We’re in the middle of the fight of our lives. The forces of the 1890’s are everywhere and moving against every gain we’ve made since then: taking away rights, the social safety net, and any regulation of business. If we’re not careful we will be living in Cancer Alley, drinking Flint water, paying for Texas utilities, and dying quickly and quietly when we start costing more than we contribute to the wealth of the one percent.
In the right corner, wearing the red trunks, and weighing in at 74 million votes are the openly seditious advocates for single-party pseudo-democratic minority-rule authoritarianism! On their platform are the rights, freedoms, and benefits that Russia bestows on its citizens, rulers, and oligarchs.
In the left corner, wearing the blue trunks, and weighing in at 81 million votes are the forces of democracy looking to make a more perfect union with expanding prosperity and equality for all who grace our land. On their platform are the rights to vote, privacy, a living wage, housing, and medical care.
In the middle are the uniformed, uninvolved, and uninspired citizens who just can’t see how politics affects their daily lives and various businesses that might be willing to pressure states and the US government to do the right thing unless and until it begins to hurt their profits and then, it’s on your own folks. Seriously, never get between a capitalist and his profits.
Don’t believe me, listen to the esteemed presidential historian, Michael Beschloss, tweet all over us!
And, with that assist, we come to the topic of today’s post: minority influence and how it is helping and hurting us in our struggle to resist the authoritarian take over of our government.
Minority influence is a form of social conformity in which the minority changes the opinion, belief, or behavior of the majority to conform more closely with their own (from the Four Weird Tricks post). Moscovici determined four weird rules that the minority should follow when seeking to change the opinion of the majority. As we go through each one, we’ll discuss how each side is using them. Feel free to give your opinion in the comments; I’d love to discuss it all with you.
(1) BEHAVIOR STYLE. The way the minority behaves is super important because the majority knows it don’t have to pay no attentions to no minority no way no how unless and until they are marching through their neighborhoods all peaceful like, and then all they need to do is come out onto their lawns with guns and shout invective and hope — hope I tell you! — that someone starts something so they can shoot them some minority and be all Kyle Rittenhouse famous and not McCloskey famous.
Moscovici determined that there were three ways that the minority had to behave:
- Confident. The minority has to act with absolute confidence that they are right. The right is “confident” that the 2020 election was stolen, but when you have to go through the Gordian knot of cognitive dissonance to preserve that one, you are not really confident. They are also confident that they are right on abortion, guns, and election “security.” The 6 January Committee hearings and the SCOTUS abortion ruling just might could have some influence.
- Unbiased. The minority has to be objective in what they are advancing. If they come off as partisan at all, the spell is broken and the majority flies like budgies from their cage. The right isn’t even trying to hide their bias in any of this. They are openly saying that they are trying to steal the ’22 election. Their pretext for doing so is a transparent falsehood. The 6 January Committee is coming off pretty good. The dire consequences of the abortion ruling are objective and undeniable. It has the right arguing that forcing ten year olds to carry their rapists babies to birth is okay because there just aren’t that many ten year olds being impregnated by rapists as long as you think one isn’t that many. And, let’s face it, the age of consent in the Virginia Colony and Common Wealth was ten, so Founding Fathers, amiright?
- Enduring Resistance and Abuse. The minority has to be willing to put up with all the shit the majority is going to throw at them for being a minority. Any little infraction will allow the majority to smear the entire minority with whatever it was and dismiss their views. That’s why the right is always trying to label us as antifa violent Portland assholes. It’s okay for them to shoot abortion doctors and blow up abortion clinics, but it isn’t okay for us to shoot Supreme Court justices or Republican senators from states with Democratic governors. Not that anyone would do that or even suggest it.
Depth of Thought
(2) DEPTH OF THINKING. Once the majority is paying attention, they have to THINK about the issue at hand. The more seriously that they think about it, the more likely they are to change.
Regular readers know that getting people to think is difficult and getting them not to think is easy. We have biases towards not thinking and are easily tricked into believing all kinds of bullshit just to avoid thinking about anything. Thus, we have these lines floating through our minds:
- The easiest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.
- Hearts and farts, or whatever crap they’re doing.
- It’s a child.
- Every sperm is sacred; every sperm is great; and if even one is wasted, god gets quite irate. Oh wait, that’s Monty Python.
- Immigrant caravans filled with terrorists carrying monkeypox coming to impregnate your 10 year old and force her to have their babies!
- The US is a Christian country found upon Christian ideals.
Please add any others you can think of in the comments. I’d love to see them. At any rate, all of these platitudes, tropes, and slogans are meant to stop us from thinking. Most of them are designed to engage our emotions and activate white racial animus, which are the antithesis of thinking. Thinking would mean you’d have to confront your own racial issues and few white people will ever tolerate that level of discomfort.
The right has been very effective in blunting the impact of many of the left’s iniatives using this tactic. No gun reform after Sandy Hook, no police reform after George Floyd’s murder, voter suppression and nullification without evidence of voting fraud or even irregularities.
Flexibility & Compromise
(3) FLEXIBILITY AND COMPROMISE. Just like the minority has to be well behaved, they can’t be too demanding. They have to show that they can and will compromise with the majority. I know that compromise is a bad word right now, but it is the beating heart of democracy. And, like Reagan used to say, it is better to get half the loaf now and then burgle the bastard for the other half later.
Admittedly, ethical and constitutional issues cannot be compromised over, and there is no sense in trying to compromise with a party that adamantly won’t compromise on anything, but we aren’t just talking about the Senate or those issues. So, this is an easy one for the right to blow up.
I know this one is controversial, so let’s discuss your concerns in the comments, okay!
(4) IDENTITY. It is easier to get change and agreement if we are agreeing and making changes with someone we identify with. Who do we identify with? Celebrities and people who “look” like us. It’s one reason the right is so hopping mad that Hollywood is liberal and there are no good conservative entertainers.
It’s one reason that the 6 January Committee hearings have been effective: they’ve had testimony from Republicans that worked in the White House and on the campaign. Many of the racially ambivalent white folks of the indecisive but vulnerable to the racist dog whistle voter has been sitting up and paying attention. Those people are like them: wanting to do the right thing on the outside, secretly trying to oppress the Blacks on the inside, and willing to keep quiet about it all until they can look kinda sorta heoric for having done nothing when it mattered. Seriously, has there been a better explanation of American history than that?
Putting Minority Influence to Work
So, here’s what we have to do between now and election day:
- STAY FACTUAL & CALM.
- GO BEYOND THE MEME. Get people to think deeply about the issues. Figure out what’s wrong with the thin veneer of truthiness that the right white washes everything with — kneeling was about insulting the flag — and refuting it factually and calmly.
- FIND PLACES TO BE FLEXIBLE. Maybe defund the police wasn’t the greatest slogan, but what do you think about increasing funding for social and mental health services so that police officers aren’t the only responder if it isn’t fire or injury?
- IDENTIFICATION. Look for similarities with whoever you’re interacting with. Pressure celebrities and corporations to take a stand, but don’t rely on them to save us. They won’t. They’ll take the easiest shortest road to fame, fortune, and profits. It is up to us to make sure that road runs through democracy and equal rights.
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…and let’s discuss how you think we can convince the iNdEpEnDeNt VoTeR to get more involved and take the threats to our democracy and climate more seriously.
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Categories: Social Psychology