Comment of the Day: Tracy Lightcap: Jacob Levy: I don’t think there’s anything—anything—on which I’ve gotten so much disbelief-that-becomes-near-anger as when I contradict the post-2014 Fox narrative about campus life...: "This is it, but I think the process is a bit more complicated. People who have made up their minds on a topic and committed themselves to it are still susceptible to arguments that work through repetition to undermine authority figures...

...The usual recommended course is to a) lay out the facts, as straightforwardly as you can and admitting where the argument is weak, b) show an authority figure pushing a line of thought that either completely or partially contradicts the facts (i.e. the argument the people in question believe), c) reiterate the original facts, pointing out where the authority figure is wrong, d) invite discussion. Or, to put it another way, conduct the argument like it would be in an active university classroom.

People who have made up their minds, particularly when they have a limited education, really dislike this. First, they don't like to see authority figures who support ideas they agree with attacked; it's an indirect attack on their judgment. Second, many of these folks like what the psychologists call "simple arguments"; i.e. an argument with 3 - 4 steps that reaches a conclusion, however illogically, they agree with. They tend to think that when people use more complicated arguments, particularly those that use evidence to buttress their points, are trying to fool them and disorient them from their beliefs (which is what they are). Problem = the folks who are making the arguments are often people who have studied the topics involved for most of their lives and who have both better knowledge and institutional prestige (most people respect colleges and college teachers) behind them.

The obvious answer is to assault the basis of the knowledge accumulated by colleges and universities. That way you can brush off or ignore the expertise that makes the repetitive arguments so effective; "Colleges don't admit all the relevant arguments! They are ignoring our legitimate concerns to undermine our opinions! They can be safely ignored and our own authorities can still be trusted!" Their evidence = "political correctness" and the dis-invitation of right wing speakers.

Well, to some extent they are right. Post-secondary institutions are discriminating about what they'll admit as legitimate argument and they often dismiss the simple arguments these people favor out of hand. Problem = they usually have good reason for doing so based on expertise and established methods of testing arguments. And that brings us back to the original problem. If you present evidence that, in fact, colleges and universities are generally the most open institutions in American and are willing to entertain a range of opinion found nowhere else in our public life, then you will almost invariably tick these people off.

Re-orienting how you think is hard and not many people like to do it. They should, but they don't...