Your Ethics Alarms Cognitive Dissonance Guide To The Planned Parenthood Shooter Spin Game


Robert Dear

Cognitive DissonanceTo the left is a simplified version of Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale. Most of the people and institutions who use the scale to mislead and manipulate public opinion neither know this diagram nor have heard of Dr. Festinger, but it is what they are employing in the daily wars to win ideological political converts by distorting the significance of current events.

Robert Dear’s as yet unexplained shooting rampage within a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility has immediately created an opportunity for cognitive dissonance manipulation. Festinger’s research showed that our minds will always try to resolve dissonance when something with a high, or positive score—say, “Free Speech,” appears to be closely associated with something else that is low on the scale, such as “hateful speech.” How the dissonance is resolved will depend on the scores of the two dissonant objects or beliefs.

If you want the public to decide that something it approves of is less worthy of approval, attaching it to something the public believes is reprehensible will do the job by creating cognitive dissonance and pulling the well-regarded object down the scale. If you want the public to move its opinion of a person, organization or concept from negative territory into positive, identifying someone or something the public regards far more negatively who opposes the person, organization or concept will tend to move the object of the negative entity’s opposition upward on the scale. In these situations, the mind seeks distance from the reviled entity. I hate broccoli; I learn that Donald Trump hates broccoli; I don’t want to have anything in common with Donald Trump. Pass the broccoli, please.

The latter is the process repeatedly applied by the protesters of police shootings when African Americans are the victims. The public correctly opposes abuse of power and wrongful violence by law enforcement officials; it is far below the mid-point on the scale. It also a opposes criminal activity and resisting legitimate law enforcement. With rare exceptions, every black victim of a questionable police shooting was engaging in or had engaged in criminal activity, and had resisted arrest. These have been criminals, but because the alleged misconduct of the police is far lower on the scale than the criminal activity involved, the criminal victims are propelled by cognitive dissonance into the scale’s positive territory. (The media assists the process by publicizing the most benign images of the victims they can find. The most frequently used photo of Laquan McDonald, who was executed by a Chicago cop, shows him in his high school graduation gown, for example. The cop didn’t shoot a criminal who refused to stop when ordered to, he shot a smiling young man with a bright future. The police officer is thus a monster; the victim a martyr and a hero.)

Now let’s look at the current use of cognitive dissonance in the wake of the shooting by Robert Dear.

Abortion rights groups are attempting to link Dear and his crime to anti-abortion activism and rhetoric. Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, stated that antiabortion rhetoric had grown so heated in recent months that Dear’s murder spree was its inevitable result. “They have ignited a firestorm of hate. They knew there could be these types of consequences, and yet they ratcheted up the rhetoric and ratcheted it up and ratcheted it up,” Saporta said. “It’s not a huge surprise that somebody would take this type of action.”

Unethical. The intent of this cognitive dissonance tactic is to stifle anti-abortion arguments and debate on the theory that they lead to the killing of innocents. This causes the public to lower principled anti-abortion arguments on the cognitive dissonance scale, because it is linked to deadly violence. It is also an argument of breath-taking gall, since the anti-abortion movement is based on the not unreasonable belief that abortion involves the direct killing of innocents. The statement (and many like it) is especially unethical because it was made before any conclusions could be reached regarding Dear’s motives or reason for the shootings. Maybe his dog told him to do it. She doesn’t know yet, but is attributing his conduct to her political foes anyway.

Planned Parenthood made the predictable but despicable decision to use the shooting to spin away from the disturbing undercover videos showing officials talking about aborted fetuses as if they were chicken salad sandwiches.

“It is offensive and outrageous that some politicians are now claiming this tragedy has nothing to do with the toxic environment they helped create,” Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement. “One of the lessons of this awful tragedy is that words matter, and hateful rhetoric fuels violence It’s not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it. Instead, some politicians are continuing to stoke it, which is unconscionable.”

Unethical. Really unethical. So unethical that Planned Parenthood itself deserves to fall on the scale just on the basis of that statement.

1. Planned Parenthood has absolutely no way of knowing what caused Dear to start shooting.

2. Much has been made of the police revelation–which itself was irresponsible, since it lacked context and was inherently inflammatory—that Dear mentioned “baby parts.” We don’t know if he was responding to a question (“What do you have against Planned Parenthood?”), if baby parts were included in a long rant in which he also accused Planned Parenthood of being staffed by demons from Hell, or what else he may have said under questioning. Dear is, after all, probably nuts. He is not the most reliable source.

3. Laguens is trying to drive free speech down the scale, and, like abortion supporters, muzzle opponents by linking their positions and rhetoric to the acts on an apparently insane shooter.

4. The misrepresentation regarding the videos was that Planned Parenthood was profiting from sending “baby parts” to researchers. It is still a fact that Planned Parenthood was and is sending baby parts to researchers, and that it regards the sources of these parts with the same respect most people lavish on Purdue chickens. If the facts were the motivation for Dear’s crime, Planned Parenthood cannot ethically blame the videos or Carly Fiorina. What Planned Parenthood does and the manner in which they do it outrages a great many people who aren’t crazy at all, and who don’t need inflammatory rhetoric to find abortion ethically intolerable.

Senator Ted Cruz deftly turned the device around and aimed it at Democratic Party favorites. When Cruz correctly stated that the news media and pro-abortion groups were unfairly attempting to link Dear to the pro-life movement,  a reporter raised Dear’s  comment about “baby parts.”  Cruz retorted, “It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist. If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

Unethical…but clever! Cruz simultaneously said it was unfair to do what he was doing, while he was doing it. He was sending a nice, clear, cognitive dissonance message that the killer was transgendered, linking a killer and a madman to “leftists” and confirming the bias of those who believe engendered people must be deranged and dangerous. Only Ted Cruz could manage to send an ethical and rational message while simultaneously smearing a group detested and abd distrusted by his core supporters.

I stand in awe.

And I bet Ted Cruz knows all about the cognitive dissonance scale and Leon Festinger. What a scary guy.

President Obama, predictably, used the shooting to link the right of gun ownership to death and war—all the better to gain support for gutting the right to bear arms. That’s all his speech did, too. The objective was making it more difficult for law abiding citizens to purchase guns, not just semi-automatic weapons, but any kind of gun—” the easy accessibility of weapons of war.”  The intentionally unstated but obvious truth is that we cannot stop previously law-abiding crazy people from getting guns without either locking them up before they have a chance to commit murder, or making it impossible for sane citizens to arm themselves. Obama said:

“We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough. The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence — people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time. And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that’s what we are forced to do again. May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save — and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.”

Unethical. This is cognitive dissonance demagoguery. Its sole purpose, other than emotionalism and grandstanding, is to link guns and the rights to have guns to tragedy and death as quickly as possible, when nobody is thinking rationally. The cognitive dissonance scale is more slippery then. What is the President saying? Let’s see:

1. This happens too often. What isn’t too often for fatal shootings?

2. Do something. Great suggestion! What? Unless there’s a solution that is practical, legal and effective, doing “something” is foolish.

3. “…about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.” Translation: “We must stop people who have no business wielding guns from wielding them before they show that they have no business wielding them.”  Objective: Moving individual rights down the scale, and government restriction of rights up the scale.

4. “The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence — people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time.” Family, deaths of loved ones, ruined holidays, sentiment—all big pluses on the scale and all completely irrelevant to the issue. The only reason to mention Thanksgiving is to manipulate dissonance. Are shootings less tragic when they occur with no holidays in sight?

5. “May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save — and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.” Absolutely meaningless, except that this shameless appeal to sentiment poses God and a dead police officer on the plus side of the scale in specific opposition to a gun-wielding killer, to push gun ownership as deep into negative territory as possible.

44 thoughts on “Your Ethics Alarms Cognitive Dissonance Guide To The Planned Parenthood Shooter Spin Game

  1. I find I am gaining more and more grudging admiration for Ted Cruz. I mean, I don’t like him, but it is a breath of fresh air to find a politician with an IQ above room temp. I also find myself horrified by the thought that he may be the only person left in the running (from either party) who is actually capable of handling the job of President of the United States.

    • Trans because the accused’s voter registration says “Female” – though it says “Ct” not “St” for his address too, but that’s apparently just a typo, while the first is deeply significant according to the “reports” Cruz quotes. These “reports” also stated that the killer first attacked a bank to get money for genital reconstruction. The “reports” Cruz refers to state he was a leftist activist because his registration was UAF – not “Unaffiliated” by *actually* (according to Cruz’s “reports”) “United Against Fascism”, a minor British party.

      That Cruz thinks that these stories are credible is evidenced by his words ” If that’s what he is…”

      If he becomes President – what other “reports” will he give credence to?

      • Oh, he didn’t believe those reports either. He was trolling the press, essentially, and pandering, and pointing out that the assumptions being made on the other side were equally attenuated. All at once. As I said…scary.

        • Proof?

          I must update though – the sources – multiple ones – that Cruz depends on, are now suggesting that CT is not a typo, but short for “Crescent”, thereby showing his close association to Islam.

          That’s not just from WND, but Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, RedState, and Free Republic. All repeating each other, now using Cruz’s statement as proof.

          And in other news… 4 PP facilities have been firebombed in the last 72 days.

          Jack, there are a lot of people who believe this stuff, like they believe that the Theory of Evolution comes from the Depths of Hell, that Obama is a commie muslim etc.

          • You are getting trolled hardcore. Those outlets are all repeating the troll exactly because knee jerkers are responding like you are responding now. The comment made is as Isaac characterizes it here.

            “Jack, there are a lot of people who believe this stuff, like they believe that the Theory of Evolution comes from the Depths of Hell, that Obama is a commie muslim etc.”

            Believe WHAT??? That the left wing and it’s propaganda ministers in the media ALWAYS jump to characterize an attack that can shakily be associated with a right wing agenda as being associated with a right wing agenda? It’s not hard NOR crazy to believe that!

            Quit letting the troll get to you.

            Here’s something even crazier that lefties believe probably 10,000 times MORE and actually are willing to ruin entire economies, reduce quality of life and hamstring undeveloped nations from developing to “solve”:

            Man-made global warming.

            • “Here’s something even crazier that lefties believe…

              Man-made global warming.”

              For “lefties,” read “nearly the entire scientific community.”

                • I didn’t change your quote. I used ellipses over some of it, but that didn’t change the meaning of what you wrote; you plainly said that believing in man-made global warming is “crazy.” I then made a suggestion as to how to improve the honesty of what you yourself said, which would be to say “nearly the entire scientific community” in place of “lefties.” IMO, it is dishonest to pretend that AGW is a left-right issue while ignoring the scientific consensus on this issue. What “lefties” believe is irrelevant to the science; what scientists have concluded is a lot more important.

                    • “Except that what you omitted is entirely related to why I said “lefties”. Good try though. Still dishonest.”

                      Here is what you said:

                      “Here’s something even crazier that lefties believe probably 10,000 times MORE and actually are willing to ruin entire economies, reduce quality of life and hamstring undeveloped nations from developing to “solve”:

                      Man-made global warming.”

                      The “belief” that you named as being “crazy” was “man-made global warming.” I shortened your response for brevity’s sake, then pointed out that that’s a belief shared by the vast majority of scientists. That’s not dishonest.

                      If you were trying to say that the actions of lefties in response to man-made global warming is crazy, and not their belief in CAGW, then that’s what you should have said.

      • I thought it was pretty clear that he was essentially saying, “you could easily make a case, using the same logic, that this is all the Left’s fault, because of rumor X. But that would be stupid, so I won’t use your kind of logic.” I don’t see anything unethical about it, other than mild sarcasm.

        • As I wrote, Cruz was using the”I would never spread the irrelevant rumors I am spreading, nor rely on them to make the accusation I’m suggesting” trick. Very deftly, but its still despicable. No less despicable than what the pro-life bashers are doing now, but still.

      • “Ct” is a valid abbreviation for “Court” just as “St” is short for “Street.” I’ve lived on a couple of “Ct”s before. Are we sure that’s a typo?

  2. Oh, and why hasn’t anyone brought up the obvious issue that this guy probably has some serious mental issues. Oh, that’s right…

    “The mentally ill are never dangerous.” -The Official State Media

  3. Here is another ethical idea that Obama administration has with respect to guns.

    If we are going to stop people from buying firearms because the attorney general suspects them of being connected with terrorists, without even bothering to drag them before an Ex Parte Quirin style military commission- let alone a U.S. district court- there are other things we could do in addition to preventing them from purchasing firearms.

    – Prohibit them from practicing law or medicine.
    – Prohibit them from voting
    – Search them at any time for any reason whatsoever or no reason at all.
    – Require them to wear a distinctive armband.

    Or we could just dispense with the pleasantries and kill them all.

    Should we be surprised that the same side that blames anti-abortion rhetoric for the murders in Colorado is the same side that wants to punish people without trials?

  4. From a Real Clear Politics editorial:

    As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal points out, when Islamic terrorists strike, we get immediate assurances of the peaceableness of Islam. When an oddball drifter attacks a Planned Parenthood clinic, we hear about the collective guilt of pro-lifers.

    (Why does the former always happen? Why is Islamophobia a bigger, more immediate problem that radical Islamic murder? It’s as if you push the button to get a Coke out of a machine and, I don’t know, a baseball comes out.)

  5. I think most people who do mass shootings (or really murder of any kind) are mentally ill. Whether one is a terrorist, murderer-for-hire, serial killer, etc., I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that their brain scans look different than a non-murderer’s brain scan.

    That being said, I do believe that you (Jack) and others here are showing some bias. I’m willing to acknowledge that this asshole is just mentally ill. The only one/thing to be blamed is his own diseased mind. It’s not the fault of a sting video, or Fiorina, or anyone else that he shot three people in a clinic. Additionally, I will give the same treatment to some white asshole who shoots up a black church, or a black asshole who shoots a white police officer. They are just mentally ill. And that’s where we differ. I don’t fault politicians for the shooting up of a women’s clinic, but you are willing to find fault with black leaders and politicians who, in your words, are stirring up racial strife. I put all speech under the category of free speech and if wackos take it to the extreme, that is the price we pay. But you aren’t willing to do that. Equal crimes deserve equal treatment. Either we fault all radical speech or we protect all radical speech when a mass shooting happens because it sets off a crazy person.

    • Did you miss the post after this one?

      That aside, I think there is a significant and material difference between Black Lives Matter chanting about killing cops, and hard words criticizing the blase treatment of dismembered babies at Planned Parenthood. A crazy person will use rhetoric as an excuse for murder. The followers of a group preaching that cops are part of a conspiracy to kill blacks so kill them first might just decide that the group knows best. Can we agree to draw the line at direct exhortations to violence?

  6. It has become the norm to publicly lay blame in a way to further a cause in a concerted effort to sway public opinion for one purpose, to destroy any opposition to their cause. “The cause” has become the driving force behind the mentality of cause driven individuals and groups of individuals, they will justify anything to further their cause; this is extremism and the same underlying mentality of terrorists. This irrational cause driven tunnel vision has become “acceptable” in our society and until the masses stand up against “the irrational” and enforce “the rational” nothing will change.

    The freedoms we enjoy in the United States are under attack from irrational extremists putting their cause above anyone and anything in their path; we as a society need to get off the bench and get in the game or surrender the United States to the extremists.

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