To 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. Continue reading