Psychology Today Prints Asher Abrams' Letter
Late last year, I was interviewed for a Psychology Today article on political ideology and transformation titled "The Ideological Animal," which appeared in the January/February issue.
While I felt that the article treated my story of post-9/11 left-to-right political transformation fairly, I disagreed strongly with the author, Jay Dixit's, take on what inspires such political shifts. In short, Dixit implied that they are motivated purely by "irrational fears," including a fear of death, and he cited several highly suspect and blogosphere-debunked studies to make his point. I blogged about my concerns here, as well as linking to the many other bloggers (and one Pajamas Media "Sanity Squad" podcast) that covered the subject here.
At the time, more than one letter to the editor was sent to Psychology Today by critics of the article and I was curious to see which, if any, would make it into the next issue. So when I picked up the March/April issue, I was pleased to see that Dreams Into Lightning blogger and friend, Asher Abrams', "Open Letter to Jay Dixit" had made into the magazine. It was the only one on the subject, but it pretty much said it all.
Letters to the editor don't seem to appear at the Psychology Today website, but the original letter can be read at Asher's blog. This is the part that really hits home for me:
...it looks as if you're trying very hard to find psychological, i.e. non-rational, explanations for cases where people adopt "conservative" political beliefs. There's no acknowledgment that such a political shift could come about as the result of a rational assessment of the relevant facts and arguments...Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself.
And instead of encouraging people to inform themselves on political issues while listening with an open mind to different points of view, your article prescribes the simple expedient of "reminding ourselves to think rationally", as if the fear itself, rather than its objective cause, were the real problem.
In fact, in an entire article devoted to what you call the "9/11 effect", there is not a single direct reference to the terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans. In this light, it's difficult for me to escape the conclusion that your article is ideologically driven.
Cross-posted at Kesher Talk.