Yesterday I did a pro bono ethics presentation for a local lawyer group. During the lunch, which, as usual in such situations, I never got to eat, I was seated next to a lively, intense, talkative young man, like the rest of my audience, a corporate counsel. The discussion was oddly tentative for a long time, which the lawyer’s body-language suggesting wariness and his verbal choices suggesting unusual care. He was probing for something, and I couldn’t tell what. What was it that they vibe reminded me of? Poker? A job interview? Suddenly I realized what it was: the conversation had the tenor, though not the implied subject matter, of those awkward conversations I recalled from parties and encounters where a new male acquaintance was trying to figure out a) whether I was gay and b) whether, if I wasn’t, he could trust me enough to say that he was.
In this case, however, the young man was probing to see if I hated President Trump. I don’t know which comment of mine put him at ease, but suddenly it all poured out. This lawyer and Haitian-American immigrant was an enthusiastic supporter of the President’s policies and leadership style. Once he was certain that I would not look at him like he was the spawn of Satan for daring to express such a view—which he explained extremely logically and eruditely—we had a fascinating discussion, covering illegal immigration, the news media’s bias, the “resistance,” racism, muscular foreign policy leadership, the 2016 campaign, and more.
However, the fact that simply expressing support for the elected President of the United States, even limited support, indeed even the absence of affirmative contempt, is considered such a perilous social stance that citizens are afraid to express it among their peers demonstrates the monstrous—I think that’s a fair adjective here—intimidation and speech suppression that has been perpetrated by the Left since the 2016 election. Hate is such a powerful emotion that even when it is unjustified, the threat of it being focused on you now keeps Americans from openly expressing their opinions. This is a thought and attitude control strategy, weaponizing the Cognitive Dissonance scale (above) to achieve power and control. If you have this position, we will hate you. Be warned. The message goes out in a thousand ways, especially on social media, but in face-to-face encounters as well, with family, in the workplace, and in social situations. Some—I think a surprising number–have the strength to resist it as the unethical compelled political conformity tactic that it is. Still, many capitulate, at least in public. The tactic is even turned on experts and analysts with integrity as well, as in this Politico essay about Alan Dershowitz, which carries the message that a good liberal should not be making the case that the criminal law is being abused and civil libertarian principles discarded as the Left attempts to undo an election by any means necessary. The effectiveness and intimidating weight of the implied threat of shunning is acknowledged by what one blogger describes as the “Trump Bump”—“that little obligatory hiccup in which the speaker on any given topic must pause to make a pejorative reference to Donald Trump before going on, in order to establish his or her bona fides as a good person. “
Well, the Cognitive Dissonance Scale works in all both directions, on all values.
I place those who would intimidate me or any other American citizen out of expressing an informed opinion, showing respect for the institution of the Presidency, and resisting a campaign of personal destruction and disinformation at the muddy bottom of the scale, along with the totalitarians whose tactics and values they appear to be embracing. That, as Dr. Festinger informed is, pushes those positions they deplore up into positive territory, far higher than they might otherwise be.