Understanding conservatives – are there ways to talk with ANY of them?

Seems like we all have them…family members who have been taken in by conservative talking points.  And, if you’re like me, you’re astounded when a seemingly normal person identifies as a conservative – until you realize that these are nearly always people who are simply politically uninformed or seriously misinformed.   This is no mistake, or error; it’s deliberate manipulation by those who want to retain wealth and power.

Certain personality types and IQ levels are extremely vulnerable to slick media presentations and psychologically tested “talking points”.  People of an authoritarian mindset and those disinclined to critical thinking are fair game for the conservative propaganda machine.   People who were abused or made to feel “less than” others in childhood are also vulnerable to  conservative slogans.   Enter the reich-wing corporate media.

“Authoritarian people have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape factual challenges to their beliefs.” – Chris Mooney

A great overview of how FOX “news”  has created a culture of deliberate lies, and cultivated ignorance is “The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers are the Most Misinformed” by Chris Mooney.  I highly recommend it.

cult members are thankful for being “infromed”

If your relative is a devotee of FOX “news” and right wing hate/talk radio, which misinforms overtly, you may not be able to get through to them, and it often  can be too frustrating to try.

Like other cult members, they are fed a daily paranoid diatribe that tells them that outsiders and the mythical “liberal” media are  “lying” and that they, the cult members, are the only ones being given “the truth”.  These viewers may be so far gone that all you can do is direct the conversation to the weather and keep visits short.

But a larger group of self-identified conservatives may watch regular corporate news, which misinforms and misdirects more subtly and yet still quite effectively.  That’s why these viewers know more about the latest celebrity divorce than they do about  the corporatist/ALEC/GOP  bills that are currently moving  to disenfranchise voters in multiple states and roll back decades of workers’ and women’s rights.   They know the names of the latest fashionable celebrity rehab resort but have NO idea what “Citizens United” is.  (You may think I’m kidding, but I tested it out on 3 different conservatives in my own family.  Not a ONE knew what Citizen’s United was, but all three still believe that Bush DID find WMD in Iraq! )   Opinions may vary — but facts do not.  So why are these people so factually misinformed?

Today, just 5 or 6 corporations own ALL media in America.  And since the same wealthy 1% who play the Wall Street Roulette Wheel, own the banks and energy corporations also own the media…it’s no wonder that  deceit and misinformation is slickly produced and exciting to watch, while keeping the American citizen so frightfully uninformed.

Your conservative family members are usually not evil, just kept in a state of constant fearfulness and rage – states of mind that disallow logic and clear thinking.

Many corporate entities exist solely due to their ability to advertise and manipulate individuals into purchasing products that  they usually do NOT need.  Their continued wealth depends upon them manipulating our political system to allow them to continue to socialize their losses and privatize their gains.  For this, they need a compliant populace.  They know, better than anyone, the power of media manipulation to control the behavior of individuals.  Sleazy media specialists such as Roger Ailes of FOX “news” know how to use these same manipulation techniques to control  political thought.

Your conservative relatives are being manipulated and they do not recognize it.  They do not recognize that they are lending their power to evil.  And with study after study reporting the link between low intelligence, prejudice and conservatism, these facts are robustly provable.

To anyone who’s been paying attention, it is obvious that over the past couple of decades, the republican party has gone from being merely resistant to change to a radical, toxic blend of several very evil  factions which has allowed it to become the perfect tool of the dark side. This “dark side” is fighting against the evolution of our species and against a new healthy society. Why? Because  the dark side fears change and enjoys the power over others that materialism affords.


What are the factions?

1)The top 1% (billionaires and corporatists) –  These are the ones who fund the “think tanks”, and pay exorbitant sums to advertising specialists  to come up with catchy slogans and symbols.  They cynically prey upon the ignorant and fearful, and manipulate them with words of patriotism into supporting politicians and policies (like the Bush tax cuts, lower taxes for corporations, no regulation for corporations, and ending the estate tax) that only serve the wealthy, and hurt the rest of usKoch Industries are one of the largest under-miners of democracy, but they are not the only ones by any means.  (Talking points used by the corporatists use special code words in their propaganda to communicate to the other factions of the republican party, the Dominionists and the White Supremacists.  Some code words are “states rights” and “big government”.)

2)Dominionists – these are evangelical Christians who believe they must take over the governments of the world in order to serve “Jeezus”.  they “believe (and are petrified) that if they don’t hijack the government that God is going to revoke their status as “chosen people” and that they will be ultimately destroyed and “spat out” by God for “being lukewarm”.  (From a blog by an ex-dominionist who managed to deprogram herself, although she still suffers PTSD and anxiety problems a full seven years after escaping.  Note: her article is a MUST READ if you want to understand why some of the GOP and Teaparty are so irrational.)  They believe anyone who is not their brand of Christian is not a REAL Christian and anyone not “christian” is deceived, demonic, and damned.   They worship the angry god of the old testament, and have transformed the loving Jesus into a petty and rather nasty “republican Jesus” who is just as mean and spiteful as they are.

They hate feminists, environmentalists, gay people, Muslims, and liberals, including liberal Christians.  They also believe Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and Jews are all going to a literal hell full of fire and pitchfork wielding demons.  Some believe Catholics are also going to hell, and of course Buddhists and Hindus are headed there, too.

They want to implement old testament rules and have death sentences for those of us who break their rules: Death for Muslims, gays, Wiccans, astrologers, atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Democrats, non-submissive women, Abortion doctors, rebellious children etc.

They’re also excited to “support Israel” because they believe that a huge world war based there will kill nearly all the Jews off and then their Jesus will return.  (That’s why they always scream about supporting Israel.  Really.)

And because they believe that they are serving their god, any treachery, lies, or cheating is perfectly OK.  Murdering liberals and abortion doctors is also just fine.  Praying for the death of Obama and all democrats is almost required.  They are anti-science and tend to home school so their kids will be isolated and never learn about evolution, comparative religions, science, or sex.  “The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

3)White Supremacists and Gun Nuts – These are the ones who get hysterical about immigration of Mexicans but don’t really care if a white Canadian is here illegally.  They hate Muslims and anyone from the middle east.  They hate African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, and, of course, Mexicans and everybody from South America.  They also hate gay people, (even the white ones), as well as feminists who don’t know “their place”.  They love the death penalty and  torture.  They hate liberals, the poor, unemployed, and the sick.  They hate unions and well-educated people and environmentalists. think I’m kidding?  Check out this guy: Neo-Nazi Christian Birther Registers As Capitol Hill Lobbyist.  WTF?

They believed it when the NRA told them Clinton would take their guns.  Of course, he didn’t, but that didn’t stop them from believing it again when the NRA told them Obama would take their guns.  Guns and ammo sales skyrocketed upon the election of President Obama, and, of course, he didn’t take their guns.  Today the NRA made a statement that Obama would take their guns in his second term.  Will they fall for that BS again?  “You betcha”.

How can we talk with conservatives?

A daunting task is to try and get through to those who aren’t fully indoctrinated and still have the possibility of rational thought.  Yet, if your relative is not in *one of these above listed three groups, finding common ground may be sometimes easier than you’d imagine.  Why?  Because conservatism is often a default position when a person does not understand the issue, has not given it rational thought, or has been manipulated by lies.

Most people – even self-identified conservatives – are actually liberal in many social areas, yet they don’t realize it.  This is because of “framing” which is a technique that prompts thoughts to move in predictable ways based upon the way the idea is worded.  Cons are great at this.

Most people simply want the same thing: to have a decent home, to be able to provide for their family, and to retire with some dignity.  We can start with these, and move into more challenging areas.

For example: if they hate abortion, we can all agree that nobody loves abortion.  This may surprise them.  They’ve probably been told that all  liberals just love abortion, rather than the truth that we support sex education and birth control, which lowers the necessity for most abortions.  We understand that unwanted and dangerous pregnancies happen, and we prefer legal safe abortion to back ally abortions, suicides,  and unwanted, abused children.  And they probably don’t know that many democrats personally would not get an abortion, but they still support a woman’s legal and ethical right to make her own medical decisions.

Most rational people can all agree that birth control is far better than abortion, and that people will always be having sex no matter what religionists and politicians say.  In this way, you can help them begin to question just why the conservatives are now attacking birth control.  Why should Catholic bishops and GOP fanatics like Santorum be able to dictate to everybody else?  We can all agree that we want our sexual life to be private, and that we don’t want to be told what to do in our own bedrooms.  There’s something we can agree on.  Reaching consensus is important first step.

Packing company workers

This is NOT a school photo – it’s American child workers at a meat packing factory

America before unions

Poor American working man in his “home”

Conservatives have been taught to hate unions.  Talk about the things we owe to unions: 5 day work week, safety regulations in the workplace, child labor laws, minimum wage.

Show them photos like these of life in America before unions and child labor laws. 

Beginning in 1908 Lewis Hines documented children as young as seven  working long hours in cotton mills and coal mines in the US.  Conservatives of the time fought worker protections and child labor laws.  They believed that the “job creators” should not be regulated in any way.  Sound familiar?

Explain that working people – and that’s most of us – don’t have lobbyists or anyone in our corner to speak for us.  Corporations have endless cash and countless lobbyists.  We human beings have only coalitions, non-profit organizations, and unions.  A union is simply a collection of workers that have joined together for their common good.  Without them, we don’t have a voice at the table.  Corporations can dictate our wages, offer no benefits, and simply fire us if we’re hurt on the job.  They don’t give workers benefits or decent wages out of the kindness of their hearts.  Without protections earned by unions and still somewhat supported by law, they’d reduce us all to slaves.  We’d be back in the “guilded age” of the early 1900s shown in the photos above.  Do we want that for our children?  Here’s another place we can find a consensus.

Most people are actually social liberals even if they “hate” government.  They love services and they enjoy the benefits of living in a civilized society.  If they hate government, they will still usually be able to agree that having roads and freeways is nice.  Having a fire department and police is useful.  Having a library is good.  Food and drug safety rules can be agreed upon by even the most anti-regulation person.  Remind them how well the “no government” idea is working out for places like Somalia.  In the third world, multi-national corporations can do whatever they want.   They can — and do –dump toxins into the land and water, poison countless people and wildlife, hire private mercenaries to kill anyone in their way — and there is no one to arbitrate.  There are no police force to protect people from violence.  No hospital care, no roads – yipee!  A libertarian paradise.

And even if they home school, would they really want a society where there were no public schools?  How many of the next generation would not even know how to read if there were absolutely no schools except for the people who could afford private ones, or who would take the time required to home school?  And what kind of society would it be with a lot of people even less informed than we have now?  Imagine a society where the majority were ignorant of  basic science, were superstitious, couldn’t read, and struggled to survive with no basic services  like health, roads, firefighters, etc.  What does that society remind you of?  If you imagined the Dark Ages, you know we don’t want to recreate that.  These ideas are good ones for stimulating thought and finding common ground.

The best way to talk with republicans is to refuse to get angry, and stay centered in kindness.  I know there are those who feel we should be as angry and insulting as conservatives, but I believe that keeping a right spirit and remaining centered in love is energetically more powerful, even if they are louder.  If you have the kind of relatives who can carry on a thoughtful conversation without yelling, you might be able to find common ground.  And that’s what is needed as we move through this transition time.  You’re not trying to “convince” them or change their mind — you’re trying to help them expand their thinking so they can come to conclusions that have not been pre-programmed into them.

This video brings some clarity to the authoritarian mindset that is the underlying personality aspect of conservatives and fundamentalists. 

*If your family member belongs to one of the three categories I’ve listed above, though,  I suspect they would just as soon shoot us rather than talk, so I don’t recommend trying to reach common ground in the realm of politics.  Often these groups overlap with the FOX “news” cult, and the advice recommended for them also holds here.  Stick to the weather and keep visits short.

UPDATE: I’ve received an email directing me to a comment posted on an article about communicating with dominionists.  I’m reprinting it here in full, along with the included line to an excellent article by someone who escaped the dominionist brainwashing.

Not likely (5.00 / 1)

People have been trying to talk to members of the Religious Right for years.  Unless you find, as a person I know calls it, the “magic key”, it’s an exercise in futility.  You’re running into literal programming that drowns out any logic, scientific evidence, common sense, or anything else that doesn’t fit their worldview.

All you’ll do is either make yourself a target for conversion attempts, or piss them off and make yourself a target for violence and hate.

I suggest you read the second half of this blog entry, a friend of mine talks about trying to talk to them (the whole article is good):  http://dogemperor.livejournal.com/122878.html

The Truth About the Conservative Mind: Why Reactionaries from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin Have Fought Real Liberty
Conservatism is a reaction to democratic movements, like OWS, that challenge the authority of elites.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. legal fictions=servitude :-) call me lightning today.
    Apr 20, 2012 @ 06:58:03

    Here is one real issue out of many that could be addressed. 50 years ago a dollar would buy 4 gal of gas or 4 loafs of bread and an ounce of gold was worth around 150 of either. Today a dollar will buy about 1/4 of a gal of gas or loaf of bread and an ounce of gold is worth about 400 of either. My point is that since the illegal creation of the federal reserve, the dollar has lost over 90% of it’s value due to inflation. This is a mathematically unsustainable tax resulting in the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, and the inevitable economic collapse of America. All that the left right paradigm of demarcates and republicans do is prop each other up, neither party ever addresses any real issues unless there is a corporate interest that can profit from it. To imply that one side is better than the other is like saying Mormons are better than catholics. Here is the political reality. Bush was bad for this country because he was an idiot and Obama has been even worse for this country because he’s not an idiot at all. But they both serve the corporate interest, and only those who are willfully blind or have not researched the facts can deny it.


    • voice13
      Apr 20, 2012 @ 12:20:20

      I completely agree with you on the Fed, not to mention the World Bank. I’m sure you’ve read John Perkins “confessions of an economic hit man” (or seen some of the video clips) that reveal the rampant control, exploitation, and predatory nature of today’s corporate states. Clearly, we, as a species, have created a crisis (both economic and ecological) that will require a brand new paradigm. And the U.S. two-party system with its corporate corruption and nepotism is dysfunctional at best.

      But this particular post wasn’t a debate about the democratic/republican paradigm. If we had a healthy system, we’d have something like a dozen parties, (as exist in several of the northern european countries) to better express the varying shades of ideas in a society. And it was meant to help us identify the conservative factions to better know which ones are open to coalition and consensus building, and which ones are just unreachable.

      I have been registered as a “Peace & Freedom Party” and as an Independent, and to my thinking, there has not been a true liberal democratic presidential candidate in my lifetime — and as exciting as the creation of the CCC putting millions of people to work and helping end the depression was by FDR, well, he also confiscated the citizen’s gold for the Fed, so you couldn’t really call him a progressive or liberal. WTF?

      If our system were healthier – say with maybe a dozen parties, no corporate money, no electoral college, simple districting with no redistricting allowed, and true transparency of all bills and verifiable voting, we might actually have a political system that serves the people. But that’s only the beginning – one can imagine a government by consensus, similar to the open source softwares and browsers that are created by a community. I blogged in an earlier entry about Iceland writing their hew constitution online after the kicked out/arrested bankers and printed their own, independent currency. We may have to move there! 🙂

      I only wish Obama was actually a liberal as the GOP is constantly screaming – he’s actually more like a moderate republican of a few decades ago. The personal mandate in the health care bill and “cap and trade” were originally republican ideas. Both parties are completely corporatized, and the corporate media has framed the conversation to move it so far to the right that it is tempting to just say they’re identical. I’ve said it myself in the past.

      Even with the corporate control, though, the new teapublicans are frighteningly regressive, wanting to undo every civil progress we’ve made as a nation. Whether its the 916 anti-woman bills they’ve passed since 2010, their weird obsession with gay marriage, their mean-spirited racism, their attacks in nearly every state on working people, the spectacle of them cheering the idea of torture, and letting the uninsured people suffer and die, (as in the video at the bottom of this post) their hatred of any regulations on predatory corporations (even the pathetic weak ones written by dems), and their attempt to turn our secular society into their version of a “christian nation” — it appears if we want to preserve any of our dwindling civil rights, we should keep these people out of power.


  2. call me nobody
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 04:09:15

    Bravo, well said as usual. So being as that democratic and republican parties for the most part are two sides of the same coin. Am I reading it right that -it appears if we want to preserve our dwindling liberty, we should vote for the lesser of the two evils? Or how aside from collapsing the entire system and starting over would you recommend we keep these people out of power? I’ve always felt that the only system that has ever worked was in place for thousands of years and seemed to work quite well for over 80 million native Americans before so called civilization came along a few hundred years ago and brought their deception with them. I’m not advocating that we all go live in tepees like my lakota ancestors. However the only gun nuts that I fear are not warriors that can protect themselves and their community. They’re cowards who join huge gangs and wear badges, enforcing laws that incrementally enslave the masses. This was a major issue with the indigenous native American warrior culture. It was so difficult to enslave that it was instead slaughtered from 80 million to around 80 thousand. Then the children where taken and put in public programing or school as some might call it because hey everyone must have a proper education, right? Oops I’m afraid I’m off subject again, that’s the problem with us uneducated folk. We just dance to the beat of a different drum. My apologies, I’ll try to be more productive and less of a thorn in the side. If you sing me a lullaby I’ll even promise to be a good boy, maybe the bad men will too. If not I’m sure you’ll just kill us all with kindness. 🙂


  3. voice13
    Apr 21, 2012 @ 04:51:45

    LIke you, I wrestle with these questions every day. Should I vote for the lesser of two evils, or should I throw my vote away on a third-party candidate with no recognition and no chance of winning?..and does my presidential vote even count with the undemocratic Electoral College system? OR should I refuse to participate in politics at all, and just vote with my dollars – i.e. buying LESS stuff, and what stuff I do buy, avoid patronizing big corporate manufacturers? Should I just continue to spread positive energy wherever I can,& try to find consensus with those on the “opposite” side of the political landscape – and pursue creative arts and expanded consciousness, knowing that we are all connected and that every positive wave of energy impacts the whole? Or all of the above?

    You and I agree that so much is toxic and out of balance in our society. And when you read comments on blogs or youtube, there are a lot of people who are very angry and like to complain and blame — and as you’re reading their words, don’t you feel that the negative energy only feeds more negativity? There’s got to be a way to acknowledge that the greed-based system sucks, yet still see life for the amazing gift and adventure that it is. I see this as an important step in our species evolution, we are discovering that we MUST grow up and take responsibility for the crap we’ve created. And I feel like some people simply will NOT accept change, while others will embrace it.

    I agree with what the Mayan elder said (I quoted him in this post http://wp.me/p1P9F6-af ) and I know that radical evolutionary change is happening — the question being whether it will be violent and disruptive and fatal for many, or whether we can have the intelligence to make the shift more consciously and with some grace.

    Thank you for commenting. By the way, would you watch the video on sacred economics and let me know what you think? I’m still reading the book and I’m feeling that the author fills in some of the holes in my understanding about what the transition to a better economic system looks like… 🙂


  4. call me humbled and happy.
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 20:52:42

    I’ve heard it said that there are only two real emotions. Love and fear, but still I understand what you say about anger and sadness. For I too have walked that road. All I can say is that it’s easy to love princes Leia but it takes true strength to love darth vader. It reminds me of an old legend called the ghost dance. But since I promised to behave, that story I’ll save, though it be bold and brave. Btw thank you for being.


  5. Trackback: Who Owns Your Media? « crazyemailsandbackstories
  6. Lunachick
    Aug 24, 2012 @ 18:01:09

    Omg I think I love you.

    So I was doing a quick search for info about authoritarian mindsets just now when I stumbled across this gem of a post, and I am blown away by how you touched on so dang many things I’ve been thinking but haven’t really been able to articulate without sounding like a comete jackass. You are a freaking genuis!

    I’m going to go stalk the rest of your blog now.


  7. Grand Canyon Tour
    Jul 04, 2013 @ 20:17:31

    What’s up, I log on to your blog regularly. Your humoristic style is witty, keep up the good work!


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