Engineering Tribalism

For the past two years President Trump has revived tribal identity politics with his brand of American nationalism.  After the Presidential race in Nov. 2016  termed it a “Slide”, attributed it to Trump’s choice of policy, and asked if it was inevitable.

This month David Brooks called it a “Retreat“.  He makes the point that tribal politics rises and falls with societal externalities and institutions, and such civilizing forces are weaker than they have been in the past.

Brooks resorts to false equivalence, which misses the asymmetry, a clue to what’s happening.  He writes about campus extremism on the left as if students who fight to control a classroom are comparable in any way to a President and Republican Congress who control an entire country.

Brooks pins overly broad labels.  He claims that “we’ve regressed from a sophisticated moral ethos to a primitive one,” which insults most Democrats and some Republicans and conservatives who do place country above party and tribe.

Both Nyhan and Brooks are missing the bigger picture – the cause.  Trump is the current end of a long process, not the beginning.  The rise of identity politics is not the result of a broken economy, declining social networks, or a romantic return to primitive times.  People don’t regress naturally or on purpose.

Not only is the slide to tribalism not inevitable, it’s also no accident.  It’s been precisely engineered over the past 30 years.  It’s the intentional, cumulative, and tuned result of the GOP weaponizing politics through media and message control.  When you define reality you can manufacture fear, shrink the world, and force such a retreat.

It’s good marketing (for them) …  basic brainwashing (see Orwell) …  and a necessary ingredient to get a population to vote against their own interests and transfer ever more power to the plutocracy and their corporate proxies.

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