The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘inverted totalitarianism

May 19, 2092

It has finally happened. The last Trump supporter has died on the banks of the Licking River in the sleepy hamlet of Urethra Hollow, Kentucky. While he had long ago forgotten his name, town folk affectionately referred to him as Trumpameatus Johnson – TeeMeatus to his friends. TeeMeatus held the record for over 3 million interviews about his undying support of the 45th President. Mr. Johnson’s longevity is ironic given the relatively short tenure of the President who, next to William Henry Harrison at 31 days, served the shortest tenure.  

While the details will vary, I have little doubt some enterprising reporter will still be scouring the landscape for Trumpanzee supporters 75 years from now. The story will be the same as it is now, the support never wavered in the least.

Besides the fact that it bugs the crap out of me, why bring it up?  First, all the polling on this issue is worthless. The entire premise is wrong. As a pollster, you can’t ask someone, “Since you were stupid when you voted, do you now regret being stupid?” No one answers that question in the affirmative. There is great social desirability in seeing oneself as better than knuckle-draggingly ignorant.

The other reason I mention it is to introduce “motivated ignorance” – it is a real thing. It’s a process described as, “Avoiding facts inconvenient to our worldview isn’t just some passive, unconscious habit we engage in. We do it because we find these facts to be genuinely unpleasant.”

The studies conclude, “People on the left and right are motivated to avoid hearing from the other side for some of the same reasons: the anticipation of cognitive dissonance and the undermining of a fundamental need for a shared reality with other people.” This shared reality is tribal in nature and translates to a shared transactional truth.

This is true for about 60% of the people. It is true for both those on the right and left. It is just the way our brains work. Before you burn me at the stake for equivalency heresy, let me point out, as does the article, you can engage in confirmation bias and still be right. Better said, “You can feel like you are right before you have confirmed your righteousness with science.”

One reason I wanted to write about this was it seemed safe since it is impossible to stay ahead of the hourly “Breaking News” alerts on the latest Dolt-mania. The other reason was the death of Roger Ailes.

Roger Ailes was a loathsome creature. He terrorized not just the workplace for his atavistic hedonism, but he threatened the families and children of his perceived enemies.

Ailes did more to alienate, stagnate, and denigrate our political culture than any other individual in the last 75 years. He knew how to frighten, how to anger, and how to indict through innuendo left dangling for want of context. He had a talent and an appetite for destruction.

Ailes created a laboratory for “motivated ignorance” at Fox.  He perfected an atmosphere of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called, “inverted totalitarianism”:

Antidemocracy, executive predominance, and elite rule are basic elements of inverted totalitarianism. Antidemocracy does not take the form of overt attacks upon the idea of government by the people. Instead, politically it means conditioning an electorate to being aroused for a brief spell, controlling its attention span, and then encouraging distraction or apathy. Citizens are encouraged to distrust their government and politicians; to concentrate upon their own interests; to begrudge their taxes; and to exchange active involvement for symbolic gratifications of patriotism, collective self-righteousness, and military prowess. Above all, depoliticization is promoted through society’s being enveloped in an atmosphere of collective fear and of individual powerlessness: fear of terrorists, loss of jobs, the uncertainties of pension plans, soaring health costs, and rising educational expenses.

We are living through a period of inverted totalitarianism. We can be certain those who labor under motivated ignorance will not know or even care what it is called. People like Ailes who profited from it, would never admit it. There are a couple of bright sides.  One: The philosophy surrounding this negativity is one of destruction. Like all forms of destruction it cannibalizes itself — eventually there is nothing left upon which for it to feed.

The other bright side: Ailes is off the battlefield as a contagion of motivated ignorance. Living through the Trumpian mess he bequeathed us is our retribution.  Coming out better on the other side is our legacy.

 

On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to remind everyone that “lie” is part of Joe Lieberman’s name. Here’s a short clip of him explaining himself:

 

What’s on your mind today?

 


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