Just Make It Up

Why would Harvey Weinstein write Mitt Romney in as a character who would not have approved the Bin Laden raid in his upcoming straight-to-television movie Seal Team Six?

Why does the movie Game Change show Sarah Palin in such a poor light?

Why did The China Syndrome have such a huge and lasting impact on the perception of nuclear power, even though its science has been proven to be very bad?

Why are so many movies and television shows featuring positive gay characters?

The answer to all these is the same: because people believe in stories. There’s something magical about fiction, especially fiction that purports to some degree to be truth.

Fiction has power. Unlike fact, fiction speaks directly to your emotions. Stories are like a short-circuit directly into your brain; they bypass logic and go straight to the belief center.

In an article from the New York Times, the relationship between fiction and emotions is made clearer.

In the last decade, psychologists have focused increasing attention on moral attitudes. Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the Stern School of Business at New York University and author of “The Righteous Mind,” told me that researchers have been especially interested in the way emotions and attitudes interact. Moral attitudes are especially difficult to change, Haidt said, because the emotions attached to those preferences largely define who we are. “Certain beliefs are so important for a society or group that they become part of how you prove your identity,” he said. “It’s as though we circle around these ideas. It’s how we become one.”

We tend to side with people who share our identity — even when the facts disagree — and calling someone a flip-flopper is a way of calling them morally suspect, as if those who change their minds are in some way being unfaithful to their group. This is nonsense, of course. People change their minds all the time, even about very important matters. It’s just hard to do when the stakes are high. That’s why marshaling data and making rational arguments won’t work. Whether you’re changing your own mind or someone else’s, the key is emotional, persuasive storytelling.

Haidt does not say this, but those beliefs arising from emotion are what makes up a culture. Those who share our identity are part of our culture. If you want to change the culture, the fastest and easiest way is by changing the cultural stories. How better can I say that we need more conservative fiction writers?

About Jamie

Jamie is a conservative writer from Kentucky, but lives wherever the whims of the Navy take her husband. She is also the mother of five - count 'em - children, all of them above average.
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