Cognitive Psychology

Is Knowingly Lying for Political Gain Protected Speech? Or a Solution for Bridging our Partisan Divide


If Election 2016 was the Great Civics Lesson teaching us all how we elect presidents and how the government and Constitution works, then Election 2020 is the Collective Narcissistic Delusion Election showing us that 72 million Americans are not dealing with reality. We’re hearing about how Democrats really need to reach out to white folks to understand their grievances with system and cater to their needs.

The notion that the Democrats are going to somehow reach rural conservative Christian white voters after 50 years of the Repube demagoguing and delegitimizing Dems is just throwing more white privilege after racism. It ain’t gonna happen.

The branding war is over. The brands of the two parties have been reified. It is going to take something drastic to change it. Incremental policy change isn’t going to get the job done. There is too stark of a distinction between Repubes and Dems in most people’s minds.

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The #COVID19 Pandemic and Damaging Political Lies

The clearest example of how baked in the distinction is is the #COVID19 pandemic? When the Bob Woodward tapes were released, in which the Ol’ Pussy Grabber admitted he knowingly lied about how easily the virus was transmitted and how deadly it was, it should’ve been a deal breaker. It should’ve brought the rural conservative Christian white voters out of the world of deceit, delusion, and denial that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber weaves for them. But it didn’t.

He literally admitted to allowing 240,000+ real live dead Americans to die needlessly. He literally admitted to allowing 10 million+ real live Americans to become infected with the virus and suffer needlessly from it. He told them to their faces in his very own annoying voice, and they didn’t budge.

During the campaign, every where the Ol’ Pussy Grabber held a superspreader event the virus super spread. The red states of the West and Midwest are now the hardest hit per capita. We’re seeing 100,000+ new infections every day and 1,000+ deaths every day. Hospitals, equipment, and healthcare workers are being overwhelmed. And, they continue to support him.

Policy Discussions fall upon Deaf Ears

If the prospect of watching multiple family members die slow painful needless deaths doesn’t shake your support for a party or politician, how can a discussion of how they’ll benefit from universal healthcare or improved retirement plans change their minds when all they’ll hear is “Blah blah blah, socialism, blah blah blah, BLM, blah blah blah, take your guns, blah blah blah, abortion rights”?

Democrats are fooling themselves if they think that’s going to work. However, there is something that will work: banning knowingly lying during the course of a campaign or while in office. Knowingly lying in those two situations should not be protected speech like shouting fire in a crowded theater isn’t protected speech.

It shouldn’t be protected because of the state has a vested interest in preventing the very real harm it causes to our citizens. Banning lying is a radical step, but it is necessary because of the powerful cognitive tendencies that Repubes cynically use to maintain their positions and win elections. They are cognitive dissonance and gaslighting and groupthink.

We’ll now summarize each and make the conclusion again, so maybe you’ve read enough and want to skip ahead to leaving a sign-of-life like giving the post a five-star rating, liking it, leaving a comment, or sharing it on social media.

Cognitive Dissonance

There are numerous posts discussing cognitive dissonance on Ye Olde Blogge. We provided this definition:

Cognitive dissonance is the tendency to lie to yourself to justify your actions that are in conflict with past statements, beliefs, or current reality. And, cognitive dissonance is the key to understanding the stubborn continuing support for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber in spite of obvious lies and real harm, injury, and death inflicted on his supporters.

What will it take to cause the Cognitive Dissonance of Trump Voters & Supporters to Collapse?

When our behavior conflicts with our beliefs like, you know, being pro-life, but approve of kidnapping children from their parents and locking them in cages and not providing a way of reuniting them with their parents, you know, like that, then you need cognitive dissonance to tell yourself the comforting lie that Cheezus meant only people in your own country, destroying the lives of immigrants was okay or only meant the innocent life of the fetus but once born it becomes a sinner and deserves the punishment super-Christians choose to inflict on it.

There is no universe in which the lie that the #COVID19 pandemic is fading away or that voting fraud has occurred does not cause real demonstrable harm to our country and citizens. No matter how you twist your rationalization of it and other political lies, they still cause deep and lasting harm to our country.

Social Support Maintains Cognitive Dissonance

Left on its own, reality would bite the believer in the ass, and cause believer to stop believing. Cognitive dissonance would collapse under the weight of real world consequences were it not for social support.

In the modern world, there are three trends that produce this social support: (1) We have migration with MAGAs living in blue states moving to red and vice versa, so everyone around you believes the same things making them seem true and right. (2) We have Fox News and other conservative outlets that are willing to spread the lies and conspiracy theories needed to maintain the cognitive dissonance of the rank and vile for fun and profit. And (3) we have social media that echoes our beliefs and reinforces them with ridiculous memes and blog posts. Having so many sources of information that agree that these transparent blatant lies are true, makes it easier to maintain the lie.

THE SOLUTION: Making the initial lie and repeating it on news outlets and social media platforms illegal.

Gaslighting and Groupthink

Since we’ve been writing about gaslighting and groupthink, we’ve come to believe that they are complimentary, especially when occurring in group settings. Again, follow the links to find out more about both.

Throughout all of the posts, we’ve relied on these definitions:

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse in which the abuser denies plainly obvious events, emotions, thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors in an attempt to intimidate, confuse, control, or otherwise manipulate the target of the abuse (Urban Dictionary). Gaslighting correlates highly with narcissistic personality disorder, so much so that it is also called narcissistic personality abuse. The narcissist uses a number of coping mechanisms to cope with their frequent narcissistic wounds. Inevitably, these coping mechanisms force the narcissistic delusion of perfection onto those around them absolving them of blame. Any lie that is needed to shift the blame is perfectly reasonable because the narcissist is perfect and beyond reproach.

Gaslighting and Groupthink

GROUPTHINK is a mode of thinking people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. 

Groupthink or Group Cluster… Explaining the Modern GOP

Gaslighting

The gaslighting reasoning seems to go like this: If the narcissist is perfect, then the narcissist can do nothing wrong. If something is wrong, then it must be someone else’s fault. Since you’re in the room, it must be your fault. Down playing the virus was completely reasonable because the Ol’ Pussy Grabber didn’t want to start a panic. If there were problems with the response to the virus, it was the fault of your governor. You see that way that works.

When the state you’re living in is exploding with infections and deaths, it is too upsetting to admit that you were culpable in the deaths of a quarter million Americans and it is easier to believe that the pandemic is a hoax used to elect Joe Biden.

Groupthink

Couple that with groupthink and you’ve got a very powerful one-two punch because groups who are in the thrall of groupthink actively discourage dissent and very enthusiastically encourage conformity. The GOP and the rank and vile MAGA supporters tolerate zero dissent. It is all or nothing. No matter how you feel about the initial lie, when you look around and see everyone else is believing it, you’re much more likely to conform to the group views and believe it, too.

Groups that are in the thrall of groupthink quickly begin making disastrous and very immoral decisions like those that have led to 10 million+ people infected with and 240,000+ dead from the covfefevirus and 40-odd percent of the country not seeming to give a flying fuck.

Social Support in Gaslighting and Groupthink

Between the gaslighting and groupthink, you’ve got an answer for every criticism and complaint. The impact of the Woodward tapes were blunted by the echo chamber of Fox News, conservative social media, social support, and further gaslighting and groupthinking by GOP leadership. Mix in cognitive dissonance, and you’re going to have a very difficult time dissuading them from these beliefs.

THE SOLUTION: You’ve got to take away the mindguards (people who quash dissent in a group), prevent disinformation, lies, and conspiracy theories from being disseminated, and disrupt the social support for it all.

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Banning Political Lies

If we are going to bring the country together, we’ve got to do it based on agreed upon facts. People who are not dealing with reality are called crazy for a reason. Until we can get everyone dealing with reality again, we are going to be a crazy nation.

Just like judges across the country are concluding that the “evidence” that Trump lawyers are presenting for voting fraud is worthless, perhaps we should be asking judges to evaluate the other lies that office holders and office seekers are using. We cannot continue allowing alternative facts and outright lies to be the basis for decision-making in our government or campaigns. They are tearing the country apart and threaten our very existence.

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Image Attribution

“Blind Justice 3” by Marc Treble is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

7 replies »

  1. Of course, the objection would be that those who would be judging the truth or falsity could themselves be lying and “censoring conservative voices”, which is one of the accusations already leveled against the “Liberal” media and social media. The deceiver always attacks those who challenge the deception. Never the less, when political lies do demonstrable harm, there needs to be a remedy.

    Liked by 1 person

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