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The Other Side is Always Better Organized – BCB #67
Also: Misinfo inoculation theory reconsidered, and Californians oppose cash reparations
Much like how both sides think they’re losing, assuming that the other side is more unified and better organized seems to be a symmetrical trope in conflict. In a recent public address, Tucker Carlson said that Blue, “to their great credit, are masters of organizing. They are willing to put aside their differences for the sake of achieving a common goal.”
This is notable because it’s the mirror image of a longstanding Blue complaint about Red: they are “more unified as a group of politically active people.”
This claim has sometimes been justified by saying that Blue is simply more diverse, so it’s intrinsically easier for Red to be more unified. New research supports another common argument: Red is more psychologically comfortable with hierarchy, and therefore with top-down leadership.
the main difference between the left and the right is whether people believe the world is inherently hierarchical. Conservatives, our work shows, tend to believe more strongly than liberals in a hierarchical world, which is essentially the view that the universe is a place where the lines between categories or concepts matter. …
People who score high in hierarchical world belief see the world as full of differences that matter because they usually reflect something real, inherent and significant.
Meanwhile, the Red claim is that Blue has long been better at grassroots political organizing, with an activist tradition going back through Saul Alinksy in the 60s and the socialists of the early 20th century.
We’re not really sure how to objectively evaluate which side in a conflict is more unified and capable of action. Anecdotes abound, but it’s not clear what kind of systemic analysis could settle this question. More interesting, perhaps, is what this dispute says about the psychology of conflict: the claim that the other side is more unified seems to be a fundamental feature of protracted conflict.
Psychological inoculation is a method to pre-emptively equip people with the tools to detect falsehoods; or to pre-bunk instead of debunk. A new study finds that while pre-bunking misinformation won’t stop a person from knowingly spreading misinformation, it does reduce the likelihood of unintentionally believing it.
Researchers have debated whether psychological inoculation even works—we've previously mentioned both its advocates and opponents. However, this new meta-analysis of 42 studies, involving 42,000 participants, finds that inoculation actually does enhance individuals' ability to assess the credibility of information and make them less likely to believe misinformation. This technique was especially effective with health misinformation. Yet the study didn't find a big change in people's likelihood of sharing misinformation they already knew wasn’t true.
Passive, content-based inoculation through video or text was more effective than interactive discussions, signaling that this could be a cheap and effective way to help people discern between true and false information online. This is good news, but in our polarized context the potential effects may be limited, because this approach works to help the misinformed, not the ideologically motivated.
This recent survey finds that the majority of California voters oppose plans for cash transfers to descendants of slaves, even though they may support other recommendations from the state’s Reparations Task Force, such as a formal apology.
Support for cash reparations is heavily split both by race and party. Among Black Americans, 76 percent are in support. In contrast, 25 percent of White Americans, 24 percent of Latino Americans, and 23 percent of Asian Americans support cash reparations. These numbers are consistent with the country-wide opinion on reparations.
Red generally acknowledges the negative legacy of slavery, but doesn't think individuals who were never involved should shoulder the burden for reparations, especially not taxpayers. Blue generally supports reparations, yet questions San Francisco’s cash transfer plan due to its narrow scope and potential financial infeasibility. A Washington Post column estimates it would cost the city $50 billion if 10,000 people qualified.
It’s possible that the economic effects of cash payments might be important and long lasting. But from the perspective of future conflict, would reparations actually help restore a sense of justice and fairness? In this sense, previous attempts at reparations in various contexts haven’t always worked.
Quote of the Week
There is no "getting even" for slavery — no check in the mail or redistribution of wealth organized by federal, state or city government could make our nation whole. And that’s not to say that therefore we should do nothing.