Persuading Progressives? It’s Possible

One thing that never ceases to surprise me is how little progressives understand the most basic tenets of conservative thought. The simple ideas that, for example, lowering taxes might increase government revenue, or that more gun ownership might decrease violent crime, or that raising the minimum wage might harm the working poor, are as remote to most progressive minds as the arcana of quantum physics.

I don’t wonder that progressives fail to see that the validity of such ideas; I wonder that they don’t even seem to be aware of their existence! Your typical progressive, who isn’t a pundit earning his bread by jousting with his peers on the Right, reacts to the most basic conservative notions in much the same way that a dog reacts to a vanishing trick; it’s as if some strange and incomprehensible event has occurred.

Part of my surprise is due to the extreme asymmetry here; they may have no idea what we think, but we sure know exactly what they do. We can’t help but know; it comes screaming at us from virtually every TV show, movie, news source, editorial column, and, indeed, from almost every artifact capable of communicating a message ever devised by man.

I don’t even get annoyed anymore when my computer’s login screen alerts me to the disproportionately fewer number of women studying in the STEM fields. And, if Google went a few days without presenting me with a politically correct linking photo, I would worry that something catastrophic was happening and wonder if I should visit the The Blaze or Infowars to purchase survival food before the grid goes down.

The progressive lessons I receive from ordinary household products often even conform to regular patterns. In February, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to be lectured on white privilege by a box of breakfast cereal; in March, I wouldn’t bat an eye if a carton of kitty litter scolded me for earning more than equally qualified women.

Tell Compelling First-Person Stories
As conservatives, we are stuck inside their bubble; but they get to live completely outside of ours. The resulting asymmetry in understanding one’s opponents is deepened by the oft-remarked upon tendency to grow conservative with age.

As Winston Churchill, who was not subject to this phenomenon, did not in fact say, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” But the United Kingdom’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, whose appearance on a cereal box in March would surprise me greatly, may or may not have explained the tendency toward rightward drift: “The facts of life are conservative.” But George Orwell did indeed say, that the “reactionary view of life tends to be justified by events.” Likewise, Irving Kristol really did define a neo-conservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” (Perhaps showing that some need an additional mugging or two to get the full drift.)

Reality’s oft-remarked upon tendency to make political conversion unidirectional gives us a second advantage over our political adversaries. Not only do we all know exactly what they think; some of us, like David Horowitz, also know exactly how they plot and scheme, how much their leaders hate us, and how far they are willing to go to win ideological wars. Horowitz is tireless in reminding conservatives how ruthless our opponents are and in prodding us toward the unpleasant but necessary duty to be equally ruthless or lose all we hold dear.

But the rightward tendency of most political journeys has given us a third advantage: compelling first-person stories, that lay bare the hypocritical and destructive self-indulgence of progressivism that caused their authors to abandon it. Repentant communist spy Whitaker Chambers’ haunting 1952 memoir Witness and confrontational playwright David Mamet’s 2011 The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture are two famous examples of the genre. But, unfortunately, neither is well-suited to induce an epiphany in today’s run-of-the-mill progressive mind.

In his introduction to Witness, the late and great conservative journalist Robert Novak credited the book with changing “my world view, my philosophical perceptions, and, without exaggeration, my life.” But Novak was unique even when he first encountered the book in 1953. Though Witness was a nonfiction bestseller in 1952, even then a typical American would have had trouble getting through Chambers’ almost 800 pages. And nowadays, when it’s impossible to imagine a literary and philosophical heavyweight like Chambers writing for Time, only a remarkably erudite person who is already halfway along in ridding himself of progressive delusions is likely to undergo any ideological shift from reading Witness.

Moreover, much of what makes Witness compelling—Chambers’ vivid and pessimistic portrayal of Communism’s destructive and seductive power—likely wouldn’t resonate with today’s readers. The book, while an essential read for anyone seriously interested in conservative thought, is very much a product of its idiosyncratic author and his times. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. summed both up nicely:

In a characteristically apocalyptic mood, Chambers saw the final conflict as “between the two great camps of men—those who reject and those who worship God,” . . . As he had told his wife when he broke with the [Communist] party, “I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side.”

And, Mamet’s recent book, though only around 250 pages and written in a much more colloquial voice, might even be less suited to help your progressive friends see reason. Like his plays, the book is humorous but hughly confrontational. In the 2008 Village Voice essay from which the book grew, Mamet writes, “[My wife and I] were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up.” A great line if your already hostile to progressive thought. But, if not, like his book, it will only make you angry and, hence, strengthen the grip of your delusions.

Old Essay, New Audience
But, if you’re looking for something to give a family member or friend to help them clearly see the self-glorifying fantasies at the foundation of progressive thought, I have just the thing for you: a 2014 essay published originally at
 American Thinker by Danusha V. Goska that is just now going viral on Facebook, featuring the quotidian title “Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist.” And, Goska says, it’s “not a rigorous comparison of theories,” for which, we should be thankful. An author ascribing to theoretical rigor couldn’t completely nail everything that’s wrong with the contemporary left in a naturally and compelling voice.

Neither Chambers’ gloomy erudition nor Mamet’s humorous belligerence is well suited to help the people in your lives see the hypocrisy of progressive thought. But Goska’s “idiosyncratic, impressionistic, and intuitive” story of an affirmative action hire leading “a training session for professors on a college campus,” definitely is:

Prof. X went on to say that he was wary of accepting a position on this lowly commuter campus, with its working-class student body. The disconnect between leftists’ announced value of championing the poor and the leftist practice of expressing snobbery for them stung me. Already vulnerable students would be taught by a professor who regarded association with them as a burden, a failure, and a stigma . . . Professor X projected a series of photographs onto a large screen. In one, commuters in business suits, carrying briefcases, mounted a flight of stairs. This photo was an act of microaggression. After all, Professor X reminded us, handicapped people can’t climb stairs.

Likewise, for her unadorned account of the left’s “selective outrage”:

I was an active leftist for decades. I never witnessed significant leftist outrage over clitoredectomy, child marriage, honor killing, sharia-inspired rape laws, stoning, or acid attacks. Nothing. Zip. Crickets. I’m not saying that that outrage does not exist. I’m saying I never saw it.

The left’s selective outrage convinced me that much canonical, left-wing feminism is not so much support for women, as it is a protest against Western, heterosexual men. It’s an “I hate” phenomenon, rather than an “I love” phenomenon.”

And, Gorska isn’t writing from the exotic distance of a former communist spy or a famous playwright. Her activism will earn her at least a little begrudging respect from many on the Left. She did things that might have tempted any typical college student. And her matter-of-fact colloquial voice sounds like that of a typical college student. So, her stories demolish progressive fantasies in a way that more self-consciously literary authors can’t. Here’s her account of her time in the Peace Corps versus her time at a religious charity:

We focused so hard on our good intentions. Before our deployment overseas, Peace Corps vetted us for our idealism and “tolerance,” not for our competence or accomplishments. We all wanted to save the world. What depressingly little we did accomplish was often erased with the next drought, landslide, or insurrection.

Peace Corps did not focus on the “small beginnings” necessary to accomplish its grandiose goals. Schools rarely ran, girls and low caste children did not attend, and widespread corruption guaranteed that all students received passing grades. Those students who did learn had no jobs where they could apply their skills, and if they rose above their station, the hereditary big men would sabotage them. Thanks to cultural relativism, we were forbidden to object to rampant sexism or the caste system. “Only intolerant oppressors judge others’ cultures.”

I volunteered with the Sisters of Charity. For them, I pumped cold water from a well and washed lice out of homeless people’s clothing. The sisters did not want to save the world. Someone already had. The sisters focused on the small things, as their founder, Mother Teresa, advised, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.” Delousing homeless people’s clothing was one of my few concrete accomplishments. 

Conservative writers, like our progressive counterparts, mostly write for fellow true-believers. But, though such writing spreads information, creates unity, and strengthens morale, the political war for hearts and minds isn’t won by converting true believers. Mostly it’s about reaching young people whose beliefs are still malleable and older folks who aren’t too committed. And though the more committed will likely react to Gorska’s essay with confused anger, as Plato famously pointed out, such emotion is a necessary first step in escaping deeply held delusions.

Confrontation Can Be Counterproductive
So, my conservative friend, if you have a son or daughter, or are worried that some other young person will, or has already has, lost their way, give them Gorska’s story to read. And if you have any friends who aren’t fanatics, or any who are that you’re willing to force into the first necessarily angry steps outside of the cave of progressive fantasies, send her essay to them as well.

But remember what you’re trying to accomplish. Confrontation, though it has a function, is counterproductive in the war for hearts and minds. Don’t think of the people you send this to as enemies to be conquered for, that’s not what they are; they are relations, loved ones, and friends who need help. So, rather than writing a supercilious note about how wrong the essay shows they are, tell them that you came across something you thought was interesting and were wondering what they thought.

Conservatives have been unable to capitalize on our many advantages because, until recently, disseminating information required huge resources only available to large corporations. But now, thanks to the Internet, anyone of us can be a pundit, or a reporter, or a news distributer without leaving our chairs. Contrary to the self-serving propaganda spread by the mainstream media, the word “press” in the First Amendment referred to the 18th century technology for creating documents, the printing press, not, as it does nowadays, to the huge corporations who eventually controlled them. But the technology for disseminating information has undergone a miraculous change; so, we are, nowadays, all members of the press. And it’s only by taking our new responsibilities seriously that we can win enough hearts and minds to reverse the tide of progressivism.

So, enough with this essay—turn to Gorska’s much more potentially important work; read it and spread it around in the least confrontational tone possible. If we all do our jobs as members of the press, it’s power will win many hearts and minds and force many more to begin to confront the delusions years of corporately controlled news and entertainment have instilled.



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28 responses to “Persuading Progressives? It’s Possible”

  1. “Persuading Progressives? It’s Possible”

    Well, that kind of assume all “progressives” are equally “progressive”, which they clearly are not, and never have been, and never will be.

    And that’s why Lying Crooked Hillary “lost”.

  2. Weak and behind the curve. Misses central role of rhetoric vs. dialectic, or any sense of different types of people one talks to.

    Also misses more advanced forms of persuasion than “read this person’s story!” (Response: – “Why? Answer: “Because it will make you question your beliefs.” -“So, you want me to do added work in order to make myself feel bad. How about no?”).

    Scott Adams happened during the 2016 election. So did Trump. So did lots of people who voted for Obama turning around and voting for Trump. Several people have now written whole books about how 2016 happened – Cernovich’s MAGA Mindset, Surber’s Trump the Media, Gingrich’s Understanding Trump. Cialdini has a famous book out, and just wrote “Pre-suasion” which is a huge force in shaping political belief.

    Did the author pay attention? Or, in fairness, did some editor slap a headline on the article that the piece itself is incapable of supporting? That certainly happens, and it wouldn’t be fair to rip Mr. Thau for that. But the fact that all of this recent, pivotal stuff is missing from the article’s framework is, itself, an important story. Because those ideas certainly aren’t missing from the Leftist sites I read (they have huge faults, but they’re different faults).

    Conservatives strike me more and more forcefully as political autists; there really is no nicer way to describe the phenomenon that is also complete.

    • Hi Joe,
      You’re a moron.
      1. You accuse me of contradicting research in a piece that was clearly intended to be humorous and then call me (by implication) an “autist.” I know nothing about the clinical definition of Autism and realize that “autist” is “you need to take your meds” for folks with a completely unjustified sense intellectual superiority — a canned insult for those with can’t say anything actually worth saying — but this seems to me to be a particularly egregious case of it’s not being apt. An autist would, I take it, belabor the research and not try to pass of a humorous piece on a subject he he’s too lazy to research.

      2. I EXPLICITLY say in the piece that confrontation doesn’t get you anywhere and advise people accordingly. I then advise people to avoid confrontation if short term persuasion is their goal but take into account some things that you are incapable of doing because you all you can do is bore people by endlessly repeating things you’ve read that you think will make you sound smart. Viz., I take into account that this stuff about persuasion in the monotonous spiel you’ve memorized is generally about getting people to change their minds in a relatively short space of time and doesn’t concern how to persuade people in the very long-term for who are too committed to make short-term persuasion feasible.

      3. Your whole focus in on the title of the essay because you’re someone who thinks he’s smart because he can do a little math and has managed to bullshit people into thinking he knows something (let me guess, consultant?) by going off on some speech he’s memorized based on a simple idea he’s become obsessed with. If you ever wonder, that’s why the people in your personal life find you so tiresome.

      4. Nothing about the title suggested this was going to be a resarch summary ala Scott Adams. The first paragraph should have alerted you that it clearly isn’t one. But you can’t expect a one track mind to deviate from its lone track. And, as I already pointed out, nothing I say contradicts any research. People who are actually as smart as you think you are give examples of the errors the adduce. But don’t try and ape them, you aren’t capable of it.
      4. The problem with conservatism has nothing to do with your canned closing comment. The problem is that it attracts people with very little intellectual acumen who like to seem smart by picking fights with their ideological friends. Like you, these people typically focus on one tiny point, misinterpret it, and then start on some entirely tangential speech that they have ready for any occasion. If you think you have a point about what ails conservatism, I suggest you try to write it up in an essay. Not because you’ll have any hope of producing something publishable that people will want to read. But, rather, so that you will have an outlet for the simple-minded mental obsessions, which you probably acquire from professional bullshitting, and, hence, won’t be so tedious to those unfortunate enough to have you in their personal lives.

      Thanks for the comment, Joe take care!
      The author

    • Your post makes no sense whatsoever given the title of my piece and its content. I wrote a long reply explaining why, but Disqus, as often happens to me when my replies get long, rejected it as spam. I am seeing if that can be fixed. In the meantime, I don’t expect you to accept that you’re talking nonsense (and, indeed, embarrassing yourself) without argument, and I don’t want to spend hours trying to re-write the other reply in the very likely vain hope that it won’t also get rejected. At this stage, I’m just stating my opinion for the record and not claiming that you have any reason to believe it.

      • I’m perfectly willing to show you some respect if you give me a reason to, Joe. The “clearing the driveway with a spoon” remark in your fifth sentence gave me a little hope; though it isn’t original, at least it’s not a totally hackneyed cliché. But, regarding content, it just repeats old allegations, which is foolish given that I’ve said my remarks will show you failed to understand me. And, even supposing overconfidence on my part, the repetition is looks bad.

        Though it would have been better to wait for my reply, isolating and attacking my final rhetorical flourish wasn’t a bad idea at all. Indeed, it’s the only strategy open to you and, that you saw this, was a good sign. But any hope restored is, sadly, completely exhausted by your other remarks.

        The purpose of my piece obviously wasn’t to persuade progressives, Joe. So, the concession in your third sentence, like your original comment, shows you didn’t understand what you were reading at all (if what you did can even be called that). It’s worse, since the bit of rhetoric you quote itself actually states the purpose of my piece (!); to get others to send Gorska’s out, not to convince progressives. Indeed, my piece contains remarks which make it completely obvious that I DON’T think it would convince progressives.

        And you really blow it in your fourth sentence. The title merely claims that convincing progressives is possible. It doesn’t refer to any of the points in my piece. So, “technically, [my] title is true” independently of any claims therein. And, as I say, the claim in your previous sentence isn’t even therein! As I suspected from your first comment, you are kind of dumb, Joe.

        And, I’m afraid your 2nd and 3rd sentences confirm my diagnosis: a scholastic metaphor for inadequacy – “D+” – that is so tired it dropped dead at its desk in the 70’s, followed by a phase – “it’s a start” that was hackneyed the first time it appeared on a silent movie screen almost a century ago.

        Aside from isolating and attacking my final rhetorical flourish, your new comment consists of: (1) repetition from the old one; (2). misunderstanding the clearly stated premise of my piece, which you yourself actually quote (!); (3). a failure to comprehend the technical meaning of my four-word title; and (4) a metaphor and phrase that were shopworn clichés in your grandmother’s day. I’m starting to feel bad for you, Joe.

        AG is working on getting me white-listed so I need no longer fear the Disqus propensity for false positives concerning spam. But, given your second comment and my response here, I’m not sure there’s any reason to post a reply to the first one. It’s kind of evident that your kind of dumb.

        Still, when I have both the time and the license to do as I wish, I will at least post something for the record about how you (a) totally misunderstood some not very complex (for others) English sentences and, (b) managed to run afoul of your very own criticism of me. Though this one is even worse, your first comment really was embarrassing.

        In the meantime, if you feel the need to respond, try to find an someone intelligent to go over what you write before posting. It should be clear to even you that you’re too stupid to be doing this by yourself.

        I not only feel badly for you, I feel badly for the people (if there are any) in your life. Your total unawareness of how dense you are, together with your propensity to pontificate, must make you very tiresome, indeed. At least now maybe you understand why people find you annoying and will take steps to be less so.

      • I’d like to give you some respect if only you’d give me a reason to, Joe. The “clearing the driveway with a spoon” remark gave me a little hope; though it isn’t at all original, at least it’s not a completely worn-out cliché. But, regarding content, it just repeats old allegations, which is foolish, given that I’ve said my remarks will show you failed to understand me. And, even supposing overconfidence on my part, the repetition makes it look like you don’t have any ammunition except the blanks you’ve already fired.

        Though it would have been better to wait for my reply, isolating my final closing rhetorical flourish from the build-up that makes it work, and then mocking it, wasn’t a bad idea at all. Indeed, it’s the only strategy open to you and, that you saw this, was a good sign. But even here you manage to screw up.

        You suggest that that the content of the quoted paragraph is unbelievable. But once stripped of the rhetorical flourishes that look over-the-top without the build-up, it merely says that, if her essay gets widely circulated some people will be convinced. I never said they’d be convinced immediately, though. So, yes, I believe that. And in my piece, I said that she would absolutely NOT convince firm Leftists and repeatedly warned against confrontation. So, the whole premise of your first piece that I ignored this point is false. There’s even a section heading in bold, for God’s sake, that tells people to avoid confrontation!

        And, though you stupidly miss my many caveats here, you yourself adopt a confrontational tone towards me, this site, and its editors, to convince us we are doing conservatism a disservice, while CRITISISING US for not knowing that confrontation is a bad strategy! Are you starting to see how embarrassing your first comment is, Joe? Or are you too dumb too even follow this short discussion?

        Also, the work on persuasion you like to drone on about, concerns short-term persuasion. It’ doesn’t at all concern itself with the very long-term process of changing deeply held ideologies. My discussion distinguishes these two quite different issues. But it was never meant to be a summary of research a la Scott Adams. Nor does the title suggest it is and the first paragraph would have made it clear to anyone with half a brain that it was a light non-technical humorous discussion of the topic. But, since you didn’t see any of the authors’ names that you memorize stuff from to bullshit people (without even knowing that’s what you’re doing), you couldn’t tell that everything I said was consistent with said authors.

        But don’t strain your weak mind too much trying to get the point here, there’s more.

        Returning to your second excursion beyond the very shallow depth in which your mind can survive unaddled: As I say, I admit that separating my rhetorical last paragraph from its build-up makes it seem over-the-top; so, doing so and mocking it, wasn’t a bad move. Hence, even though you botched the job, it gave me hope that maybe you aren’t totally stupid. Unfortunately, any hope restored is, sadly, completely exhausted by your other remarks.

        The purpose of my piece obviously wasn’t to persuade progressives, Joe. So, the concession that it might possibly do so, like your original comment, shows you didn’t understand what you were reading at all (if what you did can even be called “reading”). It’s worse, since the bit of rhetoric YOU QUOTE actually states the purpose of my piece (!); to get others to send Gorska’s out, not to convince progressives, you moron. Indeed, as already indicated, my piece contains many explicit caveats which make it completely obvious that I DON’T think it would convince progressives.

        You also blow it in your fourth sentence. The title of my piece merely claims that convincing progressives is possible. It doesn’t refer to any of the points in my piece whatsoever. So, “technically, [my] title is true” independently of any claims therein. And, as I say, the claim in your previous sentence isn’t even therein! So, as I suspected from your first comment, you’re really kind of stupid, Joe.

        And, I’m afraid your 2nd and 3rd sentences confirm my diagnosis: a scholastic metaphor for inadequacy – “D+” – that is so tired it dropped dead at its desk in the 70’s, followed by a phase – “it’s a start” that was probably hackneyed the first time it appeared on a silent movie screen.
        Aside from isolating and attacking my final rhetorical flourish (which you botched), your new comment consists of: (1) repetition of obviously misguided criticism from the old one; (2) misunderstanding the clearly stated premise of my piece, which you yourself actually quote (!); (3). a failure to comprehend the technical meaning of my four-word title (!); and (4) a metaphor and phrase that were shopworn clichés in our grandmothers’ day. I’m starting to feel badly for you, Joe. I’m sorry.

        If you feel the need to respond, try to find someone intelligent to go over what you write before posting. It should be clear to even your weak mind that you’re too stupid to be doing this by yourself – so stupid, that, as I say, I’m starting to feel badly for you.

        I also feel badly for any people who have the misfortune to regularly encounter you. I won’t call them your friends since I suspect even you know you don’t have any of those. Your evident denseness, together with your lack of self-awareness and your propensity to pontificate, must make you VERY tiresome to anyone forced to engage with you. I’m sure that, deep down, you sense how much you annoy people, and how most are relieved when you finally go away.

        At least now, maybe you understand why this is so and can take steps to be less annoying by changing your habits or, failing that, by keeping more to yourself and, hence, sparing others your endless canned remarks and repetitive and witless observations. So maybe some good will come out of this. Good luck with it, Joe, I wish you the best!

    • I replied to your response below, Joe. But, curiously, after surviving for a while, hours later it was rejected as spam like my reply to your initial comment. This would seem to indicate that someone flagged it as such. Being sure that you would be eager to see my remarks, I posted them on my blog in a comment to the post which links to this piece. I also posted your remarks in that reply, feeling certain that a man with your intellectual confidence would want the whole dialogue to be available for any one to see.

      I hope you won’t do me the discourtesy of replying here since it appears that someone is flagging my substantive replies to you as spam and, hence, that I won’t be able to respond. My blog’s address is in my author’s bio below the article. I would post it here, but I don’t want to risk doing anything that might get this rejected as spam.

      • “I don’t want to risk doing anything that might get this rejected as spam.”

        Now you’re tripping my BS detector. Try it. A direct URL would do fine here. I would indeed like to see it, and I’m sure others would as well.

      • Your dishonest on top of being stupid Joe. The last few lines of your reply here aren’t posted on my blog. You’re also intentionally commenting here knowing that I’m having trouble replying (again, I suspect but don’t know that your flagging me) and that few people will click the link. I know you’re too dumb to understand this (and anyone who doubts me, please go to and see for yourself) but for the record: directing traffic away from a site at which one publishes and to one’s blog is not something the site would like. They want the discussion to happen here, not somewhere else. I make sure to get approval in circumstances like this. As said earlier, they are trying to white-list me so this doesn’t happen. It didn’t work and the tech guys are looking into it. But tech guys are a busy lot, and I doubt this is a very high priority for them.

      • And, though I know you aren’t capable of understanding even very simple things, if I was willing to lie out of fear that you actually had cogent and relevant points to make, I would have not approved your comment on my blog and then have gone on on to claim that you never posted one. Instead, I approved it before I even looked at it and then replied.

      • And, again, you can’t read a simple English sentence. My request was that you NOT post here since I can’t respond.

      • I also just received an e-mail on my piece from someone who worked door-to-door on the Trump campaign in which he says, ” I so appreciate your upbeat tone, and your encouragement to fight the good fight, intelligently.”

        Again, Joe, even though the ideas you’re obsessed with might be good, you regurgitate them without the any understanding whatsoever. The point of all that stuff you’ve memorized in a vain attempt to appear intelligent is (insofar as it concerns us here) that there’s much more to expository political writing than merely presenting arguments and information. Another huge purpose (which, if you were capable of understanding simple English sentences you would have seen is explicitly mentioned in my piece) is morale building.

        The problem with conservatives isn’t what you claim it is in your (as always) totally cliched remark that we are “autists”. The problem is that it attracts morons who, consumed by a desire to be taken seriously as intellectuals, pick fights with their ideological brethren.

      • Thanks, I had a good laugh, Joe. You get repeatedly trashed for being unoriginal and for not offering anything of substance , and you respond with this. I don’t really think you’re stupid, you write too well for that to be true. (And I think you probably didn’t mark me as spam, though I’m less sure of that.) I just think you’re in the grips of a theory and have spent too much time conversing with your fellow prisoners. That can happen to anyone, it happened to me in grad school at Princeton. Again, if you’d made the same points without being insulting, we could have had a pleasant conversation, which might have benefited everyone.

        I’m going to give you a tip, make of it what you will. Most of this stuff you’re reading by Scott Adams, et. al. does have a point. When these guys try to explain President Trump’s win, they do *way* over-analyze things in order to tie their stuff to current events and, thus, seem important and sell books; but, nonetheless, as I say, a lot of what they say has a point.

        However, this is the kind of stuff where, if you need it explained to you, you’ll never be able to do it in your speech or writing (though you may have a limited ability to advise others how to do so). It’s like trying to learn how to box by reading a book. You’d be better off reading 19th century realist literature (Trollope and Tolstoy are excellent sources, Dickens and Dostoevsky, though they have their strengths, are not) and paying *very* close attention to their accounts of human psychology. Natural human sympathy makes this more like practicing boxing than reading a book about it if you pay close attention to this topic and don’t merely try to follow the plot.

        Anyway, no hard feelings. If you’re polite or quiet henceforth, I shall be the same.

      • Just to give an example of how far Joe’s intellectual abilities go, “the book” he says this piece is about in his first sentence isn’t a book; it’s a short informal article, as any reader with even the most modest mental capacities would know from just casually skimming my piece.

        He’s confused on this point because, as I say in my response on my blog, he’s memorized a bunch of books on persuasion and has a small one-track mind. So, he can’t understand anything that mentions the topic except in those terms. That’s also why he faults my article for not regurgitating the stuff he’s obsessed with when it clearly wasn’t about that stuff. He sees the word “persuasion” and goes on automatic pilot.

        In any event, since it appears that I can link to articles without being successfully flagged as spam, should anyone be interested in seeing the workings of a remarkably obtuse mind, follow along at:

  3. I’m not at all convinced people grow more conservative with age. Some seem to go the other direction. More importantly, generations seem to lean one way or the other. Baby boomers definitely seem to tilt leftward; “generation x” rightward. It looks like this left/right tendency may repeat with millennials & the generation coming up after them. (Which is not to say that all members of a generation are this, that or anything else – I think the tendency to grow more conservative over time may be a generation x thing.)

    OTOH there definitely is a tendency for people to ditch the really stupid left wing ideas as they grow older. Millennials are definitely wiser than they were when they first fell for Obama’s scam. But it’s not clear this is exclusively a left wing thing, or that it’s consistent over time. It seems to me that my father’s generation (the one before the baby boom) went the other way, when they all ditched their gray flannel suits for left wing “liberation”.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Sosumi. I definitely agree that some seem to go the other way, but in my experience it’s very few. Sounds like maybe our experiences differ.

      Tbh, I’m a little wary of making generalizations about generations. And I feel like the tendency to think they switch in ideology comes more from its sounding like a nice theory than its conforming to the facts. But, these are big subjects and you may very well be right.

      I think all I meant was what you say in your last paragraph. That is, I was identifying a tendency to grow conservative with a tendency to ditch really stupid left wing ideas.

      But I think you raise a very good point concerning your fathers generation. I do believe in the oft-quoted tendency for people to get less progressive with age. But I think that the general way the culture got progressive pushed that generation the other way.

      I guess the general idea is two-fold: (1) As Thatcher is quoted as saying: The facts of life are conservative. (2) As people get older they get better acquainted with the facts of life. Still, you do make me want to think about it more since, this may be one of those simple sounding things that sound true and makes for a good quote which, is in fact, false.

      Going back to my experience, I can name at least 15 or 20 people I know who went left to right with age. (Myself included.) And hardly any who went the other way. Is your experience really different than mine? Not suggesting it isn’t, just curious and asking.

      However this turns out, I appreciate your calling into question my casual observations. Those have a way of turning out wrong and it’s important to have someone say “Wait a minute. Is that really true?” Even if it is, it will be better understood why after answering.

      Let me know about which way the people you know tend to go if you get a chance.

      Take care!

    • Thanks again for the comment, Sosumi. It really made me realize how casually I was willing to assume that political conversions have a tendency to run rightward and to think about it more. I’m still inclined to think that they do, but that the culture’s unfortunate tendency to run leftwards pushes the other way a bit. But it’s a huge topic and I’m not saying that’s right. I think Sestamibi (in another comment here) is correct, and it would be a good topic for PhD dissertation if someone could do it without progressive bias. Take care!

  4. Some people go the other way (Michael Lind, David Brock), and some even turn right and then go back (Nathan Glazer, Glenn Loury, Ron Silver)!

    • Thanks for the examples Sestamibi. But do you think that it’s false that left-to-right is the usual direction? Not saying that that’s wrong. A number of other commentators appear to be skeptical and they’ve definitely made me less sure. Just wondering what your general opinion is.

      • I would concur that left-to-right is indeed a greater occurrence than the reverse, but I couldn’t say for sure. Perhaps a good subject for a Ph.D. dissertation.

        And just for full disclosure, that includes me as well–although my epiphany came years and years ago when I was young. I was working as a low-level clerical assistant at a political organization that styled itself as “non-partisan” but was really far to the left (and has become even more so today). So I’ve spent most of my life as a hardcore right-winger.

      • I’m a left-to-righter as well, Sestamibi. But my epiphany occurred much later, in my early thirties. In fact, I sort of felt bad about making fun of leftists for treating obvious ideas as if they were remarkable since I was once in that position myself.

        Good point about this being a great topic for a PhD thesis. Unfortunately, my guess is politics departments have so become shills for progressivism that something like this would have trouble seeing the light of day unless it supported the elite narrative. I knew it was bad, but I did a recent AG piece on this, and how bad the kind of stuff that passes as research is, as cynical as I was, shocked me. It makes me wonder if anything outside the progressive narrative is even possible in those places. If your interested, here’s a link:

      • I also think some people who move from Left to Right always had suspicions in the first place. I had a friend in grad school, now quite active in the Minnesota GOP, who once flattered me by saying that I was responsible for his conversion. I responded that it was his own skepticism that made him see the light.

        I also think that there’s also a “preference cascade” effect involved as well. Although my journey had already been substantially complete by the mid-70s, it was reinforced by the emergence of the neoconservatives of that era–people like me (NY Jews, CCNY grads)–just as I am embarrassed by the next generation (Bill Kristol, David Frum, David Brooks, et al.)

        To others similarly situated, the only advice I can give is click your heels three times and repeat “There’s no place like home. . . ” :-)

      • If someone in a psychology department did it, it could be done without bias. (Unless psych has radically deteriorated leftward since my time in academia). But I think it’s kind of specialized for psych and topics like this tend to get done in politics departments. But I may be wrong there.

  5. I think the persuadability of each ‘liberal’ ‘progressive’ depends on the motivation behind that individual’s political views. Surely some people can be reached by the process Mr Thau recommends; but in a large number of cases (students here spring to mind) their ‘liberalism’ – what a staggering misnomer that has become! – is due to the power of peer-pressure and Groupthink.

    Whole generations have been saturated by leftwing propaganda – in schools and the media – through a lengthy period in which conservatives have mostly fallen down on the job, sold the pass, by not fighting the cultural war. Especially guilty are the useless RINOs in Congress (= most Republican members of that body) and the Conservatism Inc. types. The latter now find a far louder voice for their Anti-Trump campaign than ever they used in any attempt to convert readers, viewers and listeners to conservative ideas over the decades gone by.

    In the case of the Mainstream Media, it is mostly career-oriented. A few institutions excepted, you cannot get a job in TV, radio, newspapers or magazines, nor hold onto it, let alone gain promotion at work, unless you sing at the top of your voice the hymns which the owners of those enterprises want broadcasting – namely commitment to mass immigration ‘justified’ by the lunatic doctrine of multiculturalism (‘all cultures are equally valid and all are benign’ [!!]) and ever more severely enforced by political correctness.

    The Big Money people, the Chamber of Commerce and Wall St make common cause with the Left at present because they both want a world resembling Brazil. Once that is achieved the Owner-Donors who currently own the Congress, the MSM and the Bureaucracy will find themselves ambushed, torn from their wealth, pushed out on the streets, and in many instances murdered, by the dark forces (jihadis or drug crime-lords) they have enabled. So will quite a number of the leaders of leftist opinion. After all, when the crime-masters emerge from the barrios to take over – or alternatively, the jihadis have secured their global Caliphate – those Dark Lords will not want two groups remaining in society who showed themselves able to turn their country upside down and inside out so thoroughly as to cede power to the totalitarian order they have inaugurated. The line of the New Autocrats to their billionaire/Chamber of Commerce/Political Class Enablers will be: ‘You engineered a slow and effective coup d’état which put us in control of the USA/The West/The World.- We don’t want you to do any reverse-engineering with all your proven money, shrillness and skill. So we are confiscating your wealth, your jobs, all other types of power-base and (in salient instances) off with your heads!’

    If the mood of society at present as a whole were to change drastically – if 80% of public opinion became not semi-inertly but virulently anti-Globalisation and the rest of it – then various interesting and amusing transformations would probably occur. Jim Acosta and his ilk would likely do a complete mental reset and become positively hidebound conservatives within the space of a week. They would transfer their pinhole-type squinting at the Universe to a different part of the political equation, while still wearing their regular horse-blinkers; the purpose of which is to stop them perceiving laterally anything which might engender doubts about the rantings they perform.

    Such types tend to follow the money in the sense of what makes their careers tick. Don’t forget what Glenn Thrush wrote in his email to John Podesta: ‘Because I have become a hack i will send u the whole section that pertains to u.’

    I was amazed to see him quizzing Stephen Miller aggrievedly at the White House press conference yesterday. I would have supposed that someone so discredited would months back have been driven out of the journalists’ profession – for all that that way of life has mainly become mere partisan propaganda-retailing – if only because he had so famously blown his last shred of cover and credibility.

    It was wrong of me to be astonished. Our age is now so VERY decadent and depraved that vileness is cheerfully tolerated.

    In his ‘Thoughts After Lambeth’ pamphlet of 1930 T S Eliot spoke prophetically about the whole tendency of the West. – ‘The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.’

    • Wonderful post Peter, thanks! I agree with it all and have nothing to add. Coincidentally, I had watched the Miller-Acosta exchange before reading your post. I thought Miller was fantastic, best person I’ve ever seen handle the press. The liberal author Brett Easton Ellis posted (on Twitter, IIRC) something like: “Why is it that I want to write a novel about Stephen Miller, but I have no interest in writing a novel about Acosta.” Miller made him look like an idiot. Believe it or not, I first heard Miller’s voice when he was in high school. When I was in LA, he was at Santa Monica high and was a frequent guest on Larry Elder’s radio show exposing how crazily left wing SMHS was.

  6. Read an article about your group in NYT and I do wish you Godspeed! I’d be very happy to engage in serious and thoughtful debate about the issues confronting us as the pace of technological change accelerates. I think that for our country to function we need two healthy parties, and that the current GOP is intellectually bankrupt and disinterested in governance or the compromise it requires.

    I’d love to see automation and its impacts on our economy and society explored as a topic. I have a background working on global trade and feel like that ship has already sailed. Automation is the next frontier that will cause mass displacement.

    At any rate, I’ll be tracking this group’s work.