Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Couch the Conservative: Part 2

Part 2 of the sample chapter from Couch the Conservative (part 1 was posted yesterday):

And what you probably did not know is that our ALP has ample tools at his disposal to go beyond mere armchair analysis of your psyche. If he finds these conversations particularly enjoyable, with a little research he can find volumes of articles published in academic journals and even a few books meant for the larger public that will allow him to hone his skills. If he plays his cards right, and reads a little on the subject, he could even use these conversations as a springboard to tenure in the psychology departments of our great Universities.

Such is the tide in academia today. If a young psychology professor were to inquire whether transvestites who now cross-dress to their original gender may be somehow psychologically abnormal, he should prepare himself for three things: 1) mandatory sensitivity training and psychological counseling as a condition for continued employment; 2) a thorough shunning by his self-proclaimed tolerant colleagues; and 3) a career change coinciding with his scheduled tenure decision. But if instead our young psychology professor wisely embarks on a research project that sets out to prove all of the red-staters are clinically insane, he knows that no university will deny him tenure once he has earned the obligatory national book award that comes with research of this nature.

Research agendas that lead to literature inimical to conservatives also have the added benefit of not having to adhere to any standards of factual accuracy or truth, which are really only ethnocentric concepts of Western civilization perpetuated to maintain our oppressive ways. There is a long and proud tradition in this vein: from Walter Duranty of the New York Times running away with the Pulitzer Prize for relating to the American public the wonderful works of Uncle Joe Stalin; to Rigoberta Menchu winning the Nobel Prize for literature in relaying the fictional abuses suffered by her at the hand of the Guatemalan military in the guise of an autobiography; to most recently Michael Bellesiles winning the Bancroft Price (the most prestigious for American-history writing) for a book based upon imaginary data. The incentives are firmly in place for the couching science to enjoy great longevity in academic departments across the land.

Curiously, even as the couching science has blossomed within the academy, the actual couching of conservatives in the public square has slowed considerably. At one time, scientists could openly couch conservatives. The most famous and thorough couching of all time took place prior to the 1964 election, when 1,189 psychiatrists declared Barry Goldwater mentally unstable and paranoid. One can assume that these psychiatrists presumed such attributes made Goldwater unfit for office. None of these shrinks had met Goldwater, which provided them the added bonus of not being liable to a malpractice suit for their armchair diagnoses. Unfortunately, that same fact left Fact magazine, the public benefactor responsible for informing the voting public of Goldwater’s instability, liable for a libel suit from Barry himself, which he handily won. So much for freedom of the press, free speech, and the moral imperative of an informed electorate! (I’ll just bet that John Ashcroft has a picture of Goldwater in his office.)

The libel suit that stemmed from Barry’s couching may have had a chilling effect on scientific inquiry in the field, or at least on efforts to apply the science of couching to everyday paranoid conservative politicians. But I think there is a larger reason the practice fell out of favor. When 1,189 psychiatrists peered into the convoluted workings of Goldwater’s brain, conservatism was no threat to the ruling liberal orthodoxy. That of course has changed, and with it couching has taken a back seat to other political strategies, which consist principally of claiming that conservatives possess the IQ of amoebas, and that we don’t wear facial hair because we are only capable of growing Hitler mustaches, and that would reveal what we really think.

Liberals no longer have the luxury of couching conservatives in real time - it can only be done on a post-mortem basis. Indeed, in an environment where they have helped define virtue as chiefly consisting of the quality of having been a victim, the practice of couching may elicit sympathy for us conservatives as the victims of authoritarian fathers. (Picture millions of Great Santinis raising little Young Republicans - the horror!) We might even add to our plurality through the misplaced sympathy of liberal voters who hope that voting us in will help to cure us by allowing us to “grow” in office (and there is some precedence that such growth does happen).

So deeply entrenched is the more effective dual strategy of painting every conservative as Hitler with a lobotomy that you could probably bring on your own assault by randomly approaching a student at Cal Berkeley and stating that you think George W. Bush is a compassionate and intelligent politician. With your arms covering your ears in a feeble attempt to protect your head, you may not hear her grunting between blows: “Take that for the Patriot Act and that for Guantanamo Bay and that for Blood for Oil.”

But there is also a slim chance that you may be spared the beating of your life (and it’s probably not your first, due to the likelihood of your authoritarian upbringing) at the hands of our young pacifist coed, if she has been schooled in the science of couching conservatives. As a student at Berkeley, she may have chanced upon a course or two taught by either Jack Glaser or Frank Sulloway, two Berkeley professors that are very recent contributors to the science. Glaser and Sulloway recently co-authored an article in the Psychological Bulletin along with John Jost of Stanford and Arie Kuglanski of the University of Maryland. Apparently the complexity of the topic requires four co-authors. We’ll call these guys the Four Freuds for simplicity.

The involvement of any Berkeley professor in this research area, let alone two, is worthy of note. That a man can walk the campus of Berkeley day in and day out for years, and each day arrive at his office thinking about the psychological oddities of conservatives is no small wonder. Have these guys ever even seen a conservative outside of the occasional Connie Chung interview of some 70 year-old neo-Nazi who lives 200 miles from his nearest neighbor? Paleontologists arguably have more first hand experience with live dinosaurs then a Berkeley professor is likely to have with conservatives.

And if these guys were faculty at Berkeley 35 years ago, they may have found themselves held at gunpoint by some of your average psychologically well-adjusted Berkeley students. That was when the quaint practice of our best and brightest students holding their college administrators hostage at gunpoint was in vogue. These rational idealists would demand changes to the curriculum in exchange for the safe release of the administrators, and did so at Cornell and Yale, among others. You might think that such happening would have spawned a psychology of the extreme left that sought to explain why some would risk lifelong incarceration in exchange for the promise of easier college classes. But quite the opposite probably occurred.

Picture the scene: Glaser and Sulloway as human bargaining chips for the students’ demands to add a litany of courses that have as their common theme the corruption of all those stodgy institutions that have led to their receiving an advanced education free of charge. Glaser and Sulloway, in the five tense moments it takes for the administration to capitulate to the demands of the terrorists (and thank them for adding diversity to the curriculum) independently and simultaneously envision their next great research project. “I will establish the perverse psychological motives of conservatives!” A turning point in the history of science! A few semesters later, they are co-teaching a course entitled “Conservatives - Still Crazy After All These Years”, listed proudly in the coursebook alongside other classics born that same day, such as “Marriage as Modern Slavery” and “How White Men Ruined the Utopian State of Nature.” Maybe Jost and Kuglanski were dilated-eyed Berkeley undergrads who happened to show up for Glaser and Sulloway’s lectures, and the rest is history.

A conservative may naturally react very negatively to the knowledge that grown men and women are running around college campuses, busily filling out applications for federal government grants to study the peculiar inner workings of her head, and then gathering at conferences to discuss their research in a tone that mixes one part “scientist as disinterested in the outcome of this particular research agenda as he would be if researching the sleeping patterns of the common toad” and one part “I have put in the usual caveats of the need for further research etc. etc., but we all know that I am right and no amount of further research will change that.” But before you start suing liberals in the tradition of Barry, consider a few points.

First, it is a good thing that the research consists of ALPs studying conservatives, and not the other way around. The mere whiff of such a research program going in the opposite direction, even if pursued by an engineering professor at a Juco, would be followed by claims that John Ashcroft is personally funding the research, and that he has plans in the works to wrestle liberals across the country into straight jackets and send them off to little padded rooms. These claims, by the way, would enjoy a daily airing on national TV through what I call evidence by the assumed credibility of a paranoid liberal commentator. After enough evidence of this nature is presented, the networks can advance the case with a scientific opinion poll, usually consisting of polling 1000 or so random newspaper editors. The poll reaches the airways and confirms that a large percentage of uninformed and unintelligent people, having been subjected to the barrage of advertising intended entirely to lead to one conclusion, have finally come around and agree that paranoid liberal commentators are right. (Before you say to yourself that we conservatives are lucky that our courts of law do not operate via similar evidentiary standards, read a judicial opinion rendered by any liberal Supreme Court Justice).


Anonymous Jim O said...

Instead of that, can I read the bills put forth for consideration in Congress pertaining to one family's lawsuits about the fate of one patient at a hospital in Florida?

What ever happened to the party of small government? And why is valuable time being taken by the Congress and Administration for this matter instead of dealing with Social Security, Mideast Policy, China, North Korea, or any other of a thousand more important issues?

Why are the republicans losing their minds? This is a miniscule matter, and unworthy of so much goverment attention. Please tell me that the party will get back to running the world sometime soon - I am afraid that they are spiralling into the same molehill-mountain patterns that the democrats ran thru when they were in charge.

9:50 AM  
Blogger pbryon said...

Do most conservatives feel this persecuted?

Come back, Jack....leave the rantings to Ms. Coulter.

10:12 AM  

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