We are getting down to the wire. A lot of eliminations have already happened helping to focus on what people (voters & media pundits) feel is important. Watching and listening to these politicians can be amusing and disheartening. This presidential election is shaping up to be something like we have never seen before; or have we?
The media has for years worked more like advertising or reality television than our own preconceived notion of news (or factually presenting facts;) The media or news outlets are seeking to appeal to their demographic base thus increasing ratings which in turn generates revenue by selling advertising. In all affect, their business model is about generating revenue by selling advertisement they do this with content tailored to keep you tuned in. They are exploiting our neotribalism for a profit. The “News” or “Media” is really 90% infotainment and propagation of already held views.
Our modern society is based more upon Neotribalism or modern tribalism. This sociological concept which postulates that human beings have evolved to live in tribal society, as opposed to mass society, and thus will naturally form social networks constituting new “tribes.”
President of the United States has become a reality TV show
David Ropeik wrote in Psychology Today:
Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason. Think of the inhuman things we do in the name of tribal unity. Wars are essentially, and often quite specifically, tribalism. Genocides are tribalism – wipe out the other group to keep our group safe – taken to madness. Racism that lets us feel that our tribe is better than theirs, parents who end contact with their own children when they dare marry someone of a different faith or color, denial of evolution or climate change or other basic scientific truths when they challenge tribal beliefs. What stunning evidence of the power of tribalism! (By the way, it wasn’t just geocentrist Catholics in the 16 and 1700s who denied evidence that the earth travels around the sun. Some Christian biblical literalists still do. So do a handful of ultra orthodox Jews and Muslims.)
Yet another example is the polarized way we argue about so many issues, and the incredible irony that as we make these arguments we claim to be intelligent (smart, therefore right) yet we ignorantly close our minds to views that conflict with ours. Dan Kahan, principal researcher into the phenomenon of Cultural Cognition (Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact,) has found that our views are powerfully shaped so they agree with beliefs of the groups with which we most strongly identify. His research, along with the work of others, has also found that the more challenged our views are, the more we defend them…the more dogmatic and closed-minded we become…an intellectual form of ‘circle-the-wagons, we’re under attack’ tribal unity. Talk about tribalism overruling reason.
As irrational as genocide and science denial and immorality may be, it makes absolute sense that tribalism can produce such behaviors. We are social animals. We have evolved to depend on our tribes, literally, for our safety and survival…
…We may not be aware at the conscious level of the influence tribalism has on us, but then, most of human cognition happens below the radar of consciousness, and is driven not so much by the goal of getting good grades or winning Nobel Prizes as it is, first, to survive. Small wonder that this ultimate imperative dominates so much of how we behave, how we think and act, and how we treat each other. And it’s hardly surprising that the more unsettled and uncertain we feel and the less we feel we have control over how things are going – feelings that make us feel threatened – the more we circle the wagons and fiercely fight for tribal success, looking to the tribe to keep us safe.
We also identify with our tribes based upon how we want to be perceived by other members of our tribes. We join tribes not only because we feel threatened, but to avoid conflicts. If we find a great number of our fellow tribe-mates are joining a particular tribe, we not only adjust our memberships in tribes but change our views for acceptance of these people.
Examples of joining tribes for acceptance has been seen repeatedly in the religious/political marriages over the past 30 years. In this election we often have heard people ask, how will candidate ABC appeal to XYZ religious group. We have also seen how entire congregations have come to support extremist candidates.
We seek like minded people to justify our own correctness
Do we know the facts or our we paraphrasing what we see in the media to justify our position? Is our position based upon a single source? A recent study concluded that not watching the news you would likely know more then the most watched news in America.
They found that someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer 1.04 domestic questions correctly compared to 1.22 for those who watched no news at all. -Fairleigh Dickinson University’s newest PublicMind survey.
So why don’t we invest more time into understanding and knowing the facts of our laws and candidates? While laziness is what most people answer, neotribalism probably has more to do with it. Our instinctive need for social cohesion easily overwhelms morality and reason.
If you’re wondering still why things have become so extreme and polarized and why words have had their meanings forever altered; it’s because you are not speaking up to either become a leader of your tribe and or you have switched tribes altogether. It makes me sad that the Election of the President of the United States has become a reality TV show seeking ratings through conflict focused on their demographics.
What do you think? Voice your views in the comments!
Continued reading on the subjects above:
- David Ropeik – How Tribalism Makes a Risky Word Even More Dangerous
- The Cultural Cognition Project
- Michael B. Kelly – Business Insider