Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Why can't liberals perceive threats? Or future loss?

If you are a traditionalist you are likely to wonder at the inability of liberals to perceive threats or to predict future loss. They often just don't see it. The liberal mind seems to be fixated on openness and change, which they assume will lead to progress.

Researchers have noticed this when studying the reactions of liberals and conservatives to negative stimuli. The liberals don't react as much as the conservatives do:
Are conservatives ‘hardwired’ to perceive threats?

Research with emotion-generating images suggest that liberals and conservatives are hardwired to see the world differently.

...“Conservatives are fond of saying that ‘liberals just don’t get it,’ and liberals are convinced that conservatives magnify threats"

And this:
the target article...summarizes a wide swath of literature showing that conservatives are more attuned to threats in their environments than liberals are.

And also this:
“That some people are more attuned to potential threats, more sensitive to sources of contagion, and more desirous of in-group protections is known intuitively and amply demonstrated by a large research literature,” and this variation in heightened negativity bias is significantly correlated with conservatism.

So it is recognised in the research that conservatives are better at recognising potential threats than are liberals. Therefore, liberals see us as magnifying threats whilst we see liberals as being clueless about the risks to one's own group from hostile or self-interested outsiders, or to a decline in the culture and institutions of society, or even to the longer term dissolution of the group itself.

Enter Stefan Kuzmany, a liberal journalist from Berlin. In October of last year he wrote an article for Der Spiegel, criticising the Alternative für Deutschland (Afd), a patriotic party:
No coalition is possible with the AfD. Because they live in a displaced reality.

It must be terrible to live in these conditions: foreign bands rule the big cities, sell drugs, grope children in public pools, stalk women on their nightly walks, subvert and destroy the local culture, and whoever says something against it has to fear state repression and loss of job. The politicians don't care about the concerns of the people, the bigwigs live high on the hog, while a controlled media deceives the masses and keeps things quiet until the project of the ultimate disenfranchisement and final eradication of the Germans through mass immigration is completed.

It is no wonder that people become angry on account of this very threatening situation, go onto the streets and feel called to do something themselves to help save the fatherland....

It seems - and here lies the problem with the "concerned citizens"... they apparently live in a different country than the majority of Germans. If you heard the talk of the AfD co-chairwoman Frauke Petry on the Day of German Unity you would think you had entered a bizarre parallel universe...

Germany must, says Petry, literally be reconquered: "We must give back pride and identity to the people. We must therefore turn back the spirit of the times (the Zeitgeist).

A minority of the losers of modernisation would therefore like to set back the clocks in Germany...

Best to pity them, as prisoners of their irrational horror image of the demise of the homeland, as prisoners of their fear.

I've quoted this at length because it shows an aspect of the liberal mindset. According to Stefan Kuzmany there is no real threat. It is all in the imagination, it is "a bizarre parallel universe". To recognise a threat is to have fear. Modernisation is, for him, necessarily a good thing, even if there are losers from it.

Equally, of course, I wonder at his take on the situation. If you add a million young Middle-Eastern men to Germany's population each year, then it just seems logical that the existing German population (those who are ethnically German) will form an ever declining part of the population, until the point is reached that they won't form a distinct people. They will no longer have a sense of living in a homeland of their own. Somehow the logic of this just cannot penetrate Stefan Kuzmany's liberal mind. He cannot perceive a real threat, a future loss.

Anyway, reality caught up with Stefan Kuzmany at Christmas, when a refugee drove a truck into a group of revellers in Berlin, killing twelve and injuring 56. How did Stefan Kuzmany respond? He explained his reaction as follows:
There must be something wrong with me. It's probably something with my head -- or my heart. The mass-circulation Bild newspaper, which acts as a barometer of German public sentiment, says on its front page that I should feel "Fear!" But I can feel no fear.

Anis Amri, the suspected attacker -- who is believed to have murdered a truck driver and 12 people at the Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, and injured many more on Monday night -- is still at large and is presumed to be armed. Even that triggers no emotions in me, except the sincere hope that he will soon be caught and locked up for the rest of his miserable days. But fear? Maybe I'd be afraid if I had the bad luck of running into him.

Perhaps I'm no longer normal. I think it's terrible that 12 people had to die at the Christmas market, each of them too early and each one a senseless death. But even though the attack took place in Berlin, the city where I have lived for almost 15 years, the horror still feels abstract to me, as if it had all happened in a faraway country. It would be different, of course, if it had happened to someone I know personally, a friend or a family member.

A few days before the attack, my wife and I were saying that we should stop by that Christmas market after work, with our son. I shudder when I think that we too could have been standing there when the truck slammed into the crowd. But I don't think about it for long. We weren't there. What's the point of imagining that we were? I have other things to do.

Is that cold? Maybe. But it's just the way it is.

This is what the Berlin terrorist has achieved. He has made me indifferent. He evokes no feelings in me...I have no room in my thoughts for him and his ilk.

...If someone wants to drive a truck into a crowd, there is nothing to stop him from finding a truck and a mass of people. The only thing we could do is shut everything down completely: no more Christmas markets, no more public events at all and we'd best all stay at home and lock our doors. The result of this is that we would have an increasingly closed society rather than the open one that we enjoy today.

Something isn't quite right with me...

Maybe I'll go out later and drink some Glühwein. Go ahead and call me crazy. But maybe it's just the world that has gone crazy.

Kuzmany refuses to feel fear. And so he feels indifference. He closes off his mind and emotions to a part of reality that he doesn't wish to recognise. It could have been him, his wife and his child who died in the terror attack. But he won't think about it. It's not to be thought about. The problem is not, he thinks, with his "open" society (open to all, including terrorists), but that the world has gone crazy. It is the world that has failed - reality hasn't lived up to his ideals.


  1. Almost everything we know about knowledge and information tells us that almost all change in systems is degradative. Computer scientists will confirm that even very small corruptions of computer programmes render them unworkable. A typo is not very likely to improve Shakespeare. I blame evolutionism for all this insane progressivism. Darwin developed the fantasy that mutations would lead to macro-evolution, believing that damage to DNA from radiation or toxins could contingently improve the information therein. This myth has been well and truly buried by mathematicians and real scientists. Yet the mindset of change of any sort being beneficial has spread into all forms of thinking. Everything is said to 'evolve' now, and always for the better. By itself, and effortlessly. It is, of course, a total reneging of responsibility.

    It will not end well. In biology, effectively all mutations are fatal. Society is likely to prove little different.

  2. You bring up many good points, Mark.

    One of the key aspects of this dilemma is that the liberal no longer identifies strongly with their own people, and thus the existential threat to the nation does not translate properly into the personal domain. And even then the notion of 'their own people' is highly problematic for them. They would prefer to muddy the waters for any such notion by employing a deconstruction of national and ethnic identity, poking holes in it wherever possible. Further immigration from foreign cultures makes this easier and easier to do. They will readily identify with their own flavour of liberalism (as a form of western identity), and it is this liberalism, with its non-negotiable principles of freedom and equality, that is meant to solve (undoubtedly!) all problems before it.

    Recently I was spectating a continuing argument between 'rational skeptics' and members of the so-called altright in a youtube chat section. One altright member posed a very important question to a liberal skeptic, along the lines of "assuming immigrants maintain their tribal loyalties to their co-ethnics, and assuming no will to integrate, how is society supposed to cope?" to which the immediate answer, paraphrased, was a terse "this is the wrong question!", further "the point is people OUGHT to hold liberal views of freedom and equality, and this is what defines the West. If you think along terms of race and ethnicity you are a racist and a collectivist and your views should be excluded (the accusation of collectivism is a favourite of this type, and acts a closure to any further argument).

    I have to yet to see a liberal answer this type of question appropriately. It is a huge blind spot for the liberal order. They simply ASSUME integration and harmony. Any resistance to their vision of the future is simply another "challenge" which tests "our values of freedom" as westerners. Merkel is a great proponent of this position, but it is just that; a position. There is no greater plan, no real vision of the future and what it holds.

    Some liberals fall back toward a more right-liberal approach, agreeing that mass immigration (of lower educated types) is problematic, therefore we should concentrate on skimming the cream of the crop in order to benefit the economy (technocratic market solution). However this doesn't answer our question. I'm inclined to believe most liberals have no answer for this. It's either too risky in terms of analysing their own beliefs, or it's taken as a given that immigrants will integrate with the liberal order and the "Western" character of the nation will be maintained.

    1. Excellent comment. Sometimes you hear liberals respond with the "politics of hope" - you just have to be hopeful that things will work out OK. I prefer to be hopeful, they say.

    2. Don't underestimate the simple explanations. Much of it is just the terrifying conformity of most people. Most people hold whatever political views are popular. If being liberal, LGBT-friendly, feminist, internationalist and pro-immigration is popular then most people will conform to those beliefs. If suddenly nationalist anti-immigrationist traditionalist beliefs became popular most people would adopt them.

      People hold the political views that the schools and the media tell them are popular.

      Another factor is the rise of Mickey Mouse academics, those who specialise in fields like sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc which are totally lacking in intellectual rigour. Such academics simply don't have the ability to think for themselves. They know just enough to know that absolute conformity is the way to get ahead in academia.

    3. dfordoom, I remember reading about some research where levels of conformity were tested for. The test subject was placed in a discussion group; those in the discussion group were instructed to all be in favour of something obviously false; and the idea was to see how many of the test subjects would go along with the false proposition. From memory it was something like 70%. I guess that's one reason why control of the media is so important and why orthodoxy amongst the political class has been so damaging for us. Once the bubble bursts, attitudes are likely to change fairly quickly.

  3. Liberals don't feel fear unless it relates to global warming. Then they fear the complete destruction of all life on planet Earth and we must stop using air conditioning, automobiles, jets, and all live in straw huts to prevent the end of the world. Maybe the liberal lack of fear on certain issues illustrates that they simple don't care about such issues (e.g. the loss of the German people).

  4. Liberals believe in Utopia. To achieve Utopia change is necessary. Since change is a necessary precondition for achieving Utopia therefore change must be a good thing. Where they go wrong is that they then assume that all change must therefore be good. If we just keep changing things somehow Utopia will appear.

  5. Traditional Europeans have a world view shaped by Truth and objective reality with its focus on the common good as a priority over the individual interest. Immigration is thus perceived as a threat to the common good of society, nation and culture.

    Liberals reject Truth and the result is a loss of objective reality which is replaced with falsehoods, deceptions, fantasies and subjective emotional states. The liberal world is one of individualism in which the common good is lost. The liberal will ultimately base his political beliefs and actions on the basis of what is in his own personal interest. In the majority of liberal people, that comes down to doing what is politically correct and expedient without risk to personal position. Highly individualistic, the liberal feels no pain or sorrow or responsibility for trauma inflicted on others. There are few heroes produced by liberal societies, just a collection of weak, degraded individualistic pleasure seekers who are driving their culture and nations into the abyss.

    1. That's a very good comment, thank you. I guess that if you are a liberal, and you don't believe that there is anything of objective value in the external reality you inhabit, but only in the act of choosing your own subjective values, then you will be less focused on how the external world is ordered, i.e. to penetrating to the truths of this external reality (except in a utilitarian/material sense via scientific research which most liberals won't be much involved in anyway). So what matters is your subjective preferences and their realisation and any sense of injustice in who gets to have their individual subjective preferences realised or not. The attitude is: these are my subjective preferences and it is my right to be supported by society in having them realised (and they would be except for oppressor group X, Y, Z who wishes to discriminate against me). The attitude is: this is how I want things, I have an equal right to have things my way (or a greater right if I believe I have been denied things in the past) and society should be set up so that I can have things my way. It's not a mindset that is focused on real world prudence.

  6. I always hear the left lambasting the right for being "ruled by fear," but at this point I'm starting to think that's all just an example of Vox Day's 3rd Rule of SJWs: They always project. The refugee crisis in Europe provides a great demonstration of this. When North African migrants in Cologne, Germany celebrated the 2015 New Year's Eve by committing sex attacks that resulted in over 1,000 criminal charges the left first chose to bury the news, Facebook blocked photos and posts documenting what had happened, and alternative news outlets and individuals who reported on the events were decried as racists. Nothing to see here, foreign immigrants are always a net benefit to a nation! #WELCOME REFUGEES!

    But in the same year, the same crowd of leftists thought nothing of rushing a poorly-sourced story charging an entire fraternity house with mass rape to the pages of Rolling Stone magazine. Too bad it proved to be a giant hoax. Meanwhile, a female student at another university in New York (Columbia) gained a massive amount of publicity -- including an audience with a U. S. Senator -- for turning her experience of "date rape" at the hands of her boyfriend into a piece of performance art by carrying her mattress around with her at all times. Except that turned out to be a hoax as well. The feminist celebrity Lena Dunham even tried to get in on the act by publishing a book in which she provided her own account of being a rape victim during college, only for it to be later revealed that -- surprise! -- she'd made up the whole thing. Maybe it would have been easier to predict the direction all these stories took knowing that actual reported sexual assaults at private colleges are usually only under half a dozen in a year (out of a student body of hundreds) and larger public universities report even fewer. And yet that still has't been enough to slow down the left when they scream that we have an "epidemic" of sexual assault against women on colleges that has created a "rape culture" that must be stopped immediately through government censure of men (mostly white, western, and upper-to-middle-class, of course).

    Claims that the political left doesn't operate on fear are bull$#!+; the left loves fear, and when that fear can be used to promote an end or persecute an enemy of their choosing they won't hesitate to spread it and stoke it at a moment's notice.

  7. I think liberals and conservatives would occupy, in theory, different sociological niches in society. The heightened alertness and vigilance of the latter is obviously suited to protective roles. Liberal strands of thought tend toward ideas and functions that require a protected environment, such as creative innovation, music, etc. These should be complimentary and not antagonistic but something has gone wrong.

    It might be that the Enlightenment and its legacy unleashed a productive role for liberals that never existed before. They have gone wild with their success and seem to think that conservative thinkers should have gone extinct by now. But only in a prosperous and safe-- and protected-- society can liberal ideology flourish and expand as it has. It seems doubtful that technology alone will protect a liberal society forever. When it comes to weapons and military necessary for defense liberals only hear crickets chirping, as if the only battleground is the social milieu.

  8. The Left is just as fearful and prone to threat-perception as the Right or conservatives. It is just that the Left fears those opposed to it within the same society (and sometimes the opposition to the Left emanating from foreign countries). In the US, we are now being instructed that we face a grave internal threat from racists, neo-Nazis, the "Alt Right," Christian theocrats (the people who don't want to bake cakes for gay weddings), etc., all of whom are supposedly supported by the newly demonized Russia (Obama was mocking Romney for identifying Russia as an enemy only four years ago). Or take a look at the demonization of the Israeli Right by the Israeli (Jewish) Left.

    The problem with the Left (and their pseudo-conservative corporate allies) is not that they can't perceive threats, but that they only threats that bother them are threats to their political agenda.

    1. They perceive threats, but not real world threats. They think that the average middle-class white male is a rapist belonging to a rape culture, but they show no interest in the events in Cologne. A Jewish homosexual liberal will think that the average white Christian is a mortal threat, but will actively support the Islamification of their society. As you say, they perceive threats to their ideological agenda (we must be an open society etc.) but they aren't attuned to real world harm to their own persons.

    2. Agree completely.

      IMHO, they do not really want an "open" or even sexually egalitarian/libertarian society in the long run. They seem to anticipate ultimately the Islamification of the West, over the next several generations. They have even started defending Muslim practices like female genital mutilation. The Left is a Western suicide cult, probably consciously at the highest levels (such as the outgoing president of the US and string-pullers like Soros). That is the only way it makes sense.

      The stupidity of those you call "right-liberals," who are not consciously suicidal, is that they aid and abet the most suicidal parts of the leftist agenda.

    3. IMHO, they do not really want an "open" or even sexually egalitarian/libertarian society in the long run. They seem to anticipate ultimately the Islamification of the West, over the next several generations.

      I don't buy that theory. Liberals think that they're going to be able to undermine and eventually destroy Islam the way they undermined and destroyed Christianity. Their apparent pro-Islam stance is fake - it's just a means to further weaken western society. They assume that Muslim immigrants will within a couple of generations become anti-Christian atheists.

      Their vision of the future is a totally atheist totally materialist totally consumerist society.

      They support Islam because they regard Christianity as a much bigger threat. In this respect they're completely deluded since Christianity is longer any threat at all to them but they have paranoid fantasies about a Christian resurgence - and they're determined that that will never be allowed to happen.

    4. You're probably right about the common run of leftists, who are typically thoughtless people who do not reflect on the long term implications of their political agenda.
      But I respectfully disagree about the higher intellectual reaches of the left. At that level, IMHO, it is the secularism and libertinism that is fake - these are just tools to bring down the West (including Christianity) so that it can be replaced with what they view as the more "authentic" culture of Islam. Contrary to your imputation of a desire to destroy Islam to the Left, they promote Islam's most chauvinistic and reactionary varieties, disdain actual "reform" Muslims (some do exist) and ex-Muslims (such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali), and disclaim any expectation that Muslims will assimilate to Western culture.

      Either way, the Left is clearly trying to destroy traditional Western culture and religion. On that we agree.

    5. But I respectfully disagree about the higher intellectual reaches of the left. At that level, IMHO, it is the secularism and libertinism that is fake

      The libertinism is definitely fake. It's a useful tool. Libertinism makes the proles and Outer Party members easy to control. The elites, the Inner Party members, don't want libertinism for themselves because they know how destructive it is.

  9. Opionions here about liberals are more articulate than others I’ve heard, but still miss a lot.

    Liberals perceive threats like anyone, but they also tend to think in the big picture. Yes, 9/11 was terrible, but nothing on that scale has happened since. There have been just as many mass shootings by random mentally ill people, and even Chistians as there have been by Muslims. Just because someone mentally ill kills then says they’ve done it in the name of ‘Allah’ doesn’t mean they are part of a jihadist group. They can say Allah or pink bunnies that speak to them in the shower, mental illness is mental illness.

    Some of us work in companies with IT staffs with many who are Muslim, and are nice people, and we honestly believe that only a miniscule minority of them actually are what would be considered radicalized. When I compare city liberal friends with conservative suburban friends, I notice my city liberal friends who actually do often live within blocks of areas where crime is reported somewhat frequently, still see no reason to own a gun. But don’t mistake them for naive, many are quite street smart, aware of their surroundings and much of why some don’t get messed with while taking the subway late at night or walking through certain neighborhoods is their ability to carry themselves as alert and not easy targets. Many liberals who’ve lived in cities for 10-20 years can say they’ve not been attacked. And those who have, chalk it up as something that sometimes happens and move on. Some suburban friends on the other hand, living in neighborhoods where you can leave your doors unlocked sleep with guns next to their beds. Statistics say a gun in the house is hundreds of times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. This doesn’t mean we believe in banning them or think you shouldn’t have them. We just expect discussions to be open based on fact rather than fear.

    But to expand on liberals perception of fear among conservatives. We know a healthy amount of fear keeps us safe, but an unhealthy amount can be deranging. There is nothing more menacing than a good person getting bullied or attacked for not belonging to a particular “tribe” and told the bullying or attack was justified because a small number of others that look like that person, or are in a similar demographic commit crimes. This is where we generally see acting out on overly amplified and misdirected fear as hostile and immoral.

    A population of fearful people, makes it easy for malicious people positioning themselves as leaders to swoop in, use their position for corrupt purposes knowing their fearful masses of followers will not question anything. This was a dynamic that allowed the totalitarian dictators of Europe in the 30’s and 40’s take over. As a society we can manage varying degrees of fear among a population rationally and pass legislations that most can at least tolerate. When the fear becomes deranged we run into deep division, and danger.