Posts tagged ideology
Posts tagged ideology
A study of top US political blogs found left-leaning sites collaborative and campaigning, and right-leaning sites exclusive.
The research, detailed in American Behavioral Scientist (April 2012, p459-487), looked at 155 different blog sites.
It found that left-leaning blogs have more likely to be co-authored, allow user contributions, don’t differentiate between originating and externally sourced content, and include longer posts and discussions.
The authors claim that “the practices of the right suggest that a small group of elites may retain more exclusive agenda-setting authority online.”
It appears to me though, that both approaches, collaborative and exclusive, can be successful.
The left-wing blogs undoubtedly made a contribution to the aura of the first Obama presidential campaign.
The right wing blogs have resurfaced recently. So much so that the Republican Party is becoming concerned that the blogs and those running them are driving ideology and policy, rather than the Party.
Collaborative political blogs can succeed because they share a common purpose and language. Exclusive political blogs can success through the attractiveness and cohesiveness of the ideas they espouse.
Is labeling yourself with an ideological position or political party useful or limiting?
My take is that a label is useful shorthand to describe complexity. It helps yourself and others understand you. But we forget that behind it sits human complexity.
Labels are damaging when they define your position before you have one.
Yet again a politician ‘appeals’ to people he thinks call themselves “middle class”. Ugh.
It looks like Obama is aiming for an “I believe” Presidential campaign. In the speech he moves from a belief in the free market to belief in military might, in welfare, to a belief in considerable government intervention.
To get there, he needs an opponent, so he has created what he calls ‘social Darwinism’. He calls it the biggest challenge of this era. He says this ideology wants society to allow people to lie where they fall. He says he is against that.
Politics is the art of balancing the irrationality of voters with the irrationality of politicians.
An intriguing TedX talk from US political philosopher Michael Huemer makes a pitch for rational thinking in political decision-making.
He says that voters and politicians should attempt to be rational (I’ll outline his guide below). But his idea of rationality is largely economic. He misses the larger point of politics, which is establishing common values for a society. Many politicians, in their urge to win an ideological point, miss this as well.
There’s plenty of evidence of irrational politics across the ideological spectrum, for example; Dog licensing or chipping to stop dog attacks (it hasn’t); tax breaks to stimulate economies from movie making (it returns less than it costs); re-examining welfare recipients (core unemployed stay the same).
The way public and political life circles round and round these sorts of problems is frustrating to those who think there is a rational answer to everything.
What is really going on with irrational debates and policy making is that society is venting its collective frustration with the untidiness of life. In the dog attack debate, for example, we’re expressing and establishing a common set of values about safety of our young people and the innocence of childhood; we’re allowing those scared of dogs to be heard; and we’re expressing a dislike of people who own, abuse or fail to train, the sort of dogs more likely to be aggressive.
Dog licensing and chipping may make no difference to the problem, but it does express a societal “value” - an attitude, if you like, about the problem. This expression has a moral role which keeps certain people in check. The fiscal, emotional and time cost of chipping may actually be worth it for this expression.
Then again, I contend that moral expression of a society’s position through debate is often sufficient. An actual piece of legislation, programme or expenditure is not always needed.
Most political issues are not actually solvable. Unemployment is a natural occurrence of a market economy (remember Geoffrey Palmer’s ridiculous “zero unemployment” goal?). People like dogs, so they will always have them. People get angry and hurt each other. People have circumstances or states of mind that lead them to steal. The base cause of the problem, or the belief that there is a problem, is irrational in itself. There is no rational answer to that.
There is something much deeper in the human psyche that makes Huemer’s rationality ultimately impossible. There is a deep rooted preference inside each of us for either a “tidy” society or individual choice. This influences our belief system beyond where rationality can reach.
Politics therefore is the art of juggling irrationality so it does not imbalance society.
Politicians need to be wary of being contributors or leaders of irrationality. This could over-balance solutions or society’s moral expressions toward an unfair or unworkable bias.
Here’s some of the questions Huemer thinks people (and politicians) should ask themselves, to establish whether they’re thinking irrationally. It’s illuminating.
Answering those questions myself, I have indeed been made angry by the opinions of others. It happens, but less often as I get older. On the plus side, I can identify issues where I’ve changed my mind as evidence mounts. I definitely prefer people that I agree with (that’s a very human thing, and absolutely unchangeable), but I do actively seek opinions and evidence from other perspectives to form robust understanding and opinions.
From that list, the biggest alarm would be if you feel a group of people who disagree with you is inherently bad. Fortunately, I’ve never felt that. I think we generally all have good intentions, just different ways of being irrational.
The underlying psychology of politicians and those who seek to influence them is that they are trying to put a problem right, finally and forever.
My corporate clients sometimes believe that if they could just change one aspect of regulation or legislation, their operating environment would be improved. Or, they think that if agree to a particular idea mooted by Government, that would be the end of the matter.
The reality is that there never is a solution that fixes everything. Solutions don’t work, or people’s expectations change, or the problems change.
So I often find myself counselling to clients that “Government never ends” - because it’s not in the nature of humans to be satisfied.
For example, about five years ago I helped private businesses fend off a proposal that would make their financial accounts public. I warned that the motivations of the people behind the proposal were not going away. Sure enough, a few years later, the proposal reappeared under a new Government. We shut that one down as well.
Similarly, I helped a food client water-down, but ultimately agree to, a government proposal related to obesity-reduction. I warned the client that the government would be back for more. Sure enough, a few years later, the original proposal re-emerged and we had to bat it away again.
What brought this topic to mind today was the battle in the US over Obama’s plan to enforce contraception as a component of employer-provided healthcare plans.
The irony I see there is that a private healthcare system is being manipulated to bring about a social objective. Those who seek private or market systems often think that they’re freeing themselves of the interference of Government. The reality is that no system is immune from the reach of political interests and the shifts of cultural values.
Central to any political strategy must be a realisation that the current project and objective is at best buying time. It’s unlikely to ever be the end of the story. That shifts strategic thinking in important ways.
That is why I urge clients to concentrate on what I call “public advocacy”, not only political advocacy. What I mean by this is that the only way to change political motivations is by going to the source of political power and motivation: the public.
The great battle of political ideologies is actually a social battle. If you change attitudes among the wider public then the political drivers are changed more fundamentally, and probably, for longer.
A twenty year old political truism has being exposed in the saga of what John Key said to John Banks over a cafe table.
The idea is that there is a group of embittered voters over 60 years of age, and that this group is dying out. The concept is not only wrong, it is patronising of the values of many people, and ignorant of what motivates voters.
The myth rose among the political classes over the 1990s. I recall hearing it, as a young press secretary, told as a consoling tale among Labour MPs at the start of that decade.
This group are said to be embittered by age, and disaffected by a working life that was largely low-income and hit by successive recessions and radical political policies. Political cliques say this group tends to be nationalistic, and haters of the poor and of the rich. The story is that they are like this because they are poorly educated (or not smart) and unworldy (from small towns). Thus, they are regarded as supporters of Winston Peters.
It is a myth because humans are psychologically pre-disposed toward different perspectives on life. Even if supporters of Winston Peters are dying off, supporters of his brand of political and social thinking will remain a feature of society. ‘Conservative’ ideas are not unique to a particular cohort or age bracket.
Some of the simpler expressions of the concept claim that age has embittered this group, but they’re dying out. Well, older people are not dying out - they are increasing in numbers. although older age can generate a very small shift acress the spectrum toward conservatism, the bigger impacts on attitudes are experiences while yery young, and the attitudes of parents.
Those who express the myth are really using it as a way of elevating their own belief set. They are saying that their attitudes are superior to expressions of nationalism, and cynicism toward corporate and financial life.
Politicians who want to believe that these ideas are dying out are very mistaken, and by pretending they don’t exist, are missing out on the votes of a significant cross section of society.