I like mysteries. I enjoying figuring things out. And some time ago, after a particularly ugly political debate with a friend (and long after I was finished berated them in my mind) I asked myself, “What makes otherwise intelligent people embrace such radically different views?”
I’ve ruminated on this for years. And although I haven’t completely connected the dots, nor have I researched all aspects of this fully, I think I finally have it.
Our minds have been hacked by repeated exposure to anger and fear.
The networks, particularly cable news networks, purposely target these deep-seated emotions.
Then social media bathes us in them.
And political strategists, including those in foreign countries, zero in on our emotional centers with malicious intent.
Like sarin gas, anger and fear enter our systems without warning, but with deadly results nonetheless. We don’t even realize that our frontal lobes, our thinking brains, are cut off completely. Like hunted animals, we become purely reactive beings, treating every challenge as a threat to our existence. Our ability to mentally process new ideas only returns in a calm mental state, but the continual flood of triggering inputs — from TV, radio, and the Internet — now keep us in a permanent state of defensive arousal.
And it feels good. Especially anger. Studies suggest that getting angry makes us even angrier, and changes the structure of the brain. So our anger-and-fear-based beliefs become even further entrenched. We no longer think about why we support certain political parties and positions. We are in fact addicted to them.
But here’s what is making me angriest of all.
They’re doing it on purpose.
The media may have started down this path somewhat innocently. They learned that sensationalism sells. Thoughtful programming lost out to “The Gong Show.” And that realization eventually migrated to “The News.” From Rush Limbaugh to Chris Matthews, media messaging is really all about profitability not patriotism, pithy tag lines aside. And in the process, anger and fear hijack our minds. They are the engines that allows media companies to sell more advertising and generate higher profits, because addicts are consistent customers.
But in the process, viewers (and voters) have lost their ability to reason. Our minds have been hacked. Every challenging notion is viewed as an assault, not a concept to be thoughtfully considered. In today’s media environment, the thinking is done FOR you; your job is to REACT. In such an aroused mental state, people can no longer have healthy exchanges of ideas, and governance resembles a hostage crisis … “Meet our demands, or ELSE!”
But my advice to you is this.
At the anger-and-fear mongers.
‘Cuz they’re playing us all.
For their own purposes.