Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As We Feared: Trumpies Are Hopeless Brain-jacked Zombots- But WHY?

In the wake of Trump's ascension to power, many academics and others have been working overtime to try to explain how so many could fall for this character's codswallop to the extent of allowing him entry  to the most powerful position in the world. The race to understand has ramped up as Trumpies - as we call them - merely shrug their shoulders at multiple outrages, including: Trump's absurd cabinet picks, and especially the release of the declassified intelligence report on the hacking of the recent  election.

Many of us in the reality-based community feared that too many on the other side would yet again shrug shoulders, yelp 'sour grapes' or express contempt. We feared, and it now seems we are proven right, that this country truly is divided across perception lines which bodes ill for its future. Because a house divided against itself - certainly in terms of common perceptions - cannot stand.

A NY Times article from Sunday, exposed the mental, perceptual fault lines clearly, and showed Trump voters exist in a bubble of their own, devoid of historical or political insight.  One is also led to contemplate that their bubble excludes rational thought, though that may not mean they are of low IQ.

Work by Dr. Robert Altemeyer, for example, discloses a subset of humans he calls "right wing authoritarians" whose choices are largely driven by fear. Thus, they are largely immune to rational exchange and any digression from an authority template is violently rebuked, or dismissed. It is not lack of intellect that governs this but fear. Fear of the unknown, of the "liberal" (or Muslim) "other",  As one commentator on this blog has put it: "At heart, these people are afraid to the extent of cowardice and they will accept anything buttressing their conception of safety...no matter how ridiculous or absurd the prophylactic / remedial measure may be."

In a way this also dovetails with work by Erich Fromm on the  "Necrophilous personality".  Harvey Hornstein's profile of the necrotic personality (p. 41) is especially chilling ( 'Cruelty & Kindness: A New Look At Altruism and Aggression'):

"(These) intolerant, prejudiced, authoritarian people are ill at ease. The baggage of their youth is filled with inescapable hates and fears. Mistrusting their own impulses, they are wary of others and the impulses they might possess. Their world becomes a jungle which must be carefully scrutinized because it is filled with human beings who harbor the 'evil' that they painfully learned to deny in themselves."

The upshot from this is that their perceptions and political choices are skewed and distorted in much the same way Robert Altemeyer attributes to "right wing authoritarians". That is, they view the outside world  - economic and political - as "a jungle which must be carefully scrutinized" but also rejected if it doesn't comport with their Zeitgeist.

All of this is necessary to grasp the examples illustrated in the Times' piece. Let's look at a few of them, dealing with reaction to the declassified intelligence report (which I have also read and found compelling to the extent we have a national emergency on our hands):

"From the parts of the report I’ve seen,” said Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel who twice ran for Senate here as Tea Party favorite, “it seems silly.”

Silly? Really? That a foreign entity is intruding into our elections, something that would have elicited at least overt alarm in 95 percent of citizens even thirty years ago. But his remark shows the extent to which brains -minds have  evidently been twisted toward the authoritarian mindset, likely by decades of PR and propaganda that render them numb to reason, objectivity.

Of the comments he had seen from fellow Trump supporters on Facebook and in emails, he added, “90 percent of them are like, ‘What’s the big deal?’”

The Russians may have very well gotten involved, several people said. They added that kind of interference should be combatted. But many assumed that foreign actors had long tried to play favorites in American elections (NOT true) and that the United States had done the same in other countries’ elections (true, as with Chile in the 1970s, and Mossadegh in Iran, overthrown in 1953). 

A most disturbing theme that recurs is "Even if the Russians did do it what difference did it make?" 

And typically, many Trump voters did not need the Russians to make up their minds about Mrs. Clinton.  Hence, blaming her loss on the Russians was, as one Trump supporter said, “ just being sore losers.”

No reference (from the report) that the Russians had ALSO hacked the Republicans, but they simply didn't use what they found against that party.

Incredibly, even among those who were troubled by the hacks, few felt that Russia was a serious threat. That country was “a basket case,” (not true)  or not the powerful foe it once was (false, as they still have nearly 400 more nuclear warheads than the U.S.), Others said that North Korea, the Islamic State and China were the real threats   A claim difficult to reconcile with the fact that Russia has more than five times the nuclear warheads and missiles as all these other entities combined.

That those on the political right seemed to be warming to Russia was not seen as a particularly unusual development to the Trumpies interviewed, though some joked about the incongruity of the left putting such faith in the Central Intelligence Agency..  This, of course, is a variant of the post hoc fallacy, that because the political left may have earlier had issues with the CIA (e.g. during the Church Committee (FISA) hearings of the 1970s) they must have issues in all later years.

Another form of dismissal pivots on Trump's personality, or what Trumpies are confident is his personality.

Thus, one woman insisted “Trump is Trump,” adding “Do I think he’s going to become more of a friend to Russia because of this? No I don’t. I think — I hope — his focus will be on making America great again.”

Again, this reflects the clouded judgment of a right wing authoritarian who is prepared to dismiss obvious character  faults (e.g. lack of impulse control)  in the interest of embracing a faint hope of national betterment ('making America great').

Perhaps the most disturbing reaction of all was this, in response to the issue of the Russians hacking actually affecting the electoral outcome:

If that’s what it took, I’m glad they did it.”  In the words of one guy from Louisiana.

Sadly, his remark says all we need to know about how our nation is now in the grip of unreasoning authoritarian zombots, inhabiting their own bubble, to the detriment of the nation.

No comments: