As a follow-up to the refutation of the Hillary fake news expose that I published last year (Sept 3rd) in which I dismantled the argument that evidence from people’s camera-phones pointed to some green-screen or photo-shopping shenanigans from Hillary’s team. I offer a recent photo from a recent Trump rally.
With as much cogency it would be possible to argue that the images on the phones do not correspond to the purported presence of Trump himself. The colours are wrong, the man (who stands in such contrast to the background) is not visible on the screens. The screen images are bright but the room is ill-lit and gloomy. What dark forces are at work? Why the trickery? What is the Trump team trying to hide? Is he dead already? Is he in jail for his multiple misdemeanours? Is he living in a basement in the Kremlin? Of course, all such speculation would be silliness, as I believe I have demonstrated in the anti-Hillary story that I looked at.
The interesting aspect is that nobody is saying these things. The internet is not a-flutter with strange theories about Trump in the way it was with his opponent even though there is no disparity of evidence. What this suggests to me is that the ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ or ‘left’ and ‘right’ camps are not simply equivalent ideologies which our upbringing, prejudices and education steer us into choosing between. The more I think about it the less plausible it appears to me that the political divide in America is about opinions and policies – that confronted with sound arguments an adherent could change allegiance. It’s much more profound than that, and takes place at an emotional level. It has more to do with notions such as race, respect, manners, self-esteem, empathy and maturity. Not things that are necessarily immutable but not easy to change or subject to discussion.
Liberal thought is relatively free of using conspiracy notions as a weapon because that’s not a plane that interests it. Devout Jews and Christians may debate furiously about the correct day of the Sabbath but if they asked an atheist which argument he found most convincing he would probably say he didn’t even care to waste energy thinking about it. The left and the right are very often not playing the same game. The right never stops stirring the scandal-pot; the e-mails, Benghazi, birtherism, Pizzagate, pay-to-play, Hillary’s fatal illness, her dementia, election fraud ….. the list goes on. The left, in contrast, seems to mostly be interested in improprieties for which there is reasonable evidence – tax secrecy, a ludicrous doctor’s affirmation, pussygate, Russian hacking. The interest also seems to be proportionate, not obsessive. Speculating that Trump’s father may have been an orangutan is treated as a joke, not as litigable slander. Calling Obama a Muslim, by contrast, is just witless calumny, tirelessly repeated.
This appears to be a genuinely cognitive difference that in the US is reflected in political identification more than in most western societies. It’s not simply a function of intelligence, although educational attainment must play a part. If we can discriminate between “politics as argument” and “politics as emotion” I would tentatively suggest that the US has gone further towards the latter than any other modern democracy that I know of and that the drift is showing no sign of abating. It’s an interesting, even disturbing, phenomenon and one that I’d like to return to in another post.