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    Hijacked Politics

    The Red and Black
    • Vol. 2
    • Iss. 1

    By Democratic Socialist Assembly member @Ratateague

    "Take their coats. Throw them out into the cold."

    Said Trump at a recent Vermont rally, clarifying, in case you thought he was joking: "Don't give them their coats. No coats! Confiscate their coats," further elaborating with context: "It's about 10 degrees below zero outside. ... You can keep his coat; tell him we'll send it to him in a couple of weeks."

    "Get 'em the hell out of here." - Upon witnessing black protesters in Alabama called racial slurs and repeatedly punched and kicked, even choked. Trump later reflected: "Maybe he should have been roughed up."

    I understand Trump's prerogative to maintain his unapologetic blowhard image to appease his base, but there is no reason, no justifiable circumstance to be so uncivil and heartless to each other in our political climate, no matter how much disagreement there is. Such callous behaviour incited by Trump and carried out by his followers is beyond reproach, and belies the real character behind this political movement. That of hate, intolerance, and contempt for differing viewpoints, but it doesn't stop there.

    For all the political friction, there's a unspoken line we are not meant to cross. One that involves complete disregard for our fellow man, the wish to invoke physical harm, and the abandonment of self-restraint. They've been toeing that line, walking it, and in the examples above, teetering over it like a drunk driver.

    What's more, the RNC and Republican leadership have been too afraid to reign him in and take his keys.
    It's like one of those scenarios that could be attributed to various psychology and social phenomena like Diffusion of Responsibility, the Bystander Effect, Spiral of Silence, or the Abilene Paradox. However, I can only think to call it the "Hijacked Bus Effect", substituting with "Plane" for a more extreme, violent version.

    Now, if you've never regularly ridden a bus in a metropolitan area, there's a good chance there's going to be at least one passenger with a screw loose, and they're vocal about it. Sometimes they'll move around excitedly, maybe even repeated try to engage you. It makes for a very uncomfortable bus ride, because everyone is either jaded, or too afraid or polite to say anything. And you'd think it'd be the bus driver's responsibility for ensuring a safe atmosphere, but for the most part is largely concerned with driving safely and keeping the schedule. Dave Chappelle covers this situation in a funny skit.

    Except that it usually ends without any real consequence, save for disrupted peace of mind and violated personal space. But this is not an isolated bus ride: it's politics. Something that determines the very fate of our nation. And people have been hurt.

    I'd advise against head-to-head arguments with Trump followers. No, I trust that many of you don't stand any risk of persuasion by trying to engage in discourse, but it won't likely achieve anything other than giving them a platform. Rather than attempts to antagonize them which would lower us to their level, I would suggest a radically opposite approach: don't elicit their opinion, be the one to appear cool, rational, and on the side of facts and statistics. The goal, after all, is not to persuade the obstinate, rather, everyone else. And to save yourself from a similar fate!

    Studies show that even when faced with contradictory evidence, arguing only further fuels staunch supporters' conviction that they are right, even feeling justified when scrutiny from the mainstream triggers their confirmation bias. Anne Pluta from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight reveals, "Uninformed citizens don’t have any information at all, while those who are misinformed have information that conflicts with the best evidence and expert opinion. As Kuklinski and his colleagues established, in the U.S., the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans. These folks fill the gaps in their knowledge base by using their existing belief systems. Once these inferences are stored into memory, they become indistinguishable from hard data, Kuklinski and his colleagues found."

    Many of his followers would mistakenly laud him for "speaking the truth" but fact-checking sitePolitifact says otherwise at least 93% of the time, so it is more accurately the equivalent "keepin' it real". For, in absence of laying out policy backed by content and stats, all that is left is to rely on cult of personality and telling people what they want to hear. It's so easy to denounce any sort of scrutiny of their behavior as political correctness, to dismiss sources as biased "mainstream media" because it doesn't fit a narrative, or counter with a "you too!" fallacy. Anything to avoid accountability and defending a position with facts, relying instead on appeal to gut feelings, legitimizing people's deep-seated prejudices, and playing upon their fears. He's been socially experimenting with his audience to see which gestures, expressions, and statements resonate the best. And he is perfectly aware in testing how lax our vigilance is; our tolerance for hatemongering.

    So much of it has to do with psychology. For those with strong opinions, an attack on their ideas is an attack on their psyche. We tend to hold our belief systems as intrinsic to our identity, our perceptions, the summation of our experiences. To tell someone that their politics or beliefs are wrong, and therefore inferred that the whole of their life experience and outlook have been a lie, can be devastating. As such, individuals will go to extreme lengths to avoid cognitive dissonance, and use any defense mechanism at their disposal, regardless of whether the beliefs themselvesare reconcilable with reality. Combined with the aforementioned overly defensive tactics of antiprocess, avoidance, deflection, and demonization, can lead to a very dangerous reductionist philosophy which socially isolates individuals to a uniform groupthink, a process of which is readily observable among conspiracy theorists.

    Although it doesn't make conventional sense to the rest of us, the very purpose of his latest rallies are not to entice undecided voters, but are tailored to those who already feel strongly. (Says Trump, "We have more than 20,000 people that showed up for 1,400 spots. I'm taking care of my people, not people who don't want to vote for me or are undecided.") So much so that attendees must explicitly profess that they are voting for Trump, or not be let in. In the same fashion of proposals to filter out muslims from immigrating, he witnessed first-hand the logistical error of his ways by multiple interruptions from protestors who simply lied to get in.

    The rally's purpose itself seems to be to maintain a cognitive bubble free of criticism and to provide deceptively perfect campaign footage for media portrayal. To be able to say: 'everyone that went to hear me talk had a unanimously positive reception,' has an unmistakable allure, even if the method is exclusionary and stifling. Although Trump's goal is to appear strong, cultivating a zero tolerance for criticism can only show weakness and close-mindedness. All of this has the potential of turning these events into hate rallies, if they aren't already.

    This is nothing new for us lefties, no. We had sensed the rhetoric of nationalism from the get-go. This is a wake up call for everyone who has sat on the sidelines, pretending to ignore this gross behavior or being too timid to address it. Show him where the "silent majority" really is and call out his campaign and his followers. Stand up and say, "they're right ... put your goddamn schlong away." Silence is complicity.

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