Danger on the right

Donald Trump is a distraction from the fact that the mainstream media has pretended the GOP is a normal party with values just to the right.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Neal Gabler/Moyers and Co

Emphasis Mine

As incendiary and dangerous as he is—and he is very dangerous—and as much of a main event as he has been in this election season, Donald Trump is largely a distraction from what really ails our political discourse. Long after he is gone from the scene, the Republican Party that engendered him, facilitated him, and now supports him—despite a severe case of buyer’s remorse—will no doubt still thrive, booting up for a future candidacy of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. And the media will still act as if Trump were an aberration, a departure from so-called “sensible” conservatism. If so, it will be yet another act of media dereliction.

In fact, worse than dereliction, because the Republican Party, with its history of dog-whistle racism, sexism, homophobia, nativism, and gun addiction, salted now by incipient fascism, has been legitimized by the mainstream media (MSM) for years. One could say that the GOP and MSM have operated in collusion to the great detriment of this country. One could say that and not even be a liberal, just a commonsensical American.

The MSM continue to treat the Republican Party as if it were just another constellation of ideology and policy—another way of governing the country, even though this campaign season, if not the last 30 years, should have disabused journalists of that notion. Today’s GOP is closer to a religious cult than a political institution. It operates on dogma, sees compromise as a moral failing, views enemies as pagans who must be vanquished, and considers every policy skirmish another Götterdämmerung.

That isn’t politics; it’s a modern version of the medieval Crusades, and as the ancient Crusades did to Europe, it has inflicted untold damage on our country. Because it is deep in the bones of the Republicans, it won’t end with Trump, who is a non-believer himself when it comes to conservative orthodoxy. It can only end with the extinction of the party itself as presently constituted—Cruz, Ryan, Rubio, McConnell, et al.—and the rise of a new conservative party, not a cult.

You won’t hear that in the MSM, in large part because, partisan organs like Fox News and MSNBC aside, it tries to maintain that deadly and deadening balance so often discussed and decried by media critics like me. This is a practice that requires a tit for every tat, so that blame can never be leveled against one party unless the media immediately level it against the other as well. Political equipoise, as it were.

Part of this is laziness. Part is fear. The press knows that if it were to come right out and criticize the GOP for its denial of climate change, its campaign to deny the LGBT community its civil rights, its efforts to strip food stamps from children and health insurance from the poor, its systematic attempts to suppress minority voters, its recent howl to protect the Second-Amendment rights of suspected terrorists while at the same time calling for greater surveillance of us all, there would be hell to pay from the right wing, which would invoke the mythical and dreaded “liberal media.” The historian and columnist Eric Alterman calls this “working the refs,” and the MSM fall for it every time.

But there is another reason why the MSM haven’t called out the Republican Party, despite its egregious behavior, and this one is especially relevant in this election: The media simply won’t discuss the Republican Party’s values, as values are the third rail of political journalism. You just don’t talk about values, because when you do so, you can’t fake balance. We all know that there is a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, and it isn’t just a matter of philosophy-cum-policy. It is a matter of what values underlie the parties’ philosophies. And, if I may be blunt, Republican values just aren’t very consistent with what most of us think when we think of good values.

So the GOP’s blatant contradictions, its hate disguised as individual rights and its disdain for the weakest among us, largely go unexamined. Indeed, our media state of affairs is so sad that it largely has fallen to comedians to be our primary truth tellers about what one of our two major parties really stands for—among them, Jon Stewart in his day, Stephen ColbertJohn Oliver, and Samantha Bee, whose recent broadcasts on Orlando and guns and on Republican racism have torn the so-called “principled ideological” veil off the GOP and exposed it for what it is: a cult of cranks.

By rousing the hatefulness within the GOP rank and file, Donald Trump has emboldened a few intrepid MSM journalists to rip off the veil, too—even journalists who treat Paul Ryan as if he were a first-rate intellect. Andrew Rosenthal, the departing editorial page editor atThe New York Times, wrote a blistering takedown of the GOP’s refusal to denounce Trump, and Times columnist and Iraq War apologist Thomas Friedman, the very definition of a cautious Big-Foot pundit who slavishly creates and follows the conventional wisdom, called for a reconstituted Republican Party on the basis of “moral bankruptcy.” It is a terrific column. Read it.

Of course, two larks don’t an exaltation make, and in any case, both Rosenthal and Friedman are primarily print journalists. Television news still has the longest national reach, and it will never call out the Republican Party no matter what it does, much less examine its values. Instead, we get endless horse-race coverage that turns the election into a long sporting event in which nothing seems to matter except who’s winning. We all know that now, and despite the yowls of protest, we also know that it is not likely to change. Political journalists are like sports writers, tracking a team’s game plans and checking the score—or, as we call it in politics, the polls.

But what we may fail to notice is that, with all its blather about what states are in play or whose field operation is better or which internecine battles presently engage the candidates’ staffs, this kind of coverage is not only a way to juice the political narrative; it’s also a way to avoid touching that third rail. So long as we are talking about strategy or who is winning, we don’t have to talk about policy (borrrrrrrring!!!) or about values.

Avoiding talking about values is one of the reasons we find ourselves in our current political situation. Doing so might have stopped the threat of Donald Trump. Thirty years ago, it might even have stopped the march of the current Republican Party; its values could have been exposed as indefensible, which could have shamed them (and us) into changing. There is a reason the Republicans contrived the slogan “compassionate conservatism.” It was because even they knew their compassion was dubious. It would have been nice to have the MSM examine that, though, of course, it would have required both the courage to buck the right-wing, who would howl, and the seriousness to discuss just how important values are in our politics. In some measure, because we never got that discussion, for three decades the GOP has gotten off scot-free.

Now the MSM routinely rebuke Trump, but that easy critique allows them not to have to rebuke the Republican Party itself, whose values, if not his often-changing policy pronouncements, are virtually identical with Trump’s, minus his oft-changing policy pronouncements. It is the politesse of a Paul Ryan that Trump lacks in expressing his hostility, and it is that politesse that has conned a gullible, frightened media.

When Trump’s candidacy first began taking hold, we were told in the media that Republicans had a Trump problem. As he rose to the top of the GOP presidential heap and rank-and-file Republicans supported him—because of his hateful rhetoric, and not in spite of it—we realized the Republicans had a Republican problem, though, again, the media dare not say it. Now that Trump is the party’s presumptive nominee and Republicans are falling into line just as conservatives did in Germany in 1933, we have come to a much graver realization: America has a Republican problem.

This isn’t about whom we elect as president. It goes much deeper. This is about who we want to be as a people. For three decades, the MSM have been collaborators with the GOP, pretending the cult is a normal party with values just to the right of center. The result is the proto-fascist Donald Trump and an institution that continues to legitimize what is worst in us.

Neal Gabler is the author of five books and the recipient of two LA TImes Book Prizes, Time magazine’s non-fiction book of the year, and USA Today’s biography of the year. He is a senior fellow at the Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society.

See: http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/america-has-republican-problem-and-media-blame?akid=14377.123424.G1plnU&rd=1&src=newsletter1058867&t=8

The Strange Conservative Brain: 3 Reasons Republicans Refuse to Accept Reality About Global Warming

Even many well-educated Republicans deny global warming. What’s going on here?

From:AlterNet

By: Chris Mooney

Note: These are notes for remarks that I gave recently at the Tucson Festival of Books, where I was asked to talk about my new book The Republican Brain on a panel entitled “Will the Planet Survive the Age of Humans?”

So the question before us on this panel is, “Will the Planet Survive the Age of Humans?” And I want to focus on one particular aspect of humans that makes them very problematic in a planetary sense — namely, their brains.

What I’ve spent the last year or more trying to understand is what it is about our brains that makes facts such odd and threatening things; why we sometimes double down on false beliefs when they’re refuted; and maybe, even, why some of us do it more than others.

And of course, the new book homes in on the brains — really, the psychologies — of politically conservative homo sapiens in particular. You know, Stephen Colbert once said that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” And essentially what I’m arguing is that, not only is that a funny statement, it’s factually true, and perhaps even part of the nature of things.

Colbert also talked about the phenomenon of “truthiness,” and as it turns out, we can actually give a scientific explanation of truthiness — which is what I’m going to sketch in the next ten minutes, with respect to global warming in particular.

I almost called the book The Science of Truthiness — but The Republican Brain turns out to be a better title.

The Facts About Global Warming

So first off, let’s start with the facts about climate change — facts that you’d think (or you’d hope) any human being ought to accept.

It turns out that the case for human-caused global warming is based on simple and fundamental physics. We’ve known about the greenhouse effect for over one hundred years. And we’ve known that carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas, a greenhouse gas. Some of the key experiments on this, by the Irishman John Tyndall, actually occurred in the year 1859, which is the same year that Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

We also know that if we do nothing, seriously bad stuff starts happening. If we melt Greenland and West Antarctica, we’re looking at 40 feet of sea level rise. This is, like, bye bye to key parts of Florida.

Enter the Denial

So then, the question is, why do people deny this? And why, might I add, do Republicans in particular deny this so strongly?

And if your answer to that question is, “oh, because they’re stupid” — well, you’re wrong. That’s what liberals want to think, but it doesn’t seem be correct. In fact, it seems to be precisely the opposite — smarter (or more educated) Republicans turn out to be worse science deniers on this topic.

This is a phenomenon that I like to call the “smart idiot” effect, and I just wrote about it for AlterNet and Salon.com.

Let me tell you how I stumbled upon this effect — which is really what set the book in motion. I think the key moment came in the year 2008 when I came upon Pew data showing:

    • That if you’re a Republican, then the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to accept scientific reality — which is, that global warming is human caused.
  • If you’re a Democrat or Independent, precisely the opposite is the case.

This is actually a consistent finding now across the social science literature on the resistance to climate change. So, for that matter, is the finding that the denial is the worst among conservative white males — so it has a gender aspect to it — and among the Tea Party.

So seriously: What’s going on here? More education leading to worse denial, but only among Republicans? How can you explain that?

A Three-Level Explanation

Well, I think we need to understand three points in order to understand why conservatives act this way. And I will list them here, before going into them in more detail:

    1. Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.
    1. Conservative “Morality” Impels Climate Denial — and in particular, conservative Individualism.
  1. Fox News is the Key “Feedback Mechanism” — whereby people already inclined to believe false things get all the license and affirmation they need.

So let’s go into more detail:

1: Conservatism is a Defensive Ideology, and Appeals to People Who Want Certainty and Resist Change.

There’s now a staggering amount of research on the psychological and even the physiological traits of people who opt for conservative ideologies. And on average, you see people who are more wedded to certainty, and to having fixed beliefs. You also see people who are more sensitive to fear and threat — in a way that can be measured in their bodily responses to certain types of stimuli.

At the extreme of these traits, you see a group called authoritarians — those who are characterized by cognitive rigidity, seeing things in black and white ways — “in group/out group,” my way or the highway.

So in this case, if someone high on such traits latches on to a particular belief — in this case, “global warming is a hoax” — then more knowledge about it is not necessarily going to open their minds. More knowledge is just going to be used to argue what they already think.

And we see this in the Tea Party, where we have both the highest levels of global warming denial, but also this incredibly strong confidence that they know all they need to know about the issue, and they don’t want any more information, thank you very much.

2. Conservative “Morality” Impels Climate Denial — in particular, Conservative Individualism.

But, you might say, “well, Tea Party conservatives don’t deny every aspect of reality.” And it’s true. Presumably, they still will accept a factual correction if they have, say, the date of Mother’s Day wrong. Presumably they’re still open minded about that… we hope.

So why deny this particular thing? Why deny that global warming is caused by humans? And here, I think you’ve got to look at deep seated moral intuitions that differs from left to right. And it’s important to note at the outset that whatever your moral intuitions are, they push you emotionally to reason in a particular direction long before you are actually consciously thinking about it.

So, conservatives tend to be “individualists”– meaning, essentially, that they prize a system in which government leaves you alone — and “hierarchs,” meaning, they are supportive of various types of inequality.

The individualist is threatened by global warming, deeply threatened, because it means that markets have failed and governments — including global governments — have to step in to fix the problem. And some individualists are so threatened by this reality that they even spin out conspiracy theories, arguing that all the world’s scientists are in a cabal with, like, the UN, to make up phony science so they can crash economies.

So now let’s look at what these individualist assumptions do to the denial of science. In one study by Yale’s Dan Kahan and colleagues:

    • “Individualist-hierarchs” and “egalitarian-communitarians” are asked: Who’s an expert on global warming?
  • Only 23 percent of H-I’s agree that a scientist who thinks GW is human-caused is a “trustworthy and knowledgeable expert,” vs. 88 percent of E-Cs.

In another study, meanwhile, Kahan showed that if you frame the science of global warming as supporting nuclear power, then conservatives are more open to accepting it, presumably because it does not insult their values any longer.

3. Fox News is the Key “Feedback Mechanism” — whereby people who want to believe false things get all the license they need.

So clearly, there are some deeply rooted attributes that predispose conservatives towards the denial of global warming.

But there are also “environmental” factors — things that have come to exist in our world that did not exist before, that interact with these things about conservatives, and make all this much worse.

And here, Fox News is undeniably at the top of the list. There are now a host of studies (video here) showing that Fox News viewers are more misinformed about various aspects of reality, including two such studies about global warming.

So if you’ve got Fox News, you’ve got a place to go to reaffirm your beliefs. And that serves this psychological need for certainty and security. So conservatives opt in, they get the misinformation, their beliefs are reaffirmed, and they’re set to argue, argue, argue about why they’re right and all the scientists of the world are wrong.

Conclusion

So in sum, we need a nature-nurture, or a combined psychological and environmental account of the conservative denial of global warming. And only then do we see why they are so doggedly espousing a set of beliefs that are so wildly dangerous to the planet.”

Chris Mooney is the author of four books, including “The Republican War on Science” (2005). His next book, “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality,” is due out in April.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154709/the_strange_conservative_brain%3A_3_reasons_republicans_refuse_to_accept_reality_about_global_warming?page=entire