We are at a unique point in history, a rare point, a point that we’d all be wise to make note of for future reference. This very moment as it stretches across the days, weeks, and months could very well be a turning point. Is this the moment that we throw off the tyranny of privileged men, in general, and privileged white men in particular, or is this the moment that we stepped up to the abyss, dangled a foot over the void, wet ourselves, and then turn back?
It seems that every day brings a new accusation of sexual impropriety against another prominent white man. Besides Bill Cosby, has there been an accusation against a man of color? I don’t know. I coulda missed it. If you know of one, personal or public, please let us know in the comments. It would be much appreciated. This week saw Al Franken meet his ignoble past, and as the Wonkette’s headline so aptly puts it, You Broke My Heart, Franken. Unforgivable for most of us.
Because the human brain evolved to believe what it was perceiving — our dithering ancestors on the proverbial hunter-gatherer savanna were et before they could pass their disbelieving, questioning, or dithering genes on — we will believe an accusation made in a headline. Despite the tradition of innocent until proven guilty, we tend to believe what we hear. It takes too much thought otherwise. Thought that our brains have economized out of our general abilities. That’s why we all believe a scoundrel like Bob Menendez is guilty and then are horrified when the jury is well hung. How could that be? How could they be so well hung? It probably is because they focused on the arguments presented by both sides and the evidence presented by both sides and not just the headlines. The general public, however, just reads whatever was printed in our social media streams by our like minded social media friends.
Supporting Roy Moore
Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it!
Man rapes four year-old boy!
Hear ye! Hear ye!
Most of us would hear the bygone newspaper boy shouting his headline and be aghast, appalled, and angered. We wouldn’t even question it. We would just believe it and condemn the rapist for the evil sumbitch he is.
Why do people still support Roy Moore even though he (a) has been accused very publicly by several women, and there is a general consensus in Gadsden that he chased teen-aged skirt; and (b) ruled in favor of the defendant in the above case? When the Alabama Supreme Court heard an appeal of just such a case, he was the lone judge to rule that the defendant had not used forcible compulsion during the rape of a four year-old boy. I believe it can only be forcible compulsion when a grown-ass man sticks his grown-ass hard-on into the anus of a four year old. What the fuck was he thinking? Other than he had more empathy for the rapist than the boy?
People who continue to support Moore say things like, Why wouldn’t you want a man with good Christian values in the Senate? But, are the actions of Roy Moore the actions of a man who has internalized good Christian values? Do we just go by the shouted vitriolic, virulent virtue in his speeches and his irrational defiance of the US Supreme Court regarding marriage equality to believe he has good Christian values?
The Halo Effect
First, there is the halo effect. It is one reason why it breaks the hearts of Al Franken’s fans to learn he, too, like most men, is a sexual predator. When you like someone for any reason, their looks, a good first impression, their fashion sense, what ever it is, you tend to assume that all other aspects of their existence conform to your views and values.
It is kinda why Nazis think Taylor Swift is a Nazi. She’s purdy, and they like to fantasize about starting the Aryan race with her blonde self, so she must be a Nazi otherwise why is she so dern attractive to Nazis? See it is logic.
Liberals loves Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmations, Franken’s books, Lies: And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and, so, we haloed him. We haloed him from the highest tree! He would never ever do anything that we wouldn’t 100% approve of because he was so dern funny as that there Stuart Smalley, right? He wouldn’t do the evil nasty things that we think are evil and nasty, never mind that they change over time. Not that sexual aggression has ever been okay; it has, however, been more accepted, and the perpetrators have been better protected by the system in the past.
Same same with Christian evangelicals. They haloed Roy Moore when they first heard him espouse his belief in Christian values regardless of whether he ever lived them. Now, it is hard for them to quit on him.
The Horns Effect
The opposite of the halo effect is the horns effect. The assumption is that everything someone you dislike does is terrible. Liberals have horned the old horn-dog Roy Moore. Everything he does is evil (It is, though. It really really is). And evangelical Christian conservatives have horned liberals. Everything they do is evil (It ain’t, though. It really really ain’t).
The horns effect makes it easier for Moore supporters to assume that the evil liberal media is coming for the man with good Christian values who would save America. It is just like when Bill Clinton was perving all over Monica Lewinsky, we ignored the obvious power dynamic between the most powerful man in the world and a 20-something intern and said, Meh! She knew what she was getting into when she joined. And, libs, we have to own that one and re-litigate it, too. You can begin the arguments in the comments if you’d like.
The Collective Mind
Knowledge is social. As individuals, we feel like we know a lot, but I don’t call the 2016 election and its aftermath the Great Civics Lesson for nothing. As a group, this election exposed our ignorance! We don’t even know how a president is elected. We don’t understand the party system, the primaries, voting registration or casting our votes, the electoral college, impeachment, none of it.
Once in a while you meet someone or read someone who gets it all, but they are damn few and far between. But, wait! It gets worser: even when we do meet or read one of these rare individuals who get how presidents are elected, we don’t pay them no never mind. We argue with them as if our opinion was equal to their expertise!
So, knowledge is social. It is shared. We exchange bits of information, opinion, reasoning, all kinda things. The internet is perfect for that because we’ve invented social media platforms with millions exchanging our ideas. The hive mind has gone viral.
We form little communities of like minded people and exchange gifs and memes and tweets and status updates. And because the brain evolved to believe whatever it perceives, we believe that Lincoln once said that you can’t always believe what your read on the Internet! Because thinking is hard, and emotions are easy, emotions form the basis of strong vivid memories. We rely on them. Because we have evolved to live in groups, we dare not defy the group for fear of being cast out and ostracized to fend for ourselves among the predators of the wilds.
Collective Intelligence about Roy Moore
So, when all of Roy Moore’s little evangelical Christian supporters get together and start exchanging their gifs, memes, and status updates about all the good Christian values Roy Moore embodies, and about how the evil liberal press is trying to keep this man with strong Christian values — because he says he has them! — out of the Senate, they don’t stop to think that Roy Moore quite likely molested a 14 year old girl and defended the raper of a four year-old boy among other things. And, they don’t weigh those things against their impression of good Christian values.
Spit in his Food
Because they fear being cast out of their evangelical Christian community, they dare not question the wisdom of supporting a man who would so pester teenage girls at their work so much that those girls would complain to bosses and co-workers. By the way, Roy Moore probably hold’s the world’s record for having consumed the most human spit of anyone ever in the history of human kind. He was so vilified by the teen-aged waitstaff of the restaurants he frequented that they was all spiting in everything that he ever received there. I wonder if he knows. If you have a good “I spat in someone’s food at a restaurant” story, please do tell it in the comments. I love those restaurant revenge stories best of all.
Collective Intelligence about Al Franken
This same shared knowledge works in the liberal community, too. We have a shared opinion of Al Franken. He has been a marvelous senator and delight to watch as he questions people from the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s administration, especially Jeff Sessions, even though he isn’t a fast talking high pressure black woman getting the AG all flustered. As a group, part of our social knowledge is a deep and abiding appreciation and respect for Al Franken.
And, now, we’ve added to that our disappointment of him in his sexual abuse of Leeann Tweeland in 2006. Right now, I don’t think anyone is certain where we’ll end up as a group in our opinion and thoughts on Franken. There are open questions about whether he will continue in the Senate.
I can say, though, with some pride, that we are struggling to incorporate this important information instead of denying it like we did with Bill Clinton. It would be easy to try to demonize Moore and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber and to give Franken a pass. That didn’t work out too well for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, did it? Don’t feel sorry for him, though, he don’t read many of the responses to his tweets.
Deep Thoughts with Michelle Obama
As painful as this is, we are breaking new ground. We are going places we never dreamed we would be going with this. The only way forward is to appreciate that we work better as a group, that our knowledge is more robust when it is shared, and to continue sharing our thoughts and opinions and ideas. But, let’s all try and follow the advice of one of the truly great First Ladies of the US:
Focus on what you can control. Be a good person every day. Vote. Read. Treat one another kindly. Follow the law. Don’t tweet nasty stuff.
The impact of all of us in our everyday lives is greater than anything … that can come from the White House.
— Michelle Obama’s talk at The Bushnell