Political Gullibility? Or Unwillingness to Suspend Belief?

Donkey Hotey / Flickr

Are we Americans that gullible? Or are we simply unwilling to suspend our penchant to believe everything that affirms our political views? Maybe its a matter of not being able to stop the momentum of our own biases as they carry us down the streams of our own predispositions.

I spent a half hour reading Facebook posts one day following the Comey hearing. The exercise can be summarized by the following article title: Breaking: Comey Hearing Confirms Whatever You Already Wanted To Believe (it’s satire folks).

I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Throughout the presidential season, we were certain that our partisan counterparts were trapped in their own echo chambers, while we had an uneasy feeling, burping to the surface at times like the perpetual heartburn we work hard to ignore, that we might be living in our own.  Even the most ardent political junkie looked forward to the day when he would sigh in the relief of victory or retreat to lick his wounds in relative peace.

But the peace never came. After a flurry of news and opinions on the scourge of fake news, we have been off to the same race we doggedly followed before. The Comey firing and hearing now is just the latest in the perpetual laps that go round and round.

One slanted Facebook opinion provided the following insight on the Comey hearing:

Top 10 things we learned today:

  1. Trump was never under investigation.

  2. Trump did not obstruct justice.

  3. Trump did not collude with Russia.

  4. Russia did not alter the election outcome.

  5. Comey leaked his own memo.

  6. Loretta Lynch pressured Comey to cover for Hillary Clinton.

  7. There was ample evidence to put Hillary in jail but Comey chose not to pursue it.

  8. CNN and other fake news outlets have been lying making things up this entire time.

  9. The Democratic Party no longer has the ability to scream “RUSSIA” every time Trump tries to do something.

  10. The Russia story is dead- any democrats who continue to push it will look foolish and insane to the American people.

And I quickly found other opinions slanted the other way like these:

Director Comey’s testimony corroborates some of our worst fears about his interactions with the President. We can’t lose our capacity to be shocked by his conduct. (Representative Schiff)

Comey is an experienced public servant with a reputation for integrity. Meanwhile, Trump is a serial liar. (LA Times)

Unfortunately, most people would agree with Mr. Comey. On issue after issue after issue, Trump has blatantly lied. Dangerously, this diminishes the office of the president and our standing in the world. (Bernie Sanders)

And the stunningly simple:

Trump is lying. (Democratic Party)

The more balanced and straight shooting Washington Bureau writers David Cloud and Joseph Tanfani observed, “Comey’s charges provided riveting political drama but no new bombshells about Russian meddling in the 2016 election or improper contacts by the Trump campaign or the White House with Russian authorities”. (Former FBI chief Comey says he was fired to stop Russia inquiry, and accuses Trump of ‘lies, plain and simple’) Yet most of the headlines read like bombshells dropping.

The article dropped a few bombshells, too. From the mouth of Comey:

It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation…. I was fired in some way to change — or the endeavor was to change — the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.

But Comey’s admission that Trump didn’t actually tell him, in so many words, to stop the investigation gave Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, room to claim Trump was “completely vindicated” (while denying that Trump ever asked Comey to back off the investigation of Flynn). Kasowitz, also exploited Comey’s acknowledgment that he didn’t tell Trump that he was under investigation:

“Mr. Comey has now finally confirmed publicly what he repeatedly told the president privately: The president was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference,” Kasowitz said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Press Secretary to the President, Sarah Huckabee, responded indignantly to the suggestion that the President lied about anything:

“No, I can definitely say the president is not a liar,” she told reporters. “It’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”

As I read through another opinion piece, this time by a local writer, Denise Crosby, it dawned on me that we are easy targets for the Russian interference (that no one seems to question happened). (See Comey: A liar, a hero or a bit of a wimp? by Denise Crosby, Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2017) In her summary, she emphasized Comey ‘s focus on “the seriousness of Russian interference in our Democratic process”, quoting Comey:  “There should be no fuss on this whatsoever,” prompting Crosby to remark about the “rather odd way of saying there should be no confusion to the fact Russians are creating chaos however and whenever they can.”

And, that’s when it dawned on me: we are easy targets! We are so hell bent on affirming our own biases about anything political that fake news has become a booming business!

For the Russians, who perfected the craft of inventing facts for their own history books during the Soviet regime, an American audience is like shooting fish in a barrel! The opportunity, I am sure, was simply too pregnant to ignore. I just wonder how long they have been doing it before we got any inkling about it?

But, we don’t seem to have learned anything by it. I am no champion of the self-important, buffoonish chief executive that we have elected as president, but I can’t help but hear the whining of school yard children in the shrill cries that follow every movement the man makes. My Facebook feed seems to be a direct line of communication from the playground.

I might be tempted to shake my finger to the left if it weren’t for the ringing in my right ear from the preceding eight years during the Obama administration.

Ultimately, it’s all the same. Substitute right-wing extremist for liberal elitist, or left-wing radical for conservative misogynist. The sentiments are mundanely interchangeable. (See These are American’s favorite insults, by political affiliation, if you want to keep score.)

With virtually nothing growing in the no-man’s land in between, and little communication across the expanse, each side is primed for the propaganda it wants to hear. A little fake news here, a little drama there, and the war on both sides might be fueled for several generations to come, even while we seem know and admit that we are being manipulated.

We just can’t stop ourselves.

If we were simply gullible, we might wake up to our naivete and put the fake news business out of business. But, it’s more complicated than that. We seem to know very well that it happens. It’s just that we are wholly unwilling to get off our ideological rocket ships to stop it.

One thought on “Political Gullibility? Or Unwillingness to Suspend Belief?

  1. Pingback: We Are Easy Targets of the Information War | Perspective

Comments welcome

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.