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Photo by Emmanuel Huybrechts. (CC BY 2.0)

I. Fear

Donald wants to know how the GOP gets people to vote against their own interests:

Answer: The GOP propaganda machine is designed to play on their fears.

Do you all know about that Current Biology article that showed brain differences between conservatives and liberals?

MRI scans revealed that self-described conservative students have a larger amygdala than liberals. (I’m summarizing from the article. I’m NOT a biologist) The amygdala is an almond-shaped thing in our brains. (Yes, “thing” is a scientific term.)

The amygdala is active during states of fear and anxiety. In other words, conservatives are more fearful. Liberals have more gray matter at least in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain that helps people cope with complexity.

Liberals are thus more comfortable with nuance and complexity. The well-oiled FOX-Trump propaganda loop is specifically designed to play on the fears of their base and rile them.

For example, the current Republican strategy is to deflect blame from Trump by blaming (and attacking) China:

“China stole our health. Now they threaten our national security,” Matt Gaetz tells Hannity’s viewers.

This is clearly an attempt to play on people’s fears.

Political psychologists back up the findings that those who identify as conservative are more fearful. Karen Stenner and Jonathan Haight, in “Authoritarianism is not a Momentary Madness But An Eternal Dynamic Within Liberal Democracies” conclude that people with what they call an “authoritarian disposition” have a bias against those who are different. They have an aversion to complexity. They’re easily riled.

When people with an authoritarian disposition are riled, they can become cruel and dangerous. The problem comes when a demagogue or a propaganda network riles them and stirs their rage and anger. That’s when we have a dangerous situation.

The formula is simple: The strongman leader identifies (invents) enemies and promises to vanquish them. The victims (the fearful people) vote for the very rich people who are robbing them because the rich people give them what they want more than economic security: Protection from their “enemies.”

About the racism: Think of it this way. Diversity = complexity, and they can’t handle complexity.

To deliberately rouse the fears of those with authoritarian dynamics is pure evil.

This is a really interesting question. There are probably a few ways to answer.

First, they seem to fear what they are told to fear by their leaders.

A second way to answer lies in the meaning of the phrase “normative threat.”

I’ve seen several definitions, but most precisely it is a “perceived threat, when no hostile action or physical damage appears imminent.”

Karen Stenner sees a normative threat as one that threatens their preferred “normative order”, i.e., threats to “oneness and sameness”. The idea of foreigners attacking us scares them more than a virus, particularly if a strong leader is encouraging them to view sickness or a virus as a weakness.

Chris Christie illustrates this when he said, “there will be deaths” so people are just “gonna have to” accept that. In other words, toughen up. That’s life. The strong will survive. The weak won’t.

Notice also that Chris Christie gives a false dilemma:

  • If people go to work, there will be death
  • If they don’t, there will be death.

Wrong! There is a third option. A country able to give billions in tax cuts can find a way to allocate resources to save lives.

This bring us to the next section.

[View this section as a Twitter thread]


After I wrote the above section, I thought I was finished for the day, when the law firm representing Dr. Rick Bright released a copy of his whistleblower complaint, so of course, I had to read it and comment.

It’s here. It contains a Firehose of Corruption and evidence of what we already knew: He and other public health officials were fully aware of the threat of COVID-19 by early January 2020 and warned the Trump administration. The Trump administration ignored the warnings and refused to prepare.

The complaint starts with Dr. Bright’s very impressive credentials.

It outlines evidence that the Trump Administration and people with “political connections” wanted to profit from the pandemic by selling unproven and dangerous drugs.

Dr. Rick Bright presents evidence that he was retaliated against for refusing to go along.

Dr. Bright reported that lucrative awards went to companies with political connections to the administration.

This might be a good time to remember that Trump was impeached for Abuse of Power: He was impeached for using the powers and privileges of his office for self-enrichment, and to subvert the national interests in favor of his own personal interests.

The second Article of Impeachment also comes to mind when Trump refused to allow Dr. Fauci and others to testify before Congress.

Article II was Obstruction of Congress. Trump isn’t supposed to be able to block people from testifying. Congress has oversight, but recall that Trump rejects the power of Congress to monitor him.

The responsibility for each unnecessary death falls squarely on Republican Senators, who were presented with irrefutable evidence that Trump manipulates the government for his own personal profit and cares nothing about anything except his own profit.

[View this section as a Twitter thread]

Reposted from https://terikanefield-blog.com/fear-and-corruption/ with permission.

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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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