Psychology Today on Cinnamon Stillwell and The "9/11 Effect"
Several months ago, I took part in an interview with the magazine Psychology Today for an article on political transformation, particularly in the post-9/11 landscape. My inclusion was based on an SFGate.com article I'd written on the subject, "The Making of a 9/11 Republican" as well as the online discussion group I started for fellow former lefties, the 9/11 Neocons.
The Psychology Today article, titled "The Ideological Animal," is now published in the January/February 2007 issue. With the exception of the inaccurate term "pro-war rallies" to describe my experiences as a counter-protester at leftist rallies, I felt that I was treated quite fairly. As for the author's take on right vs. left traits and what makes one become a conservative, I'm not entirely sure he captured the phenomenon nor approached the subject with complete objectivity. But I'll let readers decide.
The first few paragraphs of the article (which features most of my story) can be read here, but online subscription or magazine purchase is required to read the entire article. For those who wish to do neither, I'm excerpting the relevant paragraphs below:
The Ideological Animal
We think our political stance is the product of reason, but we're easily manipulated and surprisingly malleable. Our essential political self is more a stew of childhood temperament, education, and fear of death. Call it the 9/11 effect.
By Jay Dixit
Cinnamon Stillwell never thought she'd be the founder of a political organization. She certainly never expected to start a group for conservatives, most of whom became conservatives on the same day—September 11, 2001. She organized the group, the 911 Neocons, as a haven for people like her — "former lefties" who did political 180s after 9/11.
Stillwell, now a conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, had been a liberal her whole life, writing off all Republicans as "ignorant, intolerant yahoos." Yet on 9/11, everything changed for her, as it did for so many. In the days after the attacks, the world seemed "topsy-turvy." On the political left, she wrote, "There was little sympathy for the victims," and it seemed to her that progressives were "consumed with hatred for this country" and had "extended their misguided sympathies to tyrants and terrorists."
Disgusted, she looked elsewhere. She found solace among conservative talk-show hosts and columnists. At first, she felt resonance with the right about the war on terror. But soon she found herself concurring about "smaller government, traditional societal structures, respect and reverence for life, the importance of family, personal responsibility, national unity over identity politics." She embraced gun rights for the first time, drawn to "the idea of self-preservation in perilous times." Her marriage broke up due in part to political differences. In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, she began going to pro-war rallies.
In 2005, she wrote a column called "The Making of a 9/11 Republican." Over the year that followed, she received thousands of e-mails from people who'd had similar experiences. There were so many of them that she decided to form a group. And so the 9/11 Neocons were born.
Cross-posted at Kesher Talk.