COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: Mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The concept was introduced by the psychologist Leon Festinger (1919–89) in the late 1950s. He and later researchers showed that, when confronted with challenging new information, most people seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists. Cognitive dissonance is nonetheless considered an explanation for attitude change.
Check out the numbers from the CBS poll on the Republican shutdown of the federal government: 48 percent of Republicans SUPPORT “shutting down the government over differences about the 2010 healthcare law.” 49 Percent of Republicans do not support it.
When asked who is to “blame” for the shutdown, 73% of Republicans “BLAME” Barack Obama and Democrats.
The only way those numbers work is for a significant portion of Republicans who are polled to both “support” the shutdown and also ”blame” the president and Democrats for doing what they say they support.
The response by Democrats in the same poll makes a lot more sense: 12% of Democrats support shutting down the government, while 84% do not. 76% of Democrats “blame” Republicans for the shutdown. Those numbers may not match exactly, but they make a heck of a lot more sense than the large scale cognitive dissonance from the right, “blaming” Democrats for something Republicans claim they actually support.
Another example of conservative cognitive dissonance is provided by the right wing media echo chamber. Slate writer Elias Isquith has an article on this titled Blame game: The right-wing media on the government shutdown. The right explains how the government shutdown, which is awesome, is totally Obama’s fault:
The right-wing media may be loving the government shutdown, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to assign credit for it to Republicans. On the contrary, the overriding message to be taken from the right’s coverage of the shutdown is that it’s an awesome liberation from Big Government, a political win-win for Republicans, and totally, entirely, without question all President Obama’s fault.
Isquith provides several examples of said right wing propagandists talking up how wonderful the shutdown is, but how awful it is that Democrats supposedly caused it. No wonder Republicans are giving confusing answers to pollsters on who is to blame for things they approve of. The echo chamber they are immersed in is providing them very mixed messages on this particular issue.
One final example is provided on a daily basis by Republicans flocking to the World War II memorial, fighting for camera time to be seen defending the rights of the greatest generation to visit the memorial. Which, in case you may have already forgotten, is closed because these same Republicans voted to close the government.
My first introduction to this memorial weirdness was a few days ago when Michelle Bachman declared that “America is not shutting down. If we have anything to say about it, we’re going to keep this open.”
Bachman and her colleagues did have something to say about it. They voted to close the government. It’s like a drunk driver causing a head on collision and then declaring that if they have anything to say about it the other driver will be allowed to continue on their way.
The absolute climatic example of this cognitive dissonance at the WWII Memorial came when Representative Randy Neugebauer took it upon himself to dress down a park ranger for doing her job.
“How do you look at them and … deny them access?” said Neugebauer. He, with most House Republicans, had voted early Sunday morning to pass a funding measure that would delay the Affordable Care Act, a vote that set up a showdown with the Senate and President Barack Obama. With the parties unable to agree on how to fund the federal government, non-essential government functions shut down Tuesday.
“It’s difficult,” responded the Park Service employee.
“Well, it should be difficult,” replied the congressman, who was carrying a small American flag in his breast pocket.
“It is difficult,” responded the Park Service employee. “I’m sorry, sir.”
“The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” the congressman said.
“I’m not ashamed,” replied the ranger.
The one who should be ashamed of themselves is Rep. Neugebauer. He voted to shut down the government and then he has the unmitigated gall to dress down a Park Ranger (with a camera close by oddly enough) for doing her job while not even knowing if or when she will be paid? She’s not collecting her paycheck and she’s out there putting up with crap because Neugebauer and the rest of the whacko house Republicans see fit to close the government… and somehow she should be ashamed?
If you watch the entire event, people from the crowd take up for the government employee, calling on Neugebauer to pass a budget and start the government. So he tells them that it is Harry Reid’s fault. Somehow, to this Neugebauer putz, everyone else is to blame but himself and his fellow house Republicans.
Saying that Neugebauer should be ashamed is pointless, because people like him have no sense of shame.