A reader wrote in noting that Romney’s numerous policy shifts appear to be more a case of Orwellian doublespeak than one of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a state where one holds two conflicting beliefs, as in, for example, believing that affordable health care insurance for all is a good thing while at the same time holding on to the belief that health care is an earned privilege as opposed to it being a basic right. Republicans deal with the dissonance by downplaying the importance of the ‘for all’ element of their beliefs while touting the importance of personal responsibility. That is, if people took personal responsibility for their lives, everyone would be able to afford health insurance no matter what the costs. Sounds pretty and nice even though it completely disregards the realities of the human experience.
Another way in which one deals with reducing dissonance is by altering one of the conflicting beliefs. Romney’s statement about everyone having access to hospital emergency rooms proves that the system does provide for people without health insurance, is a classic example. Dissonance is reduced and guilt or embarrassment lessened, by implying that emergency room access is a replacement for health insurance.
Dumb argument, I know, but no one ever said cognitive dissonance was a good thing.
But what if what we’re seeing here is not a case of cognitive dissonance but instead a situation where conservatives like Romney actually accept all of their contradictory beliefs? Doublespeak. Here is how George Orwell explains it in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
That sounds like it came right out of the Romney/GOP playbook. Orwell perfectly describes Romney’s debate performance. Eighteen months of conveniently ignoring any fact that did not support whatever story Romney was selling at the time followed by a debate where Romney brought back “from oblivion” any fact required to portray him as a moderate. All the while, objective reality took a fierce beating as Romney made sure that his lies were “always one leap ahead of the truth.”
Cognitive dissonance or doublespeak? Your thoughts…