“No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!”.
Damning. Morally righteous. A call to arms against darkness. This is how the new American left views itself and its opposition to President Donald Trump: a bulwark against a perceived tide of evil, where only leftists’ pink hats and calls to #resist stand a chance to prevent a historic cataclysm from a caricature of an administration believed to embody all the elements necessary to be categorized as evil.
After all, didn’t senior counselor to the president Steve Bannon openly admit that “darkness is good”?
Reaction to Bannon’s quote exemplifies the emotional jockeying of Democrats and their supporters. Objectivity, reasoned analysis of source material, and primary research take a back seat when weighed against the desire to dislike someone if only to identify yourself to others as against what all normal people are against.
The former naval officer, who once served as an assistant to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon, more fully stated:
Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they [the media] get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.
In other words, when the media and its adherents so blindly and gleefully accept you as the totality of evil, it significantly raises your moral stock when you do anything marginally ordinary. They put you in a narrative where the standards are so low that you cannot help but succeed.
This simplification and eagerness to be outraged are enjoyed and have in large part become the hallmark of the current American left. There is a scientific neurological reason behind the propensity in politics to emotionally simplify the position of your opposition – or, in President Trump’s case, dehumanize him entirely as a symbol of what you fantasize about fighting.
In a study published by Neuroreport in 2010, Rajendra D. Badgaiyan from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Buffalo found evidence that “dopamine is released during processing of negative emotions.” How symptomatic is the current level of discourse in American politics, and the outrage culture on the left in particular, of a dopamine addiction fueled by the experience of negative emotions such as anger and excited outrage? Further, how actively is this outrage sought when presented with a drought of cherished anger? How willing is one with such an addiction to fabricate or manipulate statements and events to generate conditions wherein that satisfaction may be found?
We see this in the left’s interaction with Bannon’s quote. Or Kellyanne Conway’s exhausted interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press early in the morning after President Trump’s inauguration. Obviously, there is no such thing as an “alternative fact,” but there are alternative data and alternative sources of data. Rather than give the normally exceptionally articulate Conway the benefit of the doubt with her error, the media pounced. The left pounced. They loved it. They’re still loving it.
Where is the desire for objectivity? Balanced and nuanced thought? An observation of context before a leap for emotional satisfaction?
One would think the organizers of the well attended “Women’s March” would be praising Conway as a champion for women in politics, with her meteoric rise and highly praised management of Trump’s presidential campaign, but here there is only silence – at least from the self-proclaimed champions of women on the left. Can this be explained in part by a desire to produce an atmosphere of outrage in an effort to generate dopamine? Praise induces less feedback, socially and emotionally, than maintaining a position of (rarely righteous) indignation.
The optics of the Women’s March as a whole are also relevant here. Solidarity, a general concern for women’s rights, and a belief that “women’s rights are human rights” were cited by the organizers and participants as the driving force behind the march. It was portrayed as a universal experience for women, an act of solidarity for female causes, and #resistance to measures they believe are being put in place to limit them. The problem is that half of American women disagree with their core stance on abortion, yet the organizers portrayed their event as being representative of their gender as a monolith. There is a perceived moral monopoly, the disagreement with which is met not only with outrage, but with visceral anger that seems to be very much enjoyed.
President Trump’s administration did not remove the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Accurate retraction of this error took a secondary role to the potential for what would have been a hateful, racist act.
USDA scientists were not gagged or put “on lockdown” by the president, as is still widely being reported, but were subject to the same conditions imposed on them by the transitional team of President Obama. Cue the outraged “March for Science” – disappointing, since it is this group whom one would expect to read primary material before forming a conclusion.
Deliberate, precise, objective, and rational approaches to the digestion of information are not nearly as rewarding as emotional reaction.
The most extreme examples of this apparent addiction is the reduction of all arguments or opposition to a position as resulting from an adherence to neo-Nazism. This is the ultimate expression of the phenomenon where a desire to experience anger is so great that one simply discards rationality and skips to utter dehumanization of an opponent to experience the chemical reward generated by manufactured anger. Ironically, this is a well understood tactic employed by the Nazi Reich minister of propaganda.
There are significant parallels between the current political environment and early Nazi Germany, but they do not run along President Donald Trump’s policies. On the left, fabricated outrage has met opposition to leftist positions with violence similar to the behavior of the S.A., the forerunner of the more well-known Schutzstaffel. As people quested to find a label to gleefully hate, Google searches for “fascism” exploded in November 2016, with those doing the searching unaware that their authoritarian behavior lies more with the ideology they’ve made such an effort to show others they’re against.
Now this recreational outrage transitions to Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court of the United States, Neil Gorsuch, who until his nomination was admired by all sides. In an effort to beat them to the punch, a supporter of President Trump’s pick immediately congratulated Gorsuch “on becoming a racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic white male.” With an addiction to outrage well entrenched on the side of his opposition, we can only assume that such accusations are forthcoming.
Originally published at: