Monday, May 14, 2018

ANS -- At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

This is another article showing how easily our opinions are influenced by our emotions, and how the manipulators know this.  It is clear that fear makes people more conservative, and the conservatives spread fear.  When are the liberals going to do the opposite? the article was from last November, and is fairly short.

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

 November 22, 2017

(Getty Images)

When my daughter was growing up, she often wanted to rush off to do fun things with her friends — get into the water at the beach, ride off on her bike — without taking the proper safety precautions first. I'd have to stop her in her tracks to first put on the sunscreen, or her bike helmet and knee pads, with her standing there impatiently. "Safety first, fun second," was my mantra.

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

[A political scientist has discovered a surprising way to increase voter turnout. It starts in childhood.]

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.


Until we did.

In a new study to appear in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology, my colleagues Jaime Napier, Julie Huang and Andy Vonasch and I asked 300 U.S. residents in an online survey their opinions on several contemporary issues such as gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general. The group was two-thirds female, about three-quarters white, with an average age of 35. Thirty-percent of the participants self-identified as Republican, and the rest as Democrat.

But before they answered the survey questions, we had them engage in an intense imagination exercise. They were asked to close their eyes and richly imagine being visited by a genie who granted them a superpower. For half of our participants, this superpower was to be able to fly, under one's own power. For the other half, it was to be completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.

[Stanford researchers: The secret to overcoming the opioid crisis may lie partly in the mind]

But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans' attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before — it had turned conservatives into liberals.

In both instances, we had manipulated a deeper underlying reason for political attitudes, the strength of the basic motivation of safety and survival. The boiling water of our social and political attitudes, it seems, can be turned up or down by changing how physically safe we feel.

This is why it makes sense that liberal politicians intuitively portray danger as manageable — recall FDR's famous Great Depression era reassurance of "nothing to fear but fear itself," echoed decades later in Barack Obama's final State of the Union address — and why President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.

In fact, anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety. For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as "germs" or "bacteria" that seek to invade and destroy their country from within. President Trump is an acknowledged germaphobe, and he has a penchant for describing people — not only immigrants but political opponents and former Miss Universe contestants — as "disgusting."

"Immigrants are like viruses" is a powerful metaphor, because in comparing immigrants entering a country to germs entering a human body, it speaks directly to our powerful innate motivation to avoid contamination and disease. Until very recently in human history, not only did we not have antibiotics, we did not even know how infections occurred or diseases transmitted, and cuts and open wounds were quite dangerous. (In the American Civil War, for example, 60 out of every 1,000 soldiers died not by bullets or bayonets, but by infections.)

Therefore, we reasoned, making people feel safer about a dangerous flu virus should serve to calm their fears about immigrants — and making them feel more threatened by the flu virus should cause them to be more against immigration than they were before. In a 2011 study, my colleagues and I showed just that. First, we reminded our nationwide sample of liberals and conservatives about the threat of the flu virus (during the H1N1 epidemic), and then measured their attitudes toward immigration. Afterward we simply asked them if they'd already gotten their flu shot or not. It turned out that those who had not gotten a flu shot (feeling threatened) expressed more negative attitudes toward immigration, while those who had received the vaccination (feeling safe) had more positive attitudes about immigration.


In another study, using hand sanitizer after being warned about the flu virus had the same effect on immigration attitudes as had being vaccinated. A simple squirt of Purell after we had raised the threat of the flu had changed their minds. It made them feel safe from the dangerous virus, and this made them feel socially safe from immigrants as well.

Our study findings may have a silver lining. Here's how:

All of us believe that our social and political attitudes are based on good reasons and reflect our important values. But we also need to recognize how much they can be influenced subconsciously by our most basic, powerful motivations for safety and survival. Politicians on both sides of the aisle know this already and attempt to manipulate our votes and party allegiances by appealing to these potent feelings of fear and of safety.

Instead of allowing our strings to be pulled so easily by others, we can become more conscious of what drives us and work harder to base our opinions on factual knowledge about the issues, including information from outside our media echo chambers. Yes, our views can harden given the right environment, but our work shows that they are actually easier to change than we might think.

John Bargh is a professor of social psychology at Yale University and the author of "Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do"

Sunday, May 13, 2018

This was on FaceBook. It's from Robert Reich.  Read it.  Why are the Dems silent?  If they would just listen to George Lakoff, they would have some idea what to say.  

Robert Reich
5 hrs · 

This morning I phoned my friend, the former Republican member of Congress.

He (laughing): Shall I reserve a seat for you in Oslo?

Me: No way Trump gets the Peace Prize.

He: What if Kim gets rid of his whole damn nuke program because Trump scared the sh*t out of him?

Me: Even if Trump becomes Pope, it won't stop the blue wave.

He: Be careful, my friend. Trump's approvals are rising.

Me: Yeah, from the sewer to a toilet. He's gonna be a huge problem for Republicans this fall.

He: Let me tell you something. Voters aren't hearing a damn thing from the Dems. Nada. Zilch. If your party thinks it can win by sitting on their duffs and spouting anti-Trump crapola, they're wrong. You think average Joe and Jane really think Dems are standing up for them? (He laughs.) Pelosi and Schumer? Give me a break.

Me: Doesn't matter. We flip 24 seats, we retake the House. And 23 Republicans are trying to defend seats where Hillary won. Should be a cinch.

He: Don't bet on it. And you can forget the Senate.

Me: Whatever, Trump won't make it to 2020. If Mueller doesn't skewer him, the Stormy Daniels stuff will.

He: You still don't get it. Mueller and Stormy won't lay a glove on him, and I'll tell you why. He's a jerk but he's shaking things up, and voters like that. Every time he takes a dump on somebody important, they cheer. Whenever he skewers another sacred cow, they applaud. The more offensive he is, the more people say "this guy is real." Doesn't matter what Mueller finds or what a porn star says. Trump is Teflon.

Me: Whatever happened to your prediction that the GOP would dessert him once they got their tax bill enacted?

He: I wasn't paying attention to the Trump coalition.

Me: What coalition?

He: Trump has pulled together the white working class and the moneyed interests of America. No one thought it possible. It's the new Republican Party. Racist, anti-foreigner, deregulation, tax cuts. Reagan on steroids. Unbeatable. If he wants a second term, he gets it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

ANS -- Speaking in Code: Two phrases that no longer mean what they used to

Here's a shortish piece by Doug Muder explaining how the Right has changed the meaning of some phrases so that we are confused, thinking of the old meaning of the phrases.  Good comments so I included them.  

Speaking in Code: Two phrases that no longer mean what they used to

To liberals, a lot of what conservatives say and do looks like hypocrisy. And some of it really is, like the pro-life congressman who urged his mistress to get an abortion, or the long list of people who denounced Bill Clinton's illicit affairs while they were carrying on some of their own. That's hypocrisy: piously announcing strict rules for other people while living by a looser set yourself.

But some things that look like hypocrisy to liberals are actually something else: Conservatives have repurposed phrases that used to mean one thing to express some other idea entirely. Both the speaker and his target audience know exactly what he means, and there's no inconsistency between that meaning and his actions. It's just that liberals never got the memo.

So let me catch you up on what two phrases you've known and loved in the past mean now when conservatives say them.

Religious liberty or religious freedom means special rights for Christians.Thursday, the Republican National Committee asked everyone on Twitter to thank Donald Trump "for his commitment to religious freedom". One commenter expressed skepticism about Trump's commitment to religious freedom by adding "unless you happen to be Muslim".

I'm sure many people thought that commenter had launched a devastating barb, exposing a blatant example of Republican hypocrisy. Because we all know what religious freedom used to mean: Even if your religious community is small and powerless, no one can stop you from meeting. The government can't tax you to support the views of other sects, or use the public schools to indoctrinate your children in the majority faith. In any legal proceeding, your religion does not count against you.

In the old sense, there is no more powerful opponent of religious freedom in America than Donald Trump, who ran on the promise to keep Muslims out of the United States, and who has signed numerous executive orders trying to work around the clear unconstitutionality of that idea.

But in conservative circles, that's not what religious freedom means any more. Here's what it means now: People who root their misbehavior in the teachings (or even just the common prejudices) of popular Christian sects can get away with things that no one else can.

Today, religious freedom means that you can violate anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people, if you claim that your bias against them is the historical bias of your popular Christian sect. (You can't exempt yourself from racial discrimination laws, though, because Christian sects that believe in racial discrimination aren't popular any more.) You can refuse to do your job as a pharmacist, if the drugs your customer wants are implicated in behaviors your popular Christian sect disapproves of. You can limit the healthcare choices of your employees, if those choices would be sins according to your popular Christian beliefs.

None of these rights can be claimed by non-Christians, or even by members of unpopular Christian sects, except by happy accident. (Zoroastrians might be able to claim special rights in situations where their teachings happen to agree with Baptists or Catholics.) Imagine, if you can, pacifist Quakers trying to claim the same distance from war that Baptists want from abortion — not simply that they not have to do the killing themselves, but that they be kept clear from any connection to it. Imagine Hindus insisting that the FDA not inspect beef, because their tax dollars should not contribute to the killing of cattle. Such "rights" are ridiculous; they would be laughed at if anyone dared to claim them.

Special rights properly belong only to members of popular Christian sects. Everyone knows this. Some are even open about it, like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who offers this interpretation of the First Amendment:

By "religion," the founders were thinking of Christianity. So the purpose was to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith. It wasn't about protecting anything else.

The rule of law means getting undocumented Hispanics out of the country by any means necessary. Tuesday, Vice President Pence was the headliner for a rally in Tempe, Arizona organized by the pro-Trump group America First Policies. As headliners often do at political events, he gave a shout-out to some of the local politicians in the audience, including former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio probably would be in jail now if Trump hadn't pardoned him, but instead he is running for the Senate.

A great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law — Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I'm honored to have you here.

For centuries, the rule of law meant that laws applied equally to everyone, and were not subject to the whims of whoever happened to be in power. It was related to the longer phrase a government of laws and not of men.

Arpaio's career as sheriff is the paradigm for out-of-control law enforcement that is the exact opposite of the rule of law in its traditional sense. His legitimate job as county sheriff had nothing to do with border enforcement, but he squandered his office's resources on that issue, harassing countless law-abiding Hispanic-American citizens (as well as Arpaio's political enemies) along the way, and compiling a dismal record dealing with the crimes that were actually within his jurisdiction. His shoddy care for and outright cruelty towards his prisoners showed a similar lack of respect for his duties under the law, and resulted in the county paying tens of millions of dollars in settlements to mistreated prisoners (or their surviving family members). For details, see "The Long, Lawless Ride of Sheriff Joe Arpaio" and several other articles I collected after Trump pardoned Arpaio.

Arpaio is a "champion of the rule of law" only in one sense: He wants undocumented Hispanics out of the country.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a defender of the rule of law in a similar sense: His attempts to punish sanctuary cities may themselves be illegal, but they serve the goal of pushing undocumented Hispanics out of the country. Much of what ICE is doing now is also of questionable legality, but its actions are directed against undocumented Hispanics, so it is defending the rule of law.

The Newspeak problem. The problem with assigning new meanings to words and phrases is that the old meanings might still be important. (I'd hate to be a high school history teacher trying to cover "The Gay 90s".) If the neologism takes, it may drive out the original meaning, making the issues related to that concept difficult or even impossible to discuss.

To a large extent, that is the point of Newspeak: to win arguments by making the opposing position inexpressible, or to avoid dissent entirely by keeping possible objections out of mind.

The rule of law is still being fought over, and rightfully so. In this era, when Trump is trying to claim the Justice Department as his own rather than the country's, and is pressuring law enforcement officials to stop investigating him and start investigating his political enemies (or investigate again if they didn't find anything the first time), it's very important to have a term that captures the original meaning of the rule of law. We desperately need judges and prosecutors and law-enforcement officers who are loyal to the laws of the United States rather than to the President. Anything that makes that issue harder to talk about is a threat to American democracy.

But sadly, the old meaning of religious freedom and religious liberty is all but lost in popular discourse. There is still some small overlap, when Christians are genuinely persecuted in other countries, but many Americans, particularly conservatives, are just confused when atheists don't want their children pressured to pray in public settings, or Muslims are denied the right to build a mosque somewhere. They don't see how religious freedom can even apply to someone who isn't Christian. To them, a religious freedom issue is whether the Christian clerk who refuses to process same-sex marriage licenses gets to keep her job, not whether a Muslim woman can wear her hijab to the airport without fear of being profiled as a terrorist.

To fight back, I think we must constantly retranslate the new usages back into older terms, and refuse to recognize them as legitimate. The Masterpiece Cakeshop case, for example, has nothing whatsoever to do with religious freedom; it's about Christians claiming the special right to break discrimination laws. Denying federal funds to sanctuary cities does not defend the rule of law, it tears down the rule of law.

You know what would have defended the rule of law? Letting Joe Arpaio go to jail for his crimes rather than pardoning him.

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  • Roger Owen Green On May 7, 2018 at 10:24 am

    One of your more useful essays. They're not trying to gaslight us. It's that the WORDS have changed in meaning

  • bkswrites On May 7, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Well done. Here's another: "GMO" is clarified to "BioEngineered," or to be perfectly comprehensible, "BE food." The Dept. of Agriculture has published for comment proposed rules that contain several multiple-choice questions: I haven't waded clear through the 30 pages of the Federal Register (download as a PDF from the comment site), but a quick scan spotted questions of how much of what kind of modification makes a foodstuff BE, from traditional breeding programs to meat animals fed on blatantly BE foods, and 3 choices of cheerful logos to let consumers know what we're being fed. All the logos are to be done in lively greens and sunny golden starbursts, or in one case "resembling sky," though these colors are only described in the Federal Register (pp. 14-15 of the PDF), and 2 of the 3 have emoji-like smiles. Aw, shoot, maybe it just needs a smartphone-readable code that anyone who actually cares what they're eating can use to find out.

    • Larry Benjamin On May 7, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Assuming, of course, that GMOs by their very nature are somehow different from wheat and other hybrid foods that people have consumed for thousands of years with no ill effects. Honesty in labeling doesn't require acceptance of conspiracy theories.

      • bkswrites On May 7, 2018 at 6:57 pm

        This is something very different from traditional husbandry, altering organisms at the genetic level for reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition or, for that matter, sustainability. Talk to some Indian farmers about the "green revolution" that was defeated by drought, just for starters. The problem is that we don't know whether GMOs are in general or in any specific case different from the other hybrid foods. They are manipulations of those historic hybrids that were made by traditional methods, so doubly "engineered."

      • Larry Benjamin On May 7, 2018 at 9:50 pm

        I'm not saying they shouldn't be regulated, but the automatic "GMOs are evil" is ridiculous. GMOs will prevent some people from starving.

  • Bill Camarda On May 7, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Something identical happened with "drain the swamp." Liberals and good government types think it's hypocrisy when Trump talks about that, and then follows up by filling the government with corrupt individuals who revel in partnering with lobbyists, refusing to meet with people who don't contribute to their campaigns, and wasting fortunes on furniture and first-class travel.

    But to Trump supporters and conservatives, "drain the swamp" never meant any of that. It meant putting a stop to the government helping people they hate. And if that's your definition, Trump is most assuredly draining the swamp.

  • Larry Benjamin On May 7, 2018 at 11:45 am

    The worst repurposing is "fake news." This started as a legitimate phrase to describe fabricated news stories from Russian troll farms, intended for dissemination on social media. But now the phrase refers to legitimate news stories that are critical of the administration.

    • Bill Camarda On May 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      And I can rarely recall a more purposeful, deliberate, and rapid subversion of the English language. It was so brazen it made even Frank Luntz look almost honorable by contrast.

  • Corey Fisher On May 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    I think these redefinitions are a bit too specific to the examples. I would probably say that "the rule of law" as used here isn't necessarily about illegal immigration specifically – it isn't really about anything specifically. It's defined in opposition, as "fighting 'lawlessness'" and protecting people against said lawlessness, and "lawlessness" is a property of things we don't like because when we don't like them, we write news stories about how they're lawlessly attacking our way of life. So, the rule of law can be about immigrants, about "inner cities", about all sorts of things.

  • Roger Owen Green On May 7, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Or the Freedom Caucus in the House is against freedom for anyone who isn't like them, the Tea Partyists.

    • Larry Benjamin On May 7, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      "Freedom" is one of those words that the right has managed to co-opt, along with "patriotism," "flag," and many others. On Quora, I deliberately confuse people by referring to myself as a "Constitutional Progressive."

  • Marty On May 7, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    The thing that really bothers me about the their interpretation of "religious freedom" is that it is essentially religious oppression. If they have what they are calling religious freedom, then nobody else can. They think that, because they believe that, for instance, gay marriage is wrong, I shouldn't be allowed to practice my religion which involves the marriage of gay people. If their church wants to refuse to bless or recognize gay marriage, that is their prerogative. But, beyond this, they want to stop all other religions from blessing and recognizing gay marriage. This latter thing is the definition of "religious oppression", and the *exact* kind of thing that drove the protestants from England.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

ANS -- How Do You Speak Politely to Evil? Michelle Wolf's Challenge to Corporate Journalists

Here's a fairly short opinion piece about the controversy stirred up by comedian Michelle Wolf.  

How Do You Speak Politely to Evil? Michelle Wolf's Challenge to Corporate Journalists

Thursday, May 03, 2018By Bruce A. Jacobs, Truthout | Op-Ed

Comedian Michelle Wolf entertains guests at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Photo by Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images)Comedian Michelle Wolf entertains guests at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner at the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC, on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Photo by Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The cushioned world of denial within which some corporate journalists live, at this time of national crisis, was best reflected by Bloomberg senior White House reporter Margaret Talev's telling CNN that she "regretted" that Michelle Wolf's now-infamous remarks at the April 28 White House Correspondents' Association dinner "are now defining four hours of what was a really wonderful, unifying night. And I don't want the cause of unity to be undercut."

Think for a moment about that statement.

A major national journalist believes that "a unifying night" is possible at a gala in which a free press mingles with members of a historically unprecedented American pre-fascist regime that demonizes and blackballs truthful reporters, tells flagrant lieswith breathtaking and ferocious regularity, eagerly dooms human life on Earth by embracing fossil-fuel falsehoods for the sake of a few decades of profits, rationalizes murders by white supremacists as being equivalent to the nonviolent protests of anti-racists, fills this administration with outrageous liars and spouse abusers and defiantly corrupt industry cronies, defies the Constitutional Emoluments Clause'sprohibition of personal financial gain from the presidency and defiles the moral body of the presidency with Trump's profane hatred and contempt toward women.

Bloomberg's Talev apparently believes that conscientious journalists can make peace with these obscenities for at least one nationally televised evening in the spirit of a long-standing Washington media tradition. So, it appears, do venerable NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell (who called for Wolf to apologize for her remarks) and The New York Times' Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker.

These social niceties between the press and the (often ruffled and angered) political figures they write about are, perhaps, fair enough in what pass for "normal times" in modern capitalism.

But normal has been burned to ash since November 2016, and many corporate journalists are among the last to know. This is not a new problem; in fact, it's a structural one. Part of the widely accepted job description for a corporate journalist today is to take for granted thoroughly bogus assumptions about society: Democracy requires capitalism, elections require major private financers of campaigns, and so on.

But now, the societal cost of journalists' fantasizing about an eternally self-correcting capitalist democracy has exploded beyond past norms. We are now looking down the barrel of a potential police state. This is not an alarmist opinion. This is a fact-based observation. Trump is not a normal capitalist politician. He is a wickedly gifted demagogue when it comes to primal vengefulness. He has contempt for due process. His screaming entreaties to mobs of bitter white people are ramping up the kinds of fear, rage and obedience that can ultimately motivate them to shoot "enemies of the people" on sight.

On the same night as the correspondents' dinner where Wolf made headlines, Trump traveled to 95 percent white Washington Township, Michigan, where he whipped up more embittered venom. He told the audience that media elites "hate your guts." He knows what he is doing. He is an ignoramus, but he is brutally skilled at appealing to humanity's basest fears and worst urges.

So this year's correspondents' dinner required far more than a normal speaker. Wolf understood this, and she delivered.

Many other Americans also understand it. Look at the virulent pushback to Andrea Mitchell's Twitter feed after she called for Wolf to apologize. As one tweeter repliedto Mitchell, "After everything this administration has said and done to the American people with no apology? Are you fucking kidding me???? This has to be a joke."

There is a spectacular disconnect between today's corporate journalists and the lived experience of observant Americans who understand that today's national political realities cannot in any way be accepted as compatible with an alleged democracy.

Trump's current spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- who succeeded serial liar Sean Spicer and was deservedly the target of some of Wolf's fiercest lines -- is yet another expendable fabricator who will last as long as her sense of self-preservation permits. All of those in her predicament must eventually answer one unforgiving question: How do you measure present career expediency against future disgrace?

But that is a problem for Sanders, who, like other mercenaries, will do her own stone-cold calculus.

The question for corporate journalists at this time of societal crisis is: How many will continue to simply chronicle the quotes and count the bodies, and how many will commit to the deeper and more dangerous mission of defeating power-grabbing liars and defending the pursuit of democracy?

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


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