First post on Believing Untrue Things is here. I suppose I am just being a follower myself, focusing on the bad information that is widely believed about race because it is in the news. But the problem is general, affecting many issues of the day: environmental concerns; trade, tariffs, and taxation; education results; medical safety and public health. However, I am not even discussing race in general. I started with the example of police practices and the supposed targeting of blacks, and I will continue with that. It is broad enough all by itself, I don't need to drag in other things. As before, you are free to use other examples of people not understanding or relying on math, being reluctant to give up what might be a foundational bit of ideology, or any of the further motives I will discuss here. Don't feel constrained by my constraint.
Granite Dad - we had dinner together last night - tells me he had a comment that got eaten, and I have encouraged him to repost it. (Update: He has.) He raised two important points which I will quickly summarise. The lack of perspective induced by nationwide news contributes to the lack of statistical understanding. When a new event of the police shooting an unarmed black person hits the news, people's first reaction is something like "What? Again? This crap is happening all the time, and it's got to stop!" But we are a nation of 330,000,000 people - I intentionally kept the zeroes instead of abbreviating. In 2020 there were 34 killed*, about one every 11 days. That would be a lot if they were all in New Hampshire, or even in all of New England, which is less than 5% of the country, 2% of the black population. We might perhaps rightfully feel something were deeply amiss if it were concentrated on us like that. But it's not. It just feels like it, because in contrast to my childhood, we know about crime in Colorado or South Carolina and think it's part of us. Nobody knew or cared what the hell happened in Montana in the 60s, and they sure didn't care about New Hampshire, either.
Secondly, there were bad policing practices in Ferguson, especially relying on fines to fund the department. While that is not a racial policy and is used in many locales, it does contribute to unrest and distrust of the police. Libertarians focus on this, and it is not unfair. It may have been relevant to the rioting per se. Yet I regard it as largely irrelevant to this discussion, because no one mentions it anymore. It's all about feeding the race narrative now.
People whose jobs and incomes directly depend on strained racial relations have an obvious motive for keeping the controversy alive. Aromatherapists believe much can be solved by more aromatherapy, harmonica players think your band needs a harmonica to improve. When what you have is a hammer...
In the general case, this is not necessarily an evil motive. People work for environmental causes or train as physical therapists because they believe those are good things to do, not just because they can make money at them. Over time, idealism and sometimes even good motive wanes while self-interest increases, but we needn't think that everyone in a profession is even half-corrupt. However, humans is humans, and self-interest has some effect on all of us.
There is an indirect self-interest as well, in which keeping your job depends on professing the correct views. Professors, denominational pastors, government employees, and
increasingly, employees of large woke corporations are subjected to
this. My views on transsexuals would have eventually gotten me fired as a social worker. Late in my career, I didn't much care, but had that been the case in my 40s I don't know what accommodations I would have swallowed. I do know from observation that people slowly adopt the ideas of their peer group. This ties in to the last part of this post.
Except for those of us who enter the room determined to give voice to what is unnoticed or unsaid, because we consider the momentum of ideas potentially dangerous. But there are many quiet compromises even among us...
A stray motive is just wanting to stir up trouble. Those sparks are very dangerous, but only when surrounded by tinder. I am not sure they can be removed from effect on any issue. I believe there are few wholly taken by this motive, but I think it is present at some level in all of us. It is likely useful for societies that there's always some of that about, even if it can be catastrophic when the intellectuals and artists decide the culture needs to be purified of Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies. There are always some hanging about who just want to bust some heads for any excuse.
Commonly Noticed Motives
Commonly noticed among my tribe, anyway.
I do think the temptations are worse in political, religious, or cultural issues where the focus naturally goes to fixing other people, or at least getting them to act differently. The attractions of thinking well of oneself, or even thinking oneself rather special are obvious. It also flows naturally into the belief that those other people are wrong, and then quickly that there is something wrong with them. Well, they are obvious in the abstract, and we see them pretty clearly in other people. Everyone knows this temptation is real, but few even engage in even pro forma self-examination. Suspecting even one's good motives is one of the great themes of CS Lewis's writing, dominating his fiction especially. It's one of the reasons I say that reading more CS Lewis is the answer to everything.
I see this motive in what I read everywhere, I see it live and in person, powerful enough to affect me physically and make me cringe. That is likely because I have a peculiar sensitivity to this sin and have developed warning systems for my own language and actions that just go off on a hair-trigger when I see it in others. It is like living in a world where you can't turn the volume down. This is the motive I began the first essay in order to hit hard and having been aiming toward throughout. Sorry to drag you through hundreds of words looking for alternatives and escapes. There will be one more dark motive after this one, related and perhaps more important. But this motive, the secret joy of self-righteousness and the more-secret joy of hating persons has been a fifteen-year theme of this blog. Unsurprising, perhaps, for a Lewis fan.
I am convinced that the conflict has little to do with black people. It is about the Goodwhites against the Badwhites. The Goodwhites define the boundaries, some stark, some gradual, some shifting. They then try to fix the other bad people in various ways. Some see themselves as winsome and kind, attempting to persuade, inspire, and teach. Others concentrate on politically neutralising the Badwhites, some by fair means, others not so scrupulous. Others see it as a battle, with dragons to be slain, not negotiated with, and enemies to be crushed. Though few in number, they naturally get themselves out to the front with high drama. These can seldom be reasoned with or appealed to, as Reason or Niceness are merely instruments to them. They can use these disguises with enormous skill, as the Un-Man did in Perelandra. Wolves hide in sheep's clothing, not in wolf's, for obvious reasons, which is why I consider Minnesota Nice to be one of the great dangers to the church. That group is pretty well infiltrated by hatred at this point, but cannot see themselves as motivated by anything other than desire for good.
(In the Three Dog Night version, they seem to get the message exactly backwards. Plus, Cheryl Barnes has magnificent pipes.)
The Unforgivable Sin is against the Holy Spirit, which I take to mean that which we have long known to be evil but have convinced ourselves is good. It was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees more than any individual act that Jesus told them put them in especial danger. What we can no longer see as sin we cannot confess and repent of, and hence, cannot be forgiven.
The last motive will be Power, which I have suggested in this last section but not discussed. Others have said far wiser things than I about it, as it does not interest me. The damnation of the individuals under self-righteousness is a deeper concern, and power important only in its contribution to that destruction. Yet I will have a go at it anyway, hopefully soon.
*I will note again that those numbers were not worse during the Trump years, but about half what they were in the Obama years.