[Photo: Seth Doyle via Unsplash]

The Wingnut and the Comedian

In this post I suggested that Fox News has found a way to exercise corporate bio-power directly against a large number of white men aged 55 to death. The formula calls for stoking the viewer’s rage with a smug libtard and then relaxing him with a paid hitman who verbally crushes the libtard in a scripted debate, a formula worked out by professional wrestling. This cycle is designed, according to Toby Smith, to take advantage of the brain chemistry of viewers. It works for these older viewers in part because dopamine levels drop with age, and can be influenced by a number of other factors. People with lowered dopamine levels react with more anger than those with more normal levels. Serotonin and dopamine released when the Conservative Hitman crushes the Libtard is a pleasure to these people. It’s addicting, says Smith, and some of the materials I’ve read agree.

But lefties don’t watch Fox; and they must not watch a lot of cable news shows because MSNBC, supposedly the liberal channel, is slowly drifting to the right. Speaking solely for myself, I don’t watch cable news because TV takes forever to convey information. I like to read. But I do watch some late-night TV: Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyer, occasionally John Oliver, and, of course, Sam Bee on Full Frontal. How is my response to their brand of humor different from the behavior I described for the Fox garbage?

Of course, the response I have is different in one respect, it makes me laugh, both at myself and at the problems. Apparently laughing and smiling release dopamine, serotonin and several kinds of endorphins, all of which make people feel good, and scientists currently think they help us deal with anger. Here’s a nice description from a Harvard institute devoted to neuro-science. The main difference between the laugh cycle and the rage cycle might be that jokes require the involvement of the thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. The rage cycle doesn’t seem to involve that part of the brain, but something deeper. The rage was already there, and this Libtard/Hitman just pushes the buttons directly.

Or, I could be completely wrong. A few minutes of research on the internets isn’t enough to give me any certainty about this or about the Fox attacks. So all this feels like rank speculation. But it’s fun, and seems to be releasing some extra dopamines for me. So, onward.

What I do know is that I am enraged by the Republican assault on our institutions and norms of governance, and even more by their anti-intellectualism, their irrationalism, their rejection of Enlightenment values. And I am outraged by the fact that we are governed by a minority, and that lots of the people in that minority are racist, homophobic and hateful greedy people. Even worse, some of them are violent pigs, both towards those they hate and towards their own families. And I’m angry with the spineless Democrats who seem to have no idea of how to respond to these attacks.

But the people I genuinely feel rage against are the billionaires and centi-millionaires who actually run our political system. You can take your pick of the monsters who plow money into a system of liars and frauds who purposefully lie to the ignorant voters they stoke with Rushbo and his stinking ilk. They expect a huge return on their money. So, yes, I feel rage. It’s probably not that different from the rage that the men 55 to death feel about libtards like me.

When Colbert shows clips of Trump and his flying monkeys lying or spewing bile, it sets me on edge, and the punch lines do the job of the conservative Hitman Toby Smith describes. The resulting laughter is also at least partly tribal. Laughter is a sign of group belonging, and I’m one of many feeling the rage and the release.

One thing these jokes do is to open a space for me to think clearly, and to remember that I really don’t hate the people who vote Republican. I don’t feel sympathy either, more like pity and a kind of resignation that at least they asked for the kick in the face they get. I do despise the Republicans who figured Trump would be good for their wallets and ignored the damage he would do. But my real anger is directed at the rich people who manipulate all of us and who intend to benefit from it in cash and power.

But, all of us plebes, from the far left to the far right should give a big hand to dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Let’s keep those levels high, dampen the rage and open a mental space for thinking. Even our oligarchs, Russian and American, can join that round of applause, thanking heaven for natural Soma.

11 replies
  1. Ben burn says:

    Nicely flowing levels of endorphins in that missive.

    I find laughter a refuge for any psychic assault. Who was that guy in the 70s who cured himself of cancer watching Abbott and Costello?

    • LeMoyne says:

      @Ben burn  –  I believe you are thinking of Norman Cousins.  His book is Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient.  20th anniversary edition came out in 2005.

  2. lefty665 says:

    Sigh, Ed, please read some George Lakoff  https://georgelakoff.com/  He is an academic as are you, you talk the same language. I think you would find him interesting.

    It is not just old white men, it starts young. Repubs (young and old, male and female, white and non) respond to short emotionally evocative words and phrases while Dems respond to detailed discussion. Lakoff calls it “framing”. We choose political parties and what we respond to by how our brains are wired.

    For example, Repub brains respond to a simple emotional frame like Libtard. Your frame for Dems was nine paragraphs.

    If you want to communicate with Repubs or Repub leaning Indys (the answer could reasonably be you do not, but you are not running for office) do it with emotionally evocative words in short phrases.

    The Dems are figuring it out. Their announcement on Monday about a new Dem party was framed as: “A better deal: Better jobs, better wages, a better future”.  Get it? People who voted for Trump will.

  3. greengiant says:

    Hope someone pursues this thought as to how Fox evolved to maximize this response.  I see rage in myself from other stimuli but fortunately I am adverse to the feeling and hopefully not addicted to it. Rage is not the only emotion or mechanism that is used to manipulate. How does one deal with those who are either consumed by rage or use “rage” enhancement as their method of communication?

    • lefty665 says:

      That anger stuff didn’t work out so well for Eric did it?  The Teabaggers turned it against him, but at least we got shed of the SOB in Virginia’s 7th District! Beats the hell out of having him instead of goofy Paul Ryan as Speaker.

  4. seedeevee says:

    “our institutions and norms of governance”

    Is anyone actually satisfied with “our institutions and norms of governance”?

    It has led us to centuries of endless war, empire, injustice and inequality. I appreciate anyone attempting to change these “norms”.

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