Peter Hitchens and the fear of ambiguity in Libya
Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, Sulloway (2003):
Persons having low levels of motivation to process information would be more likely to support conservative ideologies because these rely on tradition, are aimed at (societal stability), and imply the avoidance caused by change.
Thórisdóttir, Jost (2011)
High need for cognitive closure represents a desire for “an answer to a question on a given topic, any answer … compared to confusion and ambiguity” and it often leads to black and white thinking
Peter Hitchens (yesterday):
Just because existing regimes are bad, it does not follow that their replacements will be any better. The world has known this since the French Revolution of 1789, when bliss and joy turned to mass murder and dictatorship in a matter of months.
Point of note: the kind of conservative thinking which Hitchens exemplifies only aims at societal stability, does not guarantee for it. Indeed what kind of world would we live in if we allowed and accepted tyranny on the basis that what waits in the wings could be worse.
But what really gets my goat is not that Hitchens is being true to Burke in invoking 1789 and the French Revolution (which the latter disliked not because he feared change and ambiguity necessarily, but because he saw that Robespierre was forming a half-baked, overly and needlessly violent revolution), but because he neglects to mention how different the contexts are: The rebels in France existed to cause terror (quotes from Robespierre include: ”To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is barbarity”; ”slowness of judgments is equal to impunity”; “uncertainty of punishment encourages all the guilty”) whereas the National Transition Council formed to avert terror being done to them, and as a consequence are recognised as the country’s authority by 50 other nations – enjoying the kind of diplomatic relations rebels of many countries can only dream of.