What is Different? (Jahresing 64)

Edited and Compiled by Wolfgang Tillmans, Brigitte Oetker

This book is a compilation of previously written articles and interviews, along with original work that meditates on the way that “truth” is both communicated and received. The title refers to the questioning of why far-right nationalism appears to be on the rise now, versus prior years when there has always been a contingent of those aligned with such causes.


From the Intro:

Numerous studies show compellingly that we perceive facts, as well as other people and their concerns, only partially and in accordance with our own political beliefs. … That we operate in a highly emotional manner in the political realm is not something that someone taking part in a panel discussion would ever care to admit, and yet it is not a questions if admitting, of showing weakness. It is a question of collectively acknowledging that factors other than those that have just been articulated verbally in the room also play a role. (pg 11)

The quest to find our own blindness should always resonate. (pg 11)

From How Facts Backfire, by Joe Keohane

A 2006 study by Charles Taber and Milton Lodge at Stony Brook University showed that politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to new information than less sophisticated types. These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they’re totally wrong. Taber and Lodge found this alarming, because engaged, sophisticated thinkers are “the very folks on whom democratic theory relies most heavily.” (Pg 16)

From Interview with Stephan Lewandowsky

SL: Bizarre things are being believed by people because of polarization….There’s nothing that is so absurd that you wouldn’t find others somewhere in the world who believe it…

We know for example in Australia that the number of people who deny climate change is actually very small. It’s only in the order of 6 to 8 percent of the population. But those 6 or 8 percent think that their opinion is shared by half the population. That vast discrepancy between the actual prevalence of a belief and what these people think others are thinking makes their belief resistant to change (pg 25)

SL: There are very few people who say “I’m greedy, and I like being greedy.” Instead they will say: “I’m a libertarian and I believe that society is best served if free individuals pursue their own interests.” (discussion of Ayn Rand follows…) (pg 31)

SL: She has created a very thin, and in my view grotesque ideology that justifies greed and self-interest by claiming that somehow this serves the greater good. All on the basis of flimsy thinking and no evidence at all. But she has turned into the hero of the American libertarian movement and in my view she is extremely important in this regard. (pg 32)

From Interview with Lionel Barber

LB: Now “entitlement culture” has taken a 180-degree turn. The rich feel entitled to tax-cuts. Since the 1990’s, the pattern of redistribution has been from poor to rich. (pg 36)

From Interview with Brendan Nyhan

BN: I fear that we have not done enough to promote the shared values that make liberal democracy possible. In the US, for instance, younger Americans do not attribute so much importance to living in a democracy as older generations. (pg 46)

Digital Tribalism and Fake News

etc. etc.