I was thinking about politics the other day, and realized something. Everyone has heard, probably several times, the following sentence or an equivalent.
“There are idiots on both sides”
Some of you, including me, probably said it at some point too. It seems obvious. No matter what kind of political views you hold, there’s probably some moron somewhere who agrees with you. But there’s one thing I noticed. I, personally, have never heard anything along the lines of “There are geniuses on both sides”. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that there are smart people on both sides. I think that’s important.
Of course, I might be wrong. That’s why I asked a couple people before writing this. Out of the seven random people in my life that I asked, none remembered ever hearing such a thing. That’s deeply unscientific, and purely anecdotal, but considering that all seven of them had heard the other saying dozens of times, I think there must be something here.
The question is, why is it like that?
After thinking about it for a little while, I have an hypothesis. In everyday life, people take sides. As Scott Adams said in a recent interview, if people were truly rational, we wouldn’t be split almost evenly on nearly every political issue. The more you try to learn about anything political, the more you will end up believing you are right in your opinion about it, no matter what the evidence actually says, most of the time. This means that cognitive dissonance literally prevents you from changing your mind in most cases.
So what happens when somebody on your side says some crazy stuff that is obviously untrue? If you support Trump, then a Trump fan says we should deport all mexicans and blacks and muslims, how do you react? If you support Hillary, then a Hillary fan calls for someone to assassinate Donald Trump ASAP, how do you react? Well, it’s a given that there are idiots on the other side, since they are on the wrong side and are wrong about most topics. So now when a person that is literally a living embodiment of everything you said was a strawman of your side shows up, you accept that there are idiots on both sides.
Now considering that you, personally, are a smart person. You’re right about mostly everything, and you have solutions for most of the world’s problem. You’re pretty close to what people would call a genius. That’s at least one on your side. Everyone you talk to on the other side ends up being a stubborn person who won’t listen to the truth you are holding, and are almost dogmatist about it, they certainly can’t be a genius. They won’t even listen to reason! Most people have literally never met a person they would see as smart on the other side, since their definition of smart usually includes not being on the wrong side.
Also, most people think they are at least a little bit smart. At least average I’d say. I have never met someone who thought they had lower than average intelligence. Now smart usually requires you to have above average intelligence. If someone is smarter than you, and they think you are wrong about pretty much everything political, odds are that they are right. Since you can’t possibly be wrong, again, cognitive dissonance whispers to you that this person is, in fact, not smarter than you. I think that’s why, even on a subconscious level, people don’t want to say that there are geniuses or smart people on both sides of most issues. That would imply that they have reasonable odds of being wrong.
And nobody wants to be wrong.
Am I right?