Understanding the Ideological Divide Between Liberals and Conservatives: Is it Possible for Us to Get Along?
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JH: He went to Harvard, right?
JH: And he's writing a conservative Bible?
CM: I understand that that's one of his projects -- to take "liberal bias" out of the Bible. It must mean liberal bias out of translations of the Bible. I don't know, but I'm assuming he thinks that the original Bible untainted would not contain liberal bias in it. Of course he thinks Wikipedia is a hot bed of liberal bias, which is why he created Conservapedia. I talk about the crazy case of the anti-Einstein, anti-relativity Conservapedia entry and say, yes, Conservapedia denies relativity. Not only does it deny relativity, Schlafly's got equations in his entry that are intended to refute relativity. This is the smart idea effect here. In some way you have to admire that he's not messing around here. He's refuting Einstein. Good luck to you.
JH: More power to you. This is another interesting point that you make -- it's not just that Fox viewers are more uninformed than viewers of other media outlets, but that they actively seek out the comfort it provides. Is that fair to say?
CM: That's the argument that I make. I both provide the evidence, which is pretty staggering, that Fox increases your risk, like if it was smoking a cigarette increasing your risk of cancer, of being wrong. That's clear, but the question is why? It's obvious that actually contains misinformation. That's part of the risk. I say that part of it is that conservative needs Fox, so a conservative is opting into the risk. A conservative, in a sense, I argue craves this. They crave it especially if they're an authoritarian, because we have evidence that authoritarians need belief affirmation and they selectively expose themselves to information that agrees with them. I talk about some of the research showing that. It makes sense showing from what we know about authoritarians that they would do this, because it's all about black and white, right and wrong, intolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity. So where do you get your information? You get your information from a source that is on your side.
I should say that we all selectively expose ourselves to information to an extent. I do cite a number of studies suggesting that authoritarians in particular do this.
JH: Again, this is not clean lines between liberals and conservatives. These are matters of degree, risk factors, as you say. One of the things I find fascinating about all of this in your book is that I've always seen this conservative distrust of academia and the media as kind of a conspiracy theory. These are institutions that provide a semblance of objective reality, and I don't think they are perfectly objective, but a semblance thereof. I always thought they were dissing them because they were telling them things they didn't want to hear, but it goes beyond that. Tell me about expertise, about how the open personality ends up basically through a natural selection process to be over-represented in these fields?
CM: It's kind of like conservatives being over-represented in Fox viewers. They have an affinity, they go, and it feels natural. Liberals have an affinity for academia; it feels natural. If you are an open personality then what do you want? You want to try out new things, like taking a class in that and I want to learn to cook. I want to travel to Bangladesh. Whatever it is this is like you have this craving for novelty in some cases. Academia is a really great place for that. You hang around, you meet people of all different backgrounds. It's a naturally liberal environment. I do believe that conservatives are right that universities are liberal. I talk about the data on the politics of professors. But how could it be otherwise? This is a liberal institution of society. It normally is that way. Is it brainwashing that universities are liberal, or is it that liberals choose universities? I think it's more the latter than the former.