What do you think about this?
I can only imagine what's going through your head. What kind of short-sighted idiot would say such a thing?
This is America after all. The freedom to "defy" and oppose the President is at the very core of who we are as a country. Heck, it's practically out duty as citizens to oppose our leaders when they do something evil or stupid.
After all, this isn't a dictatorship....yet.
The fact that people actually believe this sort of thing about Trump just shows how dangerous he is.
Well, maybe not.
Another Side to the Story?
Earlier I wrote a post about how our political beliefs influence the way all of us perceive things in politics.
I see a conservative making some argument to advance their point of view and I think to myself "that's a terrible argument." But if a liberal used the exact same argument to advance a liberal position, I might see it as totally legit.
I said that this happens to all of us all the time, but that you're probably not going to believe me that it happens to you, because one of our strongest cognitive biases is the mistaken belief that we're somehow immune to cognitive bias.
You probably still didn't believe me.
Now let's go back to this meme. There's something I didn't tell you before
This meme isn’t real.
Adam, who edits this blog, Photoshopped it for this post. He just made one slight change to a widely circulated liberal meme from a few years ago.
Now what do you think? This meme is responding to a statement Rush Limbaugh’s made in 2009, where he said that he hoped Obama “fails, and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell's quip that his "top priority" was making Obama a "one term president."
At the time there was a lot of GOP “obstruction” of Obama’s agenda, and Democrats were ticked about it. This wasn't the only meme that used the word "treason" to describe what the GOP was doing:
These memes used provocative (and, in retrospect, kind of scary) language to get Democrats to like and share them, trusting that Democrats would be so swept up in the moment that they wouldn't see how terrible these arguments actually were.
They’ve since forgotten this whole episode, but the GOP hasn’t.
The Obama "treason" meme is now getting circulated, for real, on conservative social media feeds, and making Democrats seem like hypocrites, and fascists. But I wonder how many of those same conservatives would have liked our new “Trump” meme if they hadn’t already seen this one?
Cognitive Bias is no Joke
None of us are totally immune to cognitive bias. But we can be better about recognizing when it might be affecting us.
Here's an exercise. The next time you see an incendiary meme, like one of these, with a politician's face and some provocative slogan, take a moment, and mentally "flip" the photo.
If it's a photo of Trump, pretend it's Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. If the meme's praising Bernie, pretend it's praising Trump (or Hillary, if you're not a fan of her either.) If the meme is attacking "the other guy," pretend it's attacking "your guy," and vice versa. Now how do you feel? Does the argument still hold up, or is there something missing?
This can be uncomfortable. But if we want to make good arguments, and not get sucked in by bad ones, it's important to at least try.