Tribal Politics And Truth: The Trump Age

Submitted by: normalfreak2 4 months ago in News & Politics


Charlie Sykes wrote an interesting OP-ED in The Weekly Standard entitled When Everything Is Possible and Nothing Is True.

At first (or second, or third) blush, this seems jarring. But, as Jonah Goldberg has written, conservatism has been beset with what he calls “Alinsky envy” for some time now. Since the left demonizes, slanders, and lies, he noted, a whole cottage industry on the right has been built around the insistence that “We should do it too!”

But this is where Hannah Arendt once again proves her indispensability. Trumpism’s blending of tribalism with transactionalism is also reflected in what Arendt identified as the “curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism” in demagogic politics. In many ways the developments are parallel, as tribalism provides a mass political base that helps politicians and pundits alike rationalize the bargains they make. And the gullibility of voters who take their news from Gateway Pundit or Facebook groups provides the raw material for the cynical acceptance of untruth. Arendt explained the phenomenon this way:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true...

This mixture of gullibility and world-weary cynicism, Arendt wrote, dispelled “the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds.”

Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.

The masters of this sort of propaganda understood that they could change their stories with impunity, because they would see their deceptions as a form of 8-dimensional chess.

The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness." 

Remarkably, she wrote that nearly 70 years ago, long before the rise of our own alternative reality media ecosystems. But Arendt understood the endgame here; a tsunami of lies isn’t aimed at getting people to believe what the propagandist is saying. Rather, it’s to induce chronic disbelief, or an indifferent shrug. Who knows what to believe? Who cares? What is truth?
There are 54 comments:
Male 724
Trump is a liar. The only pussy you can't grab.
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Male 6,941
kleptocracy [klep-tok-ruh-see]

1. a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.
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Male 9,446
I take issue with Charlie blaming the LEFT for Trump but overall he's a Conservative I can stomach reading because A) He's intelligent B) he's articulate c) He adhere's to reason.

I want Charlie and other Conservatives to tell me who the Sean Hannity, Bill O'reily, The never ending list of Right wing propagandists on AM talk radio, are on the Left.  It's a false equivalence of the highest order.  While this behavior isn't limited to one side, The Right BY FAR owns this type of behavior as a mainstay as their main stream media.  There is no equivalent on the Left.  Nothing even close.  That doesn't mean people like me who are center left can be complacent and let left wing lunatics start dictating policy for people who lean left like me.
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Male 6,496
normalfreak2 I got away from the grasps of partisan us-against-them media in 2010. Olberman’s rants are a good example of what used to get me riled up. The thing that would get me the angriest was Media Matters and Crooks & Liars. It was all look at what “they” are saying now. The whole industry is horrible. All it does is teach you to hate your fellow man. I won’t even look at NBC anymore because they have a bias. I stick to boring old NPR, local news radio and sometimes CBS. If something political gets me riled up or I’m really excited that it’s finally happening I know what I am looking at is sensationalism and I back away or look into it further. I sometimes get accused of being into opinion media by people on IAB, but that’s because when I hear something that raises that internal gut feeling red flag I want to fact check it. When I do this I’m going after the lie, not the person who repeated it.
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Male 910
markust Seems like a prudent worldview. I was raised conservative. When FOX news first debuted, it was fun because it represented a new point of view in the media. But I had to reject republicans because of the seething anger and partisanship against people with a different worldview . 

Now I am married to a liberal and am a centrist. I prefer not to participate in the shenanigans of either party and largely ignore the biases of the two party system. 

I generally assume good intent and demand logical consistency. 
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Male 9,967
normalfreak2 There’s a reason the ones on the right you mentioned are considered outliers, and you can find no equivalent on the left, though it is most definitely there.
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Male 9,446
megrendel I agree that they are there, I'm glad no one has given them a platform like a Fox News of the Left
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Male 9,967
normalfreak2 You misunderstand. It’s not that they do not have a platform, but that they have the majority of the platform.
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Male 9,446
megrendel Howso?  
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Male 6,941
normalfreak2 The closest equivalencies that I can come up with are Rachel Maddow and MAYBE Kieth Olbermann?

Its a reach, but its all that comes to mind.
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Male 579
Conservatism has not fared well with capitalism at all. It's a shame to see. 
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Male 12,787
#NationInFreeFall

This isn't a new thing, it's been happening for a long time. It just takes 4 simple words to end it folks, just 4 simple words.
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Male 1,281
It's been a while since you brought up "Western Media Delusion", monkwarrior. Care to explain your views on the media in light of this article? 
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Male 21,771
boredhuman Hey BH, I sent you a note to the email address you signed up to IAB with. It might be in your spam folder. Let me know if you can't find it. 
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Male 3,076
boredhuman 
No one knows where the WMD's are.
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Male 1,835
monkwarrior He only trolls, man. Just ignore him. See below.
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Male 12,787
marsii thats your dept.
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Male 12,787
boredhuman perhaps you'd like to talk of it since you brought it up?
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Male 1,281
Would you have me speculate on what your views are, monkwarrior?

I can't speak about your views on the media, because I don't understand them. That's why I ask.

In our last exchange you brought up the TV many times, but never explained your views on it... What do you mean when you accuse people of being deluded by western media? How do you know you are not being deluded, wise monk? 
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Male 12,787
boredhuman oh i don't feel like talking about it, but you're free to talk about what your views are on the topic.
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Male 1,281
OK, maybe you'll explain it some other time. 
Thank you for giving me permission to speak freely, kind monk. 
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Male 12,787
boredhuman you always had it
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Male 9,967
monkwarrior nice dodge.
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Male 6,496
It's not always gullibility that makes people believe the lies. It's repetition. If a trusted source tells a lie enough times it becomes fact - sometimes in as little as three times. The technique is called proof by Assertion and the left and the right both do this. If you are still into partisan us-against-them opinion media, first I will say why? But then I would say do a little experiment. When a new issue comes out that gets you riled up make a check mark each time your source is making the same exact point. Watch/listen to the repetition. You will soon see you are being brainwashed. But I am too smart to be brainwashed, you will say. It's not about smarts. It's about your source taking advantage of a weakness in the human brain. The sooner you recognize the brainwashing techniques the sooner you can get out of that negative environment.
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markust Great post! This site needs more of this type of insight and definitely needs more articles like the one posted. IAB has a LARGE number of individuals that I would say lean moderate to far left. However, they will never admit their bias openly so any form of debate becomes an echo chamber or a lesson in group think. You can almost hear them parrot CNN and MSNBC the same way you can hear conservatives yammer on about Fox News. I've spoken to some of my more politically outspoken friends about the danger of the "us vs. them" and political tribalism mentalities that have become prevalent in both political parties and the media. The looks on their face tell the tale. Blank stares followed by apathy. 

I work for an organization that is far left leaning. As a moderate who leans right on certain issues and left on others, I am seen as ignorant or stupid and am often told that my political beliefs are not only wrong but evil. An individual with moderate views is considered extreme by extremists. The irony is golden. 

The inherent problem with tribalism is that it dehumanizes an entire side of an argument. By doing this, you make the other side less than human and it becomes easier to insight intimidation and violence. I've seen both sides claim they accept debate only to become angry and borderline violent when confronted with rationale debate and facts. The backfire effect is alive and well. LOL

Unfortunately, I see this issue just getting worse. Politicians LOVE ignorant voters who vote strictly down "party lines" (read tribal lines) and the media enjoys stoking the fires for ratings. People like Trump and Clinton use that rabid loyalty to whip their fan base into a frenzy that would make Joseph Goebbels proud. The internet doesn't help since, let's face it, we can all hide. The anonymity brings out the darkest parts of some people who would never say or act out the feelings they post online. I guess those dark feelings make some feel powerful.

The hate soup of political tribalism, media bias, and internet anonymity is boiling away. It occasionally boils over with things such as Antifa and Unite the Right. How do we stop it. Simple, RESPECT. I think a lot of people learned that lesson on this site with the whole 5cats debacle. Seems lately the lesson is being forgotten as more people post more political bullshit to a humor site. Makes you wonder if they forgot the lesson. I guess we will see.
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Male 12,787
markust I noticed this with the lies the media preached to the populace after 9/11.
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Male 6,496
monkwarrior You are a troll and I forgive you for that. I forgive you because I don't know what is going on in your life to make you behave this way, but mostly I forgive you so I can free myself from interacting with you.
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Male 12,787
markust i forgive you too man!
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Male 18,074
markust you're quoting Goebbels.
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Male 1,319
Draculya actually, 2 things. Not to be picky, but a/ he's not quoting, but commenting on the principal, or, at most, paraphrasing, and b/ it's not actually Goebbals. That's a common mis-attribution. You're referring to what Hitler said, in Mein Kampf..
The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.

Ok, you got me....I am being picky. Carry on, nothing to see here...
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Male 8,969
buttersrules It's a pleasure to read that kind of pickiness, if we're calling it that. (I'd call it accuracy and a healthy attention to detail.) Thanks for such a good comment, Butters.
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Female 6,377
squrlz4ever THERE you are!
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Male 8,969
melcervini Here am I! Yes, I was AWOL for a couple weeks there doing squirrel stuff. Most of the time I can navigate both worlds pretty well, but sometimes you just have to get back to your roots, you know? So I crawled away from the keyboard for a bit and spent some time frolicking in the branches, speaking Squirrel, teasing the dogs at the local park, and flirting with the ladies (it's spring, after all, when a randy squirrel's thoughts turn to bow-chicka-wow-wow).
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Male 5,176
melcervini I was wondering too. Maybe even a little worried he got caught in a racoon trap or did one of those kamikaze’s into a car.
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Male 8,969
trimble Awww. It's nice to see my absence was noticed. Thanks, guys.
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Female 6,377
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Male 6,074
melcervini GOBBLES
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Male 1,319
melcervini it took me a full five minutes, but I finally see what you did there! Gobbells!!
rofl.
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Male 6,496
Draculya WTF? I'm trying to get people to recognize the brainwashing not implement it.
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Male 18,074
markust I stand corrected. Actually, you were paraphrasing Mein Kampf

The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.
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Male 6,496
Draculya I’ve never read Mein Kampf. If talking about the brainwashing techniques of partisan us-against-them opinion media makes you guys think of Goebbels and Hitler that is a pretty good reason in itself for people to stay the hell away from opinion media.

If I am paraphrasing anything it would be this quote, “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.” William James (1842-1910) The father of modern Psychology.
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Male 18,074
markust "freedom is only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom"
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Male 5,176
markust Very well said sir.
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