Having shown, in the prior post, that we cannot trust psychiatrists to offer cogent analysis of political and judicial matters, we turn to Brendan Nyhan in the New York Times for a better and more sane view. Nyhan is a professor of political science at Dartmouth College. We will forgive him for not being a physician.
In a Times op-ed Nyhan argues that people who feel that they have lost control are more likely to latch on to conspiracy theories. One might add a point that I have made myself, that people who have undergone trauma, who have had their daily routines disrupted, are more likely to seek solace in narratives.
Nyhan points out that before the election, Trump supporters were more prone to believe just about anything, but that after the election Democrats have glommed on to just about any conspiracy theory— to avoid having to face the dire truth, that they lost.
We note that Nyhan offers a balanced and a rational view. Then again, he is a political scientist, not a psychiatrist moonlighting in an alien field. Any psychiatrist who wants to help their patients would do well to follow his example.
Even as Democrats decry the false claims streaming regularly from the White House, they appear to have become more vulnerable to unsupported claims and conspiracy theories that flatter their own political prejudices. The reason isn’t just that a Republican now occupies the White House. Political psychology research suggests that losing political control can make people more vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories.
And he compares this reaction with the gullibility of Trump supporters before the election:
Before the election, supporters of Donald J. Trump were the main audience for fake news stories. Mr. Trump shattered previous norms against making easily disprovable falsehoods in his public statements (including that he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and that President Obama was not born in this country), and he paid little political price among his supporters….
But since the election, there has been a noticeable increase in the flow of dubious and unsupported claims among liberals. One widely circulated post on Medium portrayed the Trump administration’s fumbling rollout of a travel ban in late January as an elaborate “trial balloon for a coup d’état.” Brooke Binkowski, managing editor at the rumor-tracking site Snopes, recently told The Atlantic that she has been seeing more false reports aimed at liberals or from liberal sources — “a lot of dubious news, a lot of wishful-thinking-type stuff.”
Who would be dumb enough to believe such a conspiracy theory—that is, paranoid thinking? Why, none other than Allen Frances. Note these remarks from his Psychology Today post, quoted in my previous post:
Impending court decisions in this case may constitute a key turning point in United States history. Should the judges accept Trump's "national security" excuse for unconstitutional acts, it will embolden him to push for a much greater power grab. He can create a de facto dictatorship, eroding our precious civil rights, based only on his arbitrary interpretation of "national security."