How Political Thoughts Form

So much attention is paid to the words of politicians, though even the great orators in that prestigious club surpass being more than a well-constructed, well-delivering collection of cliche. Whether it’s Barack Obama noodling his way into the hearts of Americans with his pregnant pause-prone impersonation of MLK or Ronald Reagan – the Gipper himself – rearranging his old monologues when in need of inspiration, the highly processed brand of garble is rarely worth investigating.

Especially in recent months, we’ve seen even more attention focused on the words of those in the news. Despite Americans punching themselves out fighting over this concept of “fake news” and “unbiased perspectives,” our algorithm-assisted focus on concurring opinions negates the impact of the most damning information.

What really forms opinions?

From a neurological standpoint, conflicting opinions are extremely stressful to a brain. Rather than rattling around your frontal cortex, most points of contention quickly make their way to the amygdala and in the insular cortex to create an outdated and inappropriate stress response.

Unlike during direct confrontation, the brain-state during fiction viewing is commonly associated with Alpha waves, which can be seen in both dream states as well as during the experience of being fully engrossed in movies or television. While Morgan, MacDonald, and Hilgard (1974) failed to find hemispheric differences in alpha activity, they did observe a positive relationship of integrated amplitude alphas with hypnotic susceptibility.

Without getting swamped down by poetic attempts to bring in A Clockwork Orange themes, we do have to analyze the impact of much of our entertainment being produced by a politically homogenized group that is perceived to be generously left of center.

Dr. Christiane Eilders takes the first steps towards such an analysis with her groundbreaking system to reliably categorize political content within works of fiction. The scale even indicates the kind of political reference:

As information and entertainment become increasingly blurred, often at the expense of viewers, serious scholars must address the impact of such messaging. A pundit’s most compelling argument appears useless next to a lifetime of media-driven lessons, especially when the latter has the benefits of CGI and celebrity voices.

If you’re a dissident voice, even in a mild way, you’re not competing with politicians or the writers of news. The successful movements, be they all good or all bad, are the ones that have created a competing culture, capable of knocking out the columns holding up political opinion.

Bit off topic. Further research on “changing minds.”

Kristin Laurin of the University of British Columbia revealed the simplest of human mechanisms, when she analyzed people’s attitudes before plastic water bottles were prohibited in San Francisco. Just one day after the ban, support jumped from one day prior to the sanction. Seemingly, the simple act of exerting power garners support. As the English Laurin puts it, “We rationalise the things we feel stuck with.” Could the reader imagine any similar scenario in our own society?

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