Monday 25 December 2023

MAGA, Anger, and Critical Thinking

If one thing has struck me over these past years, it's that MAGA is angry. Although, the word angry seems insufficient: livid, furious, raging, foaming at the mouth, I could go on but I'm trying to express that this anger is right off the charts. And because this anger is so out of control, I believe MAGA can no longer think straight. It's not about finding "the truth" in air quotes, it's about winning any and all arguments. I'm right, and everybody else is wrong. Evidence? Schmevidence! I don't have to prove anything because I'm right, and you're just a stupid sheeple!

I'm suspicious that MAGA knows they're wrong but they've got so much invested in this, to back out now would be not just embarrassing but humiliating. The thought of losing is out of the question. And in saying that, I want to point out that any 3rd party players like Fox News, various conservative, alt-right, and conspiracy theorist commentators, plus foreign entities like the Russian government are having a field day manipulating MAGA and their anger. Yes, that's right, I said manipulating. MAGA is being made a fool of but they are oblivious to it.

Zelensky and the Yachts
A week ago, M, a social media friend who seems to be a full-blown MAGA supporter, tweets that President Zelensky of Ukraine had stolen over a billion dollars in aid money and had recently purchased two yachts. My first impression is that this story couldn't be true but I Google it, curious to see what pops up. Out of all the hits, I only see two legitimate sources, Newsweek (Nov 30/2023) and France 24 (YouTube, Dec 5/2023, 4:43), debunking this rumor. Now, I'm thinking this has to be Russian propaganda. The supposed documentation for the sale has been falsified. The yachts in question have not been sold but are still for sale.

I present my findings to my friend M and she responds, "The very fact mainstream media has investigated this tells me there's something to the story." Well, yes, there is something to it. It's Russian propaganda. And sure enough, not three days later, another article from a reputable source, the BBC, describes how this social media blitz was orchestrated by the Russian government to cast doubt in the minds of the American public about support for Ukraine. And sure enough, some Republican politicians took the bait and began objecting to continuation of aid for the war effort. (How pro-Russian 'yacht' propaganda influenced US debate over Ukraine aid, BBC, Dec 20/2023)

Properly analyzing this using common sense (This comes from several military analysts.)
When a country commits a billion dollars to Ukraine, they are not putting a billion dollars in hundred-dollar bills on a palette and flying it over. They are committing to sending a billion dollars of equipment. Since the country already has the equipment, it doesn't cost them anything at that moment, not until they decide to replace it. It's the same if I commit to giving Ukraine my lawn mower. I already own the lawn mower; I'm merely giving them what I have. It doesn't cost me anything until I need to cut my lawn, but if I already have a second lawnmower, I pay nothing.

No country is sending Ukraine money; they're sending equipment. Zelensky couldn't possibly abscond with a billion dollars to buy any yachts because he's never gotten cash only equipment. Knowing this, I see this conspiracy theory about Zelensky buying yachts and immediately know it's not true because it's impossible. However, considering the number of gullible people taken in by this conspiracy, including Republican senators, it's obvious far too many people are lacking common sense or critical thinking.

Why did my friend tweet such a story? Why was her first inclination to believe it was one hundred percent verifiably true? M also calls Zelensky a Nazi. Where does that come from? Putin and the Russian government. But why would she believe it? First off, Zelensky is Jewish. Plus he lost his great-grandparents to the Nazis. Calling him a Nazi is illogical which is politely saying, this is just plain crazy.

M is an example of how Putin is winning the propaganda war. But this is an example of what seems to be a far bigger problem in America and perhaps all countries.

Critical Thinking
I use the definition of Eoghan Ryan from Scribber: Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment, while remaining aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and applying consistent standards when evaluating sources.

In my simple terms, it's about having a good bullsh*t detector. The more I know, the less I know. I'm not afraid to ask questions, and I'm not afraid to revise my opinion based on new evidence with a compelling argument. But I'm not going to blindly accept what anybody tells me without double checking what they're saying. Is there something wrong with proof?

My favourite example is Pizzagate. In 2016, there was a wild conspiracy theory floating around that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee were running a child sex ring out of the basement of a pizzeria in a Washington suburb. I just wrote that last sentence and I still shake my head. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in that statement which makes me think it is even remotely possible it could be true. It is pure, unadulterated bullsh*t. And yet, the Right went absolutely apesh*t over this story, even sending death threats to the pizzeria.

On December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch, a 28-year-old man from Salisbury, North Carolina, arrived at Comet Ping Pong and fired three shots from an AR-15 style rifle that struck the restaurant's walls, a desk, and a door. Welch later told police that he had planned to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory. Welch saw himself as the potential hero of the story—a rescuer of children. He surrendered after officers surrounded the restaurant and was arrested without incident; no one was injured.

I'm sorry, but just how f*cking stupid do you have to be? What in Heaven's name is wrong with people? Where in your wildest dreams would you think any of this is true? Are these people completely incapable of distinguishing between reality and made-up, stupid, B.S. spouted by nutjobs, claiming to have inside dirt on the rich illuminati running the world? I will end with Marjorie Taylor Greene and her Jewish space lasers. (Forbes, Jan 30, 2021) While I'm sure many people question Ms. Greene's faculties or lack thereof, I do have to give her credit for the entertainment value of her utterances. John Cleese amusingly pointed out that you have to have a certain degree of smarts to understand you're dumb, and that truly stupid people have no idea they are, in fact, stupid. (YouTube, Apr 11/2014, 0:58)

Leading vs Pandering
I have contended in previous articles that the average voter knows very little about the issues, politics, and how their country and the world works. Their vote is not an informed vote but more of a gut instinct based on whatever the latest sound bite has influenced their opinion. Fox News uses this as their business model. They zero in on the fears and biases of their target audience to capture their attention and gain a loyal viewership.

Leading is finding out the electorate thinks two plus two equals five and implementing policies so everyone learns that (and benefits from) two plus two equals four. Pandering is finding out the electorate thinks two plus two equals five then repeating the incorrect statement in order to capture the interest of the people so they follow you. Hello, Fox News, t****, and the rest of the rightwing conspiracy theorists.

Where does this anger come from?
Life isn't fair. We are all not equal. The rich fly around in their private jets while the rest of us merely scrap by, trying to pay our rent and put food on the table. People have no idea how the world works, so they make sh*t up. Those illuminati bastards must be taking all the spoils for themselves and leaving the rest of us with the scraps.

I Googled "MAGA anger" and found a number of explanations.

Twitter: Tom Nichols @RadioFreeTom, Dec 2/2023, Staff writer at The Atlantic
I know it's obvious that Trump changes positions on a dime and how it's mystifying that his cult doesn't care, but picking all this apart is a fool's errand. They stick with him because he channels their diffuse anger about their lives at other Americans. But it's worse now.

After 2016, Trump voters thought they'd really made their point, pushed back change in America, and gained respect by electing a POTUS. All that blew up in their faces: They found out they're not a majority, and worse, the disdain of their fellow citizens only intensified.

2020 and J6 compounded their sense of humiliation and grievance. The know Trump is making fools of them, but they will never admit it. And Biden winning was like a national slap in the face. So now they're with him no matter what. They don't care about policy or positions.

And this time, they'll support him as he does even more desperate and hideous things. He could call for open borders and free abortions and most of them wouldn't care. All they care about is that he's promising to go after people they hate even more now than in 2016.

Talking about how he and Biden "differ on Issues X/Y/Z" is pointless and a distraction. It's all part of the "normal political horse race" narrative that is blinding people to the danger ahead.

Why Conservative Parts of the U.S. Are So Angry, Yes! Magazine, Mar 21/2022
Republican America is poorer, more violent, and less healthy than Democratic America. But Republicans’ blame is misplaced.

There is a significant swath of White America who is poorer, less educated, and with fewer opportunities and the statistics show a remarkable correlation with the Republican Party. It has been ofttimes said that Republicans vote against their own best interests, and I return to the average voter has no idea what's going on. They don't make an informed vote, they vote on pure gut instinct. And politicians like t**** tap into that frustration to gain power. Unfortunately, while they vote in the hopes of making life better for themselves, they are actually shooting themselves in the foot because their savior doesn't care about saving them and, in fact, doesn't know how to save them.

Where does all this conspiracy theory bullsh*t come from?
From the beginning of time, if man didn't know the right answer, he made stuff up. Nature abhors a vacuum as they say, and the concept of a god fills in all the blanks.

Karen M. Douglas is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Kent in England. She studies the psychology of conspiracy theories. Her research examines why conspiracy theories appeal to so many people, and the consequences of conspiracy theories for individuals, groups, and society. In an interview and a research paper, she points out how people may gravitate toward conspiracies when they are anxious or feel powerless in an attempt to make sense of it all.

People with lower levels of education tend to be drawn to conspiracy theories. And we don't argue that's because people are not intelligent. It's simply that they haven't been allowed to have, or haven't been given access to the tools to allow them to differentiate between good sources and bad sources or credible sources and non-credible sources. So they're looking for that knowledge and certainty, but not necessarily looking in the right places.

I point out the above quote to refer back to the idea of a lack of critical thinking. This isn't simply a lack of intelligence but a lack of (intellectual) tools. If you've never been out of your own backyard, it may be impossible to conceive of what exists in the rest of the world.

While Prof. Douglas doesn't use the term confirmation bias, she certainly infers it in how people once fixated on an idea, seek out other sources of information which confirm that original idea, ignoring anything contradictory.

Using critical thinking on Alex Jones
Alex Jones chats with Tucker Carlson on X. The following link takes you to the 2:50 mark. Watch about 20 seconds.

Alex Jones & Tucker Carlson Team Up To Talk About Naked Joe Biden, The Young Turks, Dec 15/2023, 12:45

I mull over this claim: Joe Biden is wandering around the White House naked and has been doing so for years.

There are apparently 1,800 people working at the White House. Count that off: one thousand, eight hundred people. And during all this time, no one has ever revealed this to the press. Not one single person. I'm reminded of the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked. My research reveals that the Apollo Moon Landing employed 400,000 people and required the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities. (Wikipedia) Now think about this for a sec. In order to fake the moon landing, you have to get all of those people to keep their mouth shut. What are the chances of that happening? I return to Biden walking around naked. Eighteen hundred people all have to agree that mum's the word, and what are the chances of pulling that one off?

Without even delving into this any further, my bullsh*t detector has hit a Spinal Tap eleven out of ten. But let's add that I know that Alex Jones is prone to say outrageous, unproveable claims all for the express purpose of keeping the spotlight on him. In his divorce trial, his defense attorney explained that his client said crazy shit (my words) because his client was an entertainer. I thought that succinctly explained the whole Alex Jones phenomenon. He's not a journalist. He's not a seeker of the truth. He wants to capture our attention, and get and maintain a loyal following so he can cash in either through advertising or endorsements. And from what I understand, life has been pretty profitable for Alex.

I mention this because I first saw this clip of Alex with Tucker on a conspiracy theorist's YouTube channel. After playing the clip about Biden walking around naked, the YouTuber said, "I didn't know that." You didn't know that? Wait! What? You actually believe this horsesh*t? You trust the word of Alex Jones? Are you insane?

In researching the fake moon landing idea, one commentator wrote:

The moon landing was faked. But the director was such a perfectionist, he decided to film on location.

Final Word
Is this a comprehensive analysis? Heck, I suppose I could go on and on. But I think I can sum it all up in a few points:
  • Voters are not informed. They vote with their gut.
  • As a consequence, there is this dichotomy between reality and perceptions. People react to their perception of reality, not reality itself.
  • People don't check their information sources. In fact, they begin to rely on one news source while excluding anything else, blindly accepting whatever they're told.
  • People leave themselves vulnerable to manipulation by politicians and entities who stand to gain from their support.
One news source. I'm sure you may have figured out I'm talking about Fox News and those viewers would say that other news sources, like CNN, are just as guilty. Here's the problem. CNN says A. I look further and discover ABC, NBC, CBC in Canada, BBC in Britain, and France24 in France all say A. Fox News says B. Why is Fox the only one saying B? Is a Fox viewer asking me to believe that Fox is right while the rest of the world, yes, the rest of the world is wrong? What are the chances of that being correct, especially since it's now been proven in a court of law that Fox panders (lies) to its audience to make money?

I'm Canadian. My sister married an American, a great guy, a 25 year marriage. But she confessed her husband went down the Fox News rabbit hole and became a rabid t**** supporter. She told me she kept the peace in her household by never discussing politics. He once said to me that he had learned to keep his political views to himself because he kept getting negative responses from people. I'm sorry I wasn't around to talk him through this. I believe I could have convinced him otherwise. I'm amused that it never dawned on him to question his own political views if he was getting negative feedback. I return to the idea of I'm right and the rest of you sheeple are wrong.

Returning to my social media friend M. I wonder what her household is like. What does her husband have to put up with? I never talk with M about politics; there are other things in life more pleasant to talk about. I created a second Twitter account about a year and a half ago to tweet only about amusing things I had run across. M created her own Twitter account to follow me. We had some amusing interactions. But then I noticed she was replying to political tweets and her anger was palpable. At times, the craziness of some of her statements scared me. Was this the same woman? Was this the same fun personality? It was like Jekyll and Hyde, and the difference between the two was startling. And as I said, scary!

Anger clouds our judgment. Like intoxication, it can make us say or do stupid things, things which we may wind up regretting. There's a time to talk but there is also a time to shut up. Unfortunately, anger makes us forget that and we just can't resist getting in that final, decisive one-two punch which is supposed to win the argument but ends up making us new enemies and losing friends.

I like to say I'm a peace, love, and understanding type of guy. I am open to a clear, logical, and convincing argument supported by documented evidence. But don't come to me with your pizzagate, Jewish space lasers, or cockamamie yacht story. You know damn well you are blindly repeating sh*t you saw on social media and you have no proof that any of this crap is true. I plead with you; I beg you; please look further than the latest conspiracy theory YouTube video before making a pronouncement that you've figured everything out. You look foolish, and I'm embarrassed for you.


my blog: Politics: pandering not leading - Jan 14/2023

my blog: Cancel Culture, Supposedly - Oct 20/2021


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