1. Why do so many Republican rank-and-file allow themselves be influenced by misinformation and conspiracy theories from highly biased media and/or obvious disinformation campaigns?
2. Why do so many Republicans mistrust scientific evidence from multiple credible sources in favor of their armchair Internet rants, ignorant talk show personalities, a handful of tribal authorities, and manufactured propaganda and groupthink?
3. Why do so many Republicans lack the critical thinking skills to recognize the contradictions and hypocrisy in their own beliefs and assumptions — and indeed how those beliefs and assumptions run counter to both their own stated values, an their own best interests?
4. Why did 70 million Republicans allow themselves to be utterly deceived and hoodwinked by a mentally ill, megalomaniacal con artist running for President?
5. Why do Republicans consistently misunderstand causal relationships, so that they are always promoting “solutions” that just make problems worse?
6. Why are Republicans just plain mistaken about so many things, to the point where they are becoming completely disconnected from reality…?
We can use the instance of anti-vaccine, anti-mask, anti-precaution backlash regarding COVID as an example that sheds light on all of these questions…and some possible answers.
So here goes….
1.A lot of conservative ideology is rooted and energized by fear. You could really pick almost any conservative position and explain at least part of its appeal in how it answers specific fears — or amplifies and justifies them. In the case of vaccines, it’s irrational fear of Bill Gates, of “big bad government” pushing some hidden agenda, of the medical industry hiding risks from consumers, of COVID itself being a conspiracy, and so on. These are all fear-based reasons for resisting common sense measures to lessen the impact of the virus or even stop its spread altogether.
2.Certain “trigger concepts” are used by Republican leaders to garner votes, and by conservative talk-show hosts to increase their viewership to sell more advertising. An example is “the defense of liberty” concept, which is a wonderful ideal but really has nothing to do with taking a vaccine or wearing a mask. We all make minor sacrifices of personal liberties in order for society to function — and wearing a mask or receiving a vaccine is not any different than driving on the right-hand side of the road, stopping at a red light, defecating in a restroom instead of on the sidewalk, hunting during hunting season, or shoveling the public walkways in front of our house in winter. These are not “oppressive and arbitrary” edicts from big bad government, they are common sense choices we make so that civil society can remain…well…civil and reasonably safe. But the point is that the “defense of liberty” trigger is a manipulative call-to-arms to unify an angry, irrational mob who doesn’t realize how utterly silly they are behaving.
3. Republicans have become poster-children for an extreme intersection of “the illusory truth effect” and the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” The illusory truth effect is when people start believing something is true simply because a lot of other people keep repeating it. The Dunning-Kruger effect is the phenomenon of becoming more confident the more ignorant we are. Everyone does these unfortunate things…it’s normal human behavior. It’s just that Republicans have amplified these faults to an extraordinary degree, turning them into an art form of mass hysteria proportions.
4. Probably the biggest lever modern conservative politicians use to get their constituents to do anything is “Us verses Them” rhetoric. It doesn’t matter if an idea or approach from the political opposition is sensible, logical, evidence-based, or obvious…it has to be opposed because it issued from “Them.” Republicans have become so conditioned to howling at this siren that they don’t even realize they are just being manipulated. And because of that conditioning, conservatives remain perpetually ignorant and alienated from fellow human beings who may hold different views, but actually share many of the same values.
5. Conservatives tend to be deeply tribal, with a strong need to belong to their group and remain loyal to it, regardless of how that choice may hurt them or those they love. Republicans are so caught up in their identity as “Republicans” or “conservatives” that they never question all the sacrifices they make just to belong — sacrifices to reason, to common sense, to their own well being and the safety and security of their families, and even to the success and thriving of the U.S. itself.
So with those five considerations, we can begin to understand how difficult it will be for the ship of U.S. politics to change its course. Republicans will have tremendous difficultly breaking loose from this downward spiral unless they consider doing one or more of the following:
1. Stop being afraid all the time. Have a little faith in humanity, in themselves, and in their own professed spiritual beliefs.
2. Become more educated about what facts are, how science works, evidence-based decision making, and so on.
3. Stop listening to the lies, misinformation, and distortions of conservative mass and social media. Just change the channel.
4. Let go of the need to belong to the conservative tribe as a central pillar of identity.
5. Become more self-aware about logical fallacies and cognitive dissonance.
6. Start reaching out to progressive pinko commies in the community and become friends with them — in order to bridge the divide of ignorance and alienation that has been so carefully engineered by conservative puppet masters.
7. Realize at long last that all of us are being manipulated 24/7 purely for money and votes, and fight back by questioning what is being spoon fed to us.
My 2 cents.
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