People I talk to, highly informed Democrats for the most part, continue to wonder how Trump supporters and MAGA Republicans can still support Trump, and are generally unsatisfied if I mention the completely separate information environment they inhabit. This is a fantastic description of the result of the fractured environment, in which the reactionary right gets its news from Fox, OAN, Newsmax and other far right sources and generally the left gets its info from a wider array of sources, primarily reality based.

One thing we need to remember, which is beyond the scope of this article, is that the Reactionary Right won’t dissolve if Trump goes away, bc it’s an entirely undemocratic movement to change our system of gov. Trump may be a mob boss and a cult leader all at once, but White Christian Nationalism will continue to grow in political power while their objective of total control remains.

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Brian, I hate to say this, but you are not just describing the US (D and R) but parts of Europe as well. Just look at the recent elections in Spain and the gains made by the right, especially Vox. Look at Hungary and Poland too. It is not just Fox News and their ilk, but it is also a function of the internet and social media in which anybody can find a news outlet that feeds in their confirmation bias and reinforces it.

What is even worse, is I see it everyday in the business world. I work in energy and environmental spaces (mostly power systems and natural gas and resulting enviro regs and policy and tech) and I see this kind of use of misinformation in a regular basis not by politicians alone, but by the very market and system operators who are supposed to be fact based and independent (financially and politically). It is the same gaslighting, spin, and outright lies that are then parroted by the trade press as stenographers.

The question you should be asking is why does this happen in politics and business? My observation in both is fear of losing access. Affected stakeholder in my world are afraid if they call the facts for what they are, they will lose access and thus the ability to influence changes. Or they will lose access to key thinking and information on the inside. This fear of loss of access keeps mouths shut. Journalists are no different. If they call the facts for what they are they lose access, then other news organizations get an advantage and that means more money for that news organization.

I do not see anybody with the courage of Edward R Murrow or Walter Cronkite walking through the door in J-schools or in the profession. They would be accused of taking sides, harming the company. News media are also profit maximizers. That the Wa Po allowed Woodward and Bernstein to follow the facts and evidence in today’s context is amazing.

The problems simply go far deeper than just a view from nowhere, and poor educational attainment, and overall world view. They are all important factors to be sure. But until we address the fear of the loss of access, and for those with a funhouse mirror view, fear of the loss of belonging/loss of social status, I am at a loss to see how this changes in the short term.

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Jul 28Liked by Brian Klaas

Good afternoon, Dr Klaas. Thanks for posting this. As a Canadian I guess I'm just an interested observer, but I will say I take your central point. I see it in my own family because my sister long ago moved to Utah and she and her family are Trump supporters who don't "see" the things that the rest of her family see.

But I'll admit I was discomfited by asking political scientists if Trump or Biden committed a crime. I wouldn't ask a group of lawyers a political-science question and expect to get anything meaningful.

Again, thanks for posting. I'm glad I discovered your writing last year.

Richard Nelson


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“Polls show the majority of Republican voters hold delusional ideas that are at odds with objective facts”

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Jung seem so prophetic with his ideas on mass delusions and mass psychosis.

“There is a sort of fear … a reaction may reach you through your fellow-beings, through waves in your surroundings. The reaction is not only in you, it is in your whole group.

(Individual’s delusions) become an inexplicable source of disturbance which we finally assume must exist somewhere outside ourselves. The resultant projection carries a dangerous situation in that the disturbing effects are now attributed to a wicked will outside ourselves, which is naturally not to be found anywhere but with our neighbor de l’autre côté de la rivière. This leads to collective delusions, “incidents,” revolutions, war – in a word, to destructive mass psychoses.

Greater than all physical dangers are the tremendous effects of delusional ideas, which are yet denied all reality by our world-blinded consciousness. Our much vaunted reason and our boundlessly overestimated will are sometimes utterly powerless in the face of ‘unreal’ thoughts.“

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Brian, I feel like science & data are finally being used to prove “The Murdoch Effect” or whatever we might call it. Many of us have suspected and in fact known the effects by our associations over the past few decades. In my case, I know because I was under the influence myself for a solid decade at least. Then observed the effects on my entire circle. Anyway, how does this situation ever improve in the face of Murdoch, Inc. Worldwide + myriad of other players across all media?

Only solution is to educate young ppl to avoid mis- and dis- info but I doubt there’s much hope for those already in its snare.

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Thank you, as always, for your informative and clear writing on the topic of democracy.

So, if the goal of saving democracy is achieved by "ensur[ing] that the information pipeline to voters is pristine rather than polluted with toxic lies." And the way, or one far reaching way, to do that is to "require[] a view from somewhere, in which journalists refuse to parrot what was said and solely focus on conveying what is true.", how do we achieve that part? How do we get those whose job is to share information, and presumably, based solely on the title "journalist," unbiased information, to actually go from parroting stenographer to fact-based sharer of objective information? Does there need to be a fresh approach to educating journalists on the difference between balance and objectivity? Or is it more that money speaks much more loudly than truth? And people like, and need, money to survive, so they'll go where they are best compensated?

When there has been a strong push from the right against believing the main-stream media and for some reason, with the internet and access to more information people seem less inclined to believe experts, how do people who want to share objective, fact-based information break through? Do we just keep sharing facts until something sticks? A grass-roots, spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to breaking the disinformation cycle?

I have a particular interest in doing what I can to stop the flow of disinformation. The problem is every time I've ever shared anything, even a graphic explaining what the words misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda mean (no loaded words or finger-pointing), the result is a couple of likes from predictable friends and crickets from everyone else. This was at the beginning of the pandemic. And it's so disheartening to see people turn away from information. I want to find a way to cut through the noise and reach people who would benefit from seeing a different, objective, point of view. I mean, I love cat videos like everyone else. Maybe we get the cats to share the tough info? (I jest, but still...)

Thank you again for sharing and making me think so early in the morning.

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I realize this observation may rattle some. While 'political scientists' describes who the subset are, Democrat and Republicans describes a club membership, not who they are. What qualities can be attributed to (today's) Democrats and Republicans? Look past the clubhouse, what do they possess, the way things used to be or a new social order, conservative v liberal. I'm thinking a key differentiator is intelligence and the ability to analyze one's world objectively, critical thinking skills! Is it nature or nurture? In the 60s when the USSR placed nuclear launch systems 90 miles off our coast, nobody argued "no they didnt". So what has changed? I'd argue our public education system has. A subset of today's Americans can conceptualize a complex world. A different subset is incapable of that skill set.

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“Warped bizarro world reality”…… what could go wrong??

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