You Can’t Trust Anyone in a Partisan World

In a world where partisan politics is the norm, there is one casualty that’s often overlooked: the casualty of credibility. We tend to believe the interpretation of the facts from those partisan “experts” who agree with our values. This means that our views on the facts are not actually reasonable most of the time. The facts do not shape our worldviews. Rather, our partisan precommitments to worldviews shape the facts.

It was refreshing to see this outlined in a recent article in The Atlantic:

In sincerely trying to find the truth about factual claims, it is often important to decide whom to believe. To do that, it’s important to figure out who is advocating something on the basis of evidence. The people most likely to be sensitive to evidence—and therefore most worth listening to—often disagree with the consensus of the people around them on factual matters. We ought provisionally to regard people who frequently act as dissidents, heretics, and pariahs in their own political group as being more committed to speaking the truth than people who usually or always agree with the consensus. A person who diverges from the consensus of the people with whom she agrees politically may have other problems of credibility. But she does not start off with this one.

In other words, the political consensus in any partisan group generally lacks factual credibility. Because there is something other than evidence shaping the perspective. This is as true for the partisan Democrat consensus as it is for the partisan Republican consensus. This fact is of the utmost importance.

If you hold the truth in high regard, it is important that you reject the partisan politics on both sides of the aisle. Because precommitments to particular ideologies obscures and interprets the facts. Environmentalists have certain values and policies they want to see enforced in this country. So of course, they love the “scientific” consensus concerning climate change. Democrats select the facts on socialism that bolster their programs. Republicans select the facts about economic growth that bolster theirs. And, at the end of the day, neither of these partisan groups can really be trusted concerning the facts. As the article says, “the people most likely to be sensitive to evidence—and therefore most worth listening to—often disagree with the consensus of the people around them on factual matters.”

So here’s to the pariahs, the true mavericks, the rogues, and the system-buckers. May you be granted a hearing with the people. And may the people of this country begin to care more about the truth, no matter how challenging it may be to the partisan consensuses and the statuses quo.