Friday, 27 November 2020

Why Trumpanzees Go along with President-Reject Trump's Delusions

August Landmesser 1936. The lone dissenter from the Nazi cult.
Source: Wikipedia
Compelled to Conform: When Tribal Ties Trump Truth | Psychology Today

An article in Psychology Today, by Noam Shpancer Ph.D., explains very well the current strange phenomenon of dedicated Trumpanzees insisting, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and the singular lack of evidence for it, that President-reject Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election.

The answer is that cult-think, i.e. the need to belong and conform to the pressure from a group, rather than have the courage to stand up and tell the truth, is the stronger motive for these weak and intellectually dishonest individuals. Conformity has greater value to them than the truth does. They will be admired more for conforming and not spreading doubt and dissent than they will be for defending the truth.

To understand this, we need to relate it to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, where the strongest motivators are the basic physiological needs of safety, shelter and food, followed closely in humans by affiliative needs - the desire to belong to a group. It is only when these basic needs are filled that other needs such as self-esteee become more important to many individuals. There is always a dynamic tension between the need to affiliate and the need for self-esteem, with cultist like Trump's Trumpanzees opting for the line of least resistance and going with the group.

It is no coincidence, therefore that Trumpanzees are also often enthusiastic members of religious cults, where the group leadership tells them what to believe and how to behave and peer pressure within the group ensure conformity. In these groups, dissent and disagreement - showing too much independence and individuality - can result in ostracism and exclusion and consequent loss of direction and affiliation. No matter how idiotic, when examined rationally and evidence is sought and found wanting, the group's beliefs are held to be truths for the sake of conformity.

It's no coincidence either that these same indivuduals fell for the lie that the coronavirus was a hoax, or was no worse than a mild influenza and there was no need for social distancing and face masks, despite the mounting death toll and runaway rates of new infections, when Trump tried to cover his inept handling of the crisis by down-playing it.

These same weak individuals are also easy prey for other conspiracists and charlatans looking to impose control for financial gain or in pursuit of political power and influence. By offering membership of a cult that is privy to a dark 'secret' and knows better than the experts, they gain control of their credulous dupes, just as Trump has gained control of his Trumpanzees and is now using them to vent his anger and hatred for America now it has failed to subscribe to his classically narcissistic assessment of himself as the best. And of course he is hoping to build a base of credulous loyalists from which to launch a come-back in 2024. The parallels with fundamentalist religions and wackadoodle cults like Creationism, are striking.

In an experiment conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch, subjects were placed naively in a group, the other members of which had been instructed to give demonstrably wrong answers to simple questions such as 'which is the shortest line?' 35% of the subjects conformed to the group's wrong answer! Not a majority, but a significantly large proportion of them opted for the lie rather than risk the truth. It would be interesting to see what proportion of America's agree with the demonstrable lie that Trump not only won but that there is evidence of fraud on a massive scale. The truth is that no-one has yet found any such evidence and that President-elect Biden won by what Trump himself called 'a landslide' when he won by the same Electoral College margin in 2016. Additionally, Biden won by 6 million votes in the popular vote, unlike Trump in 2016 who lost the popular vote, just as he did in 2020.

As Shpancer puts it:
If all your friends, neighbors, peers, and colleagues announce that Trump has won the election, then insisting that he didn’t—even if it’s true; even if you truly believe it—will result in immediate, tangible adversity. Under these circumstances, going along with the lie hurts you less, in part because, unlike the lonely burden of truth-telling, the responsibility for the lie is diffused, shared with other group members.
You can understand those whose jobs and livelihoods depend on Trump's continued patronage, given his classically narcissistic tendency to deal with disagreement severely, going along with and even perpetuating his lies rather than standing up for the truth. Those few individuals who have done so have been sacked and then lied about by Trump loyalists in an attempt to wreck their careers and destroy them personally. But what are the Trumpanzees who swarm the social media eager to repeat any lie that supports their cult seeking to gain?

The answer is of course resolution of the dissonance between what reality is telling them and what their affiliative need is telling them to conform to. These are individuals whose need for self-respect is subordinate to their need for the esteem of others and the safety and easy answers of group-think. And these are the sad individuals who are too weak and insecure to admit that they got it wrong in supporting the loser for fear that this will cost them the support and safety of the cult.

And like cult fundamentalists, they are capable of turning violent if their delusions are threatened.

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