Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Donald Trump and John Lennon: A Case of Cognitive Dissonance

By David F. Shever | Co-Founder of The Rational Spectrum and Chair of the Board of Center for a Reasoning Society

As I was scrolling down my Facebook timeline the other day, I noticed some supportive comments for Donald Trump by different Facebook friends.  When it's someone we don't know really well, or interact much with, most of us probably roll our eyes and move on -- but one comment by a relative struck me. He said somewhere that, "Trump tells it like it is."

It's not the first time I've heard it.

But this same relative happens to also be a fan of John Lennon. So it was a bit disappointing to see it. This makes him both a fan of Lennon and Trump.  On one side, we have an artist and visionary who imagines and promotes world peace, on the other side, we have the categorical opposite.  How does one explain this case of cognitive dissonance?

I mean how could someone who admires John Lennon ever succumb to this peddling of hatred, extremism, and xenophobia unleashed by a man who while apparently is extremely materially rich is so impoverished in the mind? Trump is actively deranging minds of fellow citizens who themselves, should know better but just didn't seem to get the protective tool kit of critical thinking skills while a student in grade school or college.

Is "telling it like it is" making up stories about cheering American Muslims on 9/11, or lies about Mexican immigrants, Syrian refugees? The list of outrageous lies goes on with Trump...

Let's hope we can break the spell on some of those we know, who have been indoctrinated by hyperbole and hatred and work towards getting on in the world in a good way together.  Perhaps that's a bit optimism, but today is the anniversary of John's death, and we surely need more peace and more imagining.  Surely, John Lennon would have wanted that.  He would have had some nice, needed (and nasty) remarks to help deflate the blown up monstrosity that is Trump.  The phenomena of Trump is like some crazy gutter mouthed, grandpa who gets to be a presidential candidate simply on winning a billion dollar lottery.  Time to cut it out. Contain it no further than in a reality show.

Yesterday, I also noticed a post by another relative who wondered, "Which ethnic group will Donald Trump scapegoat next?"  A feisty argument soon appeared with numerous comments and became heated when one person compared Trump's rhetoric to Hitler.  A few argued against the comparison to Hitler, and then the commentary digressed all over the place.  One thing is for sure, both Trump and Hitler fit into the category of fascist demagogues who demonstrate(d) the capacity to cognitively capture minds through fear, hatred, and xenophobia through the use of false statements and distortions of the truth. We, Americans cherish the right to free speech.  Sometimes it's the loudest voices that are heard and not the voices of reason.  I'm not really interested in seeing Trump come into actual power to find out what kind of actual damage he could do as a F├╝hrer -- I mean -- as a president of the U.S.

For those interested in a more thoughtful, insightful, and comprehensive look into these parallels between Trump and other fear mongering demagogues, read this excellent piece below by a brilliant public intellectual, Henry A. Giroux.  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33951-fascism-in-donald-trump-s-united-states  Of course, for those who still believe Trump "tells it like it is" and are inspired by his anti-intellectualism, an invitation to the facts and history should always be available.  Spreading irrational hatred and fear has consequences for all of us. We should learn the lessons of the past.