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Cognitive Dissonance

"A man with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point."
Leon Festinger, When Prophecy Fails

From the Wikipedia entry on cognitive dissonance:
"some people who feel dissonance seek information that will reduce dissonance and avoid information that will increase dissonance. People who are involuntarily exposed to information that increases dissonance are likely to discount that information, either by ignoring it, misinterpreting it, or denying it."

Thanks to the Drudge Report for reminding me that excitable Republicans at the Wall Street Journal and National Review expected some sort of huge Iranian military attack today... possibly even one worth preempting.

I read the Festinger quote in a pretty good article (only in print edition) about folks who expect the world to end because of oil problems, but it really reminded me of the fuckwits who run our foriegn policy, whose instinct at the occasion of every failure is to double down. (Like the Millerites, who, when rapture didn't occur as foretold in 1843, became even more evangelical about an 1844 end-of-the-world, later known as the Great Dissapointment.)

Passed along without comment: George Bush says "We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here" and "we’re not leaving so long as I’m the president."


At 8:02 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

It's obviously not your job to be forced to take seriously threats of a distasterous attack from a fanatical dictatorship.

The Aug.22 date was a bit ridiculous, but to continue your analogy, a lack of rapture on a particular date does not disprove God's existence.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Miguel said...

Um, if God was in the realm of proof, then the faithful would have to invent something else to have faith in. Duh.

The point was that people who act on their paranoid fantasies don't come to their senses in the face of counter-evidence, be it a failed rapture or a failure of occupation troops to be greeted with flowers and sexy whiskey democracy. Quite the contrary, these irrational actors tend to recommit to a stronger, weirder version of the initial bizzare concept.

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Paul Boyer said...

Excellent point Miguel. As I keep telling you, you really must read "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer addresses that very issue, he points to records where the leaders of these apocalyptic groups (Mormons and various others) blame their followers for the failure of the rapture to materialize. They are in many cases blamed for being impious, thereby giving these leaders more control over their followers

As we see it in todays context the failure of a terrorist attack to materialize can be viewed in many different ways. And the way it is viewed often reveals much about the beholder.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

Can I borrow it if I stop by today or tomorrow?

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

There has been little counter-evidence showing iran is uninterested in acquiring nuclear weapons and uninterested in using them on our allies.

That is what I was commenting about.

What weirder version re:Iran are folks clinging too?

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

The preemptive war is as dumb as nails. As a casual observer, I suspect my own country, where I ostensibly have some say in government, is planning an unprovoked attack on Iran, thanks to the idea that a fantastical "disasterous attack" may be forthcoming, and that the possibility of an undesirable future is enough to act violently now. That's the weird belief, and I think maniacs like Dick Cheney still hold to it in spite of the carnage they've caused in Iraq.

I don't think Iran is interested in doing more than showboating and credibly preventing invasions from neighbors, in fact I believe if they acquired nukes, the government would work overtime to insure that no actors detonated nuclear weapons in Israel or the US, in order to prevent the wholesale destruction of Persia. I'm aware of a common offensive counterargument that because of their religion, Iranians cannot be treated as rational actors in an M.A.D. situation, but I don't accept it.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

"Iranians cannot be treated as rational actors in an M.A.D. situation, but I don't accept it."

Why not?

I asked this before: why don't you take Iran at face value? What little magic cricket do you have that's telling you what they _really_ think.

Also, not all aggressive actions need to be a full scale invasion. Bombing oil terminals, for example, would hurt the government but not the people economically, and would kill very few people.

It would push us closer to alternative energy too :-P

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

I think that the advocate of aggressive action (you) is the one who needs to be concerned about whether she or he is in cricketville. If Iran chooses to act out a destructive fantasy, their enemies are ready and able to destroy the country. In the meantime, fantasyland deciding to act now before it's too late strikes me as pathetically wimpy

FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?
CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We'll be in the pub, flipping you off. I'm slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I'm sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.
US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike ... NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

"If Iran chooses to act out a destructive fantasy, their enemies are ready and able to destroy the country."

Perhaps you aren't too familiar with nuclear war. This is the way it works: hundreds of thousands of people on all sides die. A nuclear attack and the resultant counter attack are worth preemptive action.

A conventional attack to prevent an unconventional attack is one of those ounce of prevention pound of cure kinda things.

Also, it's pretty naive to think they won't act in fear of a counter attack.

Note that in this entire discussion your views on Iran's intent is based on a thought experiment of rational actors. You ignore their current aggressive actions in Iraq and Lebanon along with their clear and repeated statement of intentions.

I'm sorry you feel we're being wimpy for paying attention.

It's obviously not your job to be forced to take seriously threats of a distasterous attack from a fanatical dictatorship.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

I called our foriegn policy team fuckwits for a reason; they've done nothing but strengthen Iran & al Qaeda's regional strength for years now. I'd rather see them do nothing than have a "job to be forced to take seriously" anything.


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