In one my first entries in this blog, “First to the Tribe”, posted on September 14, 2016, I noted – not as a criticism but as a simple observation – that none of us can afford to do all of our own thinking. We let our tribe do the lion’s share of it for us. So, for example, once our tribe announced that it was worried about anthropogenic climate change, we were already primed to sign on to gender self-identification, not because the two have anything to do with each other, other than how beliefs, not unlike cable offerings, get packaged and sold. After that it was Black Lives Matter, then believing in the ‘science’ behind the Covid 19 pandemic and high dudgeon about anti-maskers, and, finally, scoffing at the Retrumplicans who’re convinced that the election was stolen. If we ask ourselves what we know about any of these issues taken individually, the answer is invariably diddly squat. But we’re sure that somebody knows, and that somebody knows because she’s a member of our doxastic tribe.
As I mentioned in that aforementioned entry, and in a follow-up one, it’s not that acknowledging that this is how we acquire our beliefs somehow liberates us from continuing to do so. Unless we’re going to walk around believing nothing at all, we have no choice. But we can, I think, stop and appreciate that the same holds true for those who’ve subscribed to what Kellyanne Conway could have called an ‘alternative’ package of beliefs. Since global warming was a hoax, so was Covid 19. Since trans-activism was just a power grab, so is Black Lives Matter. And hence likewise was the fraudulent election on November 3rd.
I say this not just to flog a dead horse – though I suppose I am doing that – but for two additional reasons. First, I say it to answer the question, How was it possible that those who invaded the Capitol last Wednesday honestly thought they were doing the right thing?
And second, I say it to try to change the conversation about it. Imagine two guys in a bar, one wearing a BLM mask, the other a MAGA hat, each asking the other why he believes the nonsense he does. And imagine each answering, because that’s what I was taught in Grade Five. We all know of at least something we were wrongly taught in Grade Five. So there must be all kinds of things we were wrongly taught from K-12. And if there are all kinds of things we were wrongly taught from K-12, there must be many more things we were wrongly taught by all the people we trusted to tell us about the world. We don’t have to believe they were lying to us, any more than we believe we’re lying when we pass on what we’ve been told.
Changing the conversation from what we believe to how we came to believe it is a very different kind of conversation. It’s too cerebral to accommodate vitriol. You won’t hear this kind of conversation on CNN or MSNBC or Fox, because it doesn’t sell advertising. So if ad revenues can and do trump repairing the ideological divide that’s ripping their country apart, why do they feign outrage that reelection trumps it for politicians?
Catch either a Tucker Carlson or a Chris Cuomo or a Ted Cruz or a Cory Booker in an unguarded moment, and the explanation is simple. “Hey, I’m just tryin’ to make a livin’!” As are we all.