On Bias, Rhetoric, and Cognitive Dissonance

Author of The New York Times’ Consumed column, Rob Walker, dissects a Weekly Standard article discussing the first presidential debate between Obama and McCain to answer the question: what’s the difference between rhetoric and cognitive dissonance?

Both can result in points of view that are so biased that they have no connection to reality. But one involves communicative sleight of hand to mislead the reader/listener, while the other involves a deeper form of dishonesty: Dishonesty with the self.

It all comes down to: “we tend to bend what we see to fit our existing perceptions and biases — no matter how much dissonance there is between new facts and previously held convictions. […] It is hard to change a mind that is already made up.”