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A Lesson in Cognitive Dissonance

    Imagine you are one of the anti-Trump folks who believe we just elected a racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, science-denying dictator. Let’s say that’s the movie playing in your mind. That’s some scary stuff.

    Now imagine watching the news as Trump reveals in slow-motion that he’s flexible and pragmatic on just about everything. Thomas Friedman at the New York Times just reported that Trump is – as of yesterday anyway – open-minded about climate-change science, and Trump is no longer in favor of waterboarding terror suspects. 

    You also watched Trump move to the middle on his immigration policies. And you watched as Trump said he plans to keep the good parts of Obamacare instead of jettisoning it whole.

    And you saw Trump say he wasn’t interested in prosecuting Clinton. Her supporters were worried that Trump was going to go full-dictator and jail his adversaries. That won’t happen, apparently.

    And Trump also told the New York Times that they don’t need to worry about changes in libel laws. That means it will not become easier for people such as Trump to sue them out of business. That was one of the possibilities that scared people.

    The areas in which Trump hasn’t budged in his opinion seem to be where states’ rights are involved. Trump would leave it to the courts and to the states to decide on abortion, legal marijuana, and gay marriage. You might not like the fact that Trump wants the federal government to stay out of those decisions, but it isn’t very dictator-like to leave big decisions to the states.

    As Trump continues to demonstrate that he was never the incompetent monster his critics believed him to be, the critics will face an identity crisis. They either have to accept that they understand almost nothing about how the world works – because they got everything wrong about Trump – or they need to double-down on their current hallucination. Most of his critics will double-down. That’s how normal brains work.

    And that brings us to our current situation. As Trump continues to defy all predictions from his critics, the critics need to maintain their self-images as the smart ones who saw this new Hitler coming. And that means you will see hallucinations like you have never seen. It will be epic.

    The reason this will be so fun to watch is that we rarely get to see a situation in which the facts so vigorously violate a hallucination. Before Trump won the presidency everyone was free to imagine the future they expected. But as Trump continues to do one reasonable thing after another, his critics have a tough choice. They can either…

    1. Reinterpret their self-images from wise to clueless.

    or…

    2. Generate an even stronger hallucination. (Cognitive dissonance.)

    If Trump’s critics take the second option – and most of them will – it means you will see a lot of pretzel-logic of the type that is necessary hold onto the illusion that Trump is still a monster despite continuing evidence to the contrary. 

    Prediction: Expect the anti-Trump press to continue asking Trump surrogates this question: “Why do you think the KKK and white nationalists support Trump?”

    The question makes sense if you don’t think about it for too long. But once you realize that Trump has repeatedly and publicly disavowed those groups, you have to hallucinate extra-hard to make the racist narrative work. That’s where the “top-secret-racist-dog-whistle” comes in. You need a theory to explain why the supposed Racist-in-Chief keeps disavowing racists. How does that make any sense?

    This is where cognitive dissonance comes in. In order to explain Trump’s disavowal of White Nationalists and the KKK while holding onto the hallucination that Trump is a dangerous monster, you have to hallucinate that he is playing a clever game of pretending to be against racists while secretly planning to purge the earth of all non-orange people. 

    That feels unlikely to me. I think Trump just wants to do a good job for the country, thereby bringing money and glory to his family name. And he won’t get any of that by being a racist monster. He only gets that happy ending by being pragmatic and flexible, exactly as we observe him now to be.

    I think the total number of KKK members is a few thousand people sprinkled across the country. But what matters more than the absolute number is the trend. The group once numbered over a million. Now they are a few thousand. Did Trump’s election cause a spike in recruitment that will have a lasting impact on the long term trend toward zero membership? I doubt it. But in any case, you have to wonder why the press isn’t reporting KKK membership trends. Every other part of the story is meaningless without that one piece of data. 

    Anyway, enjoy the show. And enjoy Thanksgiving too.

    Speaking of Thanksgiving, if you are meeting with family and friends for the holidays, you might find a lot of value in my start-up’s free app, WhenHub. It’s like the Uber app, but for any group of two or more people who want to geostream their locations on a map as they approach a meeting place. No more wondering where everyone is and how long you have to wait. The app is free, and works across iPhone and Android platforms:

    WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

    WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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    The app is the first part of a much larger vision that I’ll be explaining here in the next month. I think you’ll find our start-up quite interesting because it is formed around a “systems” business model instead of a goal-pivot-pivot model. Much more on that later.

Thank You for The Best Year Ever

    Election Day is upon us and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has been reading this blog, following me on Twitter, or tuning in to my coffee talks on Periscope. This has been the most fun I have ever had in one year. Hands down.

    We made friends online, and in person. We learned a lot. We laughed a lot. And we fought hard for what we thought was right for the country.  It really doesn’t get better than this.

    The news tells us that there have been polling irregularities in past elections, but not enough to influence a presidential election. The alleged exceptions are Kennedy Vs. Nixon, Bush Vs. Gore, and at least one Obama election. Those elections might have been decided by vote-rigging – say some people – although we can’t know for sure.

    But something is different this year. This year we don’t have an election between two candidates that offer roughly the same outcome. This time we have a swamp-draining outsider looking to institute term limits. And this outsider has been successfully branded by his opponent as the second-coming of Hitler. In this case, a rigged election is largely assured. Because, as I have taught you, shenanigans always  happen when you have the following situation:

    1. Huge upside gain from cheating.

    2. Opportunity

    3. Low odds of getting caught, or low cost of getting caught.

    That’s our situation today. And while I claim no knowledge of how our voting system aggregates the votes from each precinct, I know software is involved at a number of steps. And that means a handful of people have the power to flip a bit and change the count, probably without being discovered. And those people are under the impression that rigging the election might be the only way to keep the next Hitler out of office. They have moral cover to cheat in this election. 

    If you had a chance to kill Hitler – even if you knew you might die in the attempt – wouldn’t you do it to save the world? I would. If I knew I could save millions of people I would certainly risk my life to kill Hitler.

    And if I were a software engineer, I would certainly write some software to do it. That’s an easy decision if you think you are saving the world from Hitler. 

    But I’ll ask Trump supporters to stay cool on election day even if they suspect shenanigans. Wait for exit polls. Let the truth trickle out. If there is one thing we know in the age of hot mics and Wikileaks and Project Veritas, the truth will find us. It might take its time, so be patient.

    And thank you again for the most fun I have ever had in one year. This was truly special. I will miss it a lot.

    Now it’s time to make history. Have fun and stay safe tomorrow.

    If you plan to meet a friend for voting, try my start-up’s free app (WhenHub) to geostream your location to your friend or family member as you approach your meeting spot. Here are the links to download the free app:

    WhenHub app for Apple

    WhenHub app for Android