Monday, February 1, 2010

Satan has entered my sheepfold

I had two thought-blurbs bouncing around my head this morning, which were then joined to create a crazy theory that I'm posting here because, well, peer-review is a good thing.

My first thought -- prompted by Krugman's appearance on This Week, where he essentially told Roger Ailes, "your network makes shit up" -- was the phrase "facts have a well-known liberal bias." I'm not sure where I first heard this, as it sounds like an Onion headline, but I like it. Indeed, one hallmark of the more recent versions of populist conservatism, or whatever the hell you want to call the intersection of Fox News, Tea Parties, and Sarah Palin, is that "elites" with their "facts" can't be trusted. I hear these people call into radio stations a lot. There is no amount of evidence that can be marshaled to change an opinion, because there are no legitimate sources for such evidence. Indeed, several recent surveys have shown that Americans not only had no idea about what was actually in the health care bill but also had no idea how a bill actually gets passed into law. But that didn't stop them from having opinions about its politics and policy!

So I started thinking a bit more about this dichotomy I had set up: a good liberal like me is open-minded and while not slavishly loyal to authority, accepts "elitist opinions" like evolution and climate change and the incompatibility of deficit reduction and tax cuts. A nasty conservative, however, won't accept any thought that doesn't fall under the banner of "common sense" and has a very high threshold for cognitive dissonance. Somehow, this dichotomy led me back to Doug Ambrose's European History class, and the dichotomy between the Protestant Reformation (Faith Alone!) and the Catholic Counter-Reformation (Good Works needed!)

I don't want to push the parallel any further than this already-insular worldview can handle. But first, there are a helluva lot of Protestant evangelicals in the Fox/Tea/Palin nexus, while there are exactly zero on the liberal side of things. And just as Luther and Calvin didn't need no damn pope to tell them how to read the Bible, these evangelicals don't need no damn scientist to tell them about monkey-men or some crazy-fool economist to explain how government deficits stimulate demand during a recession. Faith alone is all they need to navigate the world and achieve salvation. The Catholics in this story, then, would be liberals. Works -- acts that god can see you doing to prove that you are worthy of salvation -- make a difference, and that sounds comparatively liberal to me.

P.S. the title of this post is from a letter Martin Luther wrote that I found on wikipedia.