Our Culture of Contempt and the Outrage Industrial Complex

jon bondy @jonbondy

Shaw's - Burlington, VT
570 Shelburne Rd

Sun, May 12, 2019 at 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

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This one comes from Peter: --- Arthur C. Brooks, a scholar of public policy and the president of the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times entitled “Our Culture of Contempt.” on.html Brooks writes, “People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people.” What is motive attribution asymmetry you ask? Motive attribution asymmetry is the assumption that your ideology is based in love, while your opponent’s is based in hate. He suggests “motive attribution asymmetry” may provide a reason for why America is so polarized. Brooks cites a 2014 article in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which “researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred—and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.” If Democrats perceive Republicans, and Republicans perceive Democrats, as evil and motivated by hatred and therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise, can we ever hope to become less polarized? Given that we all know how long the conflict between Palestinians and Israeli’s has been going on, history is not very encouraging. According to Brooks, “The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those we disagree with.” Let’s discuss contempt in the context of our current political polarization.