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.
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 thecitizen 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.
- Conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information
- Low IQ and Conservative beliefs linked to prejudice
- Conservative Politics, ‘Low-Effort’ Thinking Linked In New Study
- Why is the conservative brain more fearful? The alternate reality right-wingers inhabit is terrifying
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 us. 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 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 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.who believe they must take over the governments of the world in order to serve “Jeezus”.
They hate feminists, environmentalists, gay people, Muslims, and liberals, including liberal Christians. They also believe Mormons,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 thetold 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 , 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.
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.
- Conservative Conference Welcomes White Supremacist Speaker (slog.thestranger.com)
- Florida A&M band suspends band camp, other clubs (nicolemaschke1.wordpress.com)
- Contraception and the Cost of Culture Wars (themoderatevoice.com)
- White supremacists revive dream of a homeland in Washington state (vancouversun.com)
- A Dominionist Escapee Explains The Craziness, Manipulation, and Brainwashing Techniques