Ideology Is The Enemy: The Competing Cancers

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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120 Responses

  1. Avatar Russell Saunders
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    says:

    Do you know how hard it is to get quality medical backgrounds? The ones in our office keep changing from farmlands to igloos to a Hawaiian island, and such and so forth.

    Oh, and great piece.

    [Edited to add: You are totally right, by the way, about how absurdly easy it would have been to account for the difference in wait times. I knew the right answer immediately upon seeing the chart, and any halfway-motivated inquiry could have yielded it.]Report

  2. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    I thought your piece on MRM was brilliant. Perhaps you could do something challenging the right of breast feeding mums to feed in public…. should bring in another interesting group of commenters. You could do one on breast feeding fathers and tie the two together. Now, that would be truly special.Report

  3. Avatar J@m3z Aitch
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    says:

    ideology is being used as the filter to determine whether or not data is trustworthy, rather than data being used to determine if an ideology is.

    Amen.

    I paused to ponder the chart before reading your explanation. I looked first for signs of a statistical explanation. Not seeing that, I thought a bit about what else might explain differences between treatment of two different cancers and it struck me, “the two cancers are different, so maybe one requires more urgent treatment.”

    I know diddly about cancer, so I really don’t think this was a hard challenge for anyone who was looking for an explanation rather than just looking for a weapon.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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      says:

      I remember someone who used to be a regular around this place who would dismiss any social science until he found some that agreed with his ideology, at which point he declared it gospel. I don’t think I’d ever seen it that clearly, but now I see it more and more.Report

  4. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    Tod (or anyone),

    I guess I’m ready to sign on to the notion that “ideology is the enemy,” but I’m not really sure how. Is ideology a decision? a bad practice? something many of us are all guilty of but a given number go too far?

    I know people on this blog (me, for example) have tried to argue that something like ideology is with each and everyone of us, and that one cannot escape it simply by adopting a principled pragmatism. And sometimes the way you use the term suggests you mean something that I would prefer to call “tribalism” or that George Orwell would call “nationalism.”

    Maybe my distinction is a bit too semantic. After all, the folks you describe in this series and earlier people you have written about, tend to take things to extremes that certainly seem very different from what I or many of us can sign on to. So I don’t really want to harp too much on it (after all, I probably consider myself a principled pragmatist, although I cannot always say where my principles come from without eventually admitting that I’m adopting some unprovable assumptions about epistemology and what is true).Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille
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      says:

      What I take from the ideology is the enemy series is how having an ideology or being an ideologue can lead to blinders. It is basic cognitive dissonance and allows any party to filter out unwanted information. Or to look at information and have it prove a point that it doesn’t.

      For example, yes men do wait a longer time for prostate cancer surgery than women wait for breast cancer surgery but as far as I can tell this is not a conspiracy or anti-male act but because prostate cancer spreads slowly and the wait time is not considered medically risky.
      Breast Cancer seems like it can spread to the rest of the body at a much quicker space is more likely to lead to death.

      The MRM crowd is just focusing in on the longer wait time fact to show that the world and establishment is really anti-man and to prove their paranoid fantasies.

      Tod can correct me if I’m wrong in my interpretation.

      So ideology can lead one to all sorts of wrong conclusions.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        I do get that, but my question then is, how generalizable is the argument? Does your liberalism sometimes act as an “ideology” in the sense Tod means? Does my (for lack of a better word) libertarian liberalism? I can stipulate it does (at least for me, at least sometimes).

        Maybe I’m being unfair raising the question in this way. After all, Tod has taken the time to document all this and in a highly readable way. Perhaps I’m demanding something that might be a good discussion in its own right, but just isn’t what he is trying to do.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        Or to put it differently. Mr. Williams’s point about most internet commenting being about attention-getting is not lost on me (whatever I feel about it at a gut level), and I fear that maybe I’m doing exactly what he accuses us of doing when I raise the issue.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        Sure. Absolutely. I’m sure it does.

        I have plenty of Pauline Kael moments because I grew up in New York, live in San Francisco, and am an urban Jewish guy and most of my friends are urban and liberal and a fair to high number are Jewish.

        So when I read about how a majority of white people voted for Cuccinnelli (this includes college educated and not college educated) in the Virginia governor’s race, I can only wonder “Who are these people? Almost all the white people I know vote Democraitc.”

        I have very little if any real world exposure to the evangelical Christian movement (except through angry and bitter dissenting ex-members) so exposure to people who grew up in those circles and still believes in the general views from their youth produces a “What? Really?” reaction in me.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        @pierre-corneille

        I also think ideology is the enemy in these posts because it can prevent people from finding workable if somewhat unsavory solutions. Now my somewhat inner-libertarian will come out. Let’s look at rhino poaching.

        Rhino horn is considered a powerful medicine and/or aphrodisiac in many Asian cultures and it can fetch top dollar. It is also connected to an endangered animal and this results in a lot of poaching. Is rhino horn effective as a medicine or an aphrodisiac? Almost certainly but you don’t change that kind of traditional belief overnight.

        Did you know a rhino’s horn was like a fingernail? You can shave it off and it will grow back.

        NPR interviewed an Australian economist and his solution was to legalize the market and have rhino ranches. This would provide jobs for the poachers and grow the rhino populations.

        Will this happen? Probably not a million years.

        My atheist-Dawkins friends would seemingly rather just shake their fist at “woo peddlers” than create a solution that acknowledged traditional culture/religion. In their eyes a legalized rhino market would be like an endorsement of Chinese medicine and that is too anti-science (in their minds) for them to contemplate.

        Other friends on the further-left than me thinks this kind of deal smacks of imperialism and commerce colonialism because the market for rhino is in wealthier Asia and the rhinos are located in Africa. They would rather find ways to make sure the poachers did not have to stoop to poaching than support a globalized-market arrangement.

        So you have everyone expressing righteous indignation on social media and the rhino population keeps getting smaller and smaller but everyone is staying ideologically pure and not going for solutions which compromise their worldview or involve acknowledging another worldview.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        @newdealer

        Thanks for those examples (and I didn’t know rhino horns could grow back), and to be clear, I can be just as blinded by my ideology (however we’re defining it). I have a hard time thinking of an example right away, but one might be the Obamacare roll out. I so much want it to succeed that sometimes I find myself wondering if it’s all really as bad as some people are saying it is. (I’m sure it is, but I’m probably more disposed than not to think otherwise.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to NewDealer
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        @pierre-corneille The best current example I can think of at the moment (and it’s clearly because I’m writing about it) is the left’s growing dissatisfaction with the NYT and NPR. The dissatisfaction (which in a lot of places is turning into outright savaging) is almost never, as best I can tell, a question of bad journalism so much as it is outrage that reporting — even factual reporting — is counter to ideology.

        Journalists who are pointing out that the particulars of the PPACA are not what Obama said they would be are being s**t upon by the left, as are the papers/stations that employ them. News outlets that are not actually named Glenn Greenwald are being treated as liars and fools if they so much as utter a story about the NSA’s transgressions. The initial IRS scandal ended up being largely incorrect, but the initial outrage that it was being reported on at all was being done by people who did not yet know it *was* incorrect.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        Thanks for the response, TodReport

      • Avatar Francis in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        “My atheist-Dawkins friends would seemingly rather just shake their fist at “woo peddlers” than create a solution that acknowledged traditional culture/religion. ”

        sure. And my devout Christian friends are so sure about god’s mandate to rule over the earth that they don’t care about conservation. they’re right over there, next to Friedman’s cab driver.

        [that was helpful. And if you actually knew anything about the environmental movement, you’d recognize that raising captive breeding stock is a well-known course of action. but there are any number of problems. In the rhino case, creating a minuscule legal supply can actually increase poaching pressure; as demand far outweighs supply poachers can then use “legal” conduits to market their material.]

        [[the irony of NewDealer’s comment in a post about ideology was just too strong to let go.]]Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        @francis

        But NewDealer’s friends didn’t raise those objections to the idea….they just lapse into dawkinsism or quasi-anti-imperialism. And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying shore up the pro-religious argument.

        Finally, there isn’t any irony here. He’s upfront about his own biases (see his comment right before the one you’re critiquing).Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        It’s a good thing these “atheist-Dawkins” folks (what exactly does that mean, really?) aren’t here to show you how foolish they really are. Gosh, they’d look so bad if they were able to open their mouths and speak their mind.

        Thankfully, we can do that for them.

        I mean, I’m all for the good anecdote, but I’m kinda thinking if you have to come up with some weird label and then kinda shoe-horn them into an environmental thing (I mean “atheist dawkins” doesn’t SOUND like a group that’s really about saving rhinos. They’d seem, I dunno, combative atheists maybe? I mean, do atheists give a larger crap about rhinos, or just the ones who like dawkins) that you’re probably reaching.

        I mean, yeah, if you were talking the Sierra club and even PETA and mentioned a few well known little things, or linked to some statements — I mean “stupid short-sighted environmentalists, I mean look at these guys”….

        But just sorta a weird slur (I think it was a slur, I’m not sure. It felt like one, but again — I have no idea what exactly an atheist dawkins believes — or doesn’t — that a non-dawkins atheist or maybe a theist dawkins don’t or does) and then random segue to a topic that’s not primary for either half of the identifier is…hard to follow.

        Kinda throws off your point, I think. It’s not just a weird group that sounds more like an insult than an ideology, it’s not even connected to your example.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        “NPR interviewed an Australian economist and his solution was to legalize the market and have rhino ranches. This would provide jobs for the poachers and grow the rhino populations.”

        Won’t actually work. These horns don’t grow overnight, and there’s still a big market for solid horns (not just ground-up dust). And besides, there’ll still be people looking for “the true vigor of wild-growth horn, not that tame farmed crap that doesn’t do anything”.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        @jim-heffman

        As opposed to what we are doing now which works just dandy?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        Another brief example of ideology in the news was the editor of Guns and Ammo writing something advocating some sort of gun regulation, them being immediately fired/told to quit and then profusely apologizing. He had sinned and must be immediately purged.

        And also the recently Failwhale of a the CBS Benghazi story seems to fit somewhere in there.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        Getting fired for costing your company customers/money isn’t exactly an ideology issue… though “I don’t care if my opinions cost my company customers/money… wait, wait! Don’t fire me! First Amendment!” kind of is one.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        @morat20

        It’s a good thing these “atheist-Dawkins” folks (what exactly does that mean, really?)

        I can’t speak for NewDealer, but I think of “atheist-Dawkins” folks as being atheists in the vein of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. (I bring in the latter because I’ve actually read “God Is Not Great” and haven’t read “The God Delusion,” so I’d be happy to amend the term to “Hitchensite atheist.”) I’m referring to a set of lazy and fallacious arguments against religion and for atheism that some atheists adopt.

        I assume NewDealer has something very similar in mind. I also assume (and I apologize if I’m attributing something to him that he doesn’t intend) he means what he says as a more or less internalist critique. Not that he himself is a Dawkinsite atheist, but that his circle of friends contains a significant number of them and he is explaining how sometimes they tend to rush to conclusions on certain issues (here, the backwardness, allegedly informed by superstitious religions, of the “Rhino-horn equals better sex” crowd).Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to NewDealer
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        says:

        I would say, generally, that ideology occurs when skepticism departs from belief.

        A measure of doubt is a healthy counterpart to faith.Report

    • Avatar Caleb in reply to Pierre Corneille
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      says:

      Yes! This!

      Unless we are severely redefining the word, “ideology” does not refer to the social phenomena surrounding humanities penchant for irrational tribal affiliation even when those tribes are defined along ideological lines. Nor does it refer to one’s preferred policy descriptions. (These are ideologically informed, but not determined. It is possible for people hold identical ideological propositions to prefer different policies.) The use of “ideology” in this context is sloppy wording.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Caleb
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        says:

        I think that goes a bit far.
        “Ideology” is, more properly, a symptom; as so many things are.
        That it fails to identify a cause in naming a most prominent symptom is a fairly arbitrary critique, IMHO.
        The postulate of cause is identified sufficiently in what follows.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Pierre Corneille
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      says:

      “I guess I’m ready to sign on to the notion that “ideology is the enemy,” but I’m not really sure how. ”

      Well, first you’ll want to buy the tee shirt, on sale soon for the holidays.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    Excellent piece Tod

    Now I know why some of my pitches get lost in the fray of your in-box.Report

  6. Avatar Caleb
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    says:

    Part of me wants to strongly suggest you go back in your “Ideology in the enemy” series and define exactly what it is you mean by “ideology.” I say this because I find the fact that you refer to MRM activists (or Tea Partiers or Occupiers) as “ideologies” is…odd. “Factions?” Yes. “Political groups motivated by certain ideas?” Cumbersome, but okay. But the point is that there are many different ideologies within each group which motivates each member differently. Drawing a circle around the group of people (and the attending social phenomena like cultish behavior and echo chambers) and calling *that* “ideology” is a severe mistake in categorical definitions.

    In other words: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Caleb
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      says:

      I define ideology “as a system of ideas and ideals,” or alternatively as “a set of conscious and unconscious ideas that constitute one’s goals, expectations and actions,” which is how I kind of assumed everyone defined it.

      How do you define ideology, that the Tea Party movement or Occupy Wall Street are not ideological in nature?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        I think the confusion is this: if the word “ideology” is defined too broadly – eg., as something like “the set of beliefs that motivate people’s actions” – then it doesn’t pick out any interesting distinctions among people (since it’s true of all people that they have an ideology). And if that’s the case, then the real problem is no longer ideological differences, but that people are different.

        For my part, tho, I think the distinction most people *want* to make when talking about ideology requires a narrower meaning of the term if the argument is to be informative about the world. Something more like “a fixed and relatively inflexible set of beliefs, usually derived and defended by a priori reasoning (eg, appeals to self-evidentness, etc), and from which a complete set of prescriptions, judgments and analysis logically follow”.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Try this then:

        For my purposes, an ideology is a structured system of beliefs that someone takes as being absolutely true, and which subsequently is used to measure the quality, necessity, efficacy, and morality of human interaction.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Your definition is both too broad and too narrow for the work that you are trying to get it to do.

        Too broad in the sense that @ Stillwater identifies. We are all motivated by ideas and ideals, and we all use them to set expectations, action, ect. In this sense “ideology” is all-inclusive to every human endeavor. But your post posits ideology as operating in contrast to some other method of organizing, measuring, and prioritizing human action. But your definition does not have room for this alternative.

        Too narrow in the sense that you are drawing in a large host of sociological, cultural, and political stances, grouping patterns, information dissemination dynamics, ect, ect, ect. and calling all of that “ideology.” As pointed out by others above, tribal affiliation leads to much of the same overall social behavior you decry. (echo-chamber, dehumanization of the other, lack of feedback in engagement with out-groups, ect.) Tribal affiliations may be drawn along far more lines that ideological. Yet you reduce the root of these factors to ideology.

        How do you define ideology, that the Tea Party movement or Occupy Wall Street are not ideological in nature?

        I don’t necessarily disagree with your definitions of the word. I disagree with what you are trying to do with it, given those definitions. The Tea Party and Occupy are both informed by ideology, in the same way every human action is. To ask what groups are “ideological in nature” seems, to me, a meaningless question. (What you mean by “ideological in nature” depends on your views of essentialism.) But to call the Tea Party or Occupy “ideologies” is vastly different from saying that they are informed by ideologies. (Often as I’ve pointed out different ones for different people within the same group.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        I am uncertain how this distinction nullifies what I have been writing.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        I am uncertain how this distinction nullifies what I have been writing.

        Well, at the simplest level, you are using the wrong term for the human behaviors you find problematic. It clouds the issue, and creates confusion. For example, I can agree with you that group-think and submission to other social and cognitive biases is the wrong method for constructing moral order. I agree that everyone has a moral duty to approach their held beliefs and premises critically and honestly. Yet I disagree with you that ideology is the problem. I think constructing moral order without ideological input is, on its face, preposterous. However, I agree that there is some weight to your arguments. The simplest and easiest diagnosis I can come up with is that you are using the wrong term.

        On a deeper level, if you do mean to use “ideology,” then you argument is even more fundamentally flawed. For example, as I argued above, your argument necessarily contrasts “ideology” with some other method of organizing, measuring, and prioritizing human action. But the definition you gave for ideology, as I read it, vested universal meaning in that term for all human action in this domain. This goes to the heart of your argument. If all human ideas which motivate action are classified as “ideology,” then you have no meaningful tool with which to contract any alternative. How do you resolve this conflict?Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        The simplest and easiest diagnosis I can come up with is that you are using the wrong term.

        @caleb
        You say “your definition is both too broad and too narrow for the work that you are trying to get it to do,” but I’m not sure how what you’re writing is any refutation of what Tod said. He’s defined the way he thinks of “ideology” a number of times. If that doesn’t match your definition of the word, that may or may not be a problem, but he’s describing a recognizable phenomena apparent to others in the world and making coherent observations about it. If you have a more apt term to describe what’s being discussed, I for one am all ears.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        if the word “ideology” is defined too broadly – eg., as something like “the set of beliefs that motivate people’s actions” – then it doesn’t pick out any interesting distinctions among people (since it’s true of all people that they have an ideology).

        I would say that’s true, that all people do have an ideology. It’s how we each manage to take in and interpret our experience of the world and make sense of it. So I really don’t think the appropriate question is “does the person have an ideology or not.”

        It’s really about how rigid the ideology is for a person. If they use it as a starting point for interpretation, and are open to recognizing contradicting (or at least ill-fitting) facts and updating their ideology in response to those facts, then there’s not really a problem. It’s those who who do the opposite, being closed to recognizing uncomfortable facts, and actually reversing the proper process so that they update the facts to make them fit with their ideology, that are the problem.

        It’s in that sense, I think, that ideology is the enemy. In that it tempts us to update facts instead of updating the ideology, and in that the current world of communication makes it easier to succumb to that temptation (maybe; I think that’s Tod’s view, but I haven’t thought about it enough to express a considered opinion on it).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        Are you familiar with Piaget’s theories on assimilation and accommodation? What you describe, and what I believe Tod is getting at, is when people cannot strike an appropriate equilibrium between the two.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @ krogerfoot

        He’s defined the way he thinks of “ideology” a number of times. If that doesn’t match your definition of the word, that may or may not be a problem…

        You miss my point. As I said above, I do not necessarily disagree with his definition for the word “ideology.” I disagree with his use of the word given his definitions. It’s the difference between:

        I disagree with your definition of the word “bicycle” as “a two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle.”

        and

        I agree with your definition of the word “bicycle” as “a two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle,” but I disagree with your argument where you employ it as a high-orbital space vehicle.

        You see the difference, yes? It’s not that I think the definition is wrong, I think the use of the term is wrong given the definition.

        but I’m not sure how what you’re writing is any refutation of what Tod said.

        I’m not sure how to put it other than how I’ve put it before. If “ideology” is a universal word which describes the mental organization and arrangement of ideas which gives rise to human action, then there is no meaningful analysis which can be done to contrast the operation of “ideology” apart from any other alternative. It’s like a bird saying “it’s all this air that’s the problem,” or a fish saying “if only it weren’t for all this water.” By Tod Kelly’s own definition, ideology is so pervasive to human thinking that analyzing any other method of organizing human ideas is meaningless. We have no tools for distinguishing harmful and non-harmful patters within ideological constructs, because Tod Kelly has identified the entire edifice of ideology itself as the problem.

        @ Kazzy below puts it well:

        Well, if it is an ideology, one to which Tod subscribes to and which informs his perspective on other ideologies, than we end up in a weird chicken-and-egg situation in which we should simultaneously accept and reject Tod’s argument.

        …but he’s describing a recognizable phenomena apparent to others in the world and making coherent observations about it. If you have a more apt term to describe what’s being discussed, I for one am all ears.

        Yes, he has made those descriptions. They are generally ones I agree with, too. And yes, I do have more apt terms for what he’s describing (although I am by no means the originator.) I’ve hinted at this above: we have cognitive biases, we have group dynamics, ect, ect, ect. (Talk to a psychologist or sociologist for a more complete list.) These flaws in logical thinking are well-known and well documented, and I wholeheartedly endorse their exposure and elimination from proper human thinking.

        My problem with Tod Kelly’s argument is that he reduces all these various negative thinking patters to one essential sine qua non: ideology. It’s the reduction I challenge, not his initial observations of irrational thinking. It’s also the part of his argument with the least support. As far as I can tell, he points to some of the more extreme flaws of existent political factions, labels their behavior “ideology,” and then says “see? QED.” It’s been a while since my last formal logic class, but I’m going to go ahead and venture that the argument emphatically does not support the conclusion.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Kazzy,

        No, I’m not familiar with that. It’s certainly possible that I could be noticing the same phenomenon Piaget was.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @caleb

        OK, I think that I’m starting to see where the disconnect is coming from.

        It appears that you are attributing to me an argument that I am not making: that ideology is in itself bad. But this is not the case I have been making. I actually think that ideologies are necessary in a pluralistic society (and maybe wherever humans gather), and that pretty much any ideology I can think of carries certain important Truths — Truths which we would be foolish to ignore. I think if you go back and read my writings on ideology and principled pragmatism you will see that I say this in different ways, over and over.

        My issue is not with the existence of ideologies so much as it is with the way that ideologies are increasingly being used in this country. As I said in on of the pieces I linked to above,

        “In a real and human world ideologies work best as a starting point, a base from which to find a path to stable public policy. Ideology has always worked better as an abstract piece of art than a detailed photograph. We must learn when to lean on our ideologies, and when to recognize that they are failing us. Ideological consistency is the enemy of that wisdom.”

        I’ve noted many times before, for example, that although I did not agree with him politically I believe Reagan to have been a great President. And Reagan certainly had an ideology that informed him; he did not, however, have an ideology that dictated his actions. This is why so many people today observe (correctly, IMO) that Reagan would be ostracized and probably demonized by the very party that worships him as a demigod were he alive and running for office today.

        When I say that ideology is becoming the enemy of us all in the United States today, it is not because I believe ideology has no place — it is because followers of ideologies all across the board are increasingly demanding that a clear delineation between Good and Evil be made entirely through the prism of their ideology’s dogma.

        That, I continue to argue, is a very bad thing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        “It appears that you are attributing to me an argument that I am not making: that ideology is in itself bad.”
        @tod-kelly
        In fairness to @caleb , you did title the series “Ideology is the Enemy”.
        @jm3z-aitch
        In a nutshell, Piaget looked at how children rework existing internal schema to incorporate new information. Sometimes they adapt the schema (accommodation) and sometimes they adapt the information (assimilation).

        So when a young child sees a squirrel and says, “Kitty!” he is assimilating it into his “cat” schema but attending to the fact that it is small, furry, has four legs, and a tail, disregarding the rest. When that child learns that to be a cat is about more than just being small, furry, four-legged, and possessing a tail, they accommodate their “cat” scheme and create a new “squirrel” one.

        This process involves constant shifts between equilibrium and disequilibrium. The latter arises when they stretch the bounds of their existing schema to the point of causing internal confusion (“How can all these things be cats?”), at which point they rework their internal world to achieve equilibrium again.

        It was Piaget’s basic theory of learning.

        What you describe strikes me as similar to children with rigid schema that they do not accommodate and who are somehow immune to the internal disequilibrium.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        RTod,

        it is because followers of ideologies all across the board are increasingly demanding that a clear delineation between Good and Evil be made entirely through the prism of their ideology’s dogma.

        Yeah, I agree that that’s what you’re arguing. Since I love your series, I don’t want to nitpick over semantic issues too much. That said, I do agree with Caleb and kazzy’s worries about the soundness of the arguments you’ve made given a type of semantic worry: that your definition is so broad as to apply to the type of ideological thinking you view as a an antidote to our current Ideological Crisis.

        For example, kazzy wonders why pragmatism isn’t also the enemy here – that is, what differentiates pragmatism from the types of political reasoning you effectively criticize in your series of posts? Is it a different type of reasoning (non-ideological)? Is it a different type of ideology? If it’s merely a different type of ideological thinking, what is the relevant difference? Etc. From what I gather, you want to say that principled pragmatism does constitute an ideology, but of a different type than those you are critiquing.

        I’ve mentioned this before, but from the pov of an a priori-first principle ideologue, principled pragmatism will be viewed as a *paradigmatic* instance of the bad kind of ideological thinking (from their pov). On this front, things are all square. So: Is there a fact of the matter as to what constitutes the good kind of ideological thinking from the bad kind, as you understand the word? If so, what is it?

        In my earlier (very quickly constructed and incomplete!) definition I proposed that one relevant difference is the relative flexibility of what we could loosely call “first principles” (those principles from which judgments, prescriptions and analyses follow) are held. And by that I mean something pretty specific: the extent to which exposure to countervailing evidence compels the ideologue to revise his/her judgments, prescriptions, analyses given his or her antecedently held beliefs. Is that the kind of thing you’re criticizing when you talk about “ideology being the enemy”? That there is no algorithm taking the bad kind of ideologue back to reality? Something else? Because I agree with Caleb’s argument that
        without some pretty clearly criteria by which to determine the good kind of ideology from the bad, your argument implies that even principled pragmatism is part of the problem rather than being the solution.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @kazzy Oh, I agree. I have a weakness for provocative titles, both as a writer and a reader.

        Here is an off-the-top-of-me-head list of books I have bought over the years whose authors I knew nothing about at the time, and whose purchase was based entirely on their titles:

        The Arsonist’s Guide to Writers Homes in New England
        The Satanic Verses
        The End of Men
        Gods Behaving Badly
        Sex Drugs & Cocoa Puffs
        American Gods
        Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff,Christ’s Childhood Pal
        On Bullshit
        The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
        The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime
        The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse
        Still Life With the Woodpecker
        Walter the Farting Dog
        Special Topics in Calamity Physics
        Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil

        Great buys, each and every one.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @tod-kelly

        And I have a tendency to read titles entirely too literally.

        I’m still not sure why Burt and Will went to such great lengths to establish that they were not potted plants.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Kazzy,

        That sounds about right. But what about adults who can only assimilate, not adapt? (That sounds to me like it’s approximately what Tod’s critiquing, and it’s certainly what I’m talking about when I call someone an ideologue.). Is that essentially an immature attribute, or is this understood as a lifelong process/struggle, rather than just about children’s learning?

        It seems to me that many people have an overly strong need for certainty, so that accomodation poses a higher psychological cost than they can bear, and that these people overly rely on assimilation. That is, they’re the people for whom, in Tod’s words, “ideology is being used as the filter to determine whether or not data is trustworthy, rather than data being used to determine if an ideology is.”

        Is any of that coherent? I’m just spitballing, ’cause educational theory is far outside ,y area of competence.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Great buys, each and every one.

        I have to disagree when it comes to “On Bullshit.” It was 50 or so pages of the author going on and one without really saying anything.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        I’m still not sure why Burt and Will went to such great lengths to establish that they were not potted plants.

        Spoken like someone who has never been confronted with that particular smear…Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m curious about The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime: did you buy it because you recognized the reference? (I read it because a very good friend recommended it to me, but she was surprised when I explained the title to her.)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @pierre-corneille: “It was 50 or so pages of the author going on and one without really saying anything.”

        Well sure, but in the authors defense it was a philosophical treatise.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling No, at the time I was completely unaware that it was an Aurthur Conan Doyle quote.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        It seems to me that many people have an overly strong need for certainty, so that accomodation poses a higher psychological cost than they can bear, and that these people overly rely on assimilation.

        High-five!Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy “I’m still not sure why Burt and Will went to such great lengths to establish that they were not potted plants.”
        @will-truman “Spoken like someone who has never been confronted with that particular smear…”

        I think the term they prefer these days is Fernist-Americans.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        It seems to me that many people have an overly strong need for certainty…

        Yeah, I agree a desire for certainty is a big part of this. Certainty means the absence of doubt, which in turn means that differing opinions must necessarily be rejected or discounted for certainty to be maintained. ANd that in turn could provide an account of all sorts of issues which Tod has written about in his series.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        It’s been a while since I studied Piaget. I actually had to look up accommodation/assimilation because I always forget which is which. I don’t know if his theory specifically accounted for adults. And I also don’t know how conscious a process it is.

        My personal belief is that it certainly continues into adulthood. And your spitballing jives with my understanding of the theory and personal experience.

        I also think adults are likely more entrenched in their scheme and “internal world” and more consciously aware of making (or not making) shifts in it. We are more likely to perceive an interest in our “internal world” being correct and not requiring shifts than children are. A young child will accept the squirrel schema as soon as they are mentally able to make sense of it. An adult might resist doing so because, “Goddamnit, don’t tell me I don’t know what a cat is!”

        I suppose another way to think about it is how open or close minded someone is. A more open minded person is more likely/able to accommodate; a more close minded person is probably less likely/able to. How much of this is “likely”, as in the product of a conscious choice, and how much is “able”, as in having the necessary mental processes to successfully do so, I can’t really say.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        Would you want some confused DEA agent spraying you with paraquat?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater,
        That sounds right to me.

        @kazzy,
        For kids the world is still very unformed right? For example magic tricks don’t have full effect on small children because it doesn’t violate their expectations about how the workd works, because they haven’t yet formed clear expectations about how the world works. But for adults, who’ve spent many years forming clear expectations about how the world works, contradictory facts are a threat to their life’s work, so to speak. Imagine hearing that the magician really did saw the woman in half and reassemble her without harm–what would it take to get you to accomodate that?

        The trick, I think, especially for us educators, is to teach people to remain relatively flexible, relatively accomodationist and resistant to assimilation. Few things bother me more than getting a student who, at such a young age, is already totally rigid and resistant to accommodation. They’re already not open to further learning. They are the embodiment of the enemy Tod is talking about, I think.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        I agree with you in general, but I should make clear that Piaget thought assimilation was just as important as accommodation. If every new bit of information causes you to enter a state of disequilibrium and have to restructure your internal world, it would likely lead to some sort of mental paralysis. Both processes are integral to learning.

        You make as much sense of the world as you can given your internal structuring. When you no longer can, you revisit that internal structuring. Rinse and repeat. If you never assimilated, than you’d take magic tricks at face value and say, “Well, I didn’t think people can fly. But I see one flying right now, so I guess it is impossible.” Instead, you think, “It is probably wires. Or mirrors. Or an optical illusion.” Assimilation. And were you to examine the trick thoroughly and learn that there are no wires or mirrors or optical illusions and that the person is, indeed, flying, you can no longer assimilate what your eyes see with what your brain thinks. So you must adapt what your brain thinks and shift your schema relating to gravity or physics or human flight. But only after exhausting all attempts at assimilating.

        And, yes, people who do not take that second step, instead rejecting that which is not consistent with their internal structuring, appear to be exactly who @tod-kelly is talking about.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Errr… you’d see the flying person and think, “I guess this is possible.”Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @kazzy

        When I read what you had originally written, I told myself, “there’s no way he could’ve meant that,” and I assigned what turned out to be the correct meaning to what you said.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @pierre-corneille

        That means I’ve somehow tricked you into thinking I am someone who regularly makes sense. Huzzah!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Isaac Asimov once wrote a (typically) thoughtful essay about the difficult issues involved in rejecting vs. considering new ideas.Report

      • Avatar Caleb in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        @ Tod Kelly

        It appears that you are attributing to me an argument that I am not making: that ideology is in itself bad.

        @ Kazzy’s insight about your titling of the series aside (I’ll give leeway for eye-grabbing headlines), I think it’s an open question as to whether or not you have been arguing whether or not ideology itself is bad. I have been following the series, and the answer to that question seems to change depending on your usage of the term. Which is why I asked my question about definitions first. For example, in your post with the Regan example you said:

        Contrary to current thinking, Ronald Reagan was largely beloved not for being dogmatically rigid, but for being pragmatically flexible.

        Contrasting “dogmatically rigid” with “pragmatically flexible” implies that measure of plasticity in the application ideological goals is desirable. That is, whatever the truths one’s ideology espouses, one should take notice of the essentially mechanistic nature of cause and effect that occur outside of one’s control and strategically implement one’s goals accordingly.

        However, whenever you cite the “radicalism” of a particularly extreme political faction (Tea Part, Occupy, whatever) you imply that it is their held ideological presuppositions themselves (rather than, or in addition to, their tactics) which are the problem. That is, the very fact that the persons or groups hold a certain thing to be unconditionally true itself leads to harm, regardless of their methodology.

        Now, these two arguments are not necessarily contradictory. You can argue both that strategic flexibility in application of method is desirable, and that certain ideological presuppositions are abhorrent and wrong. But you can’t do so using the same term for both. Precision in meaning is critical.

        . I actually think that ideologies are necessary in a pluralistic society (and maybe wherever humans gather), and that pretty much any ideology I can think of carries certain important Truths — Truths which we would be foolish to ignore.

        Then why implicate ideology at all? If the flaws you identify with human reasoning attach after the assertion of first principles, then your problem isn’t with the first principles.

        When I say that ideology is becoming the enemy of us all in the United States today, it is not because I believe ideology has no place — it is because followers of ideologies all across the board are increasingly demanding that a clear delineation between Good and Evil be made entirely through the prism of their ideology’s dogma.

        And I think there is significant potential for interesting argument here, if you clarify your terms. Not the least along the lines that @ Stillwater and @ Kazzy have been pursuing: Is a call for pragmatic implementation of one’s ideology not itself an ideology which demands rigid adherence? Is it not interesting that you have identified ideological “consistency” as an anathema, considering the high value humans place on logical consistency in other spheres? There are other areas for potential insight, but first, clarity is required.Report

  7. Avatar Pierre Corneille
    Ignored
    says:

    By the way, Tod, have you read George Orwell’s “Notes on Nationalism.” I’m a big fan of his non-fiction in general (his fiction, not so much). If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to give it a try.

    Here’s a link:

    http://orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_natReport

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Pierre Corneille
      Ignored
      says:

      Thank you. I know that I have, in college, but it’s been long enough that I remember almost nothing about it.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pierre Corneille
      Ignored
      says:

      Try Coming Up for Air. It’s technically a novel, but mostly a set of reminiscences and ruminations very much like what Orwell does in his essays.Report

      • I haven’t read that one, yet. I was so put off by “Burmese Days,” “1984,” and “Animal Farm”* that I just decided to write off is fiction. Maybe I should give “Coming Up fro Air” a try.

        *I have more respect for “Animal Farm” now than I used to, however. I think my biggest beef is that I don’t like straight-up allegories. “1984” is in my opinion good as an argument against totalitarianism, but bad as a piece of fiction. However…..Orwell wrote, what, 5 or 6 novels?, and I’ve written none, so maybe I should be wary of judging.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Perhaps you shouldn’t take my advice then, since I loved both 1984 and Animal Farm. Burmese Days, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and A Clergyman’s Daughter are all pretty bad, because they aren’t as focused as the first two mentioned, so they suffer far more from his flaws as a fiction writer.Report

      • Well, I’m otherwise such a fan of Orwell–about 2 years ago, I was on a kick where I checked out all 4 or 5 volumes of his short non-fiction from the library and read through it (not everything, but a lot of it)–that I’m willing to give him a second chance on his fiction.

        By the way, have you read “Homage to Catalonia”? I haven’t and was wondering if I should.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        No question: you should. Also The Road to Wigan Pier, if you haven’t gotten to that yet.Report

  8. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    There must be misandry somewhere in our medical system. Men only live .94 years for every year women live.

    And as we all know, the medical system is the sole determinant of life expectancy.Report

  9. Avatar Jim Heffman
    Ignored
    says:

    “the most obvious conclusion to be drawn: The medical establishment is conspiring with feminists to kill men while saving women. After all, the waiting time for surgery for a cancer that kills women is consistently less than a cancer that kills men. What other conclusion can you possibly reach, they ask.”

    See, I draw a different conclusion. What I see is that we always hear about how American society is pro-men, how men always get the better part of everything, how everyone always wants to cater to men at the expense of women, how in any measure you care to name men get quantifiably better treatment and women get quantifiably worse.

    And here’s an example where that’s actually not true, and where actually the exact opposite is true; an example where men have to wait until, y’know, we can get around to you, because sure you got cancer but it’s not like cancer cancer, not like real serious cancer.

    And if we step back we see a noticeable difference in how society treats the two illnesses. Breast cancer screening is seen as so important that a suggestion to do fewer tests and reduce the rate of false positives caused a huge stink. Prostate cancer screening is a punchline in hack standup comedy.

    The argument is not actually about the reasons why men wait longer for prostate cancer surgery. It is about the mere fact of existence. If what we’re told about the male-dominated society is true then men should be getting their prostate cancers treated immediately, far sooner than womens’ breast cancers would be treated.

    Your survival-rate charts are not as useful as you might want, because they show that if a woman waits to have surgery and her cancer spreads to the regional level her chances do go down, but if a man waits to have surgery and his cancer spreads then he’s toast. (Also, a brutal pragmatist would say that early-stage treatment has better outcomes in men than in women, and so we ought to focus our resources on the men who will live rather than the women who have a good chance of dying anyway.) These charts, presented on their own, actually look more like an argument in the men’s favor. You would do better to show five-year survival rates from time of detection (with and without surgery, if you can find it) because that’s the argument you actually want to make.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman
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      says:

      Huh?

      I’m not sure how the charts show that men who wait for prostate treatment are toast. In fact, the survival rates for prostate cancer are high, especially when compared to breast cancer.

      The five year survival rate for breast cancer patients (all treatments) depends upon where they are on the TPM index. Depending upon the stage, the rate ranges from 100% to 22%. The average for all stages at five years is 85%. The survival rate at ten years is 77%, and at 15 years 64%.

      The 5-year survival rate of prostate cancer patients with treatment (all treatments) is 99%. The ten year rate (all stages) is 98%, and at 15 years it is 93%. This is for patients at all stages of the TNM index.

      A 99% survival rate for all treatments being “toast” is a bit of a reach.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        I should also add that I think the rest of your comment is pretty spot on. (Well, I think the bit about everyone saying that men get everything and women get nothing is a bit strawman-y, but I get the point.)

        Your point is reminiscent of a lot of emails from non MRM members I got about male victims of rape, which essentially said that since a lot of them got raped in prison so they didn’t really count as victims. And although that sounds terrible at first blush, it is a pretty mainstream point of view and is just as much a punchline in a hack comedy routine as is the prostate exam.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        “I’m not sure how the charts show that men who wait for prostate treatment are toast. In fact, the survival rates for prostate cancer are high, especially when compared to breast cancer.”

        What are those charts showing us? The axes aren’t labeled. I was assuming you were showing survival expectancy, since that’s what the paragraph was about.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        @jim-heffmanReport

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        The axes are simply the percentages. The graphs show that most people being treated for prostate cancer aren’t dealing with regional or distant cancer, because it metastasizes much more slowly than other cancers — including breast cancer.

        Which is why prostate treatment is not scheduled with the same urgency as breast treatment, and is therefore triaged differently.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Tod Kelly
        Ignored
        says:

        Okay, so the graph is showing us the distribution of “stage of cancer at time of detection”. In that case I withdraw my earlier objection to the use of these graphs.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman
      Ignored
      says:

      What I see is that we always hear about how American society is pro-men, how men always get the better part of everything, how everyone always wants to cater to men at the expense of women, how in any measure you care to name men get quantifiably better treatment and women get quantifiably worse.

      I don’t always hear that. I occasionally hear that, but what I hear more often is that American society is advantaged towards men, men are more likely to get the better part of most things, many of our societal structures were built back when men were the sole breadwinners and thus are biased towards serving their interests, and that in measures of power (primarily wealth, political representation, executive positioning) the majority of it is possessed by men.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Patrick
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        says:

        Seriously, Patrick, why would one suppose that women should hold worldviews and values identical to those of men?
        measures of power (primarily wealth, political representation, executive positioning)
        How much of that disparity is a result of varying inclinations?
        You can say “Power structure,” surely; but whose power, and whose structure?

        I fear this may be the root of the “Equality demands more female serial killers” fallacy.
        I’m not so comfortable with that.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick
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        says:

        Seriously, Patrick, why would one suppose that women should hold worldviews and values identical to those of men?

        Well, I for one am not comfortable with telling people what sort of worldviews they should have, and I’m really uncomfortable with telling them what sort of worldview they should have based upon their gender, sex, sexual inclinations, size, shape, weight, social adaptability, physical attractiveness, or whathaveyou.

        You wanna stay home with kids? None of my business if you’re packing man parts or female ones. You wanna be a corporate raider? None of my business what it means for your home life. It’s not up to me to tell you how much time you should spend in the lab or at home in the hobby workshop or blogging or whatever.

        I’m really unlikely to have much sympathy for the idea that there ought to be a “man’s world” and a “woman’s world”. The separate but equal thing usually doesn’t work out.

        I don’t know that men have identical values that are coupled tightly enough that we can lump them together and say, “This is the male worldview”, so the idea that it exists is dodgy, and the idea that all women should adopt it would be dodgier.

        How much of that disparity is a result of varying inclinations?

        That’s an open question.

        On the other hand, given two candidates, one of whom is male and one of whom is female, with similar educational backgrounds and similar inclinations towards, say, career, I think it’s still pretty consistent with the evidence that the woman will be more likely to be earning less and less likely to achieve a comparable level of advancement.

        To what extent this represents a problem depends upon the details.

        You can say “Power structure,” surely; but whose power, and whose structure?

        Well, this ain’t the old country, for better or worse.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Patrick
        Ignored
        says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
        You touch on something that I was thinking of myself, something which only recently occurred to me; though surely it seems as if, by now, someone else would have, not only conceived, but fleshed out the thought more properly.

        I think history represents ‘great men’ disproportionately largely because it was written mainly by men, reflecting their own concerns. A separate concurrent history reflecting concerns of women would likely be of a much different character.

        Also, this part:
        I don’t know that men have identical values that are coupled tightly enough that we can lump them together and say, “This is the male worldview”, so the idea that it exists is dodgy, and the idea that all women should adopt it would be dodgier.
        reflects a great deal of what I detest in what I have encountered with a disproportionately large segment of the more vocal feminist proponents (perhaps anecdotally, granted).
        It seems like a great deal of effort is spent in justifying abominable behaviors in women by allocating such behaviors to men; i.e., “But men do it all the time;” where it can bee seen that it is not “Men” as a whole engaging in such behaviors, but rather a portion of men of such character deficiencies.

        I just don’t see equality of character deficiencies to be a laudable goal.
        Granted, my own role models were not always well-chosen, and particularly those closest to me; nonetheless, this was entirely unintentional on my part.
        To do so as a direct and conscious decision seems . . . I’m at a loss for a proper word (and I’ll refrain from going on for five minutes about how speechless I am, re: Blago).

        Insofar as “to achieve” implies “to earn,” then Spinoza was a nobody.
        To the degree that “substantive” demands “advancement” in some pre-defined goal outside of the person, then every act of St. Francis was wholly insubstantive.
        I’m not so comfortable with that.

        I suppose I’ve traveled enough to regard predominant behaviors of various peoples with a degree of removal and acceptance; accepting a thing as valid, without internalizing the thing, long enough to perform a particular thing– sort of like troubleshooting, where you don’t know if this is going to work or not.

        I draw a distinction between the messaging that “women should want the same things as men” and “it’s ok if women want the same things as men.”
        The one I view as problematic.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    How is principled pragmatism not an ideology?Report

  11. Avatar Pierre Corneille
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    says:

    Tod,

    I appreciate your clarifications in this thread of what you mean by “ideology.”

    I think if it were up to me and I wanted to write a post that everyone else would jump on and attack, I’d probably say that the antidote to ideology is some combination of humility, empathy, and most important, intellectual honesty. The latter is what I brought up Orwell above. I consider him one of the most intellectually honest people I’ve read. As for empathy, I’d recommend William James. For humility, I’m not sure whom I’d recommend.Report

  12. Avatar Rod
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    says:

    Another great post, Tod, and some good discussion too (as usual). I ran across a tasty kernel from my FB friend, John Medaille, a professor of Theology at the Univ. of Dallas:

    Ideology is about taking an idea, perhaps even a very good idea, and making it the measure of all other ideas. It is not about error as such, but about taking a small truth and making it the only truth, the “Big Idea” that displaces every other truth. It has but two rules: 1. The Big Idea is always right. 2. If the Big Idea proves wrong, see rule one.

    If I were to add anything, it would be to note that like so many things, it’s incredibly easy to spot in someone else and incredibly hard to recognize in yourself. I like to think I try but would I even be able to know if I were failing?Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod
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      says:

      It is not about error as such, but about taking a small truth and making it the only truth, the “Big Idea” that displaces every other truth.

      Rod, This gets at the heart of the question I asked you about the scope of Georgism. Just the fact that it is identified as an “ism,” plus the way I found a few folks writing about it on the net (the economy will boom, kittens and mice will lie down together!) made me leery that it was that type of “big idea.” I appreciated your response that assured me it wasn’t (at least not properly so–obviously anything can be, for the type of folks who need that).Report

      • Avatar Rod in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        I don’t know that any particular -ism necessarily leads to that kind of extremism. Perhaps fascism or communism? But I’m pretty sure all of them can be.

        I think the internet tends to bring these types out of the woodwork, gives them a home and megaphone, and feeds and nourishes them.

        Hanging out here has been something of an adjustment period for me wrt to libertarianism since up to that point probably 95%+ of the self-identified libertarians I’d run across were pretty extreme. Full-throated anarchists, self-satisfied Austrian types, tenth amendment fetishists, etc. After reading some of your comments I came to the conclusion that you were a liberaltarian after the fashion of Will Wilkinson. When I offered up that opinion you rejected it, which of course is your right, but you seemed genuinely offended at the notion of being associated at all with liberals, which I was sort of taken aback by since I meant it as a complement, a recognition of a spirit of thoughtful moderation. I try to approach my liberalism the same way. Be skeptical of claims, particularly ones I’m predisposed to accept, look for the truth(s) in the opposing positions, etc. It’s a lot more work and it often leaves you in a place of uncertainty, but it at least has the virtue of intellectual honesty.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        I don’t know that any particular -ism necessarily leads to that kind of extremism.
        Agreed. Just the “ism” itself, combined with being off-the-beaten-path, is a bit of a warning signal. Same is true for libertarianism, of course.

        I think the internet tends to bring these types out of the woodwork, gives them a home and megaphone, and feeds and nourishes them.
        Isn’t that one of the foundations of Tod’s “ideology is the enemy” series? Quit trying to steal his thunder. 😉

        since up to that point probably 95%+ of the self-identified libertarians I’d run across were pretty extreme.
        I hate those monkeyfishers.

        After reading some of your comments I came to the conclusion that you were a liberaltarian after the fashion of Will Wilkinson. When I offered up that opinion you rejected it, which of course is your right, but you seemed genuinely offended at the notion of being associated at all with liberals, which I was sort of taken aback by since I meant it as a complement, a recognition of a spirit of thoughtful moderation.
        I just think that while there’s important overlap, there’s some deep fundamental differences. That said, I wish libertarians as a group would work harder on establishing working relationships with liberals and severing them with so-cons. (We at least seem to be distancing ourselves from neo-cons, so perhaps that’s a start.)

        I try to approach my liberalism the same way. Be skeptical of claims, particularly ones I’m predisposed to accept, look for the truth(s) in the opposing positions, etc. It’s a lot more work and it often leaves you in a place of uncertainty, but it at least has the virtue of intellectual honesty.
        A hearty amen to that, brother.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        I try to approach my liberalism the same way. Be skeptical of claims, particularly ones I’m predisposed to accept, look for the truth(s) in the opposing positions, etc. It’s a lot more work and it often leaves you in a place of uncertainty, but it at least has the virtue of intellectual honesty.

        Speaking for myself, I have a tendency to adopt a position, and then see all the faults in it.* If I really wanted to learn arguments against libertarianism, I’d have to convert to libertarianism first. But being a liberal, all I can do is see the arguments against liberalism.

        I’m not going to insist that this is a healthy way to approach things….it is indeed a variety of scholarly immaturity, a way to hedge bets, and a way to avoid taking responsibility for my positions. In its own way–again, speaking only for myself–it can potentially be intellectually dishonest. It’s also doesn’t excuse me from the charge of being an ideologue.

        *This habit drove my dissertation advisors nuts because I overqualified almost every argument so as to seem to be arguing against what I was arguing for. That’s probably one reason my dissertation was 600+ pages and not, say, 300 pages (as it should’ve been).Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Rod
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      says:

      The inherent weakness of social animals lies in their means of comparison; from the pygmy in the Bronx Zoo to the Red Scare.
      We really have no clue what we’re all about.
      The one thing that’s certain: Our ideas of norms will be significantly different at a later point in history.

      Self-awareness can be a real drag.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Rod
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      says:

      @rod

      If I were to add anything, it would be to note that like so many things, it’s incredibly easy to spot in someone else and incredibly hard to recognize in yourself.

      To riff off this point a bit, I also wonder, given the discussion in this thread above about “assimilation” vs. “accommodation” and about “ideologues” vs. (for lack of a better term) “pragmatists,” maybe some of us are ideologues in some ways, and not ideologues in others.

      Here’s an example. A friend of mine used to manage restaurants. He told me about one place he used to manage in which a small group of his employees were Young Earth Creationists. As YCE’rs, they had certain blinders on about what most of us would consider the truth or about evidence. (I’m sure you’re familiar enough with the arguments that I don’t have to reprise them here.)

      What’s my point? The YCE’rs in my friends example obviously were good enough workers. According to my friend they were great employees, always on time, always honest, and always diligent about doing a good job. So their ideology didn’t prevent them from adjusting to reality enough to be good workers. But in the realm of science or philosophy or religion, their ideology was more rigid.

      That might not be a great example. After all, their ideology may see a place for hard work. But in my experience at least, being a good service worker involves adapting to changing circumstances, even ones that challenge your belief.

      A lot of this goes to your final question,

      I like to think I try but would I even be able to know if I were failing?

      It seems that almost by definition, one might not necessarily know when one is failing. (“Almost,” of course. I tried to provide examples above in my discussion with NewDealer, and he did the same.)Report

  13. Avatar Jim Heffman
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    says:

    Ideology is religion without a god.

    Although, to quote Hoffer, religions can survive without belief in a god, but never without belief in a devil.Report

  14. Avatar Jonathan McLeod
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    says:

    Geez, where are all the MRAs?

    [Copies link, pops over to AV4M]Report

  15. Avatar Squeelookle
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    says:

    Your first mistake is engaging with MRAs…Report

  16. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
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    says:

    Regarding Ideology as the enemy, Richard Cohen’s response to the criticism leveled against him is a great example.

    “No, I was talking about Tea Partiers, et. al.”

    When you spend so much time vilifying a group, it’s so easy to just brush them all with a horrible coat.Report

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