Dissonance, Hypocrisy, Irony

March 11, 2007

Posted by Jay Livingston

Cognitive dissonance — the phrase echoes from the past when I took courses in social psychology. It’s the idea that people find it uncomfortable to hold two conflicting “cognitions” and usually adjust one of them to make it fit.

The classic experiment asked people to do a very boring task — turning square pegs on a board for no apparent reason and with no apparent effect. Some people were paid a pittance, others were paid well. When they were asked to rate how interesting the task really was, the poorly paid volunteers rated it as more interesting than did the well-paid ones. Their cognition that the task was boring conflicted with the cognition that they’d done it for very little money. So they changed their view of the task and rated it as not so boring. Well-paid volunteers needed no such rethinking to justify their actions; they did it for the money.

Cognitive dissonance is really the close cousin of Hypocrisy — changing your perceptions to make them square with your larger ideas. Cognitive Dissonance went to grad school; Hypocrisy chose religion and politics. Here’s what I mean.

1. One of These Adulterers is Not Like the Other

The Rev. James Dobson, a moral crusader, hates Bill Clinton and his politics. (He also came out strongly against Spongebob — Bob was  part of the homosexual agenda — but that's another matter.) Dobson far prefers the conservatism of a Newt Gingrich. When Congressman Newt was rallying the troops to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, the good reverend was cheerleading from the pulpit. Now Newt has disclosed that at that very moment back in 1998, he himself was having an extramarital affair.

Rev. Dobson was appalled by Clinton’s behavior: “we can’t overlook his shameful sexual behavior in the Oval Office... Indeed, it is my belief that no man has ever done more to debase the presidency or to undermine our Constitution — and particularly the moral and biblical principles upon which it is based —  than has William Jefferson Clinton.”

How did Rev. Dobson react to Newt Gingrich’s infidelity? He invited Gingrich to be on his radio show and praised him as a national leader.

Jerry Falwell thought Clinton’s affair was not just immoral but bad for the morality of the country. “My view as a theologian is that the leadership of a nation reflects the moral condition of the nation itself, and Bill Clinton is a reflection of the moral climate of the nation.” As for Gingrich’s philandering, Falwell has forgiven him and invited him to be commencement speaker at Falwell’s Liberty University (or is it Libertine University?)

Apparently it’s Clinton’s lying, as opposed to Gingrich’s merely keeping his mouth shut, that makes Clinton’s sexual misdeed so malignant, while Gingrich’s adultery is benign

2. See No Evil
And then there’s the Washington sex scandal. The “Beltway Madam,” Susan Palfrey, ran a business which she styled, “high-end adult fantasy firm which offered legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior.” The prosecutors say she was running a prostitution service. Her defense? The women who worked for her had to sign a contract saying that they wouldn’t engage in illegal behavior.

This fig leaf wasn’t good enough for the prosecutors, who insist that she knew what the women were doing and encouraged them to do it.

But how about torture? Here’s President Bush talking about the administration’s program of “rendition” — sending prisoners to foreign countries to be tortured:

“We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured when we render a person back to their home country.” The Bush administration knows that those countries use torture, but it gets them to sign a statement, just like Madam Palfrey’s contract, saying that they won’t do anything illegal. These assurances, unlike Ms. Palfrey’s signed contracts, are sufficient for the Justice Department. I’m not sure what the difference is, but I’m sure cognitive dissonance is at work.

3. Patriots, Prostitutes, Privacy
Here's the final irony: This week Ms. Palfrey threatened to sell her phone records of 10,000 numbers dating back to 1993, a client list that probably included several powerful Washington people. No names, of course — Ms. Palfrey respects her clients' privacy — just numbers and preferred scenarios. That same week, the Justice Department announced that the FBI had been abusing the Patriot Act to illegally get phone records and other information on thousands of Americans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

[what I just saw on the web. - Tim]

Liberty University & Libertines

Speaking of evangelical scandals and Liberty University in the same breath, readers can Google “Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal” (line-by-line proof that THE Jerry Falwell’s 1981 “Fundamentalist Phenomenon” book was a huge plagiarism of George Dollar’s 1973 “History of Fundamentalism in America”!). Also Google “Thomas Ice (Bloopers).” Ice is a prof at LU whose “Ph.D” was “obtained” from a tiny Texas school that was fined by the state of Texas for illegally issuing degrees! When “Dr.” Ice reproduced in 1989 Margaret Macdonald’s short “pre-tribulation rapture” revelation of 1830 (Margaret originated this 180-year-old escapist endtime view which has made millionaires of Lindsey, LaHaye etc.!), he somehow left out 49 words when copying it - the same 49 words LaHaye left out in the same sections when a book of his reproduced it three years later! (LaHaye has been one of LU’s biggest donors.) Ice, BTW, also had the same distinctive copying errors Lindsey had when he had reproduced MM’s revelation in his 1983 book! Since Liberty University is one of the top promoters of the same fringe-British-originated pretrib rapture fantasy, interested readers can also Google “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” “Letter from Mrs. Billy Graham,” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” (documented plagiarism and other dishonesty since 1830 by some of the best known names in evangelicalism) - all uncovered by the author of the bestselling book “The Rapture Plot.” (Evangelicals should take some tranquilizers before reading the above!)