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A mindset is a difficult thing to change — but not for the reasons you think

Posted by Lissa on July 31, 2008

Neo-neocon wrote an intensely interesting account of how her mindset changed from a staunch Democrat liberal to a, well, neo-neocon.  She writes at length of how difficult it was to question all her assumptions, her frame of reference, and how she changed political parties.

I wish I had that much detail, and insight, of how I came around to my present mode of thinking.  I don’t.  I wish I’d kept a blog back in those days so that I could pull actual details, articles and websites that changed my worldview.  I don’t.  However, I’m going to try and explain it anyway.

Like Neo, I really believed in the left side of the political sphere as I grew up.  I have a very vivid memory of ranting in my diary about how “god-damned George Bush wanted to go to war the whole time, the false jade LIED to get elected and then just did what he wanted!”  Um, that was the first George Bush; I was ten.  Curses learned from company around me and “false jade” from The Chronicles of Narnia.  Shut up.

I truly believed in affirmative action.  Like all my friends, I made fun of Clarence Thomas and railed at his utter hypocrisy at wanting to ban a system that he freely used to get his current position.  “Like he’d even be on the Supreme Court if he wasn’t black, and NOW he says it’s wrong!”

I truly believed that Democrats cared about the poor, which is why they tried to help them, and that Republicans (and all conservatives) didn’t care about the poor, which is why they resisted helping them.  Rich white men ruled the United States, you could tell just by examining the Presidential rollcall and the Fortune 500 CEOs, Q.E.D.

So.  How did I get from there to here?  Truthfully, I’m damned if I know.  I think, like Neo, it started around the time of our war in Afghanistan.  I started having contradictory impulses — on the one hand, I *did* think our country had been attacked, and I sympathized with the need and desire to protect ourselves.  Also, the Taliban were hardly an endearing bunch.  But, on the other hand, one part of me darkly looked forward to the pounding that America would take, invading land that didn’t belong to her, being stupid enough to follow the Soviet Union’s footsteps, and wondering only whether we’d escape with the level of casualties that the USSR sustained, or if it would be worse.

Unlike Neo, I didn’t start checking blogs and alternative sources of news at that point.  I simply logged the inevitable defeat in my mind as a foregone conclusion and went about my business.  I continued doing so as Operation Iraqi Freedom came about and, instead of spending a weekend in France, I spent it sitting on a couch in London watching tanks roll towards Baghdad.

Again, Saddam Hussein was hardly an endearing opponent, so I didn’t feel any particular guilt about the invasion.  Also, due to copious reading of Tom Clancy growing up, I was generally admiring of and sympathetic to American soldiers.  I suppose at that point I was fifty-fifty; I wanted our soldiers to succeed, but I completely understood those who protested another imperialistic meddling foray by America-Who-Thinks-It-Runs-The-World.

So, when did it change?  I think it was late 2003 and early 2004, when I started reading blogs on a regular basis.  My father introduced me to Michelle Malkinand it was FASCINATING to see news and opinion presented in that way.  I didn’t agree with a lot of what she said — it went against everything I’d grown up believing — but, then again, she was a minority female, so I couldn’t dismiss her opinion out of hand.  I couldn’t stomach Daily Kos, but I tried to find left-hand blogs that would “cancel out” Michelle’s work.  I read The Moderate Voice, Think Progress and Oliver Willis, as well as my usual New York Times.

It didn’t work.  Perhaps I’d just picked the wrong left-wing blogs, but the writing just wasn’t as INTERESTING.  It couldn’t hold my attention.  I’d read them every day, but I’d race through the articles as quickly as I could before racing over to Michelle’s.  The left-leaning blogs were the vegetables I made myself eat before relishing the meat and dessert.

At this point I was severely uncomfortable.  As I’ve mentioned before and can’t emphasize enough, my family is very left-leaning.  (As I’ve also mentioned before, they are also intelligent, loving and caring, so think twice if you’re planning on dissing them in the comments.)  What if, God forbid, I became a conservative?  That would be unconscionable.  I’d gotten into enough passionate arguments over whether the United States had the *right* to invade Iraq; I could only imagine the difficulty it would create if I started advocating gun rights and the like.

I sent out a cry for help.  I emailed my liberal, politics-following friends (good, intelligent people all) and asked for assistance.  I explained that I was starting to lean toward the conservative side and asked for blogs, articles, arguments — anything that would help keep me firmly in the liberal camp.  I received back a few variations of “Bush is an idiot” and “Bush is a horse’s ass.”  Despite the lack of liberal counterbalance, I did vote (unenthusiastically) for John Kerry.  Yes, as Mike likes to tease me, I did vote for John Kerry before I was against him.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Around this time, I started backchecking how that Afghan war was going.  I’d followed it casually — I still do — without really analyzing details (a mile wide and an inch deep, remember?).  I was really shocked to realize, and remember, what I’d THOUGHT was going to happen in the invasion, versus what had actually happened . . . and that NO MEDIA HAD REPORTED THAT THEY GOT IT WRONG. 

I couldn’t believe it.  All through college, I thought I’d been very diligent and responsible in following the news — I read the New York Times as well as the Economist, and occasionally the Wall Street Journal.  Now I discovered that the media had darkly — almost spitefully — predicted the worst in Afghanistan, had gotten it wrong, and had not acknowledged that they got it wrong.  This, to me, was the real problem.  It’s understandable to make an incorrect prediction; we all know that hindsight is 20/20.  But you have to acknowledge that you got it wrong, or you lose credibility.  That’s a very basic rule for human interaction; why didn’t it apply to the media?

So I started looking for news sources that either got it right, or were willing to admit and analyze where they’d been right and where they’d been wrong.  I started reading more blogs that were honest, and unapologetic, about their conservative leanings.  Once I did that, I realized how the mainstream media also was unapologetic about its liberal leanings . . . without being honest about it.

It sounds extremely trite, folks, I know . . . but I felt betrayed.  I’d been diligent, and conscientious, about keeping myself informed about the world . . . only to find that the media had been filtering the world to show me only one side.  And with that, I dove headlong into the opposition.

To be continued . . .

P.S.  I’ve got one, maybe two more posts on the subject, then that should be it.  This is not set up to be a super-serious blog, so fret not.  I just want to record my journey so that *I* remember it, and then I’m going back to cats, food and fun.

UPDATE: Linked by ShoothouseBarbie, thanks!

UPDATE 2: Linked by Bookworm (and second-hand by Flopping Aces), thanks!  Also, Neo linked Part II.

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