Educated People Aren’t Introspective

In Salon, a woman learns her therapist likes Rush Limbaugh and freaks out. Make this her PhD-having urban Jewish therapist.

The writer doesn’t learn this at first, of course–she has several months of insightful therapy (so she says), then in the process of complaining about her husband comes the revelation:

“He’s a loving, caring, selfless man — but his politics are all about hatred,” I said. “He’s not educated, and more significant, he’s ignorant — he actually listens to Rush Limbaugh.”

I waited for a “Whoo boy!” or a sympathetic smile, but my shrink just stared at me, expressionless.

“I assume you’re not a Limbaugh fan,” I ventured, assured that this woman, so nuanced in her thinking, couldn’t possibly be a Dittohead. She was so reasonable that I couldn’t imagine her getting off on Rush’s demented tirades. She didn’t seem square enough for his politics, and I was certain no hate radio fan was capable of her intellectual sophistication. Besides, she was an educated urban Jewish professional, and Rush’s audience consisted largely of white suburban males.

She held my gaze a few excruciating seconds longer. “Actually, I am,” she said.

Now, there are two ways the writer could have taken this:

  1. Freak out and never get over the fact that this woman could simultaneously hold right-wing views and yet not drool or club the writer about the head while screeching, “Obey! Obey! Obey!”
  2. Take this as an opportunity to do the sort of introspection and questioning of assumptions that a mature, sensitive, educated person should do.

So it’s Salon–guess which option she took.

Actually, she took a variation on option 1, in true Salon fashion: she freaked out and then endlessly agonized and moaned about it in self-concious and very public Soulful Angst. Yet this woman never once in the article seems to question her assumptions, even though she baldly states the contradictions several times.

I’ve encountered this–supposedly educated people who assume that their echo-chamber is all there is, and if you aren’t an intellectual clone with only mild differences in emphasis of concern, you are obviously Not Intelligent. And if you’re Not Intelligent, you’re, well, just a teensy bit less than human.

The funny thing is, of course, that conservatives have much the same but mirror image views of liberals. “Them pointy-headed types get themselfs all mixed up with that book larnin’ and fergit common sense.” They view liberals as some sort of Satanic Moth–fascinating to look at for the irridescent spectacle but insidious if you discover them in your closet, leading to moral decay and naughty bits being shown in public.

I have seen intelligent, sensitive people who have divergent views on just about everything. Godwin’s Law states that whoever brings up Hitler or the Nazis in a political argument has left the bounds of reasonable discourse and the opponent should win by default. However, we need Hitler, because he’s the only guy we can all agree we hate. Lots of people to this day make excuses for Stalin–he doesn’t provoke the same instinctive disgust for them that, say, Ronald Reagan does.

I find myself more willing to forgive a closed-minded attitude in conservatives, as they don’t claim to be more intelligent, better educated, and more compassionate. But the writer of the Salon piece would do well to actually turn that brain power she alleges she has to a bit of self-reflection: perhaps her assumption that everyone who doesn’t share her exact political views isn’t automatically evil, stupid, incompetent, ignorant, or aching to revive the Third Reich. Especially as she’s married to one such.

I’d say to the same to conservatives, but everybody knows they can’t even read, let alone use computers. Chuh!

5 thoughts on “Educated People Aren’t Introspective

  1. Yeah. I used to be able to read Salon, back when they had Camille Paglia as a regular commentator, and a fairly big-tent philosophy. I haven’t seen anything on there in at least a year that didn’t seem to hold anyone who’d ever teetered past the center-left line in bald contempt.

    Salon editorial staff: “Good people can disagree” and it’s healthy to do so. You want folks that voted for Bush the first time around to change our minds? Good luck. Other people might, but only if they don’t insult our intelligence the way y’all seem compelled to do.


  2. The real question is, why is this person’s therapist telling them about their personal preferences in the first place?

    I thought the whole point of therapy was that it was supposed to be about listening. If the therapist is interjecting his or her political opinions into the discourse — seeing as how political opinions are among the most polarizing people can hold — aren’t they effectively changing the status of their relationship with their patient from doctor-patient to something else? Something non-therapeutic?

    This therapist isn’t a bad therapist because she likes Rush Limbaugh, she’s a bad therapist because she couldn’t keep that to herself. (And I’d say the same thing if the writer was griping because the therapist liked Air America.)


  3. If you read the linked article, this was the only time it came up, and the therapist said it was a mistake. Probably she should have used Active Listening to fake like she cared (which is what it’s for ;-)), but I think anything apart from a ritual denunciation and shared smirk at anyone so gauche would have disturbed the Salonnie.

    The point, though, is that wherever this writer came into contact with something that didn’t match her expectations, she didn’t take an opportunity to do something, I don’t know, *intellectual* about it.


  4. There isn’t anything wrong with a therapist sharing personal experiences. In many instances it is helpful for patients/clients to hear that their experiences are not only unique to them and that others can have same type of painful experiences as well. There is much to say for “self disclosure” (what we call in therapeutic terms), if used correctly it can be a very powerful tool.

    With that said, in my personal opinion the therapist may have failed (or missed the opportunity) to do is to explore the woman’s view about her husband and help her to be more empathetic and introspective. Afterall therapy is meant to create a more positive way of coping with the world. I can’t imagine that her way of thinking (being more superior to others) is adaptive or helps her in developing healthy relationships.


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