Sunday, July 25, 2010

Timothy Dalrymple's Theory of the Missing Motive

Timothy Dalrymple observes that h/s and university faculty are overwhelmingly on the left, and many students go through entire academic careers w/o hearing conservative ideas be addressed in any more than the most shallow, dismissive fashion. Major media is overwhelmingly on the left, and many Americans who consume major media go through their lives w/o hearing conservative takes on issues be addressed in any more than the most shallow and dismissive fashion. Many Americans simply do not understand what conservatives believe. Dalrymple: "Thus, the Theory of the Missing Motive applies," i.e. it becomes easy, when trying to understand conservative motivation, to mistakenly reach for shallow stereotypes: ignorant, greedy, bigoted, et al. Dalrymple concludes:

Even among educated liberals, few have more than a single-layered view of conservatism. They may know the conservative argument superficially, and they are armed with their own objections, but they are ignorant of how conservatives would respond to their objections. This is worse than knowing nothing at all, as it gives liberals the false impression that they have addressed and defeated conservatism. Yet they have only conquered a Potemkin village, where the people are thin and false.


Liberals consistently misinterpret what motivates conservatives because they really cannot see the world from the conservative perspective. Liberals cannot imagine that Tea Partiers are really motivated by concern for their country….

Thus, the Theory of the Missing Motive applies. Unable to see a rational and noble motive at the center of the Tea Party movement, liberals supply a darker and more convenient motive instead. Just as ancient cartographers wrote "there be dragons here" beyond the bounds of the world they knew, so liberals write "there be racism here" because the mind of the Tea Partier is undiscovered country in their map of the world. The Tea Party cannot be rationally and nobly motivated, the liberal believes, because the Tea Partiers are not rational and noble.

In other words, the problem is not that liberals dislike the principles promoted at Tea Party rallies. Most do not understand those principles. The problem is that liberals dislike the kind of people who go to Tea Party rallies.

Long before liberals rejected the placards, they rejected the people holding them.

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