Sunday, October 9, 2016

The FEAR election - emotional versus logical thinking

This election more than any in recent history, pits logical versus emotional thinking.   Trump is using FEAR to rally supporters.

A recent article tries to analyze what is going on in Trump supporters' brains.   The answer is really quite simple:  Trump is cranking up the FEAR lever, which causes people to think emotionally and not logically, which in turn allows them to support him, even though they may disagree or even be repulsed by his positions.

In a way, he is not unique in this regard.  Look around the world today at the new generation of dictators - Ergadon, Putin, Duterte, Maduro and others - all have the same characteristics.  They say and do outlandish things, like a Reality Television star, and their supporters are entranced by them.  Entranced is the right word - it is a form of hypnosis.  It is not dissimilar to the effect Hitler's speeches had on his followers, or even us today.  If you listen to this sort of right-wing bombast, part of you wants to say, "yes, he's right, it is all the Jews' fault" until you snap out of it and realize how utterly charming dictators can be.  Charming as in a snake charmer.

Fear is the common denominator.  If you are a weak leader, you can't run on your own record, so you run on fear.  Maybe it is fear of crime, Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, or terrorists.  Or drug dealers or capitalists or Yankee Imperialists.   Or maybe secularism and Western culture.  All you have to do is convince your supporters that (a) the problems their country is having are external, not internal, and (b) these outside forces are to blame for their problems.   Classic externalizing and fear-mongering.

Your opponent tries to run on common-sense and policy wonkism.   They will likely lose.   Because in addition to making people afraid of external forces, you make them afraid of your opponent.

And to do this, you use emotional thinking.   You tag your opponents with catch-phrases and nicknames and before long, people identify your opponent by those phrases.   Trump's genius - if you can call it that - is in tagging each of his opponents with a degrading nickname, whether it is "Low Energy" Bush or "Little Ricky" Rubio.  Once you slap the label on, it sticks.

I recently talked with an old friend about the election.  He is appalled by Trump but won't vote for "Crooked Hillary" (his words).   When I asked him why Hillary was "crooked" he hemmed and hawed for about ten minutes and then gave up.  It sort of sounded like one of Trump's run-on sentences - just a word salad of "e-mails, whitewater, Jennifer Flowers" and then a period at the end.   What he failed to articulate was any specific incidence of "crookedness" just maybe a few examples of bad judgment (being crooked has to be more than just doing something stupid, it has to be doing something illegal for a profit, and no, getting paid to give a speech doesn't qualify as "crooked").

The sad thing is, it seems that more and more of the planet, trained on reality television, facebook, and twitter, seem to fall for this sort of thing.  I mentioned before (I thought, anyway) that there seems to be a parallel between world events today and events of the 1930's.   Back then the new media was radio (and the newsreels) which allowed politicians to talk directly to voters for the first time.  Bear in mind that in the US, Presidential candidates rarely even gave speeches on their own behalf when running for office, at least not until the 20th Century.  Now, with mass-media, politicians could talk directly to voters without the filter of newspapers or print.   It was a powerful tool, and it is no wonder that we saw a rise in radical politics at the time.

Today it is the same deal, only with so-called "social media."   People can live in their own informational cubby-holes and never see or hear any opposing views.  Supporters at a Trump rally when asked say they they don't believe the polls as "no one every called them and ask for their opinion" and "no one I know on Facebook is supporting Hillary" - clearly they have no idea how Facebook or most Social Media works.

It will be interesting to see how the election pans out. While polls are promising right now - showing that intellectualism and rational thought are prevailing - there are still a lot of people out there willing to vote based on fear.  And as I have noted time and time again, when someone tries to instill fear into you, they are basically lying to you and trying to deceive you for their own profit.

The narrative being sold by Trump is rife with lies.  He claims that crime is rampant, when in fact it is at all-time lows, not only for our country but for human civilization in general.   He claims that American is in deep trouble economically but in fact our economy leads the world and inflation is low, unemployment is at record lows, and interest rates are flat.  He claims Ford is "moving production to Mexico" but the reality is they are only moving small-car production there so they can re-tool their US plants to build SUVS, including a new Bronco to compete with the Jeep Wrangler.  He claims that US manufacturing is all going to "Gina" when in fact our manufacturing capabilities are increasing, surpassing Germany last year and on track to surpass China by 2020.

But the core Trump supporters don't see this.  They see only that they are in debt and can't find a "good paying job" for someone with no education and no skills.   If only we could go back to the "good old days" of the 1970's when UAW workers were paid more than Doctors to put together half-assed overpriced cars!   The stag-flation of that era was so much better than today!

Logically, of course, none of this makes any sense.   But Trump isn't trying to sell logic, which is why his antics are working - for a certain subset of the population.   They want emotional drama, as delivered by the television.  Reality television has trained an entire generation to think that having a family means having family drama all the time, that going to work means having drama at work.  That everything in life should involve shouting, confrontation, scheming, and back-biting.   And Trump delivers all of this for them, in what in past years was a major snooze-fest of policy discussions.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out - whether America will go the way of so much of the world (including the UK with its Brexit vote) and succumb to emotional thinking.   Emotional thinking, of course, usually leads to disaster, whether it is the pound dropping to $1.20 or 3,600 (and counting) people murdered in a matter of months in the Philippines.

A Trump Presidency would result in economic disaster for the United States, which is why most real Republicans are against him.  Starting a trade and tariff war with the China, Mexico, and the rest of the world would not make life better for Americans, but would just make everything far more expensive.  We would be back in the same stag-flation mode we were in back in 1975.   If you lived back then, you understand that.  But sadly, fewer and fewer people seem to recall those days.  Fewer still were alive back then.