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2021-02-09

Rescripting Facts

This article finally gave me a word to describe why it’s so hard, at least for me, to argue about politics with smart people who I disagree with: they are rescripting real facts.

In terms storytelling scholars use, Trump
“rescripted” the world to fit his themes. He took
elements of news articles, viral videos, other
tweets and whatever else he needed to build his
messages. He took storylines that were already in
the public sphere and placed new meaning on them
to fit his own tale.

As I listen to rightwingers (and some left ones), I know that something is off, the pieces don’t quite fit together, but I can’t say that any of their facts are wrong. They just see them differently.

It takes a lot of talking, a lot of experience, to see things differently.

Rescripting probably helps explain why arguing with facts tends to make others more certain of their conclusions: they just fold each new fact into their universe somewhere. It may take inventing a Jewish space laser to glue their facts together, but they will do it and happily continue in their delusion (IMNSHO).

A friend responses to what I wrote above

The National Academy of Sciences did studies that showed exposure to differing viewpoints and facts actually increased polarization, especially among the people who identified as Conservative. Being confronted with facts that caused their arguments to blow up and supported the Liberal positions resulted in them digging in their heals and becoming more extreme. So, Alternative Facts then need to be used to support their alternative reality. Liberals tended to have some knee jerk reaction to RWN News feeds, but it seems it was much less and didn’t last long before returning to their previous sense of balance.

Here is a link to just one of the PNAS studies on polarization.

My thoughts on his response

It seems to me that the world often becomes more confusing as we learn more about it. Perhaps it causes us to become more fearful and retreat to our safe mental spaces. 

Sometimes people present me with facts that I have a hard time integrating into the world I want to believe.  This often happens with people to the left” of me, people whom I like.  The clearest example in my mind is when I returned from the Peace Corps in Tunisia, where I occasionally surprised myself by defending the US more than I would have earlier.   People would tell me that we were doing terrible things in Vietnam.  I didn’t want to believe it: it was confusing and destressing and so different from what I thought our country was.  At least I didn’t become more polarized although I did end up believing them. I won’t bother explaining how I think that happened.


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