Republicans are More Likely to Believe Fake News — and There’s a Sad and Deadly Reason Behind It
In a commentary for Raw Story, Thom Hartmann instructs us about the reasons why Republicans are such fools for fake news. And he should know, since he’s been hosting the progressive Thom Hartmann Radio Show since 2003 and has written books on progressive and conservative ideologies.
He begins by using Tucker Carlson as an example, discussing a recent segment in which Carlson suggests that COVID vaccines may be more dangerous than getting COVID.
Hartmann can’t help but wonder:
“Why do conservatives fall for this kind of BS?”
Then he gets down to the science of it.
“Recent multiple studies show that Republicans are as much as 8.5 times more likely to both believe and share fake or false ‘news’ with others than are Democrats. The phenomenon is obvious actually: while as many as half of Republicans believe the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ from Trump, there’s no similarly disprovable ‘big lie’ embraced by Democrats.”
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And this doesn’t just involve elections. Hartmann adds, noting that Republicans are likelier to deny the basic science about COVID-19. As such, they are dying from this devastating disease at a much higher rate than Democrats are.
“Even when their lives and their families’ lives are at stake, Republicans let themselves be suckered into things that are easily proven false,” he writes.
He cited Big League Politics which noted the situation is so bad in fact that Republicans were 4.6 times more likely to be banned from Twitter than Democrats were leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
So what are the reasons for this?
First, Hartmann notes that Republicans are far more likely to believe what they are told by people who represent themselves as authority figures.
“This tracks back to George Lakoff’s finding that conservatives are most comfortable in a world that’s run along ‘strict father lines,’ while progressives prefer a ‘nurturing family’ model of society and politics,” Hartmann writes.
A strict father is one who limits freedom while at the same time offering safety, he tells us.
“Father will protect and take care of you. Putting your trust in authoritarian figures diminishes the complexity of life: there’s less to have to know or worry about if you believe that ‘father’ has it all under control.”
But there is a definite downside to this because this leaves conservatives to believe anything that father tells them, he adds.
The other part of the problem is that there’s more conservative misinformation out there than there is liberal misinformation. It makes sense then that conservatives are exposed to it far more often.
“To a large extent, this flows from the conservative worldview being more adolescent, narcissistic and ‘me-centered,’ with the myth of the ‘rugged individual’ at its center. Ayn Rand’s writing epitomizes this.”
Seems to me that when you observe conservatives from this angle, it helps you to understand why they are so vulnerable to conspiracy theories and other things that the rest of us view as patently absurd.
“The conservative world view putting, as it does, the ‘freedom of the individual’ above the ‘welfare of society,’ is much more vulnerable to corporate-funded pitches that work to increase profits. The core message of most advertising is, after all, ‘You are the most important person in the world and you want this product.'”
So Hartmann has opened up a new avenue into the way Republicans think. His commentary for Raw Story certainly explains a lot. It’s a good read that you may want to explore because he provides more information than I do in my story here since my space is limited. Perhaps the next time we are confounded by Republican logic (or lack thereof) we’ll at least understand their thinking a little better.