In the back of my mind, I was thinking of JollyRoger‘s comments on Bush followers as worshippers and comparing it to my experiences with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone has blind spots, but Bush seems to have tapped into something that allows him to pre-empt the critical thinking abilities of some Americans in just the same way that JWs do. Of course, the dumbing-down processes of our culture may have created some that have little or nothing in the way of critical thinking skills to undermine. Still, even with Rove, and the PR machine, and the talking points, and all of it, it’s hard for me to understand how anyone could rally behind an administration that clearly works against their own interests and future thriving, not to mention our own country’s historical values. We know how to "read" commercials, so we are in some ways quite sophisticated. So, what gives?
Well, Timothy Campbell, the webmaster of the abovementioned site on JWs, has also written some interesting information on "Anti-Process" – one explanation for both blind follower syndrome (no matter what the "religion") and the kind of fruitless discussion that seems to occur even more often on the web than in person.
The Formal Explanation: Antiprocess is the preemptive recognition and marginalization of undesired information by the synergistic interplay of high-priority acquired mental defense mechanisms.
An Informal Explanation: People can very cleverly defend their beliefs without having to fully understand the arguments against them.
A Very Informal Explanation: They’re not being annoying on purpose.
Breaking it down:
… the preemptive recognition … means that antiprocess filters information before it reaches conscious awareness.
… marginalization of undesired information … means that antiprocess doesn’t have to destroy information for it to be effective. All it has to do is dispense with it somehow. The information is "undesired" because it threatens one’s state of comfort.
… synergistic interplay … means that antiprocess can call on one’s entire set of skills. The smarter you are, the smarter your antiprocess is. Listen to a debate involving one of the primary proponents of Young-Earth Creationism if you want to see this in action.
… high-priority acquired mental defense mechanisms means that the mental "shields" are given primacy over other concerns (such as the search for truth). I included the word "acquired" because I believe that most (and possibly all) of our wrong-headed mental defense mechanisms are either reinforced, taught to us, or picked up by osmosis throughout our lives.
Of course, all of this assumes a self-protective, defensive stance.
We all need to brush up on our critical thinking skills. I have a feeling we’ll need them in the days ahead.