A Response to Brownie
A host of psychological experiments demonstrates that it doesn’t work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information which confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.
One marker of a bogus trend story is an abundance of such weasel words as some, few, often, seems, likely, and more, all of which allow a writer to simultaneously state a strong assertion and couch it. Another is an article with no data, just a string of anecdotes to support his thesis of a new or growing trend.
Slate on Bogus Trends
I owe a couple of responses to Brownie on, I think, three threads now, but I'll post them here, because that would save him coming back to check where I've written anything (and I've been very slow lately), besides which I'm suspicious of long threads.
On the first discussion, you really have to make up your own minds. I think "Not in my name" is a perfectly sensible protest against elected representatives, especially when neither "backing George W Bush come what may" and "Invading Iraq to look for non-existent weapons" were part of any political party's manifesto. I'm also suspicious of "communities" precisely because they don't have any formal democratic network. Who decides who is even a member? If there is a "Jewish community" would 'just a tiny-bit Jewish' Christopher Hitchens be a member while his brother Peter wouldn't be? But I'll come back to this.
This post is really about this post. I want to bang on a bit about Steven Weinberg because I greatly respect him, particularly for Dreams of a Final Theory, which is a book I'd recommend to everyone. (It was intended for George H W Bush, or Bush Snr, if that helps at all.)
Some background. Brownie thought that Mike Leigh joins cultural boycott of Israel was worthy of a post. Mike Leigh is, by the way, at least nominally Jewish, whatever that might mean, and may even be a part of the Jewish community mentioned above. The comments, for the most part (not available or not visible to me) were vituperative to Mr Leigh. This, I think, was entirely predictable. If a poster on Harry's Place slags someone off, the tenor of the comments is not "I have considered your points, and, while there is something in what you say, I do have to register some disagreement..." but rather, "Man down, bags the first kick!" And then the rest, almost like dominoes falling, lay in as well.
I don't think that Weinberg is a tosser. Sorry, that was a bit of a trick question. I think his decision was eccentric given that (which The Guardian article misses or didn't understand) he shared the 1979 Physics Nobel Prize with Abdus Salam who he was supposed to be visiting, yet he boycotted this country because of one union's (the NUJ) actions. Actually, I admire his conviction. He has principles, and he made a small, real world sacrifice on their account. I find that courageous. And I admire courage. I'd NEVER think of writing a blog post to slag him off. I can admire him and I can admire Mike Leigh, because both do something other than kow-tow to the latest orthodoxy and lip serve some narrow political correctness.
Writing this has made me angry, and I was going to make some silly joke about all the cross posts on Harry's Place. Can't you just have a cup of tea and watch an old Laurel and Hardy YouTube clip before posting? Advice I should take myself.
But while I'm here and angry the brave person who hides behind the moniker "More Media Nonsense" (more fool me, I thought the appellation was ironic or, at the very least, self-referential) Paul Mason on the picket line post's argument ran thus: BBC journalists are on strike (true at the time); Paul Mason (Newsnight journalist) is an "SWP poster boy" despite not being a member of same; therefore the strike is the work of 'Trots'. For a site which promotes democracy, Harry's Place can be ignorant of how democracy works here. Union strike ballots are secret. The voters are committed (either to going on strike, or not doing so: either way they understand what is at stake, and why). It wouldn't matter is the spokesperson were Alexadndr Orlov from the 'Compare the Meerkat' ads. The strike is still representative of the will of the members. Or community, if you must.
Finally, I greatly enjoyed this cross-post from Standpoint:
As ever, it is spot on. His piece reminds us of the clarity and sense of purpose which pervaded his administration, and which is so desperately lacking today.
Blair pulls no punches, but neither does he pander to the easy canards about …
I'll repeat myself:
This IS a spoof, isn’t it? It’s that Michael Ezra having a laugh with one of his “from the archives” posts but with the names changed. Let me guess, Pravda, reprinting Stalin’s criticism of Dmitri Shostakovich just after Uncle Joe kicked the bucket. Am I right?
Oh, you're a broad church all right.