This is one of the most important articles I've read in awhile. It makes a generalization from something Scott pointed out in this SSC post.
Here are a few excerpts, but it's worth clicking through and reading the whole thing!
From the inside, when you subscribe to a narrative, when you believe in it, it feels like you’ve stripped away all irrelevant noise and only the essence, The Underlying Principle, is left — the signal, in the language of information theory. However, that noise you just dismissed as irrelevant has other signals in it and sometimes people will consider them stronger, truer and more important.
The core of the concept:
Most people have somewhat moderate views and they recognize that there is a bit of truth to both of two apparently opposing narratives. This can mask fundamental differences between those appearing to be in agreement.
Like, look at this zebra:
We can all agree on what it looks like. But some of us will think of it as a white horse with black stripes and some as a black horse with white stripes, and while it doesn’t actually matter now, that might change if whether “zebras are fundamentally white” or “zebras are fundamentally black” ever becomes an issue of political importance.
In the real world zebras are (thank God) still politically neutral, but similar patterns exist. Two people with political views like:
“The free market is extremely powerful and will work best as a rule, but there are a few outliers where it won’t, and some people will be hurt so we should have a social safety net to contain the bad side effects.”
“Capitalism is morally corrupt and rewards selfishness and greed. An economy run for the people by the people is a moral imperative, but planned economies don’t seem to work very well in practice so we need the market to fuel prosperity even if it is distasteful.”
. . . have very different fundamental attitudes but may well come down quite close to each other in terms of supported policies. If you model them as having one “main signal” (basic attitude) paired with a corrective to account for how the basic attitude fails to match reality perfectly, then this kind of difference is understated when the conversation is about specific issues (because then signals plus correctives are compared and the correctives bring “opposite” people closer together) but overstated when the conversation is about general principles — because then it’s only about the signal.
Click through to read the whole article, which includes a ton of great examples (concrete and abstract).