1. A deliberate, carefully planned effort on the part of political activists, think tanks, and corporate media to divide, polarize, and demonize across the political spectrum in order to secure votes, increase campaign contributions and media viewership, and secure political status. It is much easier to appeal to fear and anxiety, play the blame game, and energize “Us vs. Them” polemics than to thoughtfully explore nuanced political philosophy and policy positions.
2. A downward spiral of biased media reporting that was instigated by ending the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. As a consequence of that very ill-informed decision, consumers of news media are simply often not presented both sides of the argument on political issues in any meaningful or reasonable way.
3. Social media echo chambers, the illusory truth effect, and consequent groupthink. When algorithms and like-minded groups of users amplify extreme, biased, and often false information that confirms their worst fear and mistrust, there is no longer room for discussion. Political topics become too highly charged with emotional rhetoric to allow moderating (or even true) viewpoints.
4. An unfortunate dumbing down of the U.S. voting public. There are likely a lot of factors contributing to this — poor nutrition, increased collective stress and anxiety, incomplete education, epidemic levels of ADHD, cultural opposition to “intellectualism,” etc. — but it is increasingly obvious that a lot of folks cannot reason critically at all, and instead quickly race down a rabbit hole of logical fallacies and contradictory assumptions.
5. Overwhelming input streams that folks often just don’t know how to manage, leading to feeling paralyzed, confused, and consequently more vulnerable to the influencing factors listed above. For example: way too much information funneled at all of us 24/7 from all directions at once; increasing complexity in nearly every decision we need to make; equally increasing pressure to make important decisions at much higher quantities and at much faster rates than many previous generations; accelerating technological and cultural changes that are increasingly difficult to track, let alone accept or fully incorporate on cultural and interpersonal levels.
6. A consumerist culture than encourages us to “bandwagon.” We are conditioned from early childhood to be guided by advertising and cultural norms that basically say “Hey, you don’t need to have your own agency or be thoughtfully informed, instead you just need to buy this or that and we’ll solve all your problems for you.” This conditioning runs so deep in U.S. culture that many folks simply conform to the latest cultural fads — which often originate at the fringe extremes of the political spectrum — in order to feel a sense of belonging and empowerment.
7. State-funded disinformation from hostile foreign actors that takes advantage of all-of-the-above and makes them much worse to serve the agendas of that country.
My 2 cents.
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