Monday, January 02, 2017

Will Trump And The Republicans Drown In Their Own Swamp-- What We Can Do To Help


Congress is back in town— and the very first thing the crooks in the undrained swamp hope to accomplish is to make the swamp safer— for the predators, in this case, themselves. Virginia hack Bob Goodlatte proposed a very popular amendment to the rules package that takes away the independence of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics by putting it under the authority of one of Congress’ most corrupted and partisan operations, the ironically-named Ethics Committee. Although Ryan warned them it could backfire in their faces, it passed in the Republican caucus 119-74. Tomorrow we see if any Democrats are stupid and corrupt enough to vote for it. Pelosi: "Republicans claim they want to 'drain the swamp,' but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress… The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office.” Everybody wants in on the Golden Age of Trump.

Soon after the election, George Lakoff wrote about how the majority of Americans— the decent Americans who did not vote for fascism in November— can cope with this Trumpian era starting up in just days from now. It goes beyond urging us to keep reminding everyone that Trump is a minority president and “a loser… Constant repetition,” he wrote, “with discussion in the media and over social media, questions the legitimacy of the minority president to ignore the values of the majority. The majority, at the very least, needs to keep its values in the public eye and view the minority president’s action through majority American values.”
Democrats and most of the media looked upon Trump as a clown, a dimwit, a mere jerk, a reality show star, who did not understand the issues and who could not possibly win when he was insulting so many demographic groups. I am anything but a Trump fan, but I estimated that he would get about 47% of the vote. Although I was sure he wouldn’t quite win, I kept warning people that he could, especially given the Democrats’ failure to understand the role of values.

Nine months before the election I wrote about how Trump used the brains of people listening to him to his advantage. Here is a recap of how Trump does it, with examples taken from his campaign.

Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants: Absolute authority, money, power, and celebrity.

The mechanisms are:
1. Words are neurally linked to the circuits that determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more the circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again. Trump repeats. Win. Win, Win. We’re gonna win so much you’ll get tired of winning.

2. Framing: Crooked Hillary. Framing Hillary as purposely and knowingly committing crimes for her own benefit, which is what a crook does. Repeating makes many people unconsciously think of her that way, even though she has always been found to have been honest and legal by thorough studies by the right-wing Bengazi committee (which found nothing) and the FBI (which found nothing to charge her with.) Yet the framing worked.
There is a common metaphor that Immorality Is Illegality, and that acting against Strict Father Morality (the only kind off morality recognized) is being immoral. Since virtually everything Hillary Clinton has ever done has violated Strict Father Morality, that makes her immoral to strict conservatives. The metaphor makes her actions immoral, which makes her a crook. The chant “Lock her up!” activates this whole line of reasoning.
3. Well-known examples: When a well-publicized disaster happens, the coverage is repeated over and over, and watched on tv and read about many times. Neurally, the repetition activates the frame-circuitry for it over and over, strengthening the synapses with each repetition. Neural circuits with strong synapses can be activated more easily that those with weak synapses, and so the probability that they will be activated is higher. And so the frame is more likely to be activated.
Repeated examples of shootings by Muslims, African-Americans, and Latinos make it seem probable that it could happen to you. It thus raises fears that it could happen to you and your community — despite the miniscule actual probability. Trump uses this technique to create fear. Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father to protect you — namely, Trump.
4. Grammar: Radical Islamic terrorists: “Radical” puts Muslims on a linear scale and “terrorists” imposes a frame on the scale, suggesting that terrorism is built into the religion itself. The grammar suggests that there is something about Islam that has terrorism inherent in it. Imagine calling the Charleston gunman a “radical Republican terrorist.”
Trump is aware of this to at least some extent. As he said to Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer who wrote The Art of the Deal for him, “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”
5. Conventional metaphorical thought is inherent in our largely unconscious thought. Such normal modes of metaphorical thinking are not noticed as such. Consider Brexit, which used the metaphor of “entering” and “leaving” the EU.
There is a universal metaphor that states are bounded regions in space: you can enter a state, be deep in some state, and come out of that state. If you enter a café and then leave the café, you will be in the same location as before you entered.

But that need not be true of states of being. But that was the metaphor used with Brexit; Britons believed that after leaving the EU, things would be as before when the entered the EU. They were wrong. Things changed radically while they were in the EU.

That same metaphor is being used by Trump: Make America Great Again. Make America Safe Again. And so on. As if there was some past ideal state that we can go back to just by electing Trump.
6. There is also a metaphor that A Country Is a Person and a metonymy of the President Standing For the Country. Thus, Obama, via both metaphor and metonymy, can stand conceptually for America. Therefore, by saying that Obama is weak and not respected, it is communicated that America, with Obama as president, is weak and disrespected. The inference is that it is because of Obama.
The corresponding inference is that, with a strong president like Trump, the country should be strong, and via strict father reasoning, respected.
7. The country as person metaphor and the metaphor that war or conflict between countries is a fistfight between people, leads to the inference that just having a strong president will guarantee that America will win conflicts and wars. Trump will just throw knockout punches. In his acceptance speech at the convention, Trump repeatedly said that he would accomplish things that, in reality, can only be done by the people acting with their government. After one such statement, there was a chant from the floor, “He will do it.”

8. The metaphor that The nation Is a Family was used throughout the GOP convention. We heard that strong military sons are produced by strong military fathers and that “defense of country is a family affair.” From Trump’s love of family and commitment to their success, we are to conclude that, as president he will love America’s citizens and be committed to the success of all.

9. There is a common metaphor that identifying with your family’s national heritage makes you a member of that nationality. Suppose your grandparents came from Italy and you identify with your Italian ancestors, you may proudly state that you are Italian. The metaphor is natural. Literally, you have been American for two generations. Trump made use of this commonplace metaphor in attacking US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is American, born and raised in the United States. Trump said he was a Mexican, and therefore would hate him and tend to rule against him in a case brought against Trump University for fraud.

10. Then there is the metaphor system used in the phrase “to call someone out.” First the word “out.” There is a general metaphor that Knowing Is Seeing as in “I see what you mean.” Things that are hidden inside something cannot be seen and hence not known, while things are not hidden but out in public can be seen and hence known. To “out” someone is to make their private knowledge public. To “call someone out” is to publicly name someone’s hidden misdeeds, thus allowing for public knowledge and appropriate consequences.
This is the basis for the Trumpian metaphor that Naming is Identifying. Thus naming your enemies will allow you to identify correctly who they are, get to them, and so allow you to defeat them. Hence, just saying “radical Islamic terrorists” allows you to pick them out, get at them, and annihilate them. And conversely, if you don’t say it, you won’t be able to pick them out and annihilate them. Thus a failure to use those words means that you are protecting those enemies — in this case Muslims, that is, potential terrorists because of their religion.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Our neural minds think in certain patterns. Trump knows how to exploit them. Whatever other limitations on his knowledge, he knows a lot about using your brain against you to acquire and maintain power and money.

What the Majority Can Do

A strong American Majority movement is necessary, and its backbone has to be a citizens’ communication system — or systems — run through the internet, framing American values accurately and systemically day after day, telling truths framed by American majority moral values — and appealing honestly and forthrightly to those in-group nurturant values in small towns across America. The idea that must be brought across is empathy for those in your in-group, your town. This is basic progressive thought: citizens care about citizens and provide public resources for all, maximizing freedom. It fits in-group nurturance. And it undermines — rather than negates — strict father morality.

What a Strict Father Cannot Be

There are certain things that strict fathers cannot be: A Loser, Corrupt, and especially not a Betrayer of Trust.

Trump lost the popular vote. To the American majority, he is a Loser, a minority president. It needs to be said and repeated.

Above all, Trump is a Betrayer of Trust. He is acting like a dictator, and is even supporting Putin’s anti-American policies.

He is betraying trust is a direct way, by refusing to put his business interests in a blind trust. By doing so, and by insisting on his children both running the business and getting classified information, he is using the presidency to make himself incredibly wealthy — just as Putin has. This is Corruption of the highest and most blatant level. Can the media say the words: Corruption, Betrayal of Trust? He ran on a promise to end corruption, to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Instead, he has brought a new and much bigger swamp with him — lobbyists put in charge of one government agency after another, using public funds and the power of the government to serve corporate greed. And the biggest crock in the swamp is Trump himself!

The Trump administration will wreak havoc on the very people who voted for him in those small towns — disaster after disaster. It will be a huge betrayal. The $500 billion in infrastructure — roads and bridges, airports, sewers, eliminating lead water pipes — will probably not make it to those thousands of small rural towns with in-group nurturance for the townspeople. How many factories with good-paying jobs can be brought to such towns? Not thousands. Many of those who voted for Trump will inevitably be among the 20 million who will lose their health care. And they will become even further victims of corporate greed — more profits going to the top one percent and more national corporations, say, fast food and big-box stores paying low wages and offering demeaning jobs will continue to wipe out local businesses. Will this be reported? Will it even be said? And if so, how will it be said in a way that doesn’t wind up promoting Trump?

The American majority must create an online citizen communication network — or multiple networks — to spread its positive American values and truths as antidotes to those small towns with in-group nurturance as the Trump swamp swamps them!

The message is not merely negative, they are being betrayed. That’s the Don’t Think of an Elephant! trap. Rather it is that the town’s in-group nurturance is nurturance. It works because care is morally right.

Right now the majority is fighting back, pointing out what is wrong with Trump day after day. In many cases, they are missing the message of Don’t Think of an Elephant! By fighting against Trump, many protesters are just showcasing Trump, keeping him in the limelight, rather than highlighting the majority’s positive moral view and viewing the problem with Trump from within the majority’s positive worldview frame. To effectively fight for what is right, you have to first say what is right and why.

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At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does "framing American values accurately" include the negative neural messaging in, for current example, the constant Putin/Russia bashing?

In the same way the rantings of radical evangelical religionists completely belie their loudly professed "faith," so does "exhibiting" alleged "American values" in terms of targets of hate and fear.

John Puma

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Jack H. said...

Good post. But every time you start defending Hillary Clinton you lose me.

At 6:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To John:

American values *ARE* greed, hate, fear, narcissism, greed and intolerance... did I mention greed?

This is obvious by the results of our elections since 1980.

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 6:45 AM

I did notice that you mentioned greed, greed and greed.

To those I would only add 1) greed 2) greed and 3) greed.

That's my point. To suggest that Herr Hair is the FIRST prez to bring greed (or greed, for that matter) to the White House fails to recognize our well established "American values." And likewise does complaining that a foreign leader is greedy.

We spent 50+ years getting the USSR to renounce its economic system and embrace ours (the one fiercely and proudly based on greed.) Now that they have done so ... and clearly proven it with an, alleged, greedy asshole in power ... we somehow find the essential idiocy to demonize him/them for becoming what we have insisted they must be. Or is that we don't like what we see in the mirror?

The USA is TRULY exceptional ... but ONLY in its monumental hypocrisy.

John Puma

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to John: ;-)

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The basic message from Lakoff:

American voters are gullible (and stupid). He describes this when he ticks off all the simplistic marketing gimmicks that work so very well.

The "what (voters) can do" section is moot. When an electorate is so fucking gullible and stupid as to fall for such marketing, it is not capable of any kind of effective remedies... until they get a LOT smarter.

And that ain't happening.


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