I've just been reading an interesting and persuasive post about the way in which people's beliefs and attitudes tie into their ideology. Each side has a view of the world covering a variety of issues. When something happens that makes a good fit with one side's view, that side pays a lot of attention to it, the other side does its best to pretend it never happened. When something more ambiguous happens, each side tries to interpret it in a way that fits their narrative. The result is that someone's attitudes on issues ranging from global warming to Ebola can, to a considerable extent, be predicted by whether he self-identifies as conservative or liberal. It's more or less the same point I discussed in an earlier post on Dan Kahan's studies of why people believe things, generalized and spiced up.
Some of my favorite bits:
The Red Tribe and Blue Tribe have different narratives, which they use to tie together everything that happens into reasons why their tribe is good and the other tribe is bad.
And, after giving an imaginative account of how global warming should have been presented if the objective was to play into the conservative narrative instead of the liberal:
If this were the narrative conservatives were seeing on TV and in the papers, I think we’d have action on the climate pretty quickly. I mean, that action might be nuking China. But it would be action.
I blame the media, I really do. Remember, from within a system no one necessarily has an incentive to do what the system as a whole is supposed to do. Daily Kos or someone has a little label saying “supports liberal ideas”, but actually their incentive is to make liberals want to click on their pages and ads. If the quickest way to do that is by writing story after satisfying story of how dumb Republicans are, and what wonderful taste they have for being members of the Blue Tribe instead of evil mutants, then they’ll do that even if the effect on the entire system is to make Republicans hate them and by extension everything they stand for.
Which demonstrates that the author understands the logic of situations where individual rationality fails to produce group rationality.