The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Scott Adams is a keen observer of the American scene. His comic strip, Dilbert, has been followed by millions and is among the most accurate (and funny) studies of American corporate culture, its workers, and its managers.

Adams has spent the past week observing the reaction to Donald Trump's upset victory in the presidential election. He provides an insightful explanation for the extreme reaction of many progressives on social media and many millennials who now protest in the streets of some American cities. Adams writes:
Earlier this week listed 24 different theories that pundits have provided for why Trump won. And the list isn’t even complete. I’ve heard other explanations as well. What does it tell you when there are 24 different explanations for a thing?

It tells you that someone just dropped a cognitive dissonance cluster bomb on the public. Heads exploded. Cognitive dissonance set in. Weird theories came out. This is the cleanest and clearest example of cognitive dissonance you will ever see. Remember it ...

This brings me to the anti-Trump protests [and I would add, many anti-Trump social media posts]. The protesters look as though they are protesting Trump, but they are not. They are locked in an imaginary world and battling their own hallucinations of the future. Here’s the setup that triggered them.

1. They believe they are smart and well-informed.

2. Their good judgement told them Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next Hitler, or something similarly bad.

3. Half of the voters of the United States – including a lot of smart people – voted Trump into office anyway.

Those “facts” can’t be reconciled in the minds of the anti-Trumpers. Mentally, something has to give. That’s where cognitive dissonance comes in.

There are two ways for an anti-Trumper to interpret that reality. One option is to accept that if half the public doesn’t see Trump as a dangerous monster, perhaps he isn’t. But that would conflict with a person’s self-image as being smart and well-informed in the first place. When you violate a person’s self-image, it triggers cognitive dissonance to explain-away the discrepancy.

So how do you explain-away Trump’s election if you think you are smart and you think you are well-informed and you think Trump is OBVIOUSLY a monster?

You solve for that incongruity by hallucinating – literally – that Trump supporters KNOW Trump is a monster and they PREFER the monster. In this hallucination, the KKK is not a nutty fringe group but rather a symbol of how all Trump supporters must feel. (They don’t. Not even close.)

In a rational world it would be obvious that Trump supporters include lots of brilliant and well-informed people. That fact – as obvious as it would seem – is invisible to the folks who can’t even imagine a world in which their powers of perception could be so wrong. To reconcile their world, they have to imagine all Trump supporters as defective in some moral or cognitive way, or both.
On many occasions over many years, I've discussed the "through-the-looking-glass" world in which many progressives place themselves. Never has that been more evident than in their view of Donald Trump (the "MONSTER") and in their reaction to his victory. The opinion of 60 million American voters shattered the progressive  looking glass, and their reaction has indeed been "cognitive dissonance."

Adams is correct when he suggests that the only way to cope with the clear evidence that your fantasy has been destroyed is either accept that the fantasy was flawed, modify your world view, and move on, or to double down and move from fantasy to "hallucination."

Many thoughtful progressives are slowing coming to grips with the former option, but many others fully intend to embrace the latter. It's hard to lose, but it's very sad, pathetic even, when you cling to a fantasy that caused the loss in the first place. 

And this, from left of center commentator, Steven L. Carter
Yes, Trump ran an often ugly campaign. Yes, I am among those worried about his unpredictability. But the left has work to do, not only on policy and organization but also on attitude. Too many of my progressive friends seem to have forgotten how to make actual arguments, and have become expert instead at condemnation, derision and mockery. On issue after issue, they’re very good at explaining why no one could oppose their policy positions except for the basest of motives. As to those positions themselves, they are too often announced with a zealous solemnity suggesting that their views are Holy Writ -- and those who disagree are cast into the outer political darkness. In short, the left has lately been dripping with hubris, which in classic literature always portends a fall.
Hallucination coupled with hubris is an ugly mix. Let's hope it dissipates quickly.