Links and Comments: Psychology; Texas; QAnon; Lying

The psychology of Capitol rioters; Texas and Republicans; Climate change migration; QAnon as religion; The right to lie on the internet; The Big Lie and voter suppression.

» Washington Post: The Capitol rioters speak just like the Islamist terrorists I reported on, subtitled, People who feel robbed of their pride and purpose can become dangerous.

It’s not about ideology, it’s about psychology.

» The Atlantic, 22 Feb: Texas Pays the Price of the Culture War, subtitled, Instead of focusing on governance, Republican politicians in the Lone Star State spent their time inflaming grievances.”>

» Salon, 22 Feb, Heather Digby Parton: Why Republicans are keeping Trump’s Big Lie alive, subtitled, The Big Lie about the stolen election has opened the door for a wave of voter suppression not seen in decades

Because Republicans seem to have concluded they can’t win elections unless they do everything possible to suppress the votes of people who would not vote for them.

» NYT, 21 Feb, Charles M. Blow: The 4 Great Migrations, subtitled, America as we have come to know it is most likely a thing of the past.

The key one, still not widely discussed, is how the effects of climate change are driving people from already-warmer countries to the US’ south, northward.

The United States alone — not to mention other areas around the world — is likely to see millions of climate migrants in the coming decades.

» Vox, 24 Feb, Sean Illing: The future of QAnon, explained by 8 experts, subtitled, QAnon’s prophecies failed to come true. Here’s why the conspiracy theory will persist anyway.

“It’s a religion — and religions have staying power.” One of the contributors concludes:

I also think the QAnon epistemology — the idea that every official narrative and mainstream institution is inherently suspect, and that real knowledge is produced by like-minded strangers working together on the internet to “do their own research” — is likely to become a more or less permanent feature of American life, regardless of what happens to QAnon itself. Once you’ve started seeing the world as a massive, interconnected conspiracy orchestrated by bloodthirsty elites, it’s very hard to stop.

From now on, every time there is a natural disaster or a political protest or a Hollywood awards show, there may be millions of people squinting at their screens, looking for clues about who’s pulling the strings.


I can’t find the link just now to an news article I saw a few weeks ago. It concerned a defamation lawsuit against a man spreading conspiracy theories on the internet whose defense was that he had a First Amendment *right* to spread lies on the internet. That is, he knew the ideas he was spreading were lies, absurd lies. But he got a kick from making stuff up and seeing how many people believed it.

Important lesson: people spread conspiracy theories not necessarily because they “believe” them. Some do so just because they’re “fun,” as in, wouldn’t it be incredible if this were true? And some people, the cynical ones, don’t for a moment think there’s anything to their conspiracy theories; they’re just *playing* you.


» NYT, 23 Feb, Thomas L. Friedman: Can You Believe This Is Happening in America?, subtitled, We used to dream big. Now we’re increasingly thinking short term.

In the last six months I’ve heard one phrase more often than I had in my previous 66 years: “Can you believe this is happening in America?”

Concerning availability of vaccines, concerning the attempted overturning of an election, concerning the chaos in Texas during a huge winter storm.

On the other hand, we just landed another rover on Mars.

What’s going on? Well, in the case of Texas and Mars, the basic answers are simple. Texas is the poster child for what happens when you turn everything into politics — including science, Mother Nature and energy — and try to maximize short-term profits over long-term resilience in an era of extreme weather. The Mars landing is the poster child for letting science guide us and inspire audacious goals and the long-term investments to achieve them.

And politics is in inherently short-term goaled. I just read a book by Carl Sagan in which he asks, What do conservatives think they’re conserving? Because since conservatives deny or downplay climate change (and Sagan was writing in the early 1990s!), they are apparently unconcerned about conserving the planet. My take is that conservatives aren’t about conserving, they’re about resistance to change, which is different.


» Slate, 26 Feb, Dahlia Lithwick: Why Republicans Are Still Holding Onto the Big Lie, subtitled, Even with a new president, it’s in Republicans’ interest to undermine the idea that democracy is worth it.

This dovetails with the item about voter suppression.

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