The recent controversy in the United States over Chuck Hagel’s nomination by President Obama for Defense Secretary has given rise to the usual right-wing hysteria and obstructionism. Last week these conservatives seized upon a humorous note made by a New York newspaper columnist who facetiously suggested that Hagel had opined in Islamist radical newspapers, taking that columnist’s satirical quips as being factual.
This illustrated the problem with interpretation for all of us, conservative or liberal. We must remember to utilize the Shakespearean “pauser reason” when we hear or read something, recognizing that it is human nature to seize upon data that satisfies our agenda. Another example was Michelle “Deep Penetration” Bachman about a year ago when she sonorously intoned re the presence of sharia law in two United States communities, presenting the preposterous allegation as casual fact. Shortly thereafter someone pointed out that this was not true and that one of the cities had not existed in decades. Bachman had come across this juicy tidbit and must have had childish delight as she thought, “Oh, wait until I get to announce this!” Well, if she would have employed this “pauser reason”….recognizing that she was about to posit something that was very sensational…she could have had her handlers verify the report. But the information was just too much a “tasty morsel” and she had to pass it on, knowing that her paranoid base would go for it, much like pigs after slop.
But, I reiterate, “This childish naivety is not just a conservative problem. It is a human problem.” We always have our preconceptions and then seek information that confirms this bias, a phenomena known as “confirmation bias” or “epistemic closure.” Yes, even “LiteraryLew”, is susceptible and guilty of this human frailty…cursed be the thought! If we recognize this truth, it can humble us a bit and make us less apt to be too smug and arrogant about our “lofty” ideas and our “gospel” truth. Our ideas might have “lofty” qualities and our truth might have “gospel” qualities but probably not as much as we would like to think. Those “other guys”, that ubiquitous “them”, might just have validity in their perspective and have something to offer us.