Daily Dose: "Neo-Nazis" only care about themselves - that's their weakness.

August 14, 2017

Neo-Nazis view the world through the same "frame" (cognitive, that is) as the current occupant of the White House. To them, the world fits an authoritarian hierarchy ("conservative frame"), where morality is defined by wealth and privilege because discipline is required to achieve such status. So to them, people like Donald Trump are their moral leaders, and share their worldview. Further, morality is determined by nationality and skin color, since their "frame" depends on a hierarchy that puts their concept of God over man, men over women, rich over poor, America over all other nations, Christians over non-Christians, and whites over non-whites. And make no mistake, to them, it is a moral belief system - and one that has increased in power recently.


I recently saw some comments on social media that appeared to be directed at the work George Lakoff, myself, and others have been doing to improve progressive messaging strategies. The comments were linked to articles about the events in Charlottesville, and in effect, stated outrage at people who suggest the idea of "empathizing" with neo-nazis as a means of connecting with them. This is not at all what I (or Dr. Lakoff) have suggested or would recommend. In fact, progressives can use the science of cognitive framing to expose the weaknesses of neo-nazis and hate speech, while at the same time strengthening empathy and love - the true counters to fear and hate. President Obama was correct in saying that people can "unlearn hate." It's done through re-framing.


 The weakness of the conservative moral system is that it depends on people only caring about themselves. Most human beings are hard-wired for empathy and need to care about other people. While some of these neo-nazis (particularly their leaders) may be true sociopaths incapable of empathy, most will have the capacity for empathy. The most effective strategy then is to evoke the empathy (caring for others as oneself) that is present (though mostly suppressed) in people. It's important to point out that meeting hate with hate will only serve to reinforce the conservative, authoritarian, self-interest frame and hierarchical thinking.


How do we accomplish evoking empathy in people who seem only capable of hate and self-interest? Start small, start locally, and be consistent. And most importantly, never meet hate with hate. Showing and talking about how we care for others, and how that leads to wider prosperity and better communities is a good start. In addition, it would be important to point out that the people evoking hatred for others are able to enjoy the lives they currently have, only because many of the people they presume to hate have contributed to the freedoms they now enjoy.


The people being targeted with hate because of a belief system built on self-interest act with empathy (caring for others) by helping to build roads and bridges, paying for other people's education, serving the public as soldiers, firefighters, police, first responders, and being and active part of the community in which they live. All of us, through caring for other people, make our communities better places to live!


Further, focusing on activities and stories about local people helping each other in times of need as being the morally right thing to do are critically important. Think of "The Good Samaritan" or The Golden Rule" as powerful metaphors most people understand. It's a cognitive fact that you cannot think or act on your own self-interest if you are thinking about the well being of other people - even if it's just in your own family.


In conclusion, it's not how we empathize with neo-nazis, it's how we get THEM to empathize with others. It's how we get them to think of caring for others to counter their authoritarian, hierarchical, self-interest worldview; and actually care for other people - even if it starts with just their family, friends, and neighbors. Remember, President Obama was correct - yes we can help people unlearn hate and fear. The answer is empathy and hope.


Tomorrow - an Australian comedian gets the problem with Dem messaging.



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