Good column from David Brooks over the weekend:
For those awash in anxiety and alienation, who feel that
everything is spinning out of control, conspiracy theories are
extremely effective emotional tools. For those in low status
groups, they provide a sense of superiority: I possess important
information most people do not have. For those who feel
powerless, they provide agency: I have the power to reject
“experts” and expose hidden cabals. As Cass Sunstein of Harvard
Law School points out, they provide liberation: If I imagine my
foes are completely malevolent, then I can use any tactic I want.
Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of
policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set. […]
What to do? You can’t argue people out of paranoia. If you try to
point out factual errors, you only entrench false belief. The
only solution is to reduce the distrust and anxiety that is the
seedbed of this thinking. That can only be done first by contact,
reducing the social chasm between the members of the epistemic
regime and those who feel so alienated from it. And second, it
can be done by policy, by making life more secure for those
without a college degree.
“You can’t argue people out of paranoia” nails the deep dark conundrum we face. A good example, from his NYT op-ed page colleague Maureen Dowd, who for years now has turned over her Thanksgiving column to her Republican brother, a supposed conservative. This tradition of Dowd’s drives many readers nuts, but I have always enjoyed — well, no, not enjoyed, but appreciated — it for the insight into how a large group I’m not a part of, and generally disagree with, thinks. This year, Kevin Dowd revealed himself to be well on his way to Kookville:
The Democrats remain mystified by the loyalty of Trump’s base. It
is rock solid because half the country was tired of being
patronized and lied to and worse, taken for granted. Trump was
unique because he was only interested in results.
Yes, yes, Trump’s base remains united behind him because they’re … tired of being lied to. That’s it. It’s certainly not that they’re tired of being told truths they do not want to hear.
A word of caution to Fox News: Your not-so-subtle shift leftward
is a mistake. You are one of a kind. Watching the quick abdication
of Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum following the election (joining
an already hostile Chris Wallace) was like finding out my wife was
This treachery that Kevin Dowd equates to his wife cheating on him was acknowledging that Joe Biden soundly beat Donald Trump in the election. That’s not a leftward shift. It’s a statement of fact. A truth, inconvenient or not.
★ Monday, 30 November 2020