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Cognitive Dissonance 2018

My team can do no wrong.
My foe can do no right.

I find it hard to watch basketball with hard core fans. There are 4 scenarios that play out every time:

  1. Our team: Commits a foul and gets called on it
    Fan: Awww, that’s bullshit! He didn’t do anything!
  2. Their team: Commits a foul and gets away with it. (No Call)
    Fan: WTF! Did you see that‽ This is bullshit!
  3. Our team: Commits a foul and gets away with it. (No Call)
    Fan: Total silence. (If pointed out they will say it wasn’t a foul.)
  4. Their team: Commits a foul and gets called on it
    Fan: YES! That’s right! Good call ref!

Any talk of double standard is met with hostility. Any slow motion play by play showing how the foul happened (or didn’t) is met with annoyance. Logic is ignored. As the caveman might say: “My team great, other team suck.”

This is the way we think. People hate being wrong. A great book on the subject is When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger. It shows pretty clearly how being wrong rarely leads to someone saying, “Oh, I guess I was wrong. I shall now adopt the correct point of view.” Instead, we have all kinds of psychological tricks to make it so that we were right all along. Some are:

Change the definition of your team
When “President” Trump bent over and debased himself for Vladimir Putin, true fans of Trump started saying that Putin is a good guy. To be clear, he is a brutal dictator with ambitions to take over other countries in Europe and reestablish the USSR and iron curtain. He is not a nice guy. However, rather than say, “Trump fucked up” his base preferred to say, “No, this is good. Putin is better than people know.” I have heard one report that said Putin is admired by some because he is white.

Discard logic and make up impossible tests
Putin said, “Show me one fact that proves collusion.” Any fact can be turned on its head. It’s impossible prove that we exist much less anything else. Proof is impossible. So people throw up impossible tests and say, “Either you prove beyond any doubt or you must be wrong.” This is shifting the burden of proof to the accuser rather than the defendant.

Throw in a technicality or a prediction
It’s easy to say that Trump is right if you just assume that the future will be great for unknown reasons. Who knows why things happen the way they do. People confuse correlation with causation all the time. A true fan might say “We would have had a nuclear war if not for Trump.” There is no way to prove this of course. It just makes logical discussion impossible.

Change the subject
When asked about Russian interference in the election, Trump changed the subject to some weird server and more emails. It had nothing to do with the question. It was a pure distraction.

False equivalency
Trump said, “We have our intelligence agencies telling us the Russians did it and I have Putin here saying he didn’t.” It’s like climate change. 98% of the scientists say its happening and 2% say its not. A true fan might say, “Some are saying its true and some are saying its false. So we don’t know.” Remember the chaos in Charlottesville. Trump said, “There is blame on all sides.” This is classic human behavior. In sports, a fan will equate one grievous foul committed to a mild foul against and call them the same. Escalating tit for tat, eye for eye, is what leads to vendettas.

Whataboutism
Oh, the republicans want to change the supreme court vote to be 50 instead of 66? What about when the democrats made lower court decisions the same? Oh, republican gerrymandering is bad? What about the democratic gerrymandering?

And the list goes on and on. We have dozens of ways to get out of feeling wrong.

So what is the solution?

We need to stop being fans. We need to watch the game and root for a close, competitive battle. We should watch the game and root for fairness and athleticism and great plays. We should cheer the other team when they make a great play and boo the home team when they act poorly.

In politics, we need to root for fairness and good policy. We should discuss our values and debate the right course of action. We should get rid if bias and corruption in the system and focus on ideas. We need to cheer the enemy when they do something right and boo the friend who does something wrong.

Is this possible?

I try to do it, but asking the public to do it? I think its unlikely. Shit.

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