"I was reluctantly coming to a certain distressing conclusion: more often than not, the voices on the left were less credible than those on the right," writes Neo in the latest installment of "A mind is a difficult thing to change," her illuminating series chronicling the sometimes painful journey of a life-long liberal beyond the circle of those who "dance in a ring." The reality shock of 9/11 and the access to information afforded by the internet -- opening up a world of news and opinion beyond the elite Pauline Kael bubble that was her birthright -- were the catalysts:
Like so many people, I was in a state of heightened emotion and awareness after 9/11. I, who had rarely watched cable news on television, was now viewing it many hours each day, and also reading my usual newspapers and periodicals with greater intensity and focus . . .
But when I started reading many other papers as well, I discovered a surprising thing. The Times and the Globe and most of my previous reading sources (the New Yorker, Newsweek) had pretty much agreed with each other. But now some of the papers predicted widely different outcomes, and analyzed the meaning of events differently.
It was as though I were sitting in a court of law as a member of the jury and being asked to decide a case. Before, I had heard only the presentation from one side. Now I heard both sides, and was trying to give both a fair hearing, and to approach my task without prejudice or preconceived notions.
If ever there was a must read, this is it. Besides a riveting personal account, it contains a memory-jogging mini-history of the spinning media ride we've all been on these last four-plus years, a good reality check for fellow travelers still inside the bubble. But in light of recent brain-activity findings that suggest partisans -- both Republicans and Democrats -- hear what they want to hear, we don't hold out much hope for changing many more minds. Jamie Irons [via Neo's comments] of the group blogYARB explains:
The very act of looking at logical contradictions in one's own candidate, while turning off the logical analysis parts of the brain, caused a completely different part of the brain to light up instead. ". . . activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix."
[Blog] trolls are getting a fix from denying reality, enjoying a rush from ignoring the logical contradictions. It follows that arguing logic and facts with such people is not only useless, but self-defeating. They are getting positive brain-shocks from reasserting their illogical statements in the face of contradictory facts. Denying reality is making them feel great.
We were reminded of related findings noted in own post of a couple of years back, What is this thing called love?:
What researchers at University College London have now found is that romantic and maternal love activate many of the same regions of the brain. The implication is that maternal love is the evolutionary basis, the foundation, for romantic love.
"Love leads to a suppression of neural activity associated with critical social assessment of other people and negative emotions . . . The work could provide a neurological explanation for why love makes us blind."
So George W, Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary! . . . are mother substitutes? Back to Neo's transformation, it was a questionable Sy Hersh article in The New Yorker insinuating we were losing the war in Afghanistan that finally stripped the scales from her eyes:
I read the entire piece with mounting concern. The Vietnam comparison (although I don't recall it as being overt) was not lost on me. If this piece could be believed, we didn't seem to know what we were doing in Afghanistan.
But could it be believed? I trusted my beloved New Yorker, of course. But I could not escape the perception that there was something very odd about this particular article. Not only was it rather poorly written (something unusual for the magazine, as best I could remember) -- disjointed and disconnected -- but it read like a gossip column . . .
And that wasn't all. I wondered about the point of publishing this piece in the first place. Why did we need to know this so very badly? . . .I didn't see that there was any overriding public purpose in exposing this mission as failed; certainly not enough to justify the breach of security and the possibility of harming our morale and enhancing that of the enemy.
As we wrote our friend in her comments, "If The New Yorker had any sense, it would drop Sy "I certainly can fudge what I say" Hersh and put our own Neo on the payroll for weekly reports from 'the front.'"