A behavioral approach to America's epistimic crisi

America is clearly experiencing an epistemic crisis. Meaning - we can't even agree on what facts are and this is preventing us from dealing with the challenges that face us.

Half the country thinks that the news is publishing fake news about the president. (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/18/trump-media-fake-news-poll-243884) That's not an insignificant number of people. It's all the more disturbing because figuring out whether someone is telling you the truth or not is actually really easy to do.

David Roberts over at Vox - wrote an essay about the depth of the epistemic crisis we are facing. It's subtitle is: What if Robert Mueller proves that Trump engaged in treason and it doesn't matter. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/2/16588964/america-epistemic-crisis

In the article he rightly points out that the right is being lied to at a furious pace and that their knowledge of what is really happening is not just lacking, they are being told to not believe the reports of what is happening. IF we have a president who committed treason and half the country refuses to accept that verdict - handed down by members of their side (republicans in the justice department), then how can we even begin to move forward as a country?

While the article does a good job of laying out the problem, it doesn't address how to fix it.

 I teach behavioral science as it relates to ending bullying and harassment and it applies to the problem David addresses.  The question is – how do we learn and unlearn behavior and how has this impacted our current inability to agree on what is true and what is false at the scale we are having this problem.

We have had 30 plus years of brain washing occur on the right. Behavioral conditioning that leads that base to be resistant to fact based information that contradicts their tribal reasoning.  David is correct that this is less a conspiracy than it is just the fact that there is a lot of money to be made on this state of affairs. And he is correct that this is an existential threat to our country and democracy.

Obviously the Russians used our behavioral conditioning against us and the solution – the only solution - is to encourage people back to reality.  The problem is how to do that.  It can be done but it’s really really really hard to do because humans are free range animals. If they don’t get their reward in one place – they will go get it in another.

What has to happen is Rational Republicans have to push back on the fake news.  They don’t have to cross their base, but they can and at least should let the more rational ones know that the crazy stuff is in fact crazy. For too long they have benefited from allowing their base to believe nonsense because it helps get them votes.  The ones that care about democracy need to just stand up to it and take the heat. There is no way to do that without getting the flack thrown at you.  It’s part of the extinction process.

The likelihood is that Mueller is going to prove this and the right is going to explode with people taking to the streets egged on by Russia. If democrats take control of the house or senate next year – they can impeach but that will also cause the right to explode and take to the streets egged on by Russia.

What I have been telling people is that there is no solution to this problem that doesn’t involve a lot of people getting hurt and Russia getting what it wants – America in disarray. But just like with bullying, we don’t have a choice. We either do what we need to do to stop this – or we allow Russia et al to keep bullying us with Republicans aiding and abetting them.

We just need to convince enough Republicans to do what is right for the country and to take the heat that comes with it. This is everything like stopping a bully. It has to be stood up to and the fury of the bully faced.

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