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More Groups, Less Groupthink

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"More Groups, Less Groupthink"

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Julian Sanchez tries to think through why the right is so loopy:

I’ve written a bit lately about what I see as a systematic trend toward “epistemic closure” in the modern conservative movement. As commenters have been quick to point out, of course, groupthink and confirmation bias are cognitive failings that we’re all susceptible to as human beings, and scarcely the exclusive province of the right. I try to acknowledge as much, and I’m often tempted to pluck some instances from the left just to show how very fair-minded and above the fray I am. (For instance, I find myself increasingly sympathetic to complaints about the coverage of the Tea Parties: Obviously there are both subtle and not-so-subtle bigots in the pack, but I doubt they’re representative, and it’s a huge leap to the dismissive suggestion that the phenomenon is nothing but a manifestation of racial anxiety.) Yet I can’t pretend that, on net, I really see an equivalence at present: As of 2010, the right really does seem to be substantially further down the rabbit hole.

The rest of his post is an effort at trying to explain this. It’s interesting, but I don’t think it ultimately concedes, and I’d like him to consider my alternative.

The left is simply less monolithic. It seems to me that if you look at the discourse among “green” types, you see groupthink there. And if you look at labor types, there’s another groupthink there. And there’s an immigrants’ rights groupthink and there’s feminist groupthink and all kinds of groupthink all around. But these points of view come into contact with one another and only partially overlap. At times they conflict. The progressive infrastructure contains people and institutions who are robustly on both sides of important questions like trade policy or K-12 education. Business groups are very involved with most Democratic Party politicians and with many progressives organizations (we have a “Business Alliance” at CAP). I think it would actually be beyond the intellectual powers of any one person to work all the sacred cows of all the different factions of the movement into a seamless and coherent whole.

The right just isn’t like that. It’s less demographically diverse, less diverse in its financial base, and less ideologically diverse.

At any rate, it does occur to me to wonder why Julian’s post is at his personal blog rather than on the Cato blog where he works. Isn’t the first step toward disrupting right-wing epistemic closure to put ideas that challenge it into the right’s institutional network?

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