Ezra Klein | What if the Unvaccinated Can’t Be Persuaded? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I hate that I believe the sentence I’m about to write. It undermines much of what I spend my life trying to do. But there is nothing more overrated in politics — and perhaps in life — than the power of persuasion.

It is nearly impossible to convince people of what they don’t want to believe. Decades of work in psychology attest to this truth, as does most everything in our politics and most of our everyday experience. Think of your own conversations with your family or your colleagues. How often have you really persuaded someone to abandon a strongly held belief or preference? Persuasion is by no means impossible or unimportant, but on electric topics, it is a marginal phenomenon.

Which brings me to the difficult choice we face on coronavirus vaccinations. The conventional wisdom is that there is some argument, yet unmade and perhaps undiscovered, that will change the minds of the roughly 30 percent of American adults who haven’t gotten at least one dose. There probably isn’t. The unvaccinated often hold their views strongly, and many are making considered, cost-benefit calculations given how they weigh the risks of the virus, and the information sources they trust to inform them of those risks. For all the exhortations to respect their concerns, there is a deep condescension in believing that we’re smart enough to discover or invent some appeal they haven’t yet heard.

If policymakers want to change their minds, they have to change their calculations by raising the costs of remaining unvaccinated, the benefits of getting vaccinated, or both. If they can’t do that, or won’t, the vaccination effort will most likely remain stuck — at least until a variant wreaks sufficient carnage to change the calculus.”

Ezra Klein is professionally delicate. The comments are far more direct and forceful. Time for sticks. No vaccination, no more access to public events, no more access to government services and payments, no more health or life insurance. Carrots don’t work, but sticks do.

Opinion | I’m Visually Disabled, And I Want to Show You How Life Looks Through My Eyes – The New York Times

James Robinson is a filmmaker from Portland, Me.

“In the Opinion video above, James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine, shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions that have defied an array of treatments and caused him countless humiliations. Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes.”

Margaraet Renkle | You Can’t Take It With You, but You Can Put It in Storage – The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Back when my children were small, I felt like I was drowning in an ocean of things. Diapers. Pacifiers. Booster seats. Storybooks. Action figures. Legos, hobbling anyone foolish enough to go barefoot in the dark. It dawned on me once that the whole house could burn to the ground and I would feel no great regret. As long as my family was safe, I could stand on the curb and watch the flames leaping into the night sky.

My childhood home was worse. My mother blamed us kids and our endless projects, but she was the one who couldn’t part with anything. Dad did his best to keep the clutter to manageable levels, but after he died, nothing ever seemed to leave that house. The attic got so full that Mom would climb to the top of the steps and heave anything she wanted to save as far back as she could throw it.

When she left Alabama and moved to the rental house across the street from us, she brought along everything she deemed necessary for her new life, including 37 coffee mugs, an entire bookcase swollen with fabric remnants, and countless back issues of Southern Living. She fought to keep them all, and she won every fight.”

Opinion | How to Talk to Someone Who Doesn’t Want the Vaccine – The New York Times

Dr. Gagneur is a neonatologist and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Sherbrooke. His research has led to programs that increase childhood vaccinations through motivational interviewing. Dr. Tamerius is a former psychiatrist and the founder of Smart Politics, an organization that teaches people to communicate more persuasively.

“The difference between people who eagerly want the Covid-19 vaccine and people who are hesitant is not as great as it may seem. Most vaccine holdouts are not anti-vaxxers or conspiracy theorists.

Before you demand that your loved ones get a shot, know that not all conversations are created equal. Research shows that many common persuasive styles — commanding, advising, lecturing and shaming — not only don’t work but also often backfire.

To help you learn the basics of a method that works, we’ve created a vaccination chatbot based on the principles of motivational interviewing, a research-backed approach for encouraging people to get vaccinated that’s used by health care professionals to harness people’s innate drive for change.  . . . “

David Brooks | Wisdom Isn’t What You Think It Is – The New York Times

” . . . When I think of the wise people in my own life, they are like that. It’s not the life-altering words of wisdom that drop from their lips, it’s the way they receive others. Too often the public depictions of wisdom involve remote, elderly sages who you approach with trepidation — and who give the perfect life-altering advice — Yoda, Dumbledore, Solomon. When a group of influential academics sought to define wisdom, they focused on how much knowledge a wise person had accumulated. Wisdom, they wrote, was “an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.”

But when wisdom has shown up in my life, it’s been less a body of knowledge and more a way of interacting, less the dropping of secret information, more a way of relating that helped me stumble to my own realizations.

Wisdom is different from knowledge. Montaigne pointed out you can be knowledgeable with another person’s knowledge, but you can’t be wise with another person’s wisdom. Wisdom has an embodied moral element; out of your own moments of suffering comes a compassionate regard for the frailty of others.

Wise people don’t tell us what to do, they start by witnessing our story. They take the anecdotes, rationalizations and episodes we tell, and see us in a noble struggle. They see our narratives both from the inside, as we experience them, and from the outside, as we can’t. They see the ways we’re navigating the dialectics of life — intimacy versus independence, control versus uncertainty — and understand that our current self is just where we are right now, part of a long continuum of growth.

I have a friend, Kate Bowler, who teaches at Duke and learned at age 35 that she had stage IV cancer. In real life, and on her podcast, “Everything Happens,” I have seen her use her story again and again as a platform to let others frame their best story. Her confrontation with early death, and her alternating sad and hilarious responses to it, draws out a kind of candor in others. She models a vulnerability, and a focus on the big issues, and helps people understand where they are now.

People only change after they’ve felt understood. The really good confidants — the people we go to for wisdom — are more like story editors than sages. They take in your story, accept it, but prod you to reconsider it so you can change your relationship to your past and future. They ask you to clarify what it is you really want, or what baggage you left out of your clean tale. They ask you to probe for the deep problem that underlies the convenient surface problem you’ve come to them with.

It is this skillful, patient process of walking people to their own conclusions that feels like wisdom; maybe that’s why Aristotle called ethics a “social practice.”   . . . “

Nicholas Kristof | How to Reach People Who Are Wrong – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Mark Peterson/Redux

“The Trump years were a time of high passion, of moral certainty, of drawing lines in the sand, of despair at the ethical and intellectual vacuity of political foes. But now it’s time to recalibrate.

From my liberal point of view, Democrats were largely vindicated. From the Muslim ban to the separation of families at the border, from the mishandling of the pandemic to the Capitol insurrection, Democrats’ warnings aged well. Yet one of the perils in life is being proven right.

The risk is excessive admiration for one’s own brilliance, preening at one’s own righteousness, and inordinate scorn for the jerks on the other side. It was the Republicans’ hubris after the 1991 gulf war — won in 100 hours — that led the G.O.P. to march obliviously into the catastrophic Iraq war a dozen years later.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, has a smart new book out advising us to “Think Again,” in the words of his title. He explores in part what goes wrong when smart people are too righteous, and he offers a paean to intellectual humility.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
This is a lovely and thoughful piece, thank you Nicholas Kristof. It goes hand in hand with the piece today by Ezra Klien, on how successful Joe Biden has been by keeping a low profile, and making the work about helping Americans in need, rather than about himself or his tribe. We will have to remain humble and open, while organizing to defeat our fearful and dangerous and unscrupulous fellow Americans at the polls, so we don’t have to face a second civil war.

How Alvin the Beagle Helped Usher In a Democratic Senate – Shane Goldmacher – The New York Times

“The dog had a lot of work to do.

He was co-starring in a political ad that had to showcase the candidate’s good-natured warmth. But the ad also needed to deflect an onslaught of racialized attacks without engaging them directly, and to convey to white voters in Georgia that the Black pastor who led Ebenezer Baptist Church could represent them, too.

Of course, Alvin the beagle couldn’t have known any of that when he went for a walk with the Rev. Raphael Warnock last fall as a film crew captured their time together in a neighborhood outside Atlanta.

Tugging a puffer-vest-clad Mr. Warnock for an idealized suburban stroll — bright sunshine, picket fencing, an American flag — Alvin would appear in several of Mr. Warnock’s commercials pushing back against his Republican opponent in the recent Georgia Senate runoffs.”

By David Brooks | 2020 Taught Us How to Fix This – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by Michael Houtz; photographs by Getty Images

“This is the year that broke the truth. This is the year when millions of Americans — and not just your political opponents — seemed impervious to evidence, willing to believe the most outlandish things if it suited their biases, and eager to develop fervid animosities based on crude stereotypes.

Worse, this was the year that called into question the very processes by which our society supposedly makes progress.

So many of our hopes are based on the idea that the key to change is education. We can teach each other to be more informed and make better decisions. We can study social injustices and change our behavior to fight them.

But this was the year that showed that our models for how we change minds or change behavior are deeply flawed.

It turns out that if you tell someone their facts are wrong, you don’t usually win them over; you just entrench false belief.

One of the most studied examples of this flawed model is racial diversity training. Over the last few decades, most large corporations and other institutions have begun racial diversity programs to combat the bias and racism pervasive in organizational life. The courses teach people about bias, they combat stereotypes and they encourage people to assume the perspectives of others in disadvantaged groups.

These programs are obviously well intended, and they often describe systemic racism accurately, but the bulk of the evidence, though not all of it, suggests they don’t reduce discrimination. Firms that use such courses see no increase in managerial diversity. Sometimes they see an increase — not a decrease — in minority employee turnover.

Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev offered a clear summary of the research in a 2018 essay in Anthropology Now. One meta-analysis of 985 studies of anti-bias interventions found little evidence that these programs reduced bias. Other studies sometimes do find a short-term change in attitudes, but very few find a widespread change in actual behavior.” . .

Brooks goes on to say that what scientists say works, is integrating neighborhoods, schools, teams and organizations. Social psychologist Gordon Allport wrote decades ago about a contact hypothesis.  Only doing things together changes prejudice and minds.

Opinion | Those Biden ‘Gaffes’? Some Key Voters Actually Like Them – The New York Times

By Stephanie Muravchik and 

Ms. Muravchik and Mr. Shields are the authors of the forthcoming “Trump’s Democrats.”

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

“If Joe Biden is going to rebuild the Democrats’ “blue wall” and win states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and claim the White House, he will need to appeal to the working-class Democratic communities that put Donald Trump over the top in 2016. They include more than 200 counties that supported Barack Obama twice before voting for Mr. Trump.

Many of these places had long records of unbroken support for Democratic presidential candidates, some even stretching back to before the New Deal.

Mr. Biden needs to tune in to their cultural sensibilities if he’s going to bring at least some of these pivotal blue strongholds back into the Democratic fold. He is one of the few Democrats, as a child of working-class Scranton, Pa., capable of doing so.

We spent the past few years hanging out in bars, churches and town council meetings with these voters — whom we call “Trump’s Democrats.” We interviewed nearly 100 people in three formerly blue strongholds that voted for Mr. Trump: Johnston, R.I., a suburb of Providence; Ottumwa, Iowa, a small industrial city and an inspiration for the setting of the Roseanne Barr show; and Elliott County, a tiny Appalachian community in northeastern Kentucky.

Despite their geographic diversity, these places have much in common with one another and with the many Democratic communities that swung for Mr. Trump in critical Midwest battleground states. They are overwhelmingly white and working class. They care about patriotism and serving their country and are especially attached to the places they live, with strong, place-based loyalties.

Their honor culture is common throughout the world and in many American communities that are not dominated by the professional managerial class.

As part of that, they share what we would call a Trumpian political culture.

In the communities we visited, some of their most beloved Democratic politicians have a Trumpian sensibility: They are macho, quick to engage in political conflict and relentless counterpunchers. One is Ottumwa’s Jerry Parker, a former mayor and a current county supervisor. He supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries; during one local primary meeting, he threatened to take a conflict with a Bernie Sanders supporter “outside.” “

Opinion | Who Can Win America’s Politics of Humiliation? – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Joe Biden at a community meeting in Kenosha, Wis., last week.
Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

About four years ago, without asking anybody, I changed my job description. It used to be “New York Times foreign affairs columnist.” Instead, I started calling myself the “New York Times humiliation and dignity columnist.” I even included it on my business card.

It had become so obvious to me that so much of what I’d been doing since I became a journalist in 1978 was reporting or opining about people, leaders, refugees, terrorists and nation-states acting out on their feelings of humiliation and questing for dignity — the two most powerful human emotions.

I raise this now because the success of Joe Biden’s campaign against Donald Trump may ride on his ability to speak to the sense of humiliation and quest for dignity of many Trump supporters, which Hillary Clinton failed to do.

It has been obvious ever since Trump first ran for president that many of his core supporters actually hate the people who hate Trump, more than they care about Trump or any particular action he takes, no matter how awful.