Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Coming Preference Cascade

Photo of Bill Ayers by Jeff Sciortino in Chicago Magazine

Glenn Reynolds has written of “preference falsification,” where people suppress their beliefs because their culture makes them feel those beliefs are aberrational. If the cultural spell is broken, and people get a sense that their society does endorse those beliefs, they exhibit a “preference cascade” where they exuberantly display their beliefs for all to see.

Professor Reynolds uses the patriotism shown after the events of 9/11/2001 as an example. He points out that the politics of the Vietnam War caused many Americans to hide their patriotism from public view. However, after 9/11, the American flag was honored and displayed unashamedly.

Today we are seeing individual Americans demonstrating the strength of their convictions, and relying on the Constitution for support. It seems to be catching on:

In Iowa, part-time employee Teresa Wagner gets a jury trial on her claim that Carolyn Jones (former dean of the College of Law at the University of Iowa) failed to hire her for a full-time position because of political beliefs.

Who would have believed that Ms. Wagner could successfully bring suit for political discrimination at an American University? Just a few years ago, such an action would have been unthinkable.

In New York City, a fourth-year medical student visiting from Tennessee finds herself charged with felony gun possession (minimum sentence of 3.5 years). Meredith Graves has a legal carry permit in Tennessee, but New York does not honor it. Mrs. Graves is due in court on March 19, 2012 to defend her case.

The idea of challenging local restrictions on gun rights would have been preposterous in the twentieth century (except in the most extreme circumstances). Now Mrs. Graves believes she can successfully do it.

Here in Colorado, Ari Armstrong corrects the reporting in a Denver Post story by Joey Bunch and Kieran Nicholson. Our culture expects us to access print media through Opinion pages or in the Corrections section, but Mr. Armstrong instinctively went directly to a reporter to set the record straight. His efforts show how to effectively hold print media accountable.

A “preference cascade” may be an obscure term, but it is about to become better understood. With the improvement in Internet content and availability, individuals are able to get a much better understanding of their role within a culture.

We no longer have to be told whether our views are “mainstream.” We can look at Internet metrics, watch “hit counters,” and review polling data. We can follow hotlinks to verify reporting and can use Internet searches to see correlations.

Our culture might think of Americans as Sheeples, but Ari Armstrong, Meredith Graves, and Teresa Wagner are defying the conventional wisdom.

They are demonstrating the power of conviction, and many Americans find that attractive.

UPDATE 1/12/2012:
Mark Meckler relates his story, one surprisingly like that of Meredith Graves. (h/t: Instapundit)

UPDATE 8/2/2012:
Glenn Reynolds points us to this post by Bob Owens.  It's that "power of convictions"thing...
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