Originally published February 6, 2015 on Huffington Post
Because I identify so strongly with liberal, progressive causes, I am especially distressed when the left engages in its own forms of denial and faulty reasoning. When this happens, I feel that we are no better than our right-wing counterparts whom we regard with scorn. We express nothing but unbridled contempt because we feel they are incapable of rational thought.
I admit that I feel nothing but disdain towards the right when it denies the science that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that global warming is not only a fact, but that humans are the greatest contributors to it. Naomi Klein’s excellent book This Changes Everything (Simon and Schuster, 2014) documents masterfully why conservatives are loath to accept the science behind global warming. The science challenges every aspect of their belief system, especially their economic self-interests.
For this reason, I found The Ethicist column in the Sunday, January 18, 2015, New York Times Magazine, equally disturbing. It contains a powerful example where the left is often equally reluctant to acknowledge scientific evidence when it goes against their own narrow self-interests.
The unidentified person who wrote to The Ethicist noted that he lives and works in Hollywood. As such, he has several friends who are screenwriters and politically progressive. His friends lambast conservatives for not accepting the science behind global warming. And yet, when it comes to accepting the effects of screen and TV violence on young children, his friends reject 35 years of social science research that shows unequivocally that screen and TV violence are harmful beyond any reasonable doubt (www.apa.org/research).
Having lived in LA for many years, I repeatedly heard the rationalizations of the movie and TV industry. They never tired of pointing out that the research does not establish precise causal relationships between the exposure of children to simulated violence and their heightened aggressiveness. The research only shows that there are correlations between the number of hours young children are exposed to screen and TV violence and their resultant aggressive behavior. True enough, but the correlations are strong and persistent. Furthermore, since they watch TV more, young children from economically distressed households are even more susceptible to depictions of violence. While many factors are of course involved, there is no doubt that movie and TV violence are prime contributors to, but not the sole causes of, the heightened aggressive behavior of young children (www.apa.org/research).
If the effects weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable to find liberal Hollywood screenwriters and executives suddenly becoming so concerned about arcane matters of social science methodology when all they really care about is their freedom to do what they want! And, of course, the considerable monies involved. All of a sudden they are experts in research! Equally disturbing is that many of these same writers and executives are rightfully critical of the NRA when it comes to our out of control gun culture. And yet, they defend to the death their right to depict gun violence no matter what.
Of course, in the name of free speech, I defend the “rights” of artists to do what they feel is warranted dramatically. But because something is a right, is it always prudent to exercise it?
I found Chuck Klosterman’s, The Ethicist, responses to the young man who turned to him for ethical advice particularly feeble. Because one can’t predict how all parties (stakeholders) will react to a work of “art” doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t consider such reactions at all. The New York Times certainly did in its recent decision not to publish Charlie Hebdo’s depictions of Mohammed.
What especially rankled me was Klosterman’s justification for the depiction of violence. Apparently, if an artist’s motives are “pure,” then he or she shouldn’t be particularly disturbed how others will respond to it. This gives Hollywood a free ride to do anything it wants without any consideration of the public good.
No wonder why the right often views liberals as soft headed and feeble-minded. If we see their hypocrisy, then they see ours just as well.
I’ve long ago given up expecting conservatives to act and think in the public good. I am now wondering about liberals as well.