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  • TRAFFIC ANALYSIS

ILLIBERAL LAB RATS EXPLAINED

"It is a truth universally acknowledged" that anyone of a conservative disposition and, therefore, leaning slightly to the right is hateful and that more than a whiff of sulphur attends them. Their hobby is likely to be cackling in harmony with their co-conspirators in a dank and shadowy side-street. As a result of this truth it follows, as night follows day, that, not only does the error of their nostrums require pointing out, but that they deserve to be humiliated and demeaned with extreme prejudice essentially for the sin of just being conservative. 

A stand-up comedian called Alex Kealy is touring his show - interestingly called 'Rationale' - in which he seeks to demonstrate that the only reasons anyone would choose conservatism is their innate hostility to reason. It all emerges from a primitive, id-motivated part of their being. The last thing such a choice would involve is considered rationality. To demonstrate this "scientifically" he enlists "Moral psychologist" (who that?) Jonathan Haidt who subjects real human beings to a street experiment where unwitting participants are asked questions that elicit how punitive they are on penal questions standing alternatively on a sweet-smelling pavement or next to a bin with a stink bomb placed in it. Those standing next to the stinky bin are all for hanging and flogging. Those on the aromatic pavement are all for sweetness, light, forgiveness and understanding. Ergo such right-wing attitudes can be explained entirely in terms of how disgusted one is feeling at the lizard brain level of physical senses and feelings. The last thing such preferences will be due to is reason. It's interesting to note also that what constitutes conservatism in such experiments is defined purely in terms of attitudes to the penal system as opposed to considered arguments on tradition, economics, political evolution, identity and belonging. It is also assumed propter hoc that no-one ever deserves real punishment.

Haidt's approach and Kealy's espousal of it, of course, treats humans as though they are not humans who are remarkable for their ability to make freely considered rational choices unlike any other creature in the animal kingdom. There is an assumption that we, and especially the right-wingers amongst us, are no more than lab rats. This amounts to extending beyond merely proving that right-wing attitudes are of no value to the punishment of them by the humiliation and demeaning of right-wing people as nothing more than primitive animals merely for being right-wing. The problem with this is that a demeaning model of what right-wingers are is applied to them to explain their behaviour in a kind of Skinneresque behaviourist experiment. 


Another "experiment" cited triumphantly by Kealy, by Political Psychologist (who that?), Drew Western, concluded that explaining away the disgraceful behaviour of politicians we support is all to do with relieving the neural distress such things occasion for us. This time humans are presented as driven purely by a kind of robotic, chemically-determined, SOMA pleasure principle. They don't really like or admire humans, these people do they?

Of course, we can be sure that when Mr Kealy describes what he and his left-wing mates are he will adopt the more dignified western liberal model (largely evolved by, er, conservatives) that is more favourable to them and will rejoice in the freedom and sweet rationality that model affords them.

The problem with this investigation of humans by psychological 'study' is that it sets out, in that way that mentally-compromised (Oh, the irony!), scientifically minded, non-humanities people have, by assuming as a given that humans are less than human. As a result, surprise, surprise, as a self-fulfilling prophesy, it returns results that suggest we are less than human which might be expediently attractive when one is looking for something to apply to one's political opponents.



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