<i>Both Sides</i>: Are We All Pre-wired Left or Right? Do Beliefs Precede Facts?

Arianna and Kellyanne Conway discuss Jonathan Haidt's new book, which argues that "righteousness" precedes self-righteousness. Through that lens, the women debate their different views of the Trayvon shooting and "War on Women".
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By Mark Green

Using the framework of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Huffington and Conway discuss the news -- from Trayvon-Zimmerman and GOP-women... to Hilary Rosen and Allen West. (Host: each is asked to talk about the possible unconscious origins of their viewpoints but, no surprise, their conscious minds leap to their respective interpretations of reality... which are sincere though clashing.)

*On The Righteous Mind. Arianna cites her own book from her twenties, After Reason ("rejected by 36 publishers and then read by three people") to enthusiastically agree with Haidt's thesis and metaphor that reason is largely a rider on the elephant of intuition -- the rider can nudge but not direct the elephant. Isaiah Berlin's fox-hedgehog framework is another way of saying that leaders, especially conservatives, successfully articulate big ideas based on loyalty, authority and sanctity.


The Host shares that this analysis is a demoralizing late-life discovery since he's spent a lot of years arguing that facts should lead to conclusions rather than conclusions to facts. Kellyanne agrees with Haidt-Huffington-Berlin and notes the irony that that's why conservatives are more tuned into reality. (Recall here the Bush43 aide who told author Ron Suskind that "we create our own reality".)

They also concur with the book's thesis that Left and Right then self-segregate into their own enclaves where they only hear their own side ratified -- think a Tea Party rally and Occupy Wall Street protest. If beliefs are addicting and self-reinforcing, the solution is "a better addiction!" answers Arianna, like mentoring or devotion to civil society. The Host reminds all that the very premise of Both Sides Now is to force each side to come out of their enclaves to be cross-examined about "consensual hallucinations" (Haidt's phrase). Hence BSN themes -- "screeds and monologues not allowed" ... "we sharpen differences, or bridge them."

*On Righteous Minds and Martin-Zimmerman. What did the two women think a priori when they first heard about the Trayvon shooting? Neither initially referred to the unblinkable racial context of the exchange. Kellyanne reacted like a mother, then a lawyer (she's both) hoping the justice system could resolve all. Arianna grabbed onto the reality that, at a minimum, Zimmerman had shot Martin to death yet wasn't arrested as an alleged killer, "which is what set off the enormous reaction."

What about the racial aspect, especially in light of very incriminating 911 tapes? And why would the leading conservative organ, Fox News, talk about everything but that -- Sharpton's rhetoric, NBC's editing mistake, what three wacko Black Panthers said in Philly, black-on-black crime etc. etc.? What about Bill Maher's observation to Charles Blow that "reverse racism is the new racism"?

Kellyanne is irked by the questions, explaining that she doesn't speak for Fox and "sees racism all around." Arianna explains that this tragedy was "an opportunity to get big national attention to the big problem of how police handle these shootings... since it's hard to get public attention to injustice like harsher sentences for black defendants, even black students getting disciplined more for the same offenses -- this is pretty endemic and isn't addressed."

*On Righteous Mind and "War on Women". We talk about what Democrats call "the war on women" and Republicans dismiss as a fabrication. Each goes straight to their respective corners: Ms. Conway, a professional pollster, argues that "if Democrats say that women only care about family planning, contraceptive services, and abortion, they're going to lose votes," stressing that jobs and gas prices are primary concerns. Ok, why then is there a 20 point gender gap favoring Obama over Romney? "Incumbents seeking reelection almost always do better the second time among women... and women, living longer, look more favorably to the social safety net and government."

Ms. Huffington lists GOP policies that rightly upset women -- Gov. Walker signing a law ending pay equity in Wisconsin, slashing Planned Parenthood, and the antedeluvian way that we're questioning contraceptive services as part of health care. "In 2012!"

Then the two inevitably discuss the comments on CNN of commentator Hilary Rosen, a friend of and periodic panelist on BSN, that Mitt Romney gets information from his wife Ann who's "never worked a day in her life." By not explaining that she meant "... outside the home," it proved to be a gaffe that led POTUS, VPOTUS and FLOTUS and bloggers everywhere to denounce it as a condescending putdown of stay-at-home moms. (Recall here the other Hillary 20 years ago dissing wives who stay at home "baking cookies" and the Mitt Romney statement three months ago saying that poor women who stay at home raising children should get child care so they can enter the job market and "have the dignity of work... even if you have a child 2 years old you need to go to work.")

Kellyanne says that it was smart and necessary for Rosen to apologize but that her snarkiness was revealing and significant. Arianna thinks it a ridiculous distraction since folks get that Rosen isn't a candidate or a spokesperson and meant that Ann Romney had a choice to work or not while most women today don't.

*Quick Takes: Facebook & Privacy. Eureka Moments. Allen West's Communists. Huffington and Conway agree that while there's a problem with employers, banks, the IRS using data on Facebook, ultimately it's up to individuals to be smarter about what they post. They admire people whose minds reconfigure known things into breakthroughs, as Jonah Lehrer discusses in his book, Imagine. Is Arianna's "GPS for the Soul" app the next big thing?

As for Rep. Allen West's Gaffe-Gate moment that there are 78-81 House Members who are also members of the Communist Party (or more than in Russia!), there's agreement that it was wrong to say. Kellyanne, however, adds that the West office claims that he was taken out of context. Says Arianna firmly, "there's no context which makes it accurate."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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