Connecting the Dots: OMG! What if we’ve been wrong?

  • John Bos FILE PHOTO

Published: 6/24/2022 3:51:11 PM
Modified: 6/24/2022 3:50:52 PM

Are you as perplexed as I am in trying to comprehend why in the world millions of Trump supporters believe — or say they believe that the 2020 election was “stolen?” I don’t include in my question, white supremacists. They are the most blatant evidence of institutional racism in America.

I’m thinking about non-psychotic Americans who were once anti-liberal conservatives but not political extremists. In fact, an objective description of the current Republican Party would certify that the GOP is no longer a conservative party. It is a far-right extremist party. Conservative values have morphed into extremist beliefs and actions.

The January 6 House Select Panel hearings have prompted life-threatening attacks upon true conservative Republicans by members of their own party. These include the two Republicans on the hearing panel, Senator Liz Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger. Then there were the witnesses in last Tuesday’s hearing including Republican state officials from Georgia and Arizona and Wandrea "Shaye" Moss, a longtime, former Georgia election worker. The threats don’t stop with RINO political figures; families are now in the crosshairs. Representative Adam Kinzinger tweeted about a letter he received in which the writer threatened not only to kill him, but to kill his wife and infant son.

This all suggests that there is something else going on way beyond basic political disagreement. It’s more than “just” disagreement about abortion, about the teaching of accurate American history and the “right” to own assault rifles.

The Jan. 6 hearings are proving that Trump was and is wrong about the “stolen” election. No one I know, including myself, wants or likes to be “wrong” about anything. The bigger that “anything” is, the more being wrong is difficult to accept, to compute with our desire to be right. To be able to “fess up” and admit to someone that you’ve been wrong … and apologize. With Trump, being wrong can never be the case. What about his followers?

In his recent Atlantic Magazine article, Tom Nichols posits one answer: “I think the Trump superfans are terrified of being wrong. I suspect they know that for many years they’ve made a terrible mistake — that Trump and his coterie took them to the cleaners and the cognitive dissonance is now rising to ear-splitting, chest-constricting levels. And so they will literally threaten to kill people like Kinzinger (among others) if that’s what it takes to silence the last feeble voice of reason inside themselves.”

“We know,” Nichols continues, “… that being wrong makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s an actual physiological sensation, and when compounded by humiliation, it becomes intolerable. The ego cries out for either silence or assent. In the modern media environment, this fear expresses itself as a demand for the comfort of massive doses of self-justifying rage delivered through the Fox or Newsmax or OAN electronic EpiPen that stills the allergic reaction to truth and reason.”

Carlson, Hannity and their ilk assure their viewers that “You made the right decisions years ago and no matter how much it now seems that you were fooled and conned, you are on the side of right and justice.”

There is a phrase, not unlike “gaslighting,” that provides one explanation of how our 45th, twice impeached, president bamboozled his declining millions of followers. The phrase is “Gish Gallop.” It refers to a debate tactic that was a favorite of Duane Gish, a young-Earth creationist who was also a highly skilled debater.

The Gish Gallop is the tactic of snowing your opponent under a mountain of supposed “pieces of evidence” or “problem cases” and claiming that the opponent’s inability to respond to this pile of evidence shows that your side is right. Its effectiveness doesn’t depend on presenting arguments that are right or even well-supported. Quantity is offered as a substitute for quality. Democrats have been much too passive in their response to this kind of Republican disinformation.

There was a day, before contemporary video media made it possible for anyone to say anything regardless of its authenticity, when people who truly believed they were right did not threaten to hurt anyone for expressing a contrary view. “The snarling threat of violence,” Nichols said, “never comes from people who calmly believe they are in the right. It is always the instant resort of the bully who feels the hot flush of shame rising in the cheeks and the cold rock of fear dropping in the pit of the stomach.”

As the truth about Trump continues to emerge, I fear it will provoke new threats … and violence.

“Connecting the Dots” is published every other Saturday in the Recorder. Greenfield resident John Bos is a contributing writer for “Green Energy Times” and the editor of a new children’s book “After the Race.” Comments and questions are invited at john01370@gmail.com.


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