Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 21:25 | SYDNEY
Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 21:25 | SYDNEY

The hardest words: 'I was wrong'


Sam Roggeveen


25 May 2011 14:53

New York magazine seems to have declared war on Rupert Murdoch in its latest issue, with a fascinating profile of FOX News Chairman Roger Ailes, and then this piece about former conservative hit-man turned FOX News scourge David Brock. Brock was once a Clinton nemesis, then turned on his right-wing backers. Here's how Brock changed his mind about the American conservative movement:

Brock’s decision to abandon conservatism was a gradual one—and, unlike other famous apostates’, more personal than ideological. “I didn’t wake up one day and say, you know, ‘Supply-side economics doesn’t make sense,’ ” he says. In fact, his move from the right began after he failed to deliver the goods in a book about Hillary Clinton and some of his conservative friends expressed their displeasure with his efforts. Brock, in turn, began to suspect that these friends valued him only for his ability to destroy liberals—and possibly loathed him because he is gay.

Perhaps among intellectuals, Brock's story is the exception. You would not be surprised to hear of an academic breaking ranks with his 'tribe' after new evidence emerged about its belief system. Something like that seems to have happened in the case of Francis Fukuyama's break with the neo-conservatives.

In it's own way, this is comforting: argument and evidence can change minds. But my sense is that it is also pretty rare, even among intellectuals. Most people do not change their minds about their belief systems, and when they do it tends to be (as with Brock) due to a change of circumstances rather than the result of a careful weighing of evidence or sound argument.

All of which is humbling for a blog like this one. By trying to change opinions through argument, we're climbing mountains in a snowstorm.