Anyone who has been keeping up with the news lately has borne witness to the Repubes trying to revise history and make a wide variety of ridiculous claims about the 6 January Insurrection that was televised — unlike the revolution. It seems impossible to believe that anyone thinks that something like the insurrection riot, which was so full of emotional turmoil, which everyone who was there, who lived it, and everyone who watched it from a safe distance could think that it was anything other than a traumatizing horrific attack on the peaceful transfer of office and, therefore, on our Constitutional democracy. It seems impossible to believe that people will believe the revision that is being foisted upon them, yet it is possible that they will and, more importantly, promoting this revisionist history is one more step in unmaking our democracy, our country, and our society.
By telling such obvious lies, the Repubes are demonstrating that they have no shame. And, as it turns out, shame is the thing that makes society possible as we’ll explain in a minute. First, we need to demonstrate the shameless lying that the Repubes so easily engage in just in case someone has just emerged from a coal mine cave in and had missed it.
The Shameless Lies that Shameless Liars Tell
During the House Oversight Committee Hearing on the 6 January Insurrection, multiple Repubes just lied about the riot variously claiming that there was no insurrection and that the DoJ is harassing innocent patriots! Can you believe it?!? They know they’re lying, yet they do it anyway. Let’s disprove them just for fun!
The Shameless Lies of, the Shameless Liar, Rep. Andrew Clyde
On the left is Rep. Anqrew Qlyde (R of Shameless Lying Ville) claiming the 6 January Insurrection was like “normal tourist visit” and a photo of him helping the frigging Secret Service barricade the door the House chamber against the insurrectionists like you do during a normal tourist visit.
I know, you know that the Repubes are engaged in a systematic discrediting of the media, the Democrats, and anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of the election as being anything other than stolen from the rightful winner and the 6 January Insurrection as being nothing more than tiptoeing through the frigging tulips with flipping Tiny Tim, but let’s do one more because embedding video is cool because no one watches it.
The Shameless Lies of the Shameless Liar, Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Here’s Qevin MqQarthy (R – Speaker’s Gavel) who thinks him being Speaker of the House is more important than the US continuing to be a constitutional democracy, claiming that no one thinks that the election was illegitimate. He just came from a meeting with them, right? Would he be meeting with #BidenHarris if he didn’t think they were legitimate? See? No one believes the election was rigged or stolen. It’s just logic.
Wasn’t that fun, everyone? Now that all the shameless lying of all the shameless lying liars of the Republican Party have been exposed and disproved, we can move on to the real point of today’s post: the threat that shamelessly lying poses to our democracy.
The Role of Shame
Way back in June of 2018, we discussed the role that reciprocity, vengeance, gratitude, and gossip played in maintaining our social order. As explained in that pivotal post that very few people read reputation has to do some heavy lifting when we started living in groups larger than the 100 or 150 people that we evolved to live in. When we were in such small groups, we knew everyone and had a pretty good idea of who they were and what they had done. We all depended on one another to pull their weight. If a person offended the group, broke the group norms (the rules that govern how we behave and interact) then they would be ostracized and eventually exiled from the group kinda like the Pilgrims did to Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson for not loving Jesus in the right way. Once exiled, you were indeed destined for a nasty, brutish, and short life. A single human being was no match for the predators found on the savannahs; we needed to live in small groups to survive.
Now, our groups number in the tens or hundreds of millions. We call those sized groups, ultrasociality. Now, we don’t know many of the people that we’re expected to live and work with. Next time you’re in line for coffee scan the line and see how many people you recognize and know something about. Probably not many. But, you’re relatively sure that none of them are going to try and kill you before you leave the coffee shop, right? You’re relatively sure that none of them are going to try and rob the place or steal their coffee or even go into the bathroom, clog the toilet, and flood the place.
Why? Why can be we be so sure that this is the case? Because we all live by a set of rules that say we shouldn’t do those things. If we didn’t have these minimum standards in place for how we function, then we wouldn’t be able to function as a society.
One of the things that happens to people who break the law or the rules is that they are ashamed. They are shamed. They are embarrassed that we all know what they did. We don’t like getting caught out in a lie. We don’t even like being wrong. It is embarrassing. Some of us argue even harder once we start to suspect that we are wrong and refuse to admit it even when it is painfully obvious.
Reciprocity, Gratitude, and Vengeance
Reciprocity is the idea that if I do you a favor, you’ll do me a favor. If I buy you dinner and a movie, you’ll have sex with me. It also works the other way. If I sexually harass you, you’ll put me on a #MeToo list or file a case against me or something. It is the mechanism that governs gratitude (having received a favor) and vengeance (having been harmed).
We need both to be a functioning individual in a functioning society. If you as a person are unwilling to seek vengeance (enforce the law at a minimum or stand up for yourself) then you will be taken advantage of. Conversely, if you have no gratitude, then no one will want to work with you muchless do you a favor. Our reputations are important and we need both gratitude and vengeance to help us manage the push and pull of a large complex society.
In short, we follow the rules because we feel shame. We are honest and will reciprocate favors because we feel shame. We’d be ashamed if we didn’t acknowledge someone’s birthday after they acknowledged ours, if we didn’t give someone a Christmas card after they gave us one. And, we minimize the number and seriousness of lies we tell because we would be ashamed if we were caught.
What does this tell us about Republicans who are willing to tell such weak obvious lies? It tells us that they have no shame. That they think the benefits of violating our social prescriptions against lying and destructive behavior outweigh the disadvantages.
The Effect of Continual Lies
That makes them really dangerous. They are no longer bound by the universal bond that holds society together. The norms that we live by don’t apply to them. They are literally tearing our society apart by its seams. If we do not have a basic set of rules that we all follow, then we don’t have a cohesive society.
It also tells us something more. It tells us that they must face a sanction for being willing to lie like this. We must exact some form of punishment on them. If we don’t, they will never stop. We have to have gratitude towards those that follow the rules and seek vengeance against those who break them. In the hunter-gatherer days, we would just split. The lying liars would gather up their stuff and go live over there. The rest of us would gather our stuff and go live over here. And, we’d fight if we ever met each other in the wild.
It really tells us what our options are: (1) Punish the Repubes for their lies, or (2) allow them to continue violating all of the rules as they see fit. Each option has clear outcomes.
Punish the Repubes for their lies: One way we can punish them is by defeating them soundly at the ballot box. Unfortunately, they command upwards of 75 million voters and are working hard to undercut our 80 million voters through a variety of voter suppression options. This remains our best option.
Another way is by dividing the country. Literally, seceding from the union and creating a Republican and a Democrat nation. I don’t think anyone wants that… or do they? Because the Repubes are making it increasingly difficult to live with them.
Allow them to continue violating our norms: We will then allow them to solidify their hold on minority rule, which they already have begun. We will give up our constitutional republic and live in an authoritarian single-party pseudo-democratic minority-rule regime.
Unless we impose some kind of harsh penalty on the Repubes for making such egregious violations of our social norms, they will continue to walk all over us. It really is that simple. We stand up to them and make them follow the rules, or we lose our democracy.
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Categories: Social Psychology