Regurgitated Scripts

Below is something written back in November 8 of this year. I share it because illustrates clearly a problematic worldview.

Let me offer some initial context. The person writing it is a middle class white woman who is college-educated, married, lives in a nice house, and works as an actress in the theatre. She is a stereotypical white professional of the middle class and she gives voice to the privileged views of the liberal class.

Her views are not just typical but stereotypical, as she is perfectly playing the role cast for her. It’s a willing example of typecasting. Many others who fit her demographic profile would express the exact same views. It’s the liberal class reality tunnel.

I’ll break her comment down into parts. The first paragraph is about the perceived problem:

“We all know Donald Trump, we all have met him. I’ve met him in my professor whose eyes only focused on the male students when they spoke. I met him in a tow truck driver who disliked towing ‘colored people’, in men who seem to believe that the worst thing a woman can be is fat, in the manager of my first job who paid men more than women because they could lift heavy things. He’s the person who says they can’t be racist because they have black friends. He’s the roofer who changed his bid halfway through the job based on his own calculation error. He’s the guy at the gas station who grabbed my hands and asked if he could spoil me.”

I don’t like Trump, have never liked Trump, and don’t plan on liking Trump at any future point of my life. I have no need nor desire to defend him. I just don’t think that Trump as a person is the main issue.

As both sides have made clear, this was a choice between evils, not between one good and another. Even those who voted for Trump admitted in polls that they didn’t necessarily like Trump or agree with him. The large numbers of working class folk, minorities, and women who voted for Trump didn’t do so because his rich white male privilege inspired them. They were simply frustrated and outraged, and for good reason.

The above quoted view is a narrative framing. In the worldview of the middle class white feminist, Trump stands in for all these bad people.

Women who are poor, minority, immigrant, etc probably have a less simplistic view because they can’t afford to live in such a disconnected narrative. They don’t worry about who the professor is looking at because they and most people they know have never had the opportunity to go to college. They also know that it isn’t just truck drivers who are racially biased but also privileged white liberals like Hillary Clinton with the Clinton legacy of dog whistle politics supporting racialized policies. They can’t afford to be willfully ignorant of such harsh realities.

It’s not that everything this person says is false. I’m sure she has had some of these experiences. As far as that goes, many people have had far worse experiences, including the poorest white men who are a large part of the unemployed, police brutality victims, prison population, and those fighting on the frontlines of pointless wars promoted by war hawks — all the horrific injustices promoted by the policies of the Clinton New Democrats. This is why the narratives of identity politics are mostly comforting to the already comfortable.

Now the next part is not exactly the solution. It’s more a portrayal of the perceived victim.

“We all know HRC, we have all met her. She’s the boring lady boss who isn’t as friendly as we expect. She’s the super smart girl in class who seemed not to know how to smile and flirt to endear herself, who was told that honey catches more flies than vinegar. She’s the unapologetically ambitious career woman who makes a mistake and gets dragged through the mud for it, even though her male coworkers do the exact same thing and everyone looks away. She makes mistakes but somehow catches more shit for them than anyone else partly because she doesn’t follow the usual social scripts for a woman.”

Hillary Clinton, as a well off white woman, stands in for all the struggles of well off white women who deserve to break the glass ceiling so that they can join as equals among the well off white men. Clinton isn’t one of the wealthy plutocrats and powerful ruling elite. No, she is a victim of society and of the system that is trying to keep her down.

And here is the last part, the solution:

“This election makes me so anxious because if Trump wins, it means the sins of the entire first paragraph is more okay than the sins of the second.”

So, what is the solution? Vote for Clinton or evil wins. She doesn’t really believe anything Clinton has done is a sin for she shows no evidence to the contrary. She demonstrates a lack of knowledge of what is involved, both in this particular post and other things she has posted.

The only sin she sees Clinton being guilty of is being a woman in a man’s world. That is the narrative and the story was supposed to end with Hillary Clinton winning, the final culmination of a century of progressive aspirations fought for by good liberals. We need to ensure Clinton was elected in order to protect her as a victim from those who seek to victimize her. Clinton would have been the first Victim-in-chief. Just ignore the minor details of all those victimized by Clinton’s policies.

I commented about this on Facebook. A couple people I know commented. Here is the first comment:

“Sometimes I think our education system that forces us to memorize things and then regurgitate them onto a test to get a pat on the head is to blame for some of this stuff. This is practically a word for word script we’ve been fed about why we should like and vote for her.”

And my response: I spoke of willful ignorance. But that’s not quite right. Willful ignorance is not an excuse, for sure. I’m not even sure it’s an explanation. You get at the issue better than I did, articulating what was bothering me about this. It’s a near perfect regurgitation of a script.

A stupid and ignorant person wouldn’t be able to do that. To regurgitate a script like that, you have to be well informed about the scripts so often repeated in the media. And, as you say, this is a skill that has to be learned, it being most well learned by the well-educated. As research shows, sometimes the most well informed people are simultaneously the most misinformed people, as they simply take it all in without discernment and self-awareness.

One interesting thing is that less educated people are less polarized and partisan. If you’re working poor, you don’t have the time to pay attention to all of the scripts in media and memorize them. It takes a fair amount of time and effort to be able to regurgitate scripts like that, so casually that it seems like your own opinion.

The first victims of propaganda and public perception management are the most media-saturated and media savvy. These are the people who have the luxury of free time to regularly absorb what is coming out of the mainstream media and out of the party machines. These people are typically more politically active and connected to those who are politically active. They are the mostly middle-to-upper class partisans who have high voting rates.

Scripts such as these aren’t meant for the poor and disenfranchised. No, their purpose is to keep the most loyal partisans in line and to keep them from thinking any original thoughts.

This is what another friend wrote:

“Doesn’t much resemble the Hillary Clinton I’ve seen on camera and heard on NPR all these years. The woman doesn’t have an ounce if humility or accountability in her. And no, again, her male co-workers did not do the same exact thing. She smiled plenty in the early pics of her, she’s a war hawk who has little perceivable innate warmth, a great deal of privilege, and a serious credibility problem.”

And my response: I agree. This is the fantasyland version of Hillary Clinton or rather the bizarro world version.

I keep repeating that the kind and amount of damning evidence revealed during the campaign season about Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, the DNC, and colluding MSM hasn’t happened in living memory. I’m not sure it has ever happened before.

Also, I don’t know of any other major candidate in US history that was being investigated about political corruption and wrongdoing leading up to a presidential election. I know my American history fairly well. If someone knows of a comparable situation, I’d love to know about it. But, as far as I can tell, we are in new territory.

This is not normal. And I hope it never becomes normal.

* * *

One last thought:

As this deals with smart people, it would likely involve the smart idiot effect. Professionals of the liberal class tend to not just be highly intelligent but also highly educated. They tend to know a lot about certain things and often to know a little about a lot of things, as a good liberal education gives them. Even so, they typically know less than they think they know. Even experts aren’t experts outside of their field of expertise.

These members of the liberal class are generally successful in their chosen careers or else are able to find other work that is satisfying and pays well. They tend to be more well traveled and worldly. They aren’t isolated in that sense, even as they are isolated in a reality tunnel and media bubble. Their social and class position gives them a sense of confidence and competence.

They are able to argue well and articulate clearly, to offer plausible explanations and convincing narratives. They are smart and able to present themselves as smart. If demanded of them, they would throw out many facts to support their beliefs. And there would be some truth to what they said, even as the evidence they used was cherry-picked.

It reminds me of a coworker my dad told me about. He was extremely smart and could come up with answers quickly. When asked about why he thought a particularly way, he could then offer an instant reason that made sense. But over time my dad realized that he was mostly just rationalizing his intuitions, which doesn’t mean his intuitions were wrong even as the rationalizations may have had little to do with them.

The smarter you are, the better you are likely to be at rationalizations, either in inventing them on the spot or memorizing them.

As always, this isn’t limited to the liberal class. It just seems all the more egregious when good liberals act this way. It’s a need for certainty and easy answers, an ironically conservative-minded tendency. The problem is the world is more complicated than standard political narratives allow for.

7 thoughts on “Regurgitated Scripts

  1. This is why I look to psychology, sociology, anthropology, consciousness studies, and classical studies. More specifically, this is why I’m so fascinated with bicameralism and related theories/understandings.

    Narratives like this are as powerful as the belief systems or voice-hearing of ancient societies. Among the most powerful forces in the world are the stories we are told and the stories we tell ourselves.

    Modern partisan politics has become the equivalent of religion, specifically for those who otherwise lack religion.

    • You can’t argue with a story. It can’t be disproven or falsified. A story is its own justification. The only way to counter a story is with an even better, more compelling story.

      The liberal class has been stuck in a story for at least decades now. So, how might we tell a new story that would take hold within the liberal mind and imagination?

  2. One of my favorite blogs is called “Wait but Why?”. He tends to address things in the areas of science, psychology, and philosophy… and I really appreciate his writing style and the way he goes about covering a topic. Anyway, he did a series on Elon Musk, his various companies and his professional history and philosophy and such. The series is so long and thorough it amounts to a small book really, and I forget where exactly he said the following, but in the course of talking about Musk and telling the story of the author’s own research, he compared a person’s worldview to a tree. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say he compares a person’s knowledge of any given field of study to a tree… something like that. My point is that he says anytime you learn something new, whether a single fact or an entire idea or philosophy… it’s like somebody handing you a branch. And learning is much easier to really accomplish if you know where to put that branch, on some existing tree within your mind. Otherwise a lot of the things you try to learn tend to fall away in time and be lost to the disconnected aether. So this author likes to dig deep into a new subject, and keep going deeper until he seems to have hit bottom. Then from there he can build up his own body of understanding, adding branches one at a time to a well integrated overall tree.

    I think a similar illustration fits well for how people integrate new information into their overall worldview. The exact same narrative can leave very different impressions on different people, depending in large part on what their worldview actually already looked like. Donald Trump says during the campaign that the way he would beat ISIS would be to “go after” the families of the combatants. I hear that, and I take it as he’s advocating and proposing blatant war crimes. My mother, on the other hand, gives him the benefit of the doubt and takes for granted that when he says “go after” women and children, he means research and investigate them, gathering intel on the families of fighters as well as the actual fighters themselves. We take the exact same branch and integrate it in wildly different ways, based in large part on what we already thought and what our intuition tells us about the man. This is a relatively mild example… the one I was more struck with this past year is the very different ways various friends of mine absorb new stories of yet another black man killed by police. But that’s a territory in which I’d rather not tread, especially because I’m not altogether comfortable with how I myself first integrate those stories.

    I think the sum total of this effect over time is that we end up living in completely different worlds, even as we share the same physical environment. Now that the internet and social media are so prevalent, there is no shortage of echo chambers tailor made to fit your exact preferred narrative bias. I’ve been fascinated for a long time with the question of how limited my own capacity is to really be personally sure about anything. Everybody listens to somebody, and trusts somebody, to know what they’re talking about and tell it like it is. Even if the actual facts CAN be empirically proven beyond doubt, the interpretation of those facts can be almost completely a matter of perspective. I think this is doubly true for people with SOME time to be informed, but limited time to be informed. It’s way too easy to simply find someone smart to trust and absorb what they say whole and unfiltered. There’s great money to be made in telling people what to think, and there always will be. Then, once you’ve been told what to think by a reputable source, you can consider yourself educated and your opinions well researched… and anybody who disagrees is all too easy to write off as less educated in the topic at hand, or maybe just seeing the world through their own limited perspective, regurgitating the partisan propaganda they’ve been fed.

    I had a conversation with an old friend of mine recently. I think it’s fair to say she’s more of a leftist partisan than I am, and definitely more pessimistic about a Trump presidency. She went with her husband and some mutual friends to a “Unity March” type demonstration in my home state, and then posted about it on Facebook. In the post she described the protest, and among other things she said it was “NOT about politics.” I didn’t comment on that but someone else said basically what I was thinking… that if you read the facebook page for the event, it was “100% about politics.” The description said, among other things, that a Trump administration was dangerous for minorities, and among other things their goal was to hold Trump and his administration accountable for championing all people in America. They also had a list of about ten demands for local and federal government.

    Well, rather than agree with that commentor publicly I just messaged my friend privately. I told her from my perspective it seems obvious that the march had a lot to do with politics… they expressed a political slant against Donald Trump, and they had ten political demands to make. I also said I could understand saying it’s not about politics, and I understand what that was supposed to mean. But at the same time I can see saying that as laying the ground for an easy attack against the demonstration, because they claim to not be political when they obviously are. I told her there are people who will immediately want to discount the message of the movement, and who will jump at any chance they get to file it away as something that doesn’t matter. For example, I had already seen similar marches labeled as liberal whining over a lost election… only the liberals were smart enough to dream up some superficially non-partisan message to hide behind for the sake of legitimacy.

    Anyway, the point I’ve been getting at is that it was a pretty good conversation between friends, but there came a point after the climax of our talk when she said “you know, I think it’s kind of ironic… the only people who have criticized the march (or her post) have been white men”. And at that moment, the wind left my sails. I had no doubt that she was genuinely listening to me, probably even buying what I was selling to a degree. But that also gave me a pretty good idea where on her mental tree my branch just got put. I’m not looking to criticize my friend… she was respectful and appreciative of where I was coming from…. and anyway I probably didn’t tell her anything she hadn’t already thought about. But I do think the comment illustrates my point well, about how different people from different places can interpret the same information in such different ways. Had my friend been a lesser person, I would totally have thought I wasted my breath, because at the end of the day I’m just another white male compelled to defend Donald Trump, the reigning champion of the white guy cause. She can even have apparently positive thoughts about it, because even though I don’t know what I’m talking about and I’m just coming from too narrow a perspective, at least I’m making an effort and trying to get better. Again… in some ways we live in two completely different worlds, my friend and I.

    I’ve heard a lot of people make snide comments about “keyboard warriors” who argue about things heatedly through a computer or smartphone screen on social media. And I get it… there’s some truth to that, and sharing the “Kony 2012” video probably didn’t accomplish much of anything. But for people willing to engage and actually listen, I do think there’s a lot of learning that can be done between friends on Facebook, when the opportunity presents itself. I’ve never found anything so educational as getting to know someone who thinks very differently than I do.

    • I do talk to people I disagree with all the time. But this particular person isn’t someone I personally know. I simply know of them, as she is a friend of a cousin and I don’t even know the cousin well.

      So, my interest about what she said wasn’t a personal interest. She could have been any random stranger and it wouldn’t change the post in the slightest. It just so happened her comment was a useful example in demonstrating a point and that is all.

      I really have no idea where she is coming from in any detail. I just know that in terms of demographics and basic life conditions she is of the liberal class. But even that is of less significance than the comment itself, which expresses a particular political narrative more clearly than I’ve seen in a while.

      It was just something that got me thinking. For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by the power of stories. At the heart of every experience of the world, there is a story… except maybe the Piraha who seem to have little interest in stories. In the tree metaphor, the trunk of the tree represents the narrative framework upon which branches grow or are grafted.

    • Here is the issue I was thinking about, placed in the larger context.

      First, there is the factor of scripts, narratives, metaphorical framing, paradigms, etc. This is the worldview we live in, whether in terms of our demographic niche or our entire society. These worldviews don’t change quickly. The liberal scripts/narratives are anywhere between a few generations old to a few centuries old. And, if all conditions were right, they could easily last a few more generations or centuries.

      That brings me to the second point. The conditions aren’t right and are going to get worse.

      The world is changing faster than our ideological worldviews can keep up with. We are facing challenges unlike ever seen before not just in human history but in the entire existence of the human species (e.g., potential environmental catastrophe: global climate change, biosphere destabilization, ecosystems collapse, and mass extinctions). We don’t have a long time to deal with these problems. We can’t wait for ideological worldviews to change slowly. To be honest, to save ourselves from mass suffering, we needed to have new ideological worldviews in place earlier last century.

      We are psychologically unprepared for what we need to do to survive as a civilization and maybe as a species. Dialogue won’t resolve that issue, as necessary and useful a dialogue can be for other reasons. The neoliberalism and neoconservatism of the political duopoly can’t continue. Most people in the comfortable liberal class don’t seem ready to face that reality, even as the masses below are demanding change and reform.

      It seems we are in an impossible situation, a lose-lose scenario. There apparently is no way for anything to get better without it first getting worse. But if it gets much worse, we may destroy ourselves in the process.

      Yet, for many people in the middle-to-upper classes, life is still fairly good. The impact of these problems hasn’t effected most of them to any great degree. They live not just in isolation from those outside of their demographic niche. More broadly, they are disconnected from the larger world. Their lives, livelihoods, life experiences, and lifeways exist in a protected bubble.

      This makes it near impossible for them to see what is happening to other people living outside of that bubble. It’s simply not real to them, not fully real. And there is an underlying anxiety in this that is rarely acknowledged. They want to make sure to maintain this protection for themselves, no matter how it harms others, but they can’t admit this to themselves because it doesn’t fit their outwardly stated beliefs.

      More than anything, they want to protect their image of themselves as good people, good liberals, good Christians, good Americans, or whatever other identity they choose. Identities, like stories, are powerful. People will sacrifice their lives in defense of identities and stories, but before it gets to that point they will sacrifice the lives of others.

    • There has to be better way to spend money. Billions wasted on elections. There was a Pentagon report that showed they’ve been wasting hundreds of billions on unnecessary bureaucracy and it also was recently revealed they’ve simply lost track of trillions.

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