind us to fellow believers. We love those likes. Our utopian visions and narratives have little if any data to support them but damn, it feels good to scream.

— Polar Levine, News Goo Dissection, June 11, 2016

© Polar Levine 2016 content should not be reproduced elsewhere without prior permission

Polar Levine

working class college dropout who loves to learn, poke his biases and waste time looking around