Five case studies in politicization

by on October 17, 2014 at 1:15 am in Education, History, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink

This is a fascinating Scott Alexander take on tribalism and how political issues are framed, starting with Ebola.  As Robin Hanson would say, “politics isn’t about policy.”  Here is the segment on how climate change issues might be marketed to the Right:

Global warming has already gotten inextricably tied up in the Blue Tribe narrative: Global warming proves that unrestrained capitalism is destroying the planet. Global warming disproportionately affects poor countries and minorities. Global warming could have been prevented with multilateral action, but we were too dumb to participate because of stupid American cowboy diplomacy. Global warming is an important cause that activists and NGOs should be lauded for highlighting. Global warming shows that Republicans are science denialists and probably all creationists. Two lousy sentences on “patriotism” aren’t going to break through that.

If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say:

In the 1950s, brave American scientists shunned by the climate establishment of the day discovered that the Earth was warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to potentially devastating natural disasters that could destroy American agriculture and flood American cities. As a result, the country mobilized against the threat. Strong government action by the Bush administration outlawed the worst of these gases, and brilliant entrepreneurs were able to discover and manufacture new cleaner energy sources. As a result of these brave decisions, our emissions stabilized and are currently declining.

Unfortunately, even as we do our part, the authoritarian governments of Russia and China continue to industralize and militarize rapidly as part of their bid to challenge American supremacy. As a result, Communist China is now by far the world’s largest greenhouse gas producer, with the Russians close behind. Many analysts believe Putin secretly welcomes global warming as a way to gain access to frozen Siberian resources and weaken the more temperate United States at the same time. These countries blow off huge disgusting globs of toxic gas, which effortlessly cross American borders and disrupt the climate of the United States. Although we have asked them to stop several times, they refuse, perhaps egged on by major oil producers like Iran and Venezuela who have the most to gain by keeping the world dependent on the fossil fuels they produce and sell to prop up their dictatorships.

We need to take immediate action. While we cannot rule out the threat of military force, we should start by using our diplomatic muscle to push for firm action at top-level summits like the Kyoto Protocol. Second, we should fight back against the liberals who are trying to hold up this important work, from big government bureaucrats trying to regulate clean energy to celebrities accusing people who believe in global warming of being ‘racist’. Third, we need to continue working with American industries to set an example for the world by decreasing our own emissions in order to protect ourselves and our allies. Finally, we need to punish people and institutions who, instead of cleaning up their own carbon, try to parasitize off the rest of us and expect the federal government to do it for them.

Please join our brave men and women in uniform in pushing for an end to climate change now.

The piece is interesting throughout, hat tip goes to MR commentator Macrojams.

1 Putin October 17, 2014 at 1:47 am

Jesus, is everyone a little baby that doesn’t want to eat their vegetables?

2 Ed October 17, 2014 at 6:50 am

I agree. This stuff is getting really old. Why do we have to do this?

3 XVO October 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

Tyler just likes to rile us up every now and then.

4 msgkings October 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Putin: yes, yes they are

5 The Other Jim October 17, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Thank you. This post is so insipid I had no idea how to put a response into words.

“Interesting throughout.” Jesus Christ.

6 TennLion October 17, 2014 at 1:50 am

As long as you are more concerned with framing than with evidence, take a look at the True Believers in Climate Change, and imagine what the real agenda is. http://pjmedia.com/zombie/2014/09/23/climate-movement-drops-mask-admits-communist-agenda/?singlepage=true

7 XVO October 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

With their capitalist produced clothing, their capitalist produced signs and their capitalist produced iphones….They fight the good fight against capitalism!!!

8 gabe October 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

Disguising watermellon policies as racist and fascist policies would help sell many Republicans. Unfortunately, big government fascism and big government watermellonism are both bad things.

9 Quite Likely October 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

Yeah how weird that people who don’t like the system in which they live still have to live within that system.

10 triclops October 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

It doesn’t take a genius to distinguish between enduring something and thoroughly embracing it.

11 Chip October 17, 2014 at 1:59 am

Several polls have shown that skeptics and even evil Tea Partiers are more knowledgeable of science.

The more you learn about climate modeling the less likely are you to support the premise that humans are the primary driver of image.

Changing the political imagery does nothing to change the nature of skepticism – that it’s usually borne of superior knowledge.

I’m sure this argument sounds good to much of the Left, because messaging and winning usually takes priority over end results. Ie, it’s better to preen about doing something rather than to get something done.

12 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 2:10 am

As a conservative, I don’t think it’s “superior knowledge”, just a different set of priorities.

13 Hoosier October 17, 2014 at 4:09 am

“Several polls have shown that skeptics and even evil Tea Partiers are more knowledgeable of science.”

He mentions this in the piece.

14 Kevin October 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

“Several polls have shown that skeptics and even evil Tea Partiers are more knowledgeable of science.”

Seems to me this could be another example of ‘a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ Climate science is incredibly complex, and it would be possible to know twice as much as the average person and still only understand 10% of it.

I’ve long found that creationist and intelligent design-believing friends know more specifics about evolution that the average person who isn’t working in science or medicine. Of course, what they know is grossly incomplete and out of context, but on simple scale of ‘more’ or ‘less’ they generally know more then the average person.

In the same way, when I was practicing medicine, it was usually the patients who researched medical treatments who were the worst, most self-sabotaging patients. They second guessed everything, tried their own remedies (usually something complex and untested), withheld info from me and their other doctors, and took their prescribed treatments the way they saw fit. They would have shown up as more knowledgeable in a poll, but they certainly wouldn’t have rated as healthier or happier.

15 TMC October 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

“Climate science is incredibly complex”
Yes, but they get some pretty basic math and stats wrong.
Not to mention the outright deceptions.
Even when good work is produced, the conclusions often do not follow from the work produced.
Bernie Madoff was a pretty smart guy too.

16 Kevin October 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm

This sounds like the same reasoning that people use to write off the opinions of all economists and to profoundly distrust Wall Street, to the point that they won’t even attempt to save and invest. In other words, a lot of confirmation bias and mood affiliation.

17 triclops October 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Climate modeling has a poor record for accuracy. While that doesn’t mean expert modelers are worthless, it does mean that their predictions must be viewed with a more skeptical eye.

I also view macro economists skeptically when they make grand economic predictions, fur the same reason.

All experts are not equally good at giving advice.

18 TMC October 17, 2014 at 5:26 pm

So now math is based on mood affiliation. Nice.

19 tjamesjones October 18, 2014 at 5:39 am

In which @Kevin defines “more knowledgeable of science” to in fact mean “less knowledgeable of science”

If you bother following the links, the test for ‘more knowledgeable of science’ is a bunch of questions such as “Electrons are smaller than atoms — true or false?”, and the sceptics slightly outperformed the warmists. This is nothing to do with showing that sceptics are an example of a little knowledge being a dangerous things (a charge which could equally be applied to the warmists), it just demonstrates that in fact, despite warmist claims, the sceptics are not simply dumb flat earthists. That’s it. Here’s the source:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/05/28/ready-study-climate-change-skeptics-know-more-about-science-than-believers/

20 lowcountryjoe October 18, 2014 at 8:34 am

I tell you what doesn’t seem all that complex to me: the carbon levels that supposedly drive the greenhouse gases responsible for warming. The relationship between warming and the carbon levels in the air is spurious. This coupled with the fact that the highly variable amount of carbon that’s been in the air over different time periods causes me to believe that human beings cannot possibly be a significant contributor.

Have a look => http://tinyurl.com/lo9jw89

21 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 2:02 am

This load of wishful thinking is offensively condescending to conservatives.

Of course conservatives are unthinking idiots who will buy into anything as long as you spew some free-market, anti-communist, “America is strong” BS! They don’t care at all about what is actually being proposed, you just have to say some words that they like..

Global warming is a leftist issue for fundamental reasons, not because of a communication failure.

– It is closely tied to environmentalism, which is solidly aligned with the left. Plenty of conservatives care about conservation of the natural world, but environmentalism is an absolutist ideology in which any impact of humans is bad and should be stopped. There is no room for cost/benefit analysis of how natural resources should be used. Furthermore, environmentalists have a history of doomsday predictions which did not pan out.

– All proposed responses involve a massive increase in the role of government in the economy.

– Any serious response would significantly hurt the world economy (at least in the conservative view), and conservatives believe free economic activity is the best remedy to mainy of the world’s problems.

– The proposed responses have no chance of actually working, but will give liberals things they want (public transportation, green energy, more taxes on corporations, etc.). Things that might be useful but don’t line up with liberal priorities are ignored (nuclear power).

22 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 2:05 am

As for the “politicization” of ebola, this is a load of crap, too. Any crisis is liable to raise questions about how it was handled, and if it is perceived as being poorly handled, blame will go to whoever is in power at the time. This is simply about whether Obama responded properly, not an underlying inherent politicization of the issue.

It would be like lamenting the “politicization of hurricanes” during the Bush administration. Or “the politicization of snow” if such-and-such a mayor did not plow the streets effectively.

23 Howard October 17, 2014 at 7:22 am

You don’t think that Hurricane Katrina was politicized?

The Ebola situation provides a clear illustration. Barring tourist visa holders from a few small destitute nations is a no brainer. Yet the public is constantly told that such ban would actually have a negative impact for several implausible reasons. It’s laughably obvious.

24 gattsuru October 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

Eh, if you presume that palliative care provided by Western doctors has even a minor impact on rates of infection, and that a travel ban would reduce the number of Western doctors willing or able to travel to the country, it’s pretty easy to come up with a scenario where a travel ban is a really really bad idea.

Even if every surrounding country were able to perfectly quarantine the high-risk areas, we’re talking about 20 million people in just three countries. Not all of them would be infected in a worst-case scenario, and not all of the infected would die, but ‘only’ decimating the populace gives a pretty strong utilitarian argument for personal risk. And it’s not clear that any country can really hold a quarantine in the face of two million infected individuals : countries have not historically been very good at preventing human smuggling even when geography is helping them.

Obviously, this is dependent on a low rate of infection into other countries by the travelers, which brings us back to the CDC’s competence issue. I’m kinda confused why we’re not using deeper testing or at least a short isolation waiting period.

25 Lord Action October 17, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I don’t understand this reply. A ban on non-essential travel would help, not hurt, western relief efforts.

It’s also very much in the long-term interest of West Africa that the outbreak be contained as narrowly as possible as soon as possible. The more Ebola starts appearing in other places, the lower priority the relief effort will become. If Ebola gets established in Africa like AIDS got established, look out below.

26 Howard October 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Keeping out tourists will not prevent Western doctors from getting in.

That’s why this whole argument presented by the US government is ridiculous.

27 Mike October 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm

The argument Obama made today was ‘people will still enter the united states, but will travel to an intermediary country first and therefore be harder to identify and screen for Ebola when they arrive’, this may not actually be true, but it’s certainly possible.

28 Howard October 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Mike,

People who are traveling on a passport issued by Liberia will be pretty easy to identify. Their passport says “Liberia” on the front of it.

What about a hypothetical Briton who was staying in Liberia, then decided to travel to the US. They *should* have a stamp from Liberia in their passport. But this could be forgotten by the Liberian customs agent. So it may not be present. Or the person could rip the page out. US passport control would likely notice this and either deny entry or intensely screen the person. Or the person could just order a brand new passport with no stamps and use that.

Nothing is 100% reliable. But that’s not an argument against banning tourists. A travel ban will be very hard for many to get around and only a bit hard for some to get around.

As it is with most things in life.

29 mulp October 17, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Only in Texas has ebola been spread inside a Texas government regulated hospital, and the Texas government is closing medical clinics where no one has died based on the claim that people might die if Texas government does not close those clinics. Only in Texas, where the Texas governor and Texas legislature shouted “we know better than the Federal government how to run health care”, has ebola spread.

In other States that work with the Federal government, ebola patients have so far not died, but more important, no one has been infected with ebola in the care of those patients.

So, we have the Federal involvement in ebola with no deaths and infections outside Texas.

And Texas. which has opposed and blocked Federal involvement in health care, with the lone ebola death so far and the two known infections of nurses.

The the claims that the problem is not with Texas government, but that the problems in Texas are the Federal government failing to override the Texas government on health care. But the next conclusion is the Federal government should be eliminated and turned over to States like Texas.

30 mulp October 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

“The Ebola situation provides a clear illustration. Barring tourist visa holders from a few small destitute nations is a no brainer.”

Let’s see, a number of ebola patients have come into the US and been cared for while their body fought off ebola; none died, and no one else was infected who worked in the care facilities that worked with the CDC and NIH on highly infectious diseases, all outside the State of Texas.

In Texas, the Texas legislature and Texas governor have condemned the Federal government health care laws and policies, claiming Texas can protect Texans better. The Texas legislature and governor and governor candidate are actively trying to shutdown medical clinics, demonstrating the Texas government policy of regulating the private sector health system of Texas while rejecting and condemning Federal involvement.

In Texas, a Texas government regulated medical facility that is private sector has failed to diagnose quickly an ebola patient, sending him home and potentially exposing hundreds to ebola. BUT as the CDC and NIH have said, ebola does not spread easily and so far that patient is not known to have spread ebola to anyone UNTIL he was readmitted to the Texas government regulated private sector Texas hospital.

The only cases of ebola infection in the US have occurred in Texas.

The Federalist is running multiple opinion pieces arguing that the fact that ebola was passed in a Texas hospital that is regulated by the Texas legislature which condemns and blocks Federal involvement in Texas is the fault of Obama. That a number of other ebola patients have come into the US and been treated outside of Texas and not infected any nurses is not evidence to the Federalist authors that working with the CDC and NIH is the key to protecting Americans. That the problems in Texas are related to rejecting the policies of Congress and Obama is totally ignored and denied.

Only in Texas has an ebola patient died in the US. More important, only in a Texas government regulated hospital in the Texas health care system has anyone been infected with ebola. Only in Texas have events occurred that cause fear that you can get ebola in the USA.

But the problems only in Texas are blamed on Obama and the Federal government which has assisted other States in preventing the spread of ebola from the ebola patients cared for in those States. The problems in Texas, which opposed Obama and his agencies at every turn, are Obama’s fault for failing to prevent the spread of ebola.

31 Alexei Sadeski October 17, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Texas is irrelevant to this discussion.

Texas texas texas texas

32 China Cat October 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Alexei Sadeski said what I thought.

A ranger pulled you over once and was a dick?

33 nebfocus October 17, 2014 at 3:43 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this rant. Thanks!

34 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 3:58 am

I was talking about the American political landscape; forgive me for being so thoughtlessly part of the red tribe. America good! Foreigners bad! Rah rah!

Europe is significantly to the left of America overall, so lots of things supported by the left in the USA are just accepted by everyone there (environmentalist policies, nationalized health care, having nice trains, liking Obama, etc.). Also the splits on various issues just break down in different ways sometimes.

35 Hoosier October 17, 2014 at 4:11 am

Poor answer Dan. Your defending the group, just as the piece in question discusses in depth.

36 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 4:20 am

My comment was simply meant to express (in a tongue-in-cheek way) that Europe is different. I wasn’t defending anybody.

(I can’t tell if you were joking. Sorry if you were.)

37 prior_approval October 17, 2014 at 4:30 am

‘that Europe is different’

Which, as the article explores UK issues such as the Rotherham scandal, just might mean that he was referring to something a bit larger than merely the U.S.

Admittedly, it isn’t as if most Americans can easily imagine that their political beliefs are not really all that universal. Or, in an area like broad access to firearms, comprehensible.

38 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 5:06 am

@p_a, it was an overwhelmingly US-focused article.

The Rotherham discussion was not about the events themselves but the media coverage; it focused primarily on coverage in U.S. media outlets.

His global warming comments, which I was responding to, were clearly about the US political scene.

39 Ricardo October 17, 2014 at 5:05 am

“Europe is significantly to the left of America overall, so lots of things supported by the left in the USA are just accepted by everyone there (environmentalist policies, nationalized health care, having nice trains, liking Obama, etc.). Also the splits on various issues just break down in different ways sometimes.”

Germany (among others) allows prayer in schools and various countries have policies affecting civil liberties, immigration or citizenship law that would not sit well at all with American liberals. Europe is “to the left” of the U.S. only on some issues that American conservative tribalists fixate on (and, admittedly, many American liberals who celebrate Western Europe are guilty of the same selective fixation).

The fact that you implicitly make views on climate change a litmus test because of the issue’s association with American liberals and Western European political leaders sort of proves Robin Hanson’s original point.

40 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 5:13 am

“The fact that you implicitly make views on climate change a litmus test because of the issue’s association with American liberals and Western European political leaders sort of proves Robin Hanson’s original point.”

That was a nice comeback, I have to admit.

However, I don’t think it really works. While it is not homogeneous across every issue, Europe clearly is to the left of America overall. I have lived in the UK for several years now, and it is clearly to the left of America politically (while also being considered an outlier on the right compared to most of Western Europe). It is interesting that prayer in schools (as well as state churches) exist here, but that is a minor point. Overall, Christianity is far more influential in America.

I can’t think of a single major political issue where Western Europe is not to the left of America overall. I would welcome suggestions, though. Absent this, I think my point stands.

41 Urso October 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Various concepts about civil liberties – 4th Amendment rights, the exclusionary rule – are so deeply entrenched in the American psyche that we no longer consider them a political issue, but my impression is that in Europe they’d be considered “left.”

42 Luciom October 17, 2014 at 5:43 am

@dan you can’t think of any important issue where europe is on the right of usa?

1) Corporate taxation? many countries in europe have lower corporate taxation than the USA

2) Fiscal authority on emigrants? the USA is the only country in the rich world that retains fiscal authority on citizens that move abroad.

3) Privacy right is a libertarian issue, and i guess we could call that a rightist issue, and privacy rights are MUCH stronger in europe than in the USA

4) Eminent domain? a few years ago in the USA the supreme court ruled 5-4 that eminent domain can be used on some vague “more taxes will be raised” jsutification. That would be considered a destruction of freedom so evil in most european countries that it’s not even as issue.

5) Real estate taxes? in most of europe property tax are MUCH lower than in the usa.

6) Cannabis for recreational use? isn’t that the definition of leftist policy? With netherlands restricting the use and colorodao getting copied soon, i think we can easily say that on that issue USA is far more leftist than europe

43 Quite Likely October 17, 2014 at 11:59 am

For #6… what? No, that is not the definition of a leftist policy. In fact, drug policy is one of the issues that makes the least sense to view on the left-right political axis.

44 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 6:13 am

@Luciom, responses:

1, 5 – Europe has a significantly higher tax burden than the U.S. overall (as well as a significantly higher burden on corporations); it is just distributed differently.

2 – This is a minor policy, and I think it has more to do with America’s relative isolation compared to Europe than anything else. Also, this is not a clear ideological issue. Is it about taxes (making this a left-leaning policy) or immigration/cosmopolitan attitude (making it a right-leaning policy)?

3 – “privacy rights” as construed in Europe don’t have affinity with the American right. They might be libertarian in some people’s views, but I think American conservatives would tend to view them as invented rights that infringe on the actual rights of others. For example, the recent “right to be forgotten” decision re Google seriously infringes free speech and freedom of the press. You won’t find many people on the right speaking favorably about this.

4 – I don’t know a lot about how this works in Europe in practice. But the European convention on human rights allows eminent domain in for reasons of “national security, public safety, economic well-being of the country, prevention of disorder or crime, protection of health or morals, or protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, which seems at least as permissive as the US court ruling to me. Overall, the European courts and legal system are a lot more left-leaning than America.

6 – This is a fair point in terms of the seeming trajectory. But as far as actual law that is in place right now, surely overall the U.S. still penalizes marijuana use far more than Europe.

There is a huge one that both of us missed: abortion. U.S. policy is clearly to the left of Europe on that (by a lot). But that seems more of a quirk of the way it was enacted by Supreme Court decision.

45 ad*m October 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

Affirmative Action, specially with regard to race and ethnicity, and all its consequent racist absurdities do not even exist in Europe. There is not a preponderance of Jews at the German equivalent of the DMV because ‘Shoah’. Lacking AA, such institutions actually work there and elsewhere in Europe.

Anti-male laws like the new Yes Means Yes laws, where if a woman changes her mind about the desirability of a kiss a few days earlier, that kiss becomes ‘sexual assault’.

The US is way to the left on these issues.

46 triclops October 17, 2014 at 10:52 pm

All of your responses are variations of either “it’s complicated” or it’s “not a big deal”.
Which kinda hurts your original thesis that Europe is to the Left of the US on all the major issue .
I guess you could say it’s more complicated than Left/Right

47 Luciom October 17, 2014 at 6:33 am

I didn’t miss abortion, because that’s the perfect example of something that is “an issue” only in the mind of a crazy non-secular civilized population, which has a sample size of exactly 1 in the world, the usa.

Meaning that any single civilized country EXCEPT the usa accepted a long time ago that abortion is a nobrainer , in that you have to allow and regulate it.

What makes you confused about left-right when analyzing usa vs europe is religion. Point is europe abandoned religion a long time ago in politics (and no, the name “christian” in many political parties is irrelevant). Usa, despite its constitution, didn’t.

Most of what you mean when talking about europe being on the left, is about europe being secular instead of fanatically religious.

I mean, normal adult people laugh in europe if you talk with them about hell. Really beliving in hell is seen as a mental disturbance.

The secular right in america btw is pro-abortion (even the need of calling it “pro-choice” is orwellian). As is any normal secular person, left or right.

Even the carceration rate is a religious issue: only non-secular people (or very ignorant ones) can really attribute a punishment value to jail. I mean the idea that jail shouldn’t be about punishment at all comes from italy in the late 18th century…

I really doubt that the secular right is happy about having a 8x higher jailing rate than europe. I think they are strongly ashamed by it. Ofc, being on the right, you they need to be elected they have to constantly lie to that 20-30% of fanatics that put they religious belief into politics and want policies that reflect that, in total opposition to the ispiring principles of your constitution.

So it’s not right vs left, with europe being on the left. It’s religion vs secularity, with europe being far more secular, and some issues on the american right being religious issues , and they being completly disregarded by europeans as non-issues.

48 Agra Brum October 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I think “pro-abortion” is a better label for those in favor of strong population growth control measures – for example, the PRC was pro-abortion. And it would literally force abortions on unwilling pregnant women. A bit of the flip side of pro-life (pro-forced birth is perhaps a more accurate description, but it is a clunky phrase). So pro-choice does seem an accurate descriptor.

49 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 6:50 am

@Luciom, you are way off on abortion. It is far more restricted throughout Europe than it is here. Practically no one else allows the late-term abortions that the U.S. allows. And in some places (e.g. Ireland) it is pretty much completely banned.

50 rick October 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I would estimate that about 95% of effete urban liberals believe as luciom does, though, and consider themselves quite worldly and educated to boot.

51 Howard October 17, 2014 at 7:27 am

@dan & ricardo,

Taxes are far more regressive across EU than in US.

52 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 8:17 am

@Howard, evidence please? Even when counting SS and Medicare as the taxes that they are?

53 Howard October 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Yes, even including SS and Medicare.

EU nations generally dip very heavily into regressive taxes such as the VAT, gasoline and energy taxes, and import duties on various consumer goods. Meanwhile their corporate tax rates are considerably lower and many have zero inheritance taxes.

54 Turkey Vulture October 17, 2014 at 8:32 am

Luciom seems way off on abortion in the U.S. vs. Europe. Pretty elaborate screed/theory to construct without bothering to check your premises.

55 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 6:21 am

The topic of the article was American political trends, so it focused on America. This doesn’t imply ignorance of the rest of the world.

56 prior_approval October 17, 2014 at 7:25 am

Which was presented this way – ‘This is a fascinating Scott Alexander take on tribalism and how political issues are framed, starting with Ebola.’

And which in the article itself starts with ‘One day I woke up and they had politicized Ebola.’

The assumption that American attitudes and beliefs are primary is one of the more fascinating things about the U.S. This article presumes a universalism which simply does not exist – and to think that Mexico and Canada (or Belize, as it turns out – ‘A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated in a cabin on board a commercial cruise ship in the Caribbean, according to U.S. Department of State. And Belize Coast Guard won’t let the vessel or any of its thousands of passengers into port.’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/17/cruise-ship-carrying-texas-ebola-nurse-ref) have no relevant opinions about Ebola is provincial. And presenting American political debates as global references is not the sort of thing this web site generally indulges in.

57 prior_approval October 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Well, now we know what Mexico thinks – ‘The cruise ship carrying a Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Dallas Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan is headed back to the United States after Mexican authorities failed to grant permission for the ship to dock off the coast of Cozumel, according to a Carnival spokeswoman.’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/17/cruise-ship-carrying-texas-ebola-nurse-refused-entry-in-belize/?tid=pm_national_pop

58 Cliff October 17, 2014 at 9:18 am

p_a, you are a complete moron. The guy is American. It is about American tribalism. He does not have the information that would be required to write a similar article about European tribalism, nor is there any need to.

59 TMC October 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm

“liking Obama” I think they are done with that.
They finally figured out they’ll pay most of the price for his foreign policy clown show.

60 Adrian Ratnapala October 17, 2014 at 4:53 am

Perhaps its because I am not a conservative or an American, but the re-framing left me stone cold. In fact the bit about war with China of CO2 would have scared me if I thought it was a noise that would be made by a real conservative with any sort of following.

Overall though, Alexanders the post makes sense. Though he doesn’t understand that not only is it natural for partisans to want to sweep some issues under the rug — some issues belong under it. He’s right about Rotherham though.

61 Brian Donohue October 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

Of course the author has biases. Who doesn’t?

Still, I find the post to be an admirable effort. I think his heart is in the right place, more than most people from either tribe.

62 gabe October 17, 2014 at 11:29 am

Dan…it worked with Bush…he sold them on big government bailouts, federalized education, federalize prescription drug acts and nation building simply by framing it the right way, speaking with a southern accent and generally being a guy democrats didn’t like

63 Agra Brum October 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Well, a lot of that was IOKIYAR (it’s ok if you are a Republican). Subsidies for medication in Medicare Part D? IOKIYAR. Subsidies to help people purchase health insurance under the ACA? Commie revolution, worse than slavery. Embassy terrorist attacks under Bush. Just casualties in the war on terror. Embassy attack under the Dem? Greatest scandal in the history of the Republic (based on not so much what happened, but based on the drafting of initial talking points for a Sunday morning show).
George HW Bush pledged to be the ‘environmental’ president, after a few decades of superfund discoveries, acid rain, and holes in the ozone. The EPA and the clean water act has done a decent job of cleaning up some of the more gross environmental catastrophes, but rather than take those hard (and expensive) lessons and applying them to future stewardship, there has been a regrettable tendency to reject any environmental safeguards due to an ideological shift that opposes almost any government action done for the common good.

64 seebs October 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I think it is fascinating to see someone refer to the piece as condescending to conservatives, when I thought it was pretty clearly equally condescending to both sides, portraying them as essentially symmetrical in the way they are substituting group affiliation for fact claims or other measures of priority. These days, I tend to end up more “liberal” than “conservative”, and I can assure you that the criticisms of positions I’ve taken, and priorities I’ve had, seemed noticably condescending. It’s just that I’ve changed positions occasionally, and I can still re-adopt the old ones to see how I feel, and when I do that, suddenly I feel condescended to as a conservative. Conclusion: The piece isn’t biased against either group, it’s biased against humans, and it turns out that the bias is called “reality”.

65 DK13 October 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I think it’s just the “selling global warming to a red teamer” schtick that Tyler quoted that people are reacting to as being condescending. rightfully so. on balance though, this guy strikes me as being more hostile to the blue tribe than the red tribe.

66 Curt F. October 17, 2014 at 2:07 am

Article: Mankind is doomed to perpetuate the Color Wars. Usually its because people make every issue into a wedge issue, and because they goad their opponents with loaded questions asked not out of good faith or curiosity, but out of a desire to entrap and to ridicule their foes.

Chip: That fucking Blue Tribe! What is it with those guys, amirite?

67 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 2:26 am

The article’s take on global warming is nothing more than the usual “everyone would agree with my position if I just explained things better”, which doesn’t take opposing views seriously and belies the supposedly anti-partisan position of the work.

68 Curt F. October 17, 2014 at 2:37 am

Did you read the whole article? That is not the context behind Tyler’s excerpt at all. It is more “here is how I would explain it if I have to”. The point is that it is a different explanation, not that different explanations are per se correct.

69 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 3:01 am

I did read more of the article than just the excerpt, and I understand what your saying about its general tone. However, my point is that the article, while exhibiting a general tone of evenhandedness, treats the left and right in subtly but significantly different ways. The argument that the author imagines would work for global warming illustrates this.

Consider this key passage:

Suppose the Red Tribe has a Grand Narrative. The Narrative is something like “We Americans are right-thinking folks with a perfectly nice culture. But there are also scary foreigners who hate our freedom and wish us ill. Unfortunately, there are also traitors in our ranks – in the form of the Blue Tribe – who in order to signal sophistication support foreigners over Americans and want to undermine our culture. They do this by supporting immigration, accusing anyone who is too pro-American and insufficiently pro-foreigner of “racism”, and demanding everyone conform to “multiculturalism” and “diversity”, as well as lionizing any group within America that tries to subvert the values of the dominant culture. Our goal is to minimize the subversive power of the Blue Tribe at home, then maintain isolation from foreigners abroad, enforced by a strong military if they refuse to stay isolated.”

And the Blue Tribe also has a Grand Narrative. The Narrative is something like “The world is made up of a bunch of different groups and cultures. The wealthier and more privileged groups, played by the Red Tribe, have a history of trying to oppress and harass all the other groups. This oppression is based on ignorance, bigotry, xenophobia, denial of science, and a false facade of patriotism. Our goal is to call out the Red Tribe on its many flaws, and support other groups like foreigners and minorities in their quest for justice and equality, probably in a way that involves lots of NGOs and activists.”

What it says is that the flaws of conservatives are that they are racist and xenophobic and also too tribal, while the flaw of liberals is that they are too tribal. Further, the blue tribe has commendable positive goals, while the red tribe doesn’t stand for anything except “we are right and our culture is good”.

So, yes, maybe the author thinks both sides are too politicized. But underlying the whole thing is an unserious, uncharitable view of conservatism–total failure of the ideological Turing test. Which leads me to not take the surface tone of the article very seriously, even though it does have some interesting stuff in it.

70 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 3:04 am

D’oh! “your” = “you’re”.

71 nebfocus October 17, 2014 at 3:50 am

I’m not sure he even identifies a flaw with the Blue Tribe- he basically says they understand the racist Red Tribe perfectly.

72 Ricardo October 17, 2014 at 5:36 am

“unserious, uncharitable view of conservatism”

I see this claim a lot and it is an odd, almost disingenuous line of attack. Yes, describing the association between American conservatism and nativism is “uncharitable” if your point of reference is post-1960s political correctness. But if American conservatism stands for anything coherent at all, it is as a counter-cultural movement that opposes the post-1960s PC consensus (and often post-1930s or even post-1900s economic consensus).

Charles Murray and Steve Sailer think blacks are genetically inclined toward lower intelligence than whites. Is it “uncharitable” to accurately describe their views? Likewise, David Brooks laments the passing of WASP dominance in America in a way that is just delicately worded enough to make it into the New York Times. It is impossible to seriously engage with the arguments of conservatives like the above without being “uncharitable” toward their views and ideas are fundamentally counter-cultural. People who want to paper over this fundamental difference are the ones being unserious.

73 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 6:47 am

@Ricardo, you fail to take conservatism seriously in much the same way that Alexander does, so of course you think he is right. You assume you know what conservatives are really thinking and therefore can freely ignore the arguments they actually make.

You also take a couple of people (one of whom is a fringe internet pundit) who actually make arguments convenient to your thesis and act like they represent all conservatives. In actual fact, you would have a really hard time finding any nationally-prominent conservative elected leader who makes statements like Murray or Sailer on race. It would be far easier to find conservatives who favor amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The idea that David Brooks (who is not even considered a conservative by most on the right) is making racist dog-whistles is silly. I assume you mean this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/opinion/brooks-why-our-elites-stink.html. He is saying that the current meritocracy is better overall, but something of value was lost. It is just playing games to claim that he means something other than what he said.

74 Uninformed Observer October 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

I thought the same thing when I read the article. Click through to the author’s original piece on tribalism (red vs. blue) and you’ll get even more of a sense that it’s hard not to be blinded by your own tribe’s biases. Like the author, I don’t think of myself as conservative per se, but when I evaluate the positions and arguments of blue vs red, I have much more contempt for blues than I do for reds. Reds may be foolish and short-sighted at times, but I don’t see them slavishly following an anointed leader the way blues follow Obama. It boggles me that the IRS scandal wasn’t an absolute showstopper.

So does that make me a red, whatever I may want to think about myself?

75 Curt F. October 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

You are overly sensitive. That isn’t what it says at all. It says that the Blue Tribe thinks that the Red Tribe is xenophobic and racist. Judging by Ricardo’s comment, this correctly states the view of the Blue Tribe. It doesn’t make it true though, and I don’t think there’s anywhere in the article that implies that it is..

Similarly, the article lists lots of what the Red Tribe views as Blue Tribe flaws.

So I’m not sure why you think it is an unserious view of conservatism at all.

76 Kevin October 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

@ Uninformed: ” Reds may be foolish and short-sighted at times, but I don’t see them slavishly following an anointed leader the way blues follow Obama”

It’s always struck me how think the real support on the left is for Obama. OTOH, I could rephrase your sentence as “Blues may be foolish and short-sighted at times, but I don’t see them slavishly following an anointed leader the way reds followed Bush. It boggles me that the missing-WMDs scandal wasn’t an absolute showstopper.”

It’s funny how we don’t see our own biases, even as other’s biases are so clear.

77 Kevin October 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

‘think’ = ‘thin’

78 Phatdragon October 17, 2014 at 12:19 pm

@Ricardo, Murray and Sailer’s work was based on statistics (so much for the Blue Tribe being the party of science?). And Brooks’s work has ALWAYS been about culture, and never specific ethnicities; he laments the passing of WASP values, not WASPs themselves.

79 gattsuru October 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm

In fairness, the author’s often writing to Blue or Gray tribe members significantly more than as to Red tribefolk, who are pretty rare in his online social circles and aren’t exceptionally common on the internet to begin with. He presents a stronger position about Blues because he recognizes that he doesn’t like them but they’ll come out of the woodwork and eat him if he doesn’t,

That’s not really the case for Reds. He might encounter them in the real world — though I think he underestimates the progressive tendencies of the medical and especially psychology community — and there’s a few more following him than average since he’ll actually give NRXers a serious talk, but there’s not really the same presence, and thus neither the opportunity to learn nor the opportunity to challenge their ideas or beliefs. Even as someone who intentionally exposes themselves to conservative media pretty often, it’s hard to think of a good online Al Gore skeptic voice (CoyoteBlog, maybe? Dunno how representative they are).

80 Dan Weber October 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

This is either more tribalism or an amazing lack of reading comprehension.

The article says “the Blue Tribe thinks the others are racist; the Red Tribe thinks the others are traitors.”

To be offended by his characterization, one would say “that’s not what my tribe thinks!”

Instead, people are getting offended by the article merely describing what the other tribe thinks. Maybe no one is allowed to even say the other tribe’s watchwords? Geeze.

81 Quite Likely October 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

Well to be fair, it’s not like the global warming denialist view is worth taking seriously.

82 Brian Donohue October 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

That poor strawman- he never had a chance, did he?

83 ZZZ October 17, 2014 at 2:29 am

Wow. That’s a special kind of crazy.

84 Steve Sailer October 17, 2014 at 2:31 am

Carbon emissions: The energy industry is a much more important part of the economy in Red parts of America than in Blue parts.

85 Ray Lopez October 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

Right you are SS. And follow the money. I am surprised the Democrats did not try and push carbon taxes on imports from China. This would resonate with the Blue state union workers.

86 skh.pcola October 17, 2014 at 2:49 am

Cowen’s admiration of such swill is a general indictment of his supposed intellectual chops. Bullshit piles up quickly when you are a credible tool.

87 China Cat October 18, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Next time, in haiku form please.

88 sfw October 17, 2014 at 2:59 am

I guess the conservative in me would like to see the observations of the real world match those of the models. I’m an old fashioned sort of person but that’s what I was taught constituted science. The above narrative is nice but like all AGW propaganda it ignores reality. Pity that Popper isn’t here to observe what passes for science today.

89 Kevin October 17, 2014 at 11:06 am

Science constitutes a bit more than matching data to models.

90 JWatts October 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

If the models don’t reflect the data, then it’s not good practice to keep relying on the same models. And yet, those same models are still in the latest IPCC report. Granted, most of the models are just at or below the bottom of the 95% confidence interval, or at least were when the report was being prepared.

91 TMC October 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm

True, but once you still believe the models over actual data, you’re no longer a scientist.

92 ShardPhoenix October 17, 2014 at 3:29 am

To counterbalance some of the hate here I’ll say that Scott Alexander is probably my favourite blogger. But I do still agree that the “how to explain global warming to conservatives” comes across as a little condescending.

93 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 4:01 am

“American conservatives are a very special breed at this point”.

Compliment accepted.

94 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 5:00 am

Yep, you got me. I am “anti-evolution”, which of course means that I am opposed to creatures adapting to better survive in their environment. Those fish had better stop growing legs and stay in the ocean where they belong!

95 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 8:42 am

@p_a, according to the survey you linked, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats believe “humans evolved over time”. Only 37% of Democrats believe humans evolved due to natural processes. How does this support the idea that this is a partisan issue?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/02/25/most-democrats-dont-know-it-takes-a-year-for-the-earth-to-go-around-the-sun/

This survey found 37% of conservatives believe in evolution, while 66% of liberals do. (And of course most Democrats didn’t know that it takes the earth a year to go around the sun in a 3-way multiple choice question, so there is that, too).

This is hardly an issue that divides neatly along partisan lines. It fits better into your “Americans are crazy” narrative than your “conservatives are crazy” narrative.

96 TallDave October 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Call me an elitist, but if you don’t know the Earth takes a year to go around the Sun, you probably shouldn’t be voting.

Although, one can’t help suspect people claimed to be the opposite party just to answer the questions wrong.

97 JWatts October 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

…”comes across as a little condescending.”

It’s not a little condescending.

98 Quite Likely October 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

It’s tough not to be condescending when you’re writing about how to convince people to make a break with a strongly held delusion.

99 JWatts October 17, 2014 at 11:55 am

Great post, you nailed the smug, condescending liberal tone perfectly!

100 Agra Brum October 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Well – can you ever be convinced? Global temps are a full degree higher than the mean from 1850-1930. And the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is radically higher.
Should we not be concerned with continuing to dramatically increase the amount of C02 in the atmosphere?

101 Brian Donohue October 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Agra, way to destroy JWatts silly argument that we should “not be concerned with continuing to dramatically increase the amount of C02 in the atmosphere…”

Wait what?

102 TMC October 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

How do you “explain xxx to ” people who know more about it than you do?
Always the liberal conundrum.

103 BC October 17, 2014 at 4:26 am

Cowen: “Here is the segment on how climate change issues might be marketed to the Right:…”

Alexander: “If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say:…”

Actually, based on the article in its entirety, and not taking a position on climate change itself, the excerpt is probably better characterized as how climate issues might have been marketed *from* the Right. If the Red Tribe had seized the issue first, this is what they might have said…

Of course, the implication of the hypothetical Red Tribe narrative is that global warming is about requiring that the developing world catch up to the developed world in stabilizing carbon emissions. Alexander makes a mistake when he mentions the Kyoto Protocol because, at least in hindsight, the mistake of the Kyoto Protocol was that it focused on developed countries, whose emissions ended up stabilizing or declining anyways, instead of developing nations like China, which ended up being responsible for most of the subsequent emissions growth. Of course, that misplaced focus was probably the result of the Blue Tribe narrative. The fact that the Blue Tribe continues to focus on reigning in (primarily developed world) “unrestrained capitalism”, shows that global warming issues really are about politics, not science.

Of course, if the hypothetical Red Tribe narrative really had been advanced, then the Blue Tribe might very well be arguing today that the long pause in global warming is sufficient to resist intervening in China and other developing nations and that we should stop trying to force our (already) green culture on everyone else.

104 Dan Weber October 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

I think you’re onto it. It’s how the Red Tribe could convince itself.

Alexander suggests accidents of history and this could be one. I could easily imagine an alternate universe where the Red Tribe was spearheading the fight against global warming, and the Blue Tribe was opposed to it because of regressive taxes, a Thatcher-ite attempt to shut down coal plants, racist attempts to stop other countries from developing, scary new technology, something something Israel, and a rapid increase in deployment of nuclear power plants

105 Claude Emer October 17, 2014 at 5:30 am

What if the opposition from the Red tribe has more to do with the industries that would be hurt by less dependence on greenhouse gases? It’s not that hard to manufacture a wedge issue. Has the Red tribe always been against the idea of climate change? Has the Red tribe always been anti-science or is it a consequence of rather than a cause for political alliances? If you’re in bed with religious fundamentalists wouldn’t you have to deny science at some point? If you’re sponsored by oil companies, wouldn’t you deny climate science? If you’re allied with Big Tobacco, wouldn’t you deny a link between cancer and smoking?

I’m talking about the idea men here, the message makers. The general public is so malleable that it’s cowering under the threat of ebola and its 1 U.S. death when the common flu is more contagious and kills 4000 a year and no one bats an eye.

106 XVO October 17, 2014 at 7:44 am

If you’re in bed with radical leftists you also have to deny science. People aren’t equal, that’s why equality is impossible to achieve.

107 Benny Lava October 17, 2014 at 9:10 am

Ah yes the old “liberals are against science because they aren’t racist” argument. I love seeing that one come out and play.

108 Cliff October 17, 2014 at 9:27 am

Well, your definition of non-racist is unscientific. It is what it is. No one can deny that different genetic populations of humans have different allele frequencies and phenotypes. That is plan as the nose on your face. Only in PC fantasy land do the differences stop at the skin level, except of course for all those pesky medical conditions that vary between genetic populations which we will just ignore.

109 XVO October 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

You don’t even have to look at race to prove that equality at birth is absolute nonsense. Some people are born with severe mental retardation, some are born geniuses, some are tall, some are short, some with inclinations towards extroversion, others to introversion, some neurotic, some easy going. These traits run in families and the science comes back again and again proving that. But no, people are equal and if they are not equal, it must be because of bad people in society, so government has the right, the obligation, to correct this imbalance. Further if you are someone who is being successful in life, it is because you must have stolen from the people who are not, that is why they are unsuccessful and that is why you must pay.

110 Claude Emer October 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

People don’t have to be equal. They just have to be treated equally under the Law. That’s not happening. Maybe that’s where the real issue is.

111 XVO October 18, 2014 at 9:55 am

All the talk of inequality is clearly about economic inequality. Inequality in front of the law is a different matter altogether and it hardly seems to bother the left. Only us little people care about that.

112 Ed October 17, 2014 at 7:35 am

The way it really works is that the tribes form, then decide which issues they want as tribal identity markers, not the other way around, so this stuff never really works, except as a sort of satire to attack tribalism itself.

The Red Tribe, though, has really tied itself to the 1950s American car culture, which along with the Blue Tribe’s deference to authority, probably explains their attitudes towards scientific warnings about the effect of burning oil and coal on the climate.

113 XVO October 17, 2014 at 7:42 am

Bomb Beijing, bomb Moscow, bomb Hollywood!!!!!

114 Brian Donohue October 17, 2014 at 8:13 am

Maybe it’s all Robin Hanson’s fault, but this whole Red Tribe / Blue Tribe / (Gray Tribe) distinction has always struck me as a misleading lens for viewing the world.

I think in terms of concentric circles of affinity. The biggest drop off between my ‘tribe’ and the rest of the world is, literally, my tribe. My parents, siblings, uncles. aunts, nieces, nephews, children, etc.

Politically, my tribe is overwhelmingly liberal Democrat (Midwestern, though, not kooky) and I’m kind of a libertarianish guy. My tribe is not about politics at all.

The next circle is made up of friends, acquaintances, community. I think for most of human history, this is how most people experienced the world.

Then there’s a vague identification with Midwesterners and a vaguer identification with Americans (and Irish), and, ultimately, a general sympathy with all mankind. But I don’t know any of these people.

But the whole modern project of defining MegaTribes seems like a war on the traditional affinities. Maybe this is an obvious point, and maybe the struggle is not even modern. Jesus hinted at something along these lines, and Plato and Marx (off the top of my head) would, I think, be nodding their heads right now.

115 dan1111 October 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

I’m with you. However, don’t know if people making these arguments are actively trying to undermine anything. More likely, it is the way they view the world, and they assume everyone else does too.

116 Brian Donohue October 17, 2014 at 9:04 am

The overriding vibe I get is that lots of people don’t have much family or hate their family or whatever, which I think is kind of sad.

117 Ed October 17, 2014 at 9:23 am

I’m in a strange situation in that I grew up in a Brooklyn neighborhood that is as deep in Blue country that you can get, but family, friends, and acquaintances have overwhelmingly come from the Red tribe for some reason.

I pretty much belong to neither tribe but sort of instinctively belong to Blue. I probably find it easier to hate family, friends, acquaintances etc. than to hate where I grew up.

118 Agra Brum October 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

It only needs to be 40-50% deep blue (and 20-30% light blue) to give massive voting dominance to the Blue side. It’s very rare to get that only 5% red (or blue) somewhere. And if you are that pocket of 10%, then being outside the norm (for your area) let’s the Reds more readily ID with the rebel / freethinker label, and also stick together (as the blessed minority that truly ‘understands’ surrounded by the flock of orthodox sheep). If the family and friends are tied with religion, that also further cements thinking along a similar axis.

119 Urso October 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Very well put.

120 DK13 October 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

>>But the whole modern project of defining MegaTribes seems like a war on the traditional affinities. Maybe this is an obvious point, and maybe the struggle is not even modern. Jesus hinted at something along these lines, and Plato and Marx (off the top of my head) would, I think, be nodding their heads right now. -<<

Well, unfortunately these MegaTribes exist, and in sharper relief perhaps than in times past. You are correct, I think, to link it to a war on the "traditional affinities". In their heyday, for example, the old mainline churches were a place where liberals and conservatives sat in the same pew and considered each other family. Of course, churches still exist, but the vast majority are now much more clearly identified as either red or blue rather than both/neither. Politics has become more all-encompassing, and I fail to see any real positive effects from that. But the first step is admitting we have a problem, and that's why I think an article like this that lays it out pretty convincingly is more helpful than not.

121 chuck martel October 17, 2014 at 10:13 am

You guys are playing in an intellectual sand box. Since when does having an opinion about the merits or lack thereof of AGW theory constitute membership in a tribe? A television technician, during network election coverage, describes some states as “blue” and others as “red” in order to make the US map into a sort of political graph and now global warming skeptics are members of a “red tribe”? Evidently no one here knows what a tribe is. The level of discourse in this conversation is embarrassing.

122 dbp October 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

“If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say:”.

What follows after that is either pretty good satire or an insight into the way the progressive mind sees conservatives.

123 TMC October 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Or a Turing test fail.

124 wait October 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Not all conservatives. Mostly just the southern rural ones. And if Hannity actually said that global warming bit on Fox News, I bet he’d change a lot of his viewers’ minds on the topic

125 Andrew_FL October 17, 2014 at 10:46 am

Pitch fell totally flat with me.

I find it fascinating how when libertarians describe conservative Republicans, when they define what those terms mean to them, their definition invariably, or almost so, excludes me and most people I would consider conservative. Guess I haven’t been attending the right pow wows. (heh, right pow wows)

126 William Newman October 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

“Pitch fell totally flat with me.”

I thought it was insightful and clever at one level. I’m libertarian not conservative, so I’m not the best judge, but it seemed like a reasonably good choice of heartstrings to try to pull for propaganda points, not perfect but probably much better than I could do. However, I thought it was deeply clueless at another more important level — utter confusion about cheap talk and more generally Robin-Hanson-style “convincing speech is not about what is said literally”.

People don’t come to believe something just because it’s announced. They use a bunch of rules for whether to take a claim seriously (and often for what nonliteral message to take away). Beyond that, in many cases of politically charged talking points that signal group affiliation, people don’t ever come to believe the talking point at all, they just profess the talking point as cynically dishonest http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/ .

To pick an example of an important rule whether to take a claim seriously (not just in partisan issues, but in other things like marketing too), people react strongly to whether the speaker acts consistently with professed beliefs: proverbially “actions speak louder than words.” That rule is a hardy perennial in the AGW controversy (e.g. on Instapundit): acid observations about how the supposed belief in catastrophic warming is consistently applied selectively to support the old policy agenda, so that whenever a Green instead takes it literally and reexamines the risk tradeoffs of nuclear power it tends to be a newsworthy surprise. So on one hand the plan is to be unusually clever in upgrading the emotional rhetoric, and on the other hand the plan is to not worry about notoriously, for decades, talking the talk and not walking the walk; we can guess how this ends. Any spiel no matter how cleverly emotional that tries to fly in the face of deeply human rules of thumb like “actions speak louder than words” is likely to crash and burn before it leaves the runway.

And this tension between professed belief in belief and actions speaking louder than words is a pretty standard pattern in talking points, not just CAGW. E.g., upthread various commenters riff on the “the progressive left coalition is good for fighting the vileness of racism” talking point. It is a perennial observation of their critics that their preferred “fighting racism” is not; among other things, quite a lot of it is racial discrimination along political patronage lines. The policy distinction between discriminating against overrepresented successful Asians and protecting overrepresented successful Jews is a loud and clear action: making that distinction for the stated reason of making organizations more effective would leave any naive pragmatic utilitarian population biologist puzzled (and should be doubly strange to anyone who actually believes the complex of talking points about how race is only an arbitrary political construct) but would be instantly recognizable to any 1880s US city machine boss.

Trying to reexpress the open feelgood supposedly-positive-sum rationalizations in terms favored by the rival political coalition is not going to change much: people are more effectively converted to these positions not by the open rationalizations (which can get frankly goofy without losing the approval of professed “believers”), but by approving of the zero-sum hidden factional agenda directly, or indirectly by following the lead of powerful people in their faction who approve of the hidden agenda.

127 Andrew_FL October 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I agree that it tugs on the heartstrings libertarians imagine to be in conservative’s hearts. Maybe they’re right, but if so, that would mean I’m not one, when a cusory examination of my views on most issues would suggest I am. How puzzling.

128 Dan Weber October 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Alexander says it’s not just using this new argument, but also abandoning all the current ways that the Blue Tribe uses global warming as a shibboleth to attack and mock conservatives.

129 William Newman October 17, 2014 at 6:52 pm

I’m saying what’s important isn’t the surface dressing, but the underlying agenda. Take a look at “Getting along without doomsday” by Bryan Magee in _Horizon_ magazine summer 1975, and see if the patterns he describes remind you of anything. To my mind, his analysis has tracked the political future 40 years out considerably better than the IPCC has tracked the climate future 10 or 20 years out, and his political analysis explains the political agenda ostensibly justified by catastrophic AGW predictions rather better than any logical consequences of a sincere technical belief that CAGW is literally true.

You might be able to make CAGW attractive to a more conservative or at least less progressive set if you used superficially the same rationalizations as justifications for a radically different set of policy prescriptions. Just making it solidly pro-nuclear-power instead of comfortably allied with anti-nuclear-power forces would shake things up quite a bit; I’m not sure enough about the politics of other things to give a good candidate for the second policy point.

130 Bjartur October 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

That may be the biggest ideological Turing failure I’ve ever seen.

131 stan October 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm

indeed

132 Floccina October 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

I wonder if Government was un-bundled if it would lessen the tribalism. It seems to me that Republicans and democrats support some odd sets of positions. Like if you are anti-abortion you have to be pro-war. I think our form of Government was good for a Government that just kept the peace and did national defense, but since Government now does so much wouldn’t it be better to elect a president of benevolence to help the poor and run Social security and he would come with a tax and healthcare president and an education president along with the president who runs the tradition functions of Government keeping the peace and national defense.Perhaps the people of a state could elect a firm to provide medical care in the sate for some cost.

133 Quite Likely October 17, 2014 at 11:54 am

Or similarly, maybe directly elected cabinet members?

134 C October 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

If I were “Blue” trying to convince “Red” to support my position on Global Warming I wouldn’t bother trying to give them reasons to come over to my position. For the Red side Globaly Warming is something like “All the stuff you want to do plus here are some reasons to back up that stuff”. The article is suggesting the other side will be swayed by “reasons to do stuff you don’t really want to do”.

Instead I’d cut a deal. Just say something like – Give us a revenue neutral carbon tax and we’ll let you decide how it’s made revenue neutral. Basically, I’ll cut the cake in half and you can decide which piece you want. People talk about this deal but I personally don’t think it’ll happen because for most of those supporting some sort of Anti-Global Warming action it’s as much for the things they’ll get as for the action itself. The deal would potentially get rid of the nice things and only leave the action.

135 JWatts October 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

“Instead I’d cut a deal. Just say something like – Give us a revenue neutral carbon tax and we’ll let you decide how it’s made revenue neutral. ”

A deal to use a Carbon Tax and have the funds used to reduce Corporate taxes or to fund School Vouchers could probably get buy in from enough Republican’s to pass. But I don’t think the Democrats are that committed to actual doing something.

136 gabe October 17, 2014 at 11:37 am

JJ WATT, what you are describing would absolutely be against the entire purpose of climate legislation….greater centralization of power and destruction of economic prosperity.

137 Quite Likely October 17, 2014 at 11:56 am

Yep, just like all liberals do, every climate scientist on Earth just wakes up each morning and thinks “how can I destroy the American economy?”

138 Andrew_FL October 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Non sequitur. Climate Scientists (TM) aren’t the authors of climate legislation.

139 Gabe October 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Do “climate scientist” know more about how CO2 tax implementation will affect the power stacks in the US or any other countries better than I do?

Is it “climate scientist” that spend lots of money trying to convince the public to agree to CO2 legislation?

140 Urso October 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Of course, Turing test failures are not solely the province of the left

141 Agra Brum October 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

After spending the last 2 election cycles denouncing global warming as totally fabricated and nothing more than a plot by wicked scientists seeking grants from Uncle Sugar, Republicans won’t be able to flip a switch and suddenly impose a carbon tax. Perhaps a similar bargain would have been possible 10 years ago, but when there is a refusal to acknowledge the existence of a problem, there can’t really be a compromise on the solution.

142 JWatts October 17, 2014 at 5:21 pm

“After spending the last 2 election cycles denouncing global warming as totally fabricated…”

From your comments, it’s hard to believe you actually ever listen to Republicans and/or the right.

Here’s an excerpt from Mitt Romney’s position on Climate Change:

“I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.”

http://www.sciencedebate.org/debate12/

143 wait October 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Right, because Democrats have been the ones actively preventing anything from getting done under Obama. *eye roll*

Republicans would never take this deal under Obama. If Romney were in office, they probably would. And I think the opposite is true for Democrats

144 TMC October 17, 2014 at 5:45 pm

And what did they get done when the did control all of Congress and the white house? *eye roll*

145 wait October 17, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Ever heard of Obamacare? Whether or not you oppose it, that’s one of the biggest things to get done by a Congress in decades.They also repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and signed into law Lilly Ledbetter and Dodd-Frank. I mean are you serious with your comment? Those are all HUGE things they got done.

146 Komori October 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

I think it’s pretty clear from context that TMC was asking what they got done about _climate change_, and I’m not sure if you intentionally misread that to deflect or genuinely misread it.

147 wait October 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Ah, my fault, I misread it.

148 tjamesjones October 18, 2014 at 5:55 am

exactly, C: the thing about Global Warming is that it’s not about Global Warming. It’s a convenient replacement for socialism.

149 JWatts October 17, 2014 at 11:19 am

“One even sees a similar effect within countries, with northern US states being very liberal and southern states being very conservative.”

Umm, yeah, how do Alaska and Hawaii fit into that mold, or Russia and France for that matter.

150 Urso October 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm

For instance, compare ultraconservative Los Angeles with ultraliberal Montana.

151 Yancey Ward October 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I have read the entire link, but if that really is Alexander’s idea of an appeal to the right that would be successful, then he is an idiot.

What was that about the Political Turing Test again?

152 Yancey Ward October 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Haven’t read that is.

153 CMOT October 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm

FWIW, the new Ebola Czar’s job won’t be to fight ebola in any way – it will be to further politicize the issue.

From the New York Times article

“Democrats heaved a sigh of relief as they heard the news, arguing that Mr. Klain was uniquely suited to handle the rapidly unfolding situation, which has spiraled out of control just weeks before the midterm congressional elections.

“He’ll control the message better than most people would, which is really important from an economic standpoint, from a health standpoint, but it’s also important from a political perspective,” one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

“If anybody can get the way this is being reported and discussed under control in a short period of time, he’s the one,” the official added.

154 Jonathan Dumas October 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Mr Cowen,

I read somewhere else that you read 5 books a day. You are also good at math and you have access to all scientific papers. Yet, you cover climate change as if it really had the importance that it is claimed to have.

With your intellectual capacities, I don’t understand why you cannot figure out by yourself that models’ forecasts of +0.3C per decade are falsified by the temperature record, for instance.

155 Mike October 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

He was going to publish a paper on exactly that but then the national academy of sciences and FEMA and the illuminati landed with black helicopters in his back yard and menaced him with protractors until he promised to withdraw it.

Seriously, if disproving the consensus on climate change was as simple as you assume, SOMEBODY would do it and publish their results in a peer-reviewed journal.

156 HL October 17, 2014 at 5:40 pm

The question is whether he’d get the funding to even start.

157 TMC October 17, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Getting a sceptical paper published is near impossible, as documented in the climatgate emails.
Try going to climateaudit.org. Steve M. does a good job documenting the garbage that is climate science.

158 Mike October 17, 2014 at 10:54 pm

If all it takes to disprove AGW is a smart guy with access to existing data sets, no real funding would be required. Indeed, dumbass above claims to have falsified the scientific consensus in his spare time.

159 derek October 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Jesus Christ, stop lying to me. Don’t try ‘messaging’. Just stop the lying.

1. Fracking making available abundant natural gas is one driver behind the change in emissions.

2. The outsourcing of manufacturing has moved carbon production off shore. Don’t give me that bullshit that China is a problem.

Stop lying. Just stop. I don’t believe one word that anyone says on this subject.

160 Bob from Ohio October 17, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Since conservatives won the issue in the US (and Australia), there is more and more whining from the climate fanatics. Its good to see, their tears are delicious.

What stage of grief are the climate fanatics at, I wonder?

161 Cornflour October 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

It would take me a hundred pages to thoroughly explain what’s wrong with Scott Alexander’s “Five Case Studies in Politicization,” but his comments about the Rotherham horror are particularly glib and offensive. In Rotherham, the police, social workers, and other government agents supported Pakistani Muslims who turned thousands of lower-class white children into sex slaves. These crimes went on for many years because those who should have been protecting the helpless girls were afraid of politicians, teachers, journalists, and intellectuals who’ve made open borders and political correctness their life’s work. These people have blood on their hands and have not been prosecuted, held to account, or even widely criticized. Most media sources have barely reported it. To be outraged by this is not a reaction of political tribalism. It’s the reaction of those who are still human, rather than political sociopaths. Naturally, the political sociopaths are opposed to any media attention that would threaten them. Again, this is not tribalism. It’s self-defense. When Tyler Cowen calls it “interesting,” I have to question his own sense of morality. It’s like passing a particularly gruesome murder scene and noting that the blood on the street is an interesting shade of red, Well yes, but …

162 Dan Weber October 17, 2014 at 5:46 pm

So you totally missed his comments about how the Blue Tribe were ignoring Rotherham (despite the fact that, in his words, “you would think that the systematic rape of thousands of women with police taking no action might be a feminist issue”), and about how people were covering it up, and instead focused on his comments about how the Red Tribe kept talking about it.

That’s exactly tribalism. You get offended that he has anything bad to say about the Red Tribe, even though that entire section is overwhelmingly about how the Blue Tribe seemed uninterested in rape cases.

163 Cornflour October 17, 2014 at 8:45 pm

I didn’t miss anything that Alexander wrote, but there are limits to what can be said in a bog comment. As I’ve already noted, it would take me a long time to explain everything that I thought was wrong with Alexander’s piece, but the main problem is his reduction of issues to tribalism. The horror of Rothenham exists on its own. It developed under conditions that both permitted and encouraged it. Those who permitted and encouraged it should be held responsible. Invoking tribalism reduces the issue to two opposing teams. Its glib, pseudo-intellectual, and childish. People need to confront this sort of problem with moral resolve, rather than academic evasiveness. When I say such a thing, I am not being tribal, or part of the red team I simply reject that categorization, and it’s an extraordinary insult to the victims at Rothenham.

As for other issues that are supposedly red or blue, I prefer to take them one at a time, and that is true of most people I know. Reducing people to red or blue zombies blindly following tribal programming is neither accurate nor helpful. It merely serves the purposes of people who want to think they’re superior to the tribes.

164 Cornflour October 17, 2014 at 8:47 pm

“bog comment” (Sorry, meant to type “blog comment”) maybe indicative of my frustration with the format.

165 Maurice de Sully October 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Having just read the article I feel I have to commend Mr. Cowen for having selected the absolute worst part of it to quote.

The quoted portion is off-putting for several reasons but the article makes a lot of important points about contemporary American politics (particular of the on-line variety.)

166 Tarrou October 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Absolutely. The actual article is pretty solid stuff, but the quoted bit here is a pretty poor bit.

167 Chris S October 17, 2014 at 3:33 pm

There is a whole lot of proving the point through protest going on in this comment thread.

168 TallDave October 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm

discovered that the Earth was warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions

Except no one’s discovered that. If they had, they would have accurate climate models and there would be no debate.

It doesn’t surprise me that Democrats and Republicans have ideological reasons for their positions, but global warming projections are fraught with enormous uncertainties, and Democrats claim they aren’t, despite all the evidence. They’re just wrong about that.

And emissions controls on carbon wouldn’t make any sense even if IPCC projections were as accurate as NASA’s projections of where Mars will be in the year 2100.

Now, there are all kinds of bad reasoning on the Republican side and beliefs that aren’t true (that CO2 hasn’t increased, or temperatures haven’t increased since 1850, or humans can have no impact on global temperature), but on the main policy implications of the science, they’re basically correct. Is that mostly by accident? Probably — but only mostly.

169 ThomasH October 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Mistake: unrestrained anything-ism that fails to internalize the externalities of contributing to CO2 accumulation. Capitalism just happens to be what around as the problem surfaces. A carbon tax wou;s do nothing to harm capitalism; indeed if not offset, it would result in a regressive shift in income distribution, at least within rich countries.

170 Nathan W October 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

Externalities should be fixed, unless the cost of fixing them is higher than the benefit.

Unfortunately, some groups appear to be dead set on making the cost as high as possible, by obfuscation and intentionally misleading people.

The tobacco lobby managed to keep the cancerous truths about smoking secret for a very long time, and that science is very easy to demonstrate. In something so much more complicated like climate, even the fact of C02 is a greenhouse gas and the fact that its levels are rising are not sufficient because there are so many complex systems involved. I think 99% certainty is pretty certain, but that’s assuming that the underlying models are perfect, which obviously they aren’t. But lack of perfection is not a very good reason to completely disregard the results, or we wouldn’t pay much attention to anything being done anywhere.

171 Nathan W October 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

I don’t think that many climate change activists would be very open to the aggressive and militant tone.

If the US hadn’t been such a strong spoiler in previous climate talks, maybe it would have been possible to make more progress.

Please recall that per capita emissions, not national figures, should be the relevant point. At the stakeholder level, national figures tell us who the key players are to get on board. But in terms of the underlying “fairness”, per capita should be more relevant. But if you live in a cold place then it will take more energy. Russia and China both have major heating needs, so don’t think this will put us in a bad spot with them.

172 blind_leading_the_blind October 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Take a second to think this narrative through to it’s (obvious) conclusion. The narrative you present feeds right into conservative and even conservative-libertarian (in)action.

– The US addressed the low hanging fruit, stabilized carbon output, and needs no further regulation.
– If you take the pragmatic attitude that countries act selfishly, Kyoto is a utter waste of breadth.
– Alternatively, the cost to force other countries to stop outputting greenhouse is prohibitively high in guns, blood, and higher import prices. If you happen to be a libertarian conservative, add libertarian overtones.

I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt… and hope you understand enough about the conservative position to see that this reads as a thinly veiled attempt to cloak a liberal agenda not a conservative pitch for regulation. Indeed, if you want to make a case to conservatives, you need to take the time to understand their values (not just pay lip service to them). If you want to advance a conservative agenda for climate control, you have to advance a different agenda with a different message (note the part about a __different agenda__):

– Hard work is good. (Income) taxes on hard work are indubitably bad.
– Carbon is at best neutral. Taxes on carbon are definitely less bad that income.
– QED, it’s good to trade (income) taxes on work for taxes on carbon.
– It’s also easy to buy into the idea that we should trade taxes on work for taxes on all sorts of pollution.

We assume (probably rightly) that the average liberal would try to use revenue from a carbon tax (i.e. a disguised income tax) to expand the government. To a lesser degree, we worry that liberals would use the lower taxes after such a change as an excuse to raise taxes. The first point is reason enough to oppose any liberal-led initiative on climate and the second a reason for conservatives to be skeptical that even a sensible plan would work out in the long run.

173 DK13 October 21, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Probably been said, but the best way to get those at least marginally affiliated with the Red Tribe to get on board with the global warming issue would be to stop proposing the official Blue Tribe solution to every problem — namely, higher taxes, more regulation and control, loss of national and regional autonomy, etc. Red teamers seem to be more OK with, say, nuclear power than Blue teamers, and they respond to the “no carbon emissions” argument in favor. Some in the Red Tribe are genuinely “anti-science”, but more often than not they are just rightly skeptical of Blue Tribe advocacy wearing a “sciency” cloak.

174 Krigl October 19, 2014 at 10:35 am

>if a woman changes her mind about the desirability of a kiss a few days earlier, that kiss becomes ‘sexual assault’.

I don’t think this is on the left, it’s simply mad and psychopathic.

175 Howard October 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

thats’ @dan111

176 Howard October 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Oh, and of course their highest income tax rates are typically lower than those of the US (compare California to Scandinavia, for instance), or not much higher. Thought of course if one is in Texas or Florida or Washington State, ones taxes would be a good bit lower – but then you’ve still got the corporate tax to deal with.

But rich folk who live (or has business in) places such as New York and California will be looking at rich person income tax rates which, all told, are probably going to actually be hit quite a bit harder by taxes than most rich people in most EU nations. Nordics included.

177 triclops October 17, 2014 at 10:53 pm

I could be wrong, but I thought the overall tax burden was fairly close between the US and France, and several other western democracies.

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