Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Comment on "Inside the conservative brain: What explains their wiring?" by AVI TUSCHMAN

("Tush" is Yiddish slang for the buttocks)

The butt man has written a very long article rehashing facts mostly well-known to social scientists about Left/Right differences.  The facts are presented from a decidedly Leftist perspective -- with amusing naivety sometimes.  The article is too long and too old-hat for me to reproduce it but it is in the current issue of "Salon", that notably objective periodical.

That Buttman is no more than a Leftist apparatchik can be seen from his use of questionnaire surveys.  He notes that Leftists answer such surveys by saying how compassionsate, caring, anti-authoritarian (etc.) they are.  He completely ignores the fact that Leftists turn "red in tooth and claw" as soon as they gain untrammelled power -- Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc.  Not to mention the French revolution.  They are nothing more than  savages hiding behind a compassionate mask.  Deeds speak louder  than words.

Buttman makes a considerable pretence of surveying the history of Left/right differences but is wilfully blind to major facts of political history.  He is a  sort of intellectual robot who has been programmed not to see  the full range of reality.  Of course Leftists "fake good"!  That is their stock in trade.  Admitting their dismal real  motivations (towards destruction) would get them nowhere.

Buttman also makes an amusing display of reinventing the wheel.  He "discovers" that conservatives are cautious and regard human  nature as selfish.  Conservatives don't assume that human motives will always be good and are alert for instances of dangerous behaviour.   Those facts were of course hiding in plain sight. But Buttman seems to think that he has discovered something incriminationg in noting them.  The day that caution is a fault will be the day.

The "selling point" of Buttman's article, however, appears to be his claims to survey psychological and neurological evidence about what goes on deep-down in conservative minds.  Yet everything he "discovers" by such research was perfectly predictable from the defining characteristics of conservatives mentioned above.  Because conservatives are less trusting and more alert to danger they react differently (usually more quickly) in situations that are contrived to look alarming.  Buttman clearly thinks that is a bad thing.  A man attached to an ideology that depends on duping people obviously would.

Finally, a couple of minor bloopers in Buttman's opus.  1). He is greatly impressed by insights gained from conservative responses to projective tests.  Mainstream psychologists have however long ago abandoned projective tests (such as the TAT and Rorschach) because of their deficient validity.  They have frequently been found not to predict the behaviour inferred from them.  2).  Buttman says that Altemeyer's RWA test predicts conservatism.  Yet even Altemeyer admits that it does not preduct vote.  Republicans and Democrats are roughly equally likely to get high scores on it.  A strange measure of conservatism!

Buttman has clearly had a lot of fun reinventing the wheel but he would have benefitted greatly from doing some basic background reading first.  If my comments above seem derisive, I think they are deservedly so  -- JR.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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