Friday, October 17, 2014

Red Tribe, Blue Tribe

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.
 And finally:
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.


Tibor said...

The article is really great. I most liked the last bit about case IV. The "they are trying to dehumanize my group" is what I fell for in the heat of a (live) debate a couple of times. I always feel terrible when the emotions go down afterwards and promise myself not to fall for that again, but I still do sometimes. I say overly sure statements about something that supports "my tribe", sometimes even things I don't actually believe and would object to if someone made such arguments. I guess I am a hot-head in this, but I found that other people are often too...which is somewhat nice to know, not just to feel better about myself, but to take the words uttered in a heated live debate with a grain of salt. Often people actually are not as partisan as they can seem. This also happens in internet debates, but there (I think) I am better to control myself since it takes some time to type something and the emotion wears off, but one can easily talk faster than he thinks. Still, there are also advantages to a live debate over a written one...I guess it is best to combine them.

Perry E. Metzger said...

If you liked this one, you really should read his earlier posting on the same topic:

Unknown said...

This very much fits Arnold Kling's "Three Axes" theory. Essentially each "tribe" narrative can be summed up like this:

Liberals: Oppressors vs Oppressed.
Conservatives: Civilization vs Barbarism.
Libertarian: Freedom vs Coercion

Kling also commented on this blog post today.

I highly recommend his Three Languages of Politics, a cheap ebook where he elaborates on this theory.

Unknown said...

Mr. Caplan and Mr. Friedman, the world awaits your response to Scott Alexander's The Non-Libertarian FAQ (aka Why I Hate Your Freedom)Version 2.0: Now With More Statism!

Sumantra Roy said...

Here's a detailed critique of the Non-Libertarian FAQ: