The Dangers of Certainty and Groupthink

Absolute certainty shuts down critical thinking and discounting all other information is highly dangerous.  Our democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry and very few things in life are certain.  Therefore, we need to be aware of being trapped in certainty and groupthink.

According to Wikipedia, groupthink can result in

  • irrational or dysfunctional decision-making
  • decisions without critical evaluation
  • avoidance of controversial issues or alternative solutions
  • loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking
  • inflated sense of certainty within the in-group while dismissing all comments or opinions of the out-group
  • the production of dehumanizing actions against the out-group
  • deviant behavior by religious cults

Be open-minded and listen to both sides.  Question your certainties.  You may not have all the right answers.  I know I don’t.

This blog was inspired by the book Unfollow written by Megan Phelps-Roper who was born into the controversial Westboro Baptist Church and then left as a young adult after questioning her certainties.

Are we no longer incorruptible do-gooders?

Americans have been know around the world as incorruptible do-gooders, as a people who stand for freedom, democracy and human rights. We have persistently stood with our allies against authoritarianism, dictatorships and lawlessness around the world.  But now that perception is quickly and sadly dimming.  When did admiration for unethical, cruel and criminal behavior in the pursuit of power and wealth become the norm for Americans?  Somehow people willing to ignore their morals and engage in these behaviors have become seen as strong and clever.  Rule-breakers have become heroes and its alright because everyone is doing it, and rule-followers are seen as chumps.  In my opinion, these rule-breakers are pathetic cheaters who can’t achieve success by honorable means and are destroying American democracy and our standing in the world.

Some will argue that there has always been and will always be a faction who deals in “dirty tricks,” but, seemingly, up until now, the majority of Americans deemed this as unacceptable behavior.  Sadly, we have lost our way and are losing our credibility in the world.  Has the majority been corrupted?  Can we be restored as the incorruptible do-gooders of the world?

Right now, the current president is the chief admirer of unethical and immoral and illegal behavior in pursuit of wealth and power.  He is setting the tone for the entire country; and his party and constituents are cheering him on and blocking all attempts to right these wrongs.  Sadly, they are disparaging the honorable lifelong public servants who are coming forth to state the truth for all America to hear.  This is shameful!  Can we find our way back?  I hope so!

Understanding FN Consumers…

Below are some notes from “Can we save loved ones from Fox News:  ‘I don’t know if it’s too late or not'” by Chauncey Devega (November 23, 2018 in an interview with Jen Senko, director of “The Brainwashing of My Dad,” on surviving those Fox News-fueled holiday gatherings.” I need to further process these notes, but have run out of time this week.  I think these notes can help in understanding Fox News consumers, however.

Fox News (FN) “…viewers are being fed a steady diet of lies and disinformation in the service of an alternate reality where the facts are rejected in favor of right-wing talking points.”  Research shows that Fox News watchers “…actually know less correct information about current events and other important public matters than people who watch other news networks — or who do not watch cable news at all.”

“…Fox News was never about honoring the obligation of the free press to speak truth to power or help the American people make informed decisions about political and social matters.  Fox was explicitly designed to parrot the style and narrative of sports talk radio where entertainment and profit-seeking are more important than the truth, and the world is divided up between right-wing conservatives ( the ‘good guys’ and ‘the home team’) and the Democrats, liberals and progressives (the ‘bad guys’ and ‘the enemy).”

Fox News has become Trump’s “…de facto state-sponsored media …where Trump’s war on democracy is cheered on, his leadership is endlessly praised, and white supremacist or eliminationist rhetoric is mainstreamed.”

Fox News watchers are taught “…that Democrats, black people, anyone who is not a white male”  …or non-feminist female “…is evil.”

In addition to Fox News, many are consuming Rush Limbaugh on the radio and an avalanche of emails from right-wing websites.

Fox News is effective because it “…operates through fear” …and emotion.

The creator of Fox News, Roger Ailes knew that viewers were hooked by “…emotion, simple sentences, repetition, fear, interrupting the guests and using high-impact visuals.”  It’s not a news broadcast, it’s a show.

The ticker running at the bottom of the screen presents everything as “breaking news” or some type of “alert” no matter how mundane.  “This is exciting… and it can actually become addictive.”  Fox News provides viewers with excitement and purpose.  They “…feel part of a team.  They feel special.  There’s like an in-group. Fox News is also like a cult because it’s exclusive and the other side isn’t just wrong, they’re evil.”

“…Fox News makes it seem like you’re their friend and you’re special because you tuned into them.  You’re now part of their club. We’re talking to you.  We’re here for you.  We understand you.”

“Information backfire” will also make Fox News viewers even more resistant to new information and real facts when they are confronted by them.

They are stuck in a right-wing Fox News bubble.

“For outsiders, Fox News is absurd.  It is bad political theater.”

“The main thing is the fake anger.  The shows revolve around anger.  The themes are repeated.  ‘We know something isn’t right.  The system is rigged.'”

“…for people getting sucked into the Fox News cult alternate reality, the hosts and guests are giving me an explanation for why the system isn’t working.  These viewers get sucked in.”

“The hosts and producers and other professionals at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other parts of the ring-wing media are very good at what they do.  They’re very convincing.  They are skilled at telling their audience that they will do the thinking for them, boil it down, make it simple.”

“If we could take away all the right-wing media there would still be differences of opinion in America.  But it wouldn’t be this great divide.  The country would not be filled with such a large amount of hate, suspicion and fear that is encouraged by Fox news and the right-wing media.”

“That is what motivates them in their lives.  They get used to the fear and that excitement.  Fox News causes a feeling of devious excitement.  It is an addiction.  We need to give Fox News right-wing addicts something to replace those feelings with.”

Pro-life needs to fight for more than just birthdays…

How can someone be pro-life if they’re pro-gun, anti-environmental protection, anti-safety net and anti-universal healthcare?  Your right to be born is protected, but after that you’re on your own on a sick earth, where you’re more likely to be a victim of a mass shooting than any other top nation, without the financial means and healthcare to lead a quality life unless you were lucky enough to be born into the ever-shrinking middle class or above.  Forty percent of our working citizens live at or below the poverty level according to Steven Brill in his book Tailspin.  Babies born to these families need our help and protection beyond their birthdays.  Vote for the common good!   Let’s fix the system!

Power Addicts: Destroying America

I previously posted a blog exploring the costs of wealth addiction to American democracy.  I’m now going to explore another destructive addiction that alters behavior and also damages democracy:  addiction to power.

According to Nayef Al-Rodhan in “The neurochemistry of power has implications for political change” (2-28-2014, “Power, especially absolute and unchecked power, is intoxicating.”  Its effects can cause “…lack of inhibition, poor judgement, extreme narcism, perverted behavior, and gruesome cruelty.”  Possessing power causes the release of dopamine creating an “…addictive ‘high’  in much the same way as drug addiction …people in positions of power will seek to maintain the high they get from power, sometimes at all costs.”

This helps explain how otherwise intelligent, honest people engage in spinning and twisting the truth, and telling outright lies.  They are trying to feed their addiction.  I would’t leave my wallet in plain view of a drug addict even if they were someone I loved, because I know their addiction is more powerful than their sense of honor.  Likewise, leaving politicians, powerful CEOs, attorneys and others with access to nearly unlimited power is dangerous.  We need checks and balances “…to avoid the inevitable consequences of power” (Al-Rodhan).

Addiction to wealth and power is currently destroying our great democracy.  Big money must be removed from government and government must govern for the common good. When politicians lie, they are not lying for their party or their constituents, they are lying to maintain their access to power and apparently they will say anything, even when it contradicts their own previous statements.  I often ask myself, how can this person believe what they are saying when the opposite obviously is true.  Now I know, it is their sad attempt to feed their addiction.  I hope they can live with themselves when this is all over.  It is our duty to reel this in…  VOTE for integrity and the common good!