7 Reasons Why The Right Should Not Seek to Convert The Left
An appreciation of Dennis Prager and multimedia celebration of his magnum opus, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.
June 8, 2012 - 7:00 am
6. “You Cannot Reason Out What Was Not Reasoned In.” — often attributed to Jonathan Swift
Just because someone reads a book, it doesn’t mean they’re going to grasp what the author is saying.
From the dust jacket: “A Few Books Can Change The Way People Think. Still the Best Hope Is One of Them.”
But what if people don’t think? Or if they don’t even know how to think? What if they “think” with their heart or some other body part (like their skin or their genitals)? What good will Prager’s arguments be for them?
That’s the conundrum faced in trying to shift people from Left to Right through rational argument. When dealing with leftists, emotions sit on the throne. Often in dialogue they’ll say “I feel like you’re saying” and then spit back to you a garbled, straw-man version of what you actually said. You’ll regularly hear “I feel like” when they’re describing how they analyze some political issues. More rarely will you hear “I think.” This is a Freudian slip revealing that they’re not actually reasoning at all and are just ducking and weaving based on raw instinct.
A few weeks ago, like a smoker picking up a pack of cigarettes after a long hiatus, I returned to one of my bad habits: arguing with my old college friends about the political views that we no longer shared.
The Facebook friend whose name and image I’ve hidden with orange below is a graduate student who teaches math. During our undergraduate years we shared space on the college paper’s editorial page. When I graduated in 2006 he carried on the “Bush is a War Criminal,” “Republicans are Evil and Stupid” drum beat that I’d become known for in my 3 years as a weekly columnist.
Mr. Orange’s views have changed little since our college days. He never left the academic bubble, transitioning from undergrad to graduate school quickly. But I made the mistake of “going out into the real world.” The experiences of working two and a half years of “pay-the-bills” jobs was a chance to study capitalism and human nature up close in their natural habitats. Thus as I built up my freelance writing career part-time, I surrendered to one “conservative” understanding of life after another. When the opportunity presented itself to make the leap to full-time New Media troublemaker (an editorial position), it was for “right-wing” online publications. The ideas that I’d demonized and caricatured in college I’d now come to embrace.
So of course most of my progressive college pals defriended me. And I don’t blame them. Why would they want to hear my explanations for why I’d come to reject the views they still worshipped?
But to his credit, Mr. Orange has still stuck around, even though at times over the years our arguments have grown heated and personal. So when he posted one of the president’s propaganda images I saw an opportunity to give Prager’s arguments a test run and challenge my thesis. Is it really a waste of time to try and persuade leftists? I would try not to be too mean.
Little doubt where this was headed.
Yes, the color Pink is chosen intentionally to represent a friend of Mr. Orange. I had not encountered him before but soon he revealed himself as a history grad student working on his dissertation. He claimed to specialize in American slavery and it was not long into our conversation before he claimed mixed race parents but a black identity (as opposed to the bi-racial descriptor many with his background choose).
To demonstrate America’s racism, he presented this paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that claims those with “black names” like Lakisha and Jamal have a harder time finding jobs because of racist whites. I knew just the book to pull out to answer this, the same one that had changed my mind years ago. Here’s the first of 10 Tips for How To Talk to a Marxist Who Thinks He’s a Liberal (If You Must)*.
Get used to feeding ideas into the meatgrinder of the progressive mind and getting mutilated caricatures of what you’re saying fed back to you. That’s what they need to do in order to continue avoiding the next point.
*Apologies to Ann Coulter for borrowing her title.