On the question of Psychology

In a comment left on my rant against the Economist and in a post on Fistful of Euros, Guy La Roche asks….

Has anyone questioned, since Ape Man mentioned the name, the psychology behind a guy like Mark Steyn? It would go a long way in understanding his motives and way of thinking. And it might explain his appeal to many.

I am inclined to respond by saying….

“Has anyone questioned the psychology behind a magazine like The Economist? It would go a long way in understanding their motives and thinking. It also might explain their appeal to many.”

I brought up Mark Steyn because The Economist did. It was clear that The Economist piece on the demographics of Europe was about discrediting Mark Steyn. The article betrayed no real interest in exploring the issue.

My point in bringing up Mark Steyn was to point out that The Economist was really no better than Mark Steyn. Why should Mark Steyn be considered a peddler of dangerous demagoguery and The Economist a respectable magazine when they both use the same reasoning process? Why should reading Mark Steyn be the mark of a fool and reading The Economist to be proof of one’s broadmindedness?

I am a little sensitive to this implicit double standard because when I was younger I would have read Mark Steyn avidly. In fact, back in the day when I use to regularly read the National Review and other such publications, I probably did read some of his articles. I don’t remember for sure now, but I seem to remember reading some of his stuff somewhere when I was younger.

I no longer avidly read the writings of men like Mark Steyn because I no longer find them profitable. Of course, I still try to read enough to keep abreast of what they are saying because I like to be well informed about what other people believe. But a long time ago (relative to my short life anyway), I had to face the fact that I could not be a fellow ideological traveler with men like Mark Steyn and be true to my own beliefs.

But even though things have changed, I think I can explain a large part of Mark Steyn’s appeal. Judging by my own experience, the biggest appeal of Mark Steyn and men like him comes from who their enemies are.

This is how it worked with me. I had extremely negative experiences with liberals while I was growing up. Naturally, then, I sought out conservative publications because they were always bashing liberals. In other words, events that happened in my personal life shaped the type of ideology that I sought out. I wanted people who would help me oppose the people that I did not like.

A lot of people don’t seem to think that it works this way. They seem to think that men like Mark Steyn cause people to dislike immigrants or liberals or whatever. But the reality is that people like Mark Steyn are popular because they give expression to feelings that are already there.

The same thing could be said about The Economist. The Economist is popular because they do a good job articulating the views of their particular social class. You can’t really accuse The Economist of leading people astray because The Economist follows received opinion. You will never find the Economist pushing something that runs counter to ideas common to the global Anglo Saxon elite.

What I am trying to say is that the problem comes from the bottom and works its way up rather than coming from the top and working its way down. Therefore, it seems to me that questioning the psychology of Mark Steyn or The Economist misses the mark. It makes it seem like there is something special to them that is not common to all of us. What we need to do is to question our own psychology.

What makes us think that we are better than the likes of Mark Steyn?

4 Responses to “On the question of Psychology”

  1. […] _uacct = “UA-1202685-1”; urchinTracker(); Map of the Ethereal Land The Ethereal Voice Front Page – Politics – Money – Knowledge – Art – Food – Fun Masthead About On the question of Psychology By Ape Man | July 15, 2007 – 12:04 pm Posted in Category: Front Page, Knowledge In a comment left on my rant against the Economist and in a post on Fistful of Euros, Guy La Roche asks…. Has anyone questioned, since Ape Man mentioned the name, the psychology behind a guy like Mark Steyn? It would go a long way in understanding his motives and way of thinking. And it might Click Here to continue reading. […]

  2. Guy says:

    “What we need to do is to question our own psychology.”

    Absolutely, that is why I added the “his appeal to many” part. But the fascinating thing, to me at least, is how certain individuals are more savvy than others in channelling and, more often than not, reinforcing what is already out there and… making a career out of it. The point is not to point fingers, I am interested in the dynamics and being aware of them. There is an interesting synergy going on between us and the pundits. A synergy that can sometimes lead to real actions and consequences.

    In any case, in a democracy people remain responsible for their own destinies. If we decide to support extreme viewpoints because of our own desires/frustrations, etc, than we should accept the consequences of that. Even though in practice it is much more complicated than that.

  3. Ape Man says:

    Mr. La Roche

    The thrust of my post was “what makes you think that your viewpoint is not extreme?” In other words, how does your reasoning process differ from those views of which you disapprove? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer almost always points to our having a differing a priori from those who hold views of which we disapprove. Differences in the quality of our reasoning often have very little to do with it.

    I try to guard against my tendency to think that I have superior reasoning by only arguing using the opposing frame of reference. Thus, the arguments that I use can vary a lot depending on whether I am arguing against a conservative, a liberal, or whatever.

    But this only gets one so far. You can’t escape the fact that we all have differing a priori and that they create barriers of communication between us. It is important that we don’t make those barriers worse by assuming that our differing a priori is proof that we have better reasoning skills.

    Ape Man

  4. […] I am making this response to a comment on my last post into a post of its own. I am doing this mostly because I think that this comment is what I should have said in the first place. It captures the heart of my reaction to Mr. La Roche’s post in a more condensed fashion then my original post did. Mr. La Roche […]

Leave a Reply