Hillary Clinton said something today that made my head spin:
“The United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known”
“Cognitive dissonance” is a term that’s been losing its meaning due to misuse as a popular stand-in term for illogical activity in general. But what it refers to, per the original coinage, is the unpleasant experience of having a core belief challenged by contrary evidence. The frequent result is that people ignore the contrary evidence (even if overwhelming), invalidate that evidence through mental gymnastics, or otherwise make excuses that allow them to keep their core belief and feel good about it.
The core belief that Hillary Clinton articulates in the quote above is refuted by such a mountain of evidence that it’s hard to believe an educated, neutral observer wouldn’t consider this a classic case of cognitive dissonance and its result.
Everyone in the United States, with few exceptions, has been bombarded with nationalistic propaganda since before they could walk. Some of this propaganda arises “organically” from people who naturally want to believe that the big, sexy, powerful nation to which they feel attached is good. More of it is the product of a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that does its job much better than I do mine. I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to convince people, mostly Democrats, that cheerful support of leaders like Obama and Clinton is, in effect, support of what they do. Does that seem like it would be difficult? It’s almost impossible.
The reason it’s almost impossible, I think, is because it would mean abandoning the core belief “the US is mostly good, except when Republicans are in charge.” In order to hold a core belief like this, people will say grass is blue, the sky is green and the moon is made of cheese. They will say anything rather than the truth.
I don’t know how to work around this. I wish I did. I’ve been studying methods of debate and persuasion but it hasn’t helped. I often feel ineffective and frustrated. I’d do anything to stop these wars.
But frankly, I have no idea what to do. I’m wondering if I should just shut up and enjoy the perks of this evil empire I’ve been born into rather than continue to struggle and accomplish nothing. Comments?