As I have detailed throughout this series, the media and the government discourage critical thinking and try to incite emotional reflexes, suppressing critical thinking. This is true from advertising to news to music to movies and TV to political campaigns.
Where political campaigns are concerned, ideas and issues are discouraged. Instead, you are expected to focus on a name. There is a story, a legend, an emotional response created to accompany the name, the face which is packaged and sold to you like toothpaste. “Want whiter teeth and fresher breath? Vote for Joe/Jane Doe!!” It really is no different.
You are sold the idea of fear. Then a candidate promises to keep you “safe”. The threat does not have to be real, only your perception of a threat has to be real. If they keep repeating it, they condition an emotional response in the average person. If the narrative is questioned, no need to respond using facts, just accuse your questioner of “treason”, being “anti-American”, an agent of a foreign government (the outsider/invader), a “coward”, “weak”. Call them “inexperienced” and “naive”. Use blame and state or merely insinuate that they or some cohort they belong to are the reason for every problem the country has. In all cases, use emotion to condition a negative response to any opponent or questioner of the narrative.
The next time you watch a political debate, watch these dynamics in action. When you’re aware of it, the entire picture changes in your perception.
One of the most popular emotional tactics used in politics is the portrayal of a candidate as an underdog, disadvantaged and winning against the odds. Or they portray themselves as an insider who knows all the tricks, all the people to “get things done” and hence their success. The goal being to gain feelings of camaraderie or as someone to be respected and looked up to. That’s not even saying this is a negative, just something to be aware of. Business people and lawyers try and portray themselves as being knowledgeable. Military veterans try and portray themselves as aggressive. Lesser known, female and minority candidates portray themselves as having fought their way up, even when they did not. All of them try and portray themselves as having esoteric knowledge of information which you are not privy to. Of course, they can never convey that knowledge openly because “national security”.
The most interesting part of this is that nothing at all makes this country less secure than does “national security”.
Basically, political candidates try to be more like pop stars than political candidates. You can blame most of this on campaign managers and the media, though many candidates are better at putting on a public show than they are at governing. If they have policies and platforms, they try and hide their true agendas until after the election because most of those agendas are nothing you, the voter, would approve of. In other cases, the only thing they have is their public persona which is devoid of substance. Much like the majority of pop stars. The unfortunate thing is that many Americans would vote for a vapid pop star over a rational and intelligent candidate with genuine policies because too many Americans don’t want to extend the effort to think hard enough to understand what the candidate has to say.
The only way that this country or the world is going to improve the conditions we currently have will be to put empty emotions aside, think objectively, listen critically and ask questions we may wish to avoid because the answers reveal truths that are uncomfortable. We need to seek out less of names and more substance. Less cheer leading and more policy. More truth and less “feel good” messaging. Which means WE have to step up and be brave. These people are our elected representatives, not our “leaders”, not our parents, not our friends. They are applying for a job. Once hired, we need to hold them accountable for doing that job effectively. Stop allowing for human mistakes. They have staffs, advisers and entire government agencies in addition to their constituents to rely on for assistance and information. They have few if any excuses other than intentional misdeeds. Holding their feet to the fire and demanding better is the only way we will ever get better from them.
This is not a pop concert. Stop acting like it is.
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