Setting up a new computer gave me more time to read than post. In several comments sections of the right-of-center blogs I frequent, visiting liberals often complain about the overgeneralization and echo-chamber quality of our blogs. I composed a lengthy essay partly acknowledging the justice of the accusation, but trying to make some distinctions about which generalizations are logically justified and which are a simple descent into stereotype.
I threw away the essay, decided not to be so defensively, and resolved to treat the world more objectively. I don't like it when liberals overgeneralize about conservatives, especially since they usually get it wrong, so it stands to reason that I should endeavor to exercise due diligence in objectivity. To cleanse the palate, I avoided all political discussion and reading this weekend, resolving to enter my very liberal workplace Monday with fresh eyes and ears.
Conservatives know approximately what happened to me this weekend. At Barnes and Nobles, I stayed away from the current events and even history, religion, and humor sections, browsing through my other frequent spots: linguistics, reference, and travel. The annoying voice of the man approaching my section, talking too loudly to his female companion, froze me. These people are nearly always very liberal, seeming to want to announce to other patrons what the Correct Beliefs are. Please, please, don't be a liberal. Be annoying about something completely unpolitical. I'm trying to get away from this and calm my fevered imagination. As he walked by, two aisles over but easily loud enough to be heard, he was saying "Have you read Vidal's book about that? It is just fantastic..."
Okay, fine. Try again. On the way down to my inlaws' today, we listened to some lingustics tapes from one of those Great College Courses. While switching from one tape to another, we only heard one part of one sentence on the radio: "...heightening fears that conservative Benjamin Netanyahu could be the next Prime Minister..." I roll my eyes.
Down at the inlaws', I take a nap, watch a little football and then talk a little football. There is a magazine on the coffee table. Newsweek. I saw only the cover. The cover is by definition the attitude summary of printed material. It is probably all you will see at the dentist's office while you're looking for "Smithsonian" or "Sports Illustrated." If you have a subscription, the cover is the part you will see one hundred times that week.
This cover? A picture of a somewhat angry George W. Bush, with a shadowy, sinister Dick Cheney behind him. "How much POWER should they have?" Something, something, ..."the Imperial Presidency." Now you know that they didn't have an angry Bill Clinton with a shadowy Al Gore on the cover when they brought 900 FBI files of their political enemies to the White House. There were no unflattering photos of Bill and Hillary when she was holding secret meetings about the government taking over the entire health care system, with headlines wondering how much POWER they should have.
For people who move in the public world of ideas, this is the environment. The default liberal assumption permeates the culture. I do not deny that default conservative assumptions probably permeate other parts of the culture. But the denizens of the political blogosphere are disproportionately those who inhabit this culture of ideas. Liberals seem generally, sometimes even comically, unaware that this is the atmosphere they breathe. And because they do not see it and even deny it, I don't see how they can be compensating for it when they approach issues. They may mean well and earnestly try to consider other points ov view, and be aware of some blatant bias which they are able to mentally discard or correct for.
But if you are not aware that politics is being framed for you in a hundred subtle ways every day, and thus do not make conscious efforts to counteract this, then your belief in your own objectivity and evenhandedness is an illusion.