Fear, Hate, and Division in America
NOTE: This article has been updated to include a slightly deeper dive into human psychology and how it has been used to make us eager to hate and eager to obey… (updated article)
None of us are born to hate. We come into this world having no concept of “us versus them”. We do have survival instincts of course, and they will eventually mature enough to make us wary of our older brother or perhaps a mean toddler in daycare. Inevitably though, the ability to “hate” sets in with all of us to some degree, whether it’s high school rivalries, noisy neighbors, our siblings, or Bill Belichick. But these are really more like annoyances that are easily settled over a cold beer or two.
Politics is a slightly different story. Political differences are greater in scope and tend to direct our ire to people that we don’t even know. Our parents often get us going down this path as they bestow us (intentionally or not) with their hand-me-down political biases. Unfortunately, once we dip our toe in political animosity we begin to subject ourselves more to the influence of others (vs. our own experiences) and this makes us vulnerable to their agenda and the pushing of their causes. The pushing of political agendas almost always includes half-truths, exaggerations, flat-out lies, and manipulation. Political agendas also almost always include an “us vs. them” component as two sides push for opposing views, and things can go to extremes when powerful people are fighting for high-stakes causes. We are human and we are malleable and the steady drumbeat of divisive rhetoric as taken its toll on each of us and our society.
For many reasons, the Republican and Democratic parties are each collection points for many of the things that divide us, and increasing inflammatory rhetoric (from many corners) is pushing the two parties further and further apart. The graph below shows the recent levels of hate between Republicans and Democrats. A sudden increase in our hate appeared around the year 2000 and has been ramping up ever since. Fluctuations like these suggest that hate and division are usually man-made or at least man-influenced. There were many things from that time period that we could blame: SCOTUS handing George W. Bush the election, a questionable Iraq war, the John Roberts Supreme Court expanding corruption, President Obama’s election(s), the creation of the Tea Party, minority rule, an obstructionist congress, etc. But what probably did the most damage was the added noise and messaging that started to come along with these events – it is no coincidence that this same time period saw the drastic rise in social media and politically motivated news outlets on the web and on cable television. Much credit for today’s divisiveness goes to Fox News and other conservative news outlets as well as the never-ending stream of conservative pundits that show up everywhere – their misleading and destructive rhetoric is well documented. Facebook is another major contributor where people from around the world can blatantly manipulate millions of us with a few key strokes and a button-click. So, things happened, events were exaggerated, policies and ideologies were misrepresented, heartstrings were pulled, emotions were played with, and we have been convinced to hate each other. The graph only goes to 2016 – imagine what it looks like now…
Prius Or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide – By Marc Hetherington, Jonathan Weiler
Those heartstrings and emotions of ours truly do make us vulnerable and they are often purposefully used against us. There are plenty of folks out there who shrewdly use fear, deceit, and divisive language to herd the rest of us around as they please. They are quite good at creating a “threat – haven” environment where they first create the illusion of others threatening our survival and then they create the illusion that they have a safe haven for us and that only they can understand us and protect us. These folks understand that fear is our strongest emotion and therefore our weakest point and that makes us easily manipulated. With this in mind they fabricate all sorts of threats that they can protect us from, including people and ideas that they frame as coming after our jobs, our children’s future, our Democracy, our Liberty, and even the American way. They convince us to fear those who simply look and act differently than us – they are different so they must be bad.
When we feel threatened we are more likely to follow (and even obey) those who are protecting us and once inside their safe haven, we have a sense of belonging – as if we are part of some sort of nameless club. They stroke our egos by pretending that they are one of us and by creating purpose for us. With our very lives at stake, we are ready to make sacrifices for our protectors, “circle the wagons” for our club, and strike out at the “threats”. We become more brazen as our numbers increase which validates our fears and creates a sense of camaraderie. Today, the list of people and things that we are being told to fear is continuing to grow, making us dizzy with hate as we are “attacked” from all directions.
So who is doing this? It is the the predator elite and their lackeys – and they have finally openly admitted it. They are the ones squeezing all they can out of America and Americans. They are the ones driving us all nuts and making ourselves hold back our own progress while they are taking all the money and taking control.
So why do they even bother to divide us? Hate and division allow them to distract and control us. We spend our time fearing and then hating everything and everyone they tell us to. They convince us to fight each other while they take from us, they tell us to despise our government as they undermine it, they demand that we scoff at the scientists who are trying to save us as they discredit them. They have us looking all over the place for people to blame when it is they that have caused most of our problems. It is the oldest play in the book to control the people of a country. They know damned well that we will follow them over a cliff as long as we think they are “protecting” us. A good example of how far they will, and can, go is the Tea Party. There is plenty of evidence showing that the Tea Party was hardly a grassroots movement and that it was kickstarted, funded, and manipulated by conservative political organizations and their wealthy donors. Their handpicked toadies, like representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), purposefully sow division within our government and across our country, while they work tirelessly to destroy our Democracy. With all this mind, the “threat-haven” environment mentioned earlier could also be described as “take-blame-protect”.
No matter how important the topic is, it is the identity of the messenger that will determine our opinion.
Many of us now view things with a strictly political bias. Whether it is the pandemic, climate change, health care, or economic inequality, we don’t consider what is wrong or right, the actual data, or obvious facts. No matter how important the topic is, it is only the identity of the messenger that will determine our opinion. All of this wastes the energy of America and greatly holds back our progress. The idea of America was to have as many of us as possible contribute to our democracy and the economy – that is what will drive us forward. Division is literally wasting our time – even crippling our ability to solve problems that we must solve for everyone’s benefit, such as the Covid-19 Pandemic, climate change, alternative energies, medical research, etc.
We have been tricked into blaming our neighbors while the predator elite are taking away our money, our political power, our future, and our lives.
Do you really think that the reason there are fewer and fewer small businesses is because of the “takers” in our society – or is it because they are getting squeezed out of existence by giant companies?
Do you really think minorities are the reason family farms are shutting down everywhere or is it because of Big Ag sweeping across the country swooping them up or squeezing them out.
Do you really think that scientists are lying to us about climate change? We follow their advice on weather, hurricane tracks, tornado warnings, etc. so why not on climate change (especially since it is actually happening as they predicted – only much faster). Do we ignore our RMI results? Do we use the science behind flight, the internet, medicine? What is it about climate change science that we need to ignore? Could it be that some of us are being herded by politicians and business groups funded by Big Oil? You know the answer.
Do you really think we can’t afford health care for everybody? As a nation, we have never had so much money – it’s just tucked away by the wealthy. Insurance companies are driven by the need to show ever-expanding profits to keep Wall Street happy – they are not driven to keep you alive. They can’t be blamed for wanting our government out of health care – they would lose their billions of dollars in profit that they get for doing nothing other than getting in the way of our health.
The list of questions goes on and on, but one look at where all the money has collected in this country will answer them all for you – or will it? If you have found shelter in the safe-haven, then you probably won’t believe anything that comes from outside.
A recent example of fear and division being used to control us, sacrifice us, and further spread the hate are the protests against the effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 in Michigan. As the world was trying to figure out what the corona virus was all about while desperately trying to save as many lives as possible, several hundred protesters descended on the steps of the Michigan State House in April 2020. They were convinced that the governor’s actions to slow the spread of the pandemic were taking away their liberty. It may have looked like some sort of grass roots demonstration but the protesters were herded there by conservatives including the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund groups, conservative news personalities including Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Jeannine Pirro, and Laura Ingraham, all supported by tweets from President Trump. Eventually there was at least some pushback from conservative media when protesters started showing up heavily armed (sometimes conservatives lose control of their club members). So it wasn’t really grass roots but it certainly made it more difficult for Michigan to deal with the virus. Similar protests popped up in other cities with support from additional conservatives – further interrupting life-saving efforts.
The Trump rallies are another example that show how rhetoric divides and how people will sacrifice themselves for their “club” (MAGA). He used his rallies to ramp up divisiveness about mask wearing as the pandemic needlessly spun out of control under his watch, making stunningly false statements such as doctors inflating Covid-19 numbers in order to get paid more. Instead of trying to unify the country during the racial equality protests, he instead fanned the flames and pushed the culture war to his waiver-signing followers that he herded to his rally in Tulsa, and to a tightly packed crowd in a Phoenix Megachurch (that claimed to have an air filtration system that will supply 99% covid-free air), and finally in front of Mt. Rushmore, of all places. Trump continued to pack his rallies during the final months of his campaign, never urging his followers to wear masks even though he knew full well just how bad the virus really was. By the end of October his super-spreader rallies caused the infection of an estimated 30,000 Americans.
The beast is now feeding the beast and predator elite along with the Republican and Libertarian parties have lost control of the monster that they and Fox News have been creating over the past 20 years.
The fear spun-up by President Trump has made things much much worse for our country. As the devotion of his followers grew, so did their (and therefore his) control over Republican leaders. In 2016, Republicans called Trump every name in the book as they were trying to convince voters just how bad Trump would be for the country. By 2020, these same Republicans leaders, and many more, bent over backwards to toss the U. S. Constitution out the window for him. To keep peace with President Trump and his base, they repeated his lies about voter fraud, they took action against states and state officials, and they filed frivolous law suit after frivolous law suit. Each of the law suits was an obvious farce and Trump’s own appointed judges tossed them out. But these actions stoked the belief in Trump’s followers that the election was a fraud – this reinforced their fear that the Democrats were destroying Democracy. Of course it was President Trump and his owned Republican leaders who were the wrecking ball. All of this came to a head on January 6th, 2021, as hundreds of people that were driven by fear, emboldened by Republicans, and empowered by group identify, attacked the Capitol building to overthrow the election and harm elected officials. Fear and manipulation was used in a power grab. That is the ultimate use of fear in politics.
The beast is now feeding the beast and the predator elite, along with the Republican and Libertarian parties, have lost control of the monster that they and Fox News have been nurturing over the past 20 years. Two decades of creating fear and hate has allowed Trump to swoop in and capture most of the Republican base. His followers are on autopilot, mindlessly ignoring threats to our Democracy, embracing the next conspiracy, and spreading their own hate – all so they return their leader to power, keep their self-esteem intact, and eventually realize the wonderful but vague future they have been promised. To make matters worse, the Republican party has chosen to fall in line instead healing the wounds. This will not turn out well.