The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt is a landmark book that has just been published and delineates very clearly how political convictions are formed and held. It presents a wide range of evidence that people make their decisions emotionally when it comes to politics and religion rather than reasonably. Reading this book will help you understand your own political views and help you see how we are complicit in our own brainwashing. Beware, however. Reading this book will make it hard for you to be self-righteous about your own political views and will open up understanding of moral values that other political point of views are based on: Liberal, Libertarian, and Conservative.
The best book I found about modern propaganda is The Ten Commandments of Propaganda by Bryan Anse Patrick. It’s short and non-partisan. This book was able to open me up to understanding the ubiquitous nature of propaganda and how I personally have been unaware of how much I am subject to it. The only problem for some people is that it is only available on Kindle. Here are a few quotes from the introduction:
“…the person who thinks himself above propaganda is quite possibly its creature.”
“highly educated people tend to be more, not less, susceptible to propaganda than are the uneducated.” This is what Patrick says in his book but I don’t know if there is any research to back this up.
“You quite possibly even imagine that you understand the larger world around you, which is perhaps a surer sign than any that some species of propaganda has taken hold.”
Do you think you are immune to the negative effects of propaganda? Here is an article in the LA Times that shows how difficult it is to resist these influences on your psyche. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/19/opinion/la-oe-westen-why-negative-campaigning-works-20120219
In the same edition of the LA Times they had two pieces, one written by a conservative in an academic environment who discusses how difficult it is for her to talk to liberals: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-allen-it-is-not-possible-to-talk-to-liberals-20120219,0,4795838.story
And a liberal describes how difficult it is for her to talk to conservatives: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/19/opinion/la-oe-wagman-it-is-not-possible-to-talk-to-conserv-20120219
Here is an excellent article on how congress is frozen by partisan politics and is unable to solve any of our country’s serious problems. From the National Journal: http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/divided-we-stand-20120223
Here is another excellent article written by a Republican in the Atlantic, “How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans”, about the dysfunction of the partisan divide in politics and some specific suggestions on how to change things.
There are a number of Youtube videos about how the media effects public opinion. An interesting one is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvodhsMc2QM. The question is how deeply is each one of our opinions and concerns being shaped by the media and the political elite?
In this video, Elizabeth Lesser gives an enlightening talk about the partisan divide and one way to open up dialogue that leads to understanding and reconciliation.
Although there are many books by political hacks making attacks on the left or right from the other side, there are very few books about the dangers of partisanship, . One book written by Cal Thomas, a conservative, and Bob Beckel, a liberal, is Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War that is Destroying America. They propose some steps to support a healthier political environment. Another more detailed book is The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America, by Ronald Brownstein.
Here is an interesting speech given by George Washington about the dangers of extremism. This is on the site of John Woodall who is associated with The Untiy Project.
Here is another interesting article from the Brookings Institute on current political partisanship.
This is a short article showing that those who are the most partisan use the reasoning part of their brain the least when choosing and defending a candidate.
For those interested in truth in politics (not too many I am afraid) Factcheck.org is a helpful site to visit. It illustrates how much distortion goes on in politics. Check out how your particular political heroes rate on the truth gauge. I am sure you will be healthily disillusioned. I particularly like their Viral Spiral tab that puts to rest many laughable rumors on the internet. The site does hold both Republican and Democratic candidates and politicians accountable for their distortions of the truth.
George Orwell, the literary figure that warned most of the dangers of propaganda, wrote in his most famous essay, Politics and the English Language: “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” This essay can be found here.
If you know of good resources that inform us about propaganda or the difficulties this causes in our society please email me and I can put the link on this resource page. Do you have a story of your difficulties as a liberal or conservative in communicating to people on the other side? Publish it on this site. Another set of articles I would like to publish on this site are stories of family members who have gone overboard due to the influence of political propaganda and how that has affected you personally. Contact me at email@example.com.