Confirmation bias is one of those universals that effects everyone. It’s natural for people to gravitate toward that which confirms what they wish to be true. No matter how hard you try to “be objective” you naturally prefer that which fits your biases. In the sciences, there are elaborate processes to correct for this tendency. In theory, having your work reviewed by peers, especially those with different biases, will correct for bias. It does not always work that way, but that just shows how tough it is to overcome our biases.
In the realm of public policy, there is no process for overcoming bias. In theory, public debate should work like peer review, but the people allowed into the debates tend to hold the same biases as everyone else in the debate. Every debate on crime, for example, excludes the important stuff, because of reasons. The result is a debate between people, who all agree that the important stuff can never be mentioned. Therefore, the public is left to hope that the people making public policy get lucky.
In theory, even if the people in charge all share the same biases, they have to face the public, which is supposed to be the acid test of liberal democracy. If the public is unhappy with what the politicians are doing, they vote in new politicians. This fear of unemployment is supposed to keep the politicians from straying too far from the consensus. As we see throughout the West, the reality is something different. Ruling classes all over the West are wildly out of step with the public, which is the cause of these populist revolts.
Part of the reason may be a feature of the managerial state that has emerged since the end of the great industrial wars of the last century. The political class is no longer part of the feedback loop that existed between themselves and the public. Instead, they get their information about public sentiment through policy experts and polling. When an office holder wants to know where to stand on an issue, he does not canvas his district or hold a series of constituent meetings. Instead he consults his staff of experts.
The result is something you in this rather odd post at National Review. The post is a long rebuttal to the main thesis of the book Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities, by Eric Kaufmann. The main thrust of the book is that white nationalists and immigration patriots should be allowed to participate in public debate. Since immigration fanatics and non-white identity groups get to participate, whites should get the same courtesy. That this is a radical idea at National Review is topic all by itself.
A clue that you are in an emperor’s new clothes moment is when the response to a simple suggestion is a graph, followed by thousands of words of commentary. That’s what you see from the writer. His answer to the complaints by whites about immigration, for example, is to claim that whites are not really complaining about immigration. In other words, instead of addressing the main argument, he attacks the premise. In effect, his point is the immigration patriots cannot participate because they don’t exist.
Now, it has to be said that the sorts of people writing for National Review live in terror that one day the Left will put their name on the wrong list. Therefore, their every waking moment is spent confirming the current morality of the Left. At the moment that means anything with the word “white” in it is bad and opposition to the brown hordes pouring over the border is immoral. Basically National Review is going on record saying this Kaufmann fellow and his crazy ideas about debate is a very bad person with bad ideas.
Putting that aside though, consider what Verbruggen is doing. Instead of looking outside to get a sense of what’s happening in the public, he consults a Gallup study, one that confirms his bias. Of course, the only people who read National Review these days are Republican Party consultants, who will use posts like this to convince their masters that there is no need to worry about their angry voters. After all, those torch wielding mobs outside their office really don’t exist. It says so right in that Gallup poll.
Of course, there is the fact that the response by these people to public unrest about immigration, way back when they threw open the borders, was a public relations campaign to anathematize opponents. Back in the 1990’s, when it was still possible for people like Peter Brimelow and John Derbyshire to post opposition to immigration on National Review, the public was comfortable being in opposition. Once opposition to open borders was declared immoral, the public stopped voicing concerns to pollsters.
In other words, the feedback loop in the managerial state now works like this. The power elite want some set of polices, so they hire top men from the managerial class to sell it to the public. Whether or not the public buys it is immaterial, they just need evidence that there is public support for it. Once they generate that, they are convinced and set about convincing policy makers to push the new policy. Of course, there is plenty of money to go around, so politicians are more than happy to believe whatever is fed them.
In the managerial state, the feedback loop is like something you would see in a business school model of a failing business. Senior management brings in a market research firm to tell them the problem is not management. Rather, it is positioning in the market place. The solution is to hire a new marketing firm to convince the market that the company’s products are the best. The same research firm then studies the results and reports back that everything is working. Meanwhile, the company sinks further into the red.
That may sound like a strange comparison, but take a look at this post in the Columbia Journalism Review about the new publisher of National Review. The collapse of National Review over the last twenty years has one direct cause, the embrace of neoconservatism and the abandonment of their core constituency. Instead of facing up to the fact that they have a bad product and a lot of bad managers, they are going to rework their website so they can create a safe space for engagement. Meanwhile, their site is a ghost town.
The apparent insularity of the political class is the result of being cut off from the normal feedback loops. When National Review had to scramble for readers, they had to know something about the public. When the political class had to canvas for votes, they met actual voters who told them about what was on their mind. Today, the entire managerial class is like a monastery, where everyone is trying to be the star of the choir or the best at illuminating manuscripts. They spend all of their time talking to themselves.
As an aside, the reason social media and website comment sections terrorize these people is it is there where the yawning gap between themselves and the public is most obvious. When National Review had a comment section, their writers saw plainly that the readers were not buying what they were selling. The solution was to get rid of the comments. On social media, the solution is to purge the platforms of anyone that upsets human resources. Our thought leaders can only take so much reality.
Sam Francis made the point decades ago that both political parties in America are far to the Left of the people who vote for them. The reason for that is the political center of the ruling class has always been to the extreme Left of the public. Cut off from the feedback loop, that center has now drifted out beyond the event horizon of most people. It’s why our rulers seem like strangers to us. It’s why writers for Conservative Inc. stagger around in a daze, years after having been jolted by their remaining connection to the feedback loop.